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Lattimore’s Sappho, Homer, & St. Paul

September 22, 2013

Joel Hoffman and our BLT co-blogger Suzanne McCarthy have been discussing whether the Greek phrase ἄνθρωπος (transliterated anthropos) should imply male gender inherently (that is, without the context informing the reader / listener of the sex of the referent).

Joel asserts, “Sometimes its meaning most closely overlaps with ‘man,’ sometimes with ‘person,’ sometimes with ‘human.'” Suzanne protests, “If i say ‘this creature is an anthropos,’ it can only have one meaning, that the creature is human. It can never mean that the creature is male.”

I wanted to look at examples of what the Greek scholar Richmond Lattimore does with this phrase when translating Sappho, Homer, and St. Paul. Until Lattimore translated the New Testament, he consistently “read” ἄνθρωπος the way Suzanne does. I believe the long history of New Testament Greek translation pushed him to ignore his own clear understanding of Greek meanings of words. Lattimore’s Paul ends up sounding a lot less like other Greek writers before him and around him, and a lot more like many Christians today. It’s unfortunate the pressure of translation paradigms, and yet that’s what I think we see.

So let’s look at the Greek, and then let’s see how Lattimore handles it. In all three examples, we have ἄνθρωπος (transliterated anthropos) and also ἄνδρα (transliterated andra) in close proximity.

Ο]ἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον οἰ δὲ πέσδων
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ᾽ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔ]μμεναι κάλλιστον ἔγω δὲ κῆν᾽
ὄττω τὶς ἔπαται.

πά]γχυ δ᾽ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι
πά]ντι τ[οῦ]τ᾽. ἀ γὰρ πόλυ περσκόπεισα
κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα
[κρίννεν ἄρ]ιστον,

(Sappho, Hymn to Aphrodite III, 1 and 2)

Some there are who say that the fairest thing seen
on the black earth is an array of horsemen;
some, men marching; some would say ships; but I say
_____she whom one loves best

is the loveliest. Light were the work to make this
plain to all, since she, who surpassed in beauty
all mortality, Helen, once forsaking
_____her lordly husband,

(Richmond Lattimore)

——–

_____ ἐπὶ δὲ μέγαν ὅρκον ὀμοῦμαι
μή ποτε τῆς εὐνῆς ἐπιβήμεναι ἠδὲ μιγῆναι,
ἣ θέμις ἀνθρώπων πέλει ἀνδρῶν ἠδὲ γυναικῶν.

(Homer, Iliad, Book IX, 132b-134)

And to all this I will swear a great oath
that I never entered into her bed and never lay with her
as is natural for human people, between men and women.

(Richmond Lattimore)

——

Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε,
καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι·
διὰ δὲ τὰς πορνείας
ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἐχέτω,
καὶ ἑκάστη τὸν ἴδιον ἄνδρα ἐχέτω.
τῇ γυναικὶἀνὴρ τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἀποδιδότω,
ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἡ γυνὴ τῷ ἀνδρί.

(St. Paul, I Corinthians 7:1-3)

Concerning the matters you wrote me of,
it is a good thing for a man not to touch any woman;
but to save you from loose living,
let each man have his own wife,
and each woman have her own husband.
Let the husband give his wife her due,
and so likewise the wife to her husband.

(Richmond Lattimore)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2013 10:14 am

    Here’s another passage from Homer’s Iliad (book XVIII) with Lattimore’s English.

    Ἐν δὲ δύω ποίησε πόλεις μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
    καλάς. ἐν τῇ μέν ῥα γάμοι τ’ ἔσαν εἰλαπίναι τε,
    νύμφας δ’ ἐκ θαλάμων δαΐδων ὕπο λαμπομενάων
    ἠγίνεον ἀνὰ ἄστυ, πολὺς δ’ ὑμέναιος ὀρώρει·
    κοῦροι δ’ ὀρχηστῆρες ἐδίνεον, ἐν δ’ ἄρα τοῖσιν
    αὐλοὶ φόρμιγγές τε βοὴν ἔχον· αἳ δὲ γυναῖκες
    ἱστάμεναι θαύμαζον ἐπὶ προθύροισιν ἑκάστη.
    λαοὶ δ’ εἰν ἀγορῇ ἔσαν ἀθρόοι· ἔνθα δὲ νεῖκος
    ὠρώρει, δύο δ’ ἄνδρες ἐνείκεον εἵνεκα ποινῆς
    ἀνδρὸς ἀποφθιμένου· ὃ μὲν εὔχετο πάντ’ ἀποδοῦναι
    δήμῳ πιφαύσκων, ὃ δ’ ἀναίνετο μηδὲν ἑλέσθαι·

    On it he wrought in all their beauty two cities of mortal men .
    And there were marriages in one, and festivals.
    They were leading the brides along the city from their maiden chambers
    under the flaring of torches, and the loud bride song was arising.
    The young men followed the circles of the dance, and among them
    the flutes and lyres kept up their clamour as in the meantime the women
    standing each at the door of her court admired them.
    The people were assembled in the market place, where a quarrel
    had arisen, and two men were disputing over the blood price
    for a man who had been killed. One man promised full restitution
    in a public statement, but the other refused and would accept nothing.

  2. September 23, 2013 9:38 am

    Joel asserts, “Sometimes its meaning most closely overlaps with ‘man,’ sometimes with ‘person,’ sometimes with ‘human.'” Suzanne protests, “If i say ‘this creature is an anthropos,’ it can only have one meaning, that the creature is human. It can never mean that the creature is male.”

    I think it’s worth pointing out that I agree with Suzanne here, in spite of her protestations. My point is that there are other ways to use the word anthropos.

  3. September 23, 2013 9:44 am

    Thank you for that, Joel!

    there are other ways to use the word anthropos.

    Would you be able to say also the following?

    “Sometimes its meaning most closely overlaps with ‘man,’ sometimes with ‘woman,’ sometimes with ‘person,’ sometimes with ‘human.’”

    And can you really say the following that Suzanne says?

    “If i say ‘this creature is an anthropos,’ …[i]t can never mean that the creature is male.”

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