An open translation of Plato’s Protagoras

David Hildebrand recently lamented the lack of availability online of good, new translations of ancient works, such as the dialogues of Plato, usually found in Jowett’s rendering. Benjamin Jowett was a great classicist with a sensitivity for philosophical texts as well as an astonishingly prolific translator, and he is one of the main reasons I wanted to study at Balliol. Nevertheless, his Victorian translations of Plato are clearly out of date (cf. also Lamb’s translation for the Loeb series, originally published in 1924 and available on the Perseus Project). We can do better for modern readers, and I believe we can do it freely, without simply converting already published translations into electronic form, something to which publishers would never consent.

Over the next couple of months, I will try to publish daily a Stephanus page’s worth of a rough translation of the Greek text of Plato’s Protagoras. I originally wrote this translation as part of my undergraduate thesis on the dialogue (at the University of Texas at Austin, under the supervision of Paul Woodruff), but I will improve it as I make it available. I would like to extend an open invitation to readers to collaborate and make corrections and improvements in the comments. Some points of difference will no doubt be stylistic, but others will be substantive, and I hope the result will be a translation that is faithful to the text, sensitive to its philosophical content, and readable. At the end, I will make the translation freely available under a suitable open license. Please join me!


One Response to An open translation of Plato’s Protagoras

  1. Adam Beresford says:

    Dear Dhananjay,

    this seems like a very interesting and worthwhile project. I also very much like the basic tone and style and accuracy of the translation so far. It’s so refreshing to this kind of approach, in the midst of the growing trend towards (needless) archaism and stiffness.

    I agree that there’s potentially a problem in students relying too much on free translations, which in the case of Plato means translations by Jowett.

    Please by all means feel entirely free to take any ideas or turns of phrase or whatever from the Penguin that you find useful. My own views on some of the issues have changed a bit, as a matter of fact, since I wrote that translation, by I’d still stand by a fair chunk of it. It would be nice to have a version that could be constantly tweaked – which of course is one of the advantages of an online ‘wikipedia’ style version.

    I’ll keep an eye on your version and if something comes up that I feel like chipping in on, I’ll do so.

    I have one request in advance. Please, please don’t translate dikaiosune as ‘justice’. That die-hard traditional rendering is wrong in at least four different ways…

    Adam Beresford

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