Latin Lessons II

Reading the wikipedia article on chiasmus, I found the following example of such a literary device. I am currently studying Latin, with very weak abilities as yet, but this is a very simple sentence, and even I can manage a translation. As I was writing last week (twice, actually) about self-seeking vs other-seeking, I thought it was a neat piece of serendipity.

The notion from Augustine is very famous, of course. It works as a concise summary of the argument of the City of God. Still, I’ve yet to tackle that one in Latin, so it’s gratifying to be able to read at least this one sentence. My translation has more words and is less poetic than the standard translation offered at wikipedia (and I cannot manage to find who did this translation.) I’m continually amazed at the density of well-composed Latin. I wouldn’t want to read a whole book translated in the awkward manner I have done below, but there are, in fact, components of Augustine’s original sentence that are missing from the standard translation. I’ve added them in my own translation — the sentence perhaps suffers as a result, but there it is.

Fecerunt itaque ciuitates duas amores duo, terrenam scilicet amor sui usque ad contemptum Dei, caelestem uero amor Dei usque ad contemptum sui. — Augustine

My translation below.

“And so, two cities have been made from two loves: the worldly most certainly out of love of self — even unto the contempt of God — and the celestial truly out of love of God — even unto contempt of self.”

(Wikipedia points out that this is not a true chiasmus, but an example rather of antimetabole.)


2 comments on “Latin Lessons II

  1. Proph says:

    I studied Latin in high school, one of the few students there who did and the only one there (to my knowledge) who took five semesters of it. I wish I’d taken it more seriously then; translating Caesar’s treatise on the conquest of Gaul was probably the most rigorous intellectual exercise I’ve ever done — and in a public high school no less!

  2. outofsleep says:

    These days, not even Harvard graduates know even the rudest Latin.

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