I need to use a Thucydides quote from 'History of the Peloponnesian War', the quote is at the end of Thuc. 1.22.

My history is an everlasting possession, not a prize composition which is heard and forgotten.

The English and Spanish translations that I've been reading, while respecting the general meaning of the sentence, vary so wildly, so I tried the lovely method of copying the original:

κτῆμά τε ἐς αἰεὶ μᾶλλον ἢ ἀγώνισμα ἐς τὸ παραχρῆμα ἀκούειν ξύγκειται.

and, yes!, pasting it into Google Translator.

This is what I got:

Sooner or later, the sound of the shark is heard.

Yikes! I don't know Greek at all and thus can't show a minimum effort, but I would like an accurate translation of that sentence, hopefully one without sharks.

  • Could you edit your question to provide the link to the original, please? So that we could see the whole chapter. And the Spanish translation you mention might also be useful.
    – tum_
    Jan 26, 2020 at 7:35
  • 1
    @tum_ The original is already linked but it's a bit hidden. Same link and look in the right column for a tab called "Greek (1942)", then click show. It's a nice feature of that site.
    – Rodia
    Jan 26, 2020 at 7:47
  • Adding in comments the Spanish translations I've found: "En resumen, mi obra ha sido compuesta como una adquisición para siempre más que como una pieza de concurso para escuchar un momento", and "mi obra [...] constituye una conquista para siempre, antes que una obra de concurso para un auditorio circunstancial".
    – Rodia
    Jan 26, 2020 at 7:52
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    And bonus link to the Google Translator result
    – Rodia
    Jan 26, 2020 at 8:09

1 Answer 1

  • κτῆμα, 'a possession'
  • τε, 'and' (postpositive: second word in sentence but translated first)
  • ἐς αἰεἰ, 'for always' (prepositional phrase modifying κτῆμα)
  • μᾶλλον ἤ, 'rather than'
  • ἀγώνισμα, 'a declamation (delivered in a competition)'/'a show-piece'
  • ἐς τὸ παραχρῆμα, 'immediately'/'on the spot' (prepositional phrase modifying ἀκούειν)
  • ἀκούειν, 'to listen to' (so-called epexegetic infinitive with ἀγώνισμα)
  • ξύγκειται, 'it [= Thucydides's history] is being composed' (main verb)

And it is being composed as a possession for all time rather than as a show-piece to listen to on the spot.

In Google Translate's defense, it seems to be set up to handle modern Greek, not ancient Greek.

  • In Latin this could be: "mea vita aeternum donum est, non fabula audiri et deinde ex memoria excidere"?
    – tony
    Jan 30, 2020 at 10:23
  • Upon reflection, "ex" may be superfluous, as a prefix it is already present in "excidere" providing the "passing out" element. Therefore, returning "memoria" to the nominative: "...deinde memoria excidet".
    – tony
    Jan 31, 2020 at 9:29
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    The modern Greek mistranslation of Google is stunning indeed; one might think it is a joke of sorts by the programming staff, but it isn't. The program is attempting to morph words into modern Greek words it assumes you misspelled. Chopping up the sentence into shorter phrases gives you even more insights of the fuzzy logic principles of the program. Feb 1, 2020 at 23:21
  • @CosmasZachos So, have you managed to figure out where the "shark" comes from?
    – tum_
    Feb 2, 2020 at 21:25
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    @tum No, the complete, forward and backward escalation is actually instructive. Deleting the first word (κτῆμα) already eliminates the shark (κῆτος??), but the last few steps are stunning. Their spline finally fit ξύγκειται to something like ξύνεται!! I understand Boris Johnson misused this site to fake Ancient Greek translations, oblivious of the off tones the resulting Modern Greek sentence would have had in an ancient Athens spike... Feb 2, 2020 at 21:45

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