309 (English, original)

An original translation

Companion: Where are you coming from, Socrates? No wait – you’ve obviously been on the hunt for Alcibiades’ youth. Well, when I saw him yesterday, he did look like a beautiful man, Socrates, but a man all the same – just between us – and his beard is already coming in.
Socrates: So what? Don’t you approve of Homer, who says, ‘the most delightful is the youth of the first beard-growth,’ the very youth Alcibiades now has?
Com: What’s the latest, then? Were you just with him? How does the youngster think of you?
Soc: Pretty well, or so I think. Especially today, since he said so much to help me. I left him just now. But I want to tell you about something weird: although I was with him, I wasn’t paying him any attention – I pretty much forgot about him.
Com: What could have happened between you two – something big? You didn’t come upon someone else more beautiful in this city, did you?
Soc: Quite a bit more.
Com: What? Was he a local or a stranger?
Soc: A stranger.
Com: From?
Soc: Abdera.
Com: And you found this stranger so beautiful that he looked more beautiful than the son of Cleinias?
Soc: Don’t you know, my friend, that the wisest looks more beautiful?
Com: Aha! So you were with someone wise before you ran into us, Socrates?
Soc: The wisest man alive, I suppose, if you think Protagoras is the wisest.
Com: Oh! What are you saying? Has Protagoras been in town?
Soc: For two days now.
Com: So you’ve just come after spending time with him?


5 Responses to 309 (English, original)

  1. Dhananjay says:

    A preliminary difficulty: ‘companion’ is not quite right for capturing the status of the unnamed ἑταῖρος. The British ‘mate’ might be closer, but a bit too slangy, I think. LSJ also suggest ‘pupil’ or ‘disciple’ in the case of Socrates (s.v. I.3) and cite Xenophon, Memorabilia II.8.1, a passage which puts one immediately in mind of the opening of the Protagoras (though in Xenophon it is Socrates who asks πόθεν φαίνῃ;). But it is far from clear that Xenophon is making a special use of ἑταῖρος here, even if the companions of Socrates were commonly referred to as his ἑταῖροι.

  2. Nakul says:

    1. Might ‘fan’ for ἐπαινέτης suggest a different (more frivolous?) sort of relationship than the (relatively respectful) one the Hetairos would be presumed to have had to Homer?
    2. I’d make it ‘_the_ most delightful’ to clarify that ‘most’ is part of a superlative rather than just an intensifier. And does ‘delightful’ get the right tone for the American English you’re aiming at?
    3. Suggestion: ‘the latest’ for οὖν τὰ νῦν?
    4. I’m not fond of ‘youngster’ for ὁ νεανίας. I can see that ‘young man’ would draw attention to his being a man (and no longer a boy) again where the Greek doesn’t do it quite so explicitly, but I suspect it’s still there in what the Hetairos is saying…
    4. Put an adverb before ‘Well’ (‘rather’ or ‘quite’) else it’s natural to read it as an exclamation (Well!). As in, ‘Rather well, I thought’ etc.
    5. ‘Many’ is surely preferable for πολλὰ — ‘a lot of’ sounds wrong to my ear. And ‘in my support’ seems to capture the point of βοηθῶν better than ‘on my behalf’.
    6. ‘Weird’ for ἄτοπον? American!
    7. I suggest ‘And so beautiful did you find this stranger (καὶ οὕτω καλός τις ὁ ξένος ἔδοξέν σοι εἶναι)’ gets the emphasis in the word order better. And ‘appeared’ rather than ‘seemed’ for φανῆναι and m/m for φαίνεσθαι
    8. Remove ‘is’ in ‘The wisest man alive, I suppose, if you think Protagoras is the wisest’?
    9. Just ‘having been with’ rather than ‘spending time with’ for συγγεγονὼς?

    Comrade would once have been just right for ἑταῖρος, though not any more…

  3. Dhananjay says:

    ad 1. I thought something rather frivolous is meant, but perhaps not. The standard “don’t you praise Homer?” is just not idiomatic English. Another attempt: “don’t you approve of Homer?”.
    ad 2. Adding the ‘the’ is good. Delightful was a self-conscious choice to strike a slightly archaizing note.
    ad 3. Brilliant.
    ad 4. You’ve tipped me past ambivalence on this one. Agreed.
    ad 4. I originally wrote ‘quite well’, but it sounded un-American. What I mean, I think, is ‘pretty well’. Is this too jarring?
    ad 5. The problem is rendering both ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ and βοηθῶν ἐμοί. ‘In my support’ is just the kind of thing I want to avoid – I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who says that naturally any more. ‘On my behalf’ renders ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ while ‘a lot of helpful things’ captures the circumstantial participle. Does ‘since he said so much to help me’ sound any better?
    ad 6. Also excellent.
    ad 7. That’s not a natural enough word order in modern English. Focus inversion is a very marked structure. On reflection, ‘looked’ is better than either ‘seemed’ or ‘appeared’.
    ad 8. It’s not American enough without the ‘is’, sorry.
    ad 9. συνγγίγνεσθαι is an important word in this dialogue, and deserves some special attention. It seems to be a term of art for hanging out with someone for the purpose of learning from them, almost akin to ‘attending X’s lectures’. It’s not clear that that’s what’s meant here, but I prefer the more robust ‘spending time with’.


  4. Calendula says:

    English is not my native language, so perhaps it is simply me, but “I did just come from being with him” (309b) strikes me as too strange for simple καὶ ἄρτι ἀπ᾽ ἐκείνου ἔρχομαι. You aim for a colloquial register here; is “to come from being with somebody” really a colloquial phrase? (Google search suggests that the phrase is more often used figuratively, with “to come from” = “to arise from”, though there is one very interesting example: “Are you going to be able to have sex with your husband after he comes from being with her?”)

    • Dhananjay says:

      “Come from being with” is a bit awkward, admittedly, though I can recover the meaning from it easily enough. Jowett’s “I have just come from him”, adopted by Griffith (2009), strikes me as archaic – in fact, searching for the phrase on Google leads to Jowett’s translation of the Protagoras on the first page. Taylor (1976)’s “I’ve only just left him” is better than either of these options, though modifying that to “I left him just now” strikes my American ear better. I’ll change it.

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