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"Those who would be great must serve" I'd appreciate knowing how to say this. Its based on Matthew 23:11 (but not quite the same as the Vulgate translation).

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  • 1
    Have you looked up a Latin translation of Matthew 23:11 as a base to work from?
    – dbmag9
    Aug 24 at 9:33
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    Yes - that translation is: qui maior est vestrum erit minister vester, but that literally is "[he] who is better than others will serve others". I want to include more of the subjunctive (I think) implying that if one wants to be great (not necessarily better than others) must serve.
    – K Johns
    Aug 25 at 10:31
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If one is not restricted to the language of the Vulgate (it is unclear from the question if there is a requirement to conform the Vulgate in wording), for "would/want to be great" part, it is possible to use magna spectare which was used by Cicero(*); it means "to strive/aim for greatness" (literally: aim for great [things]), hence qui magna spectant

The "must serve" part can also be interpreted somewhat differently. It seems the more natural for this case is (as suggested in other answers) debeo; I think the subjective can also work here, like the famous Vulgatian fiat lux (Let there be light) - it is almost imperative in tone. But it seems the selection of this part really depends on what must means here, I would not rule out the original erit minister nor even esto minister (which is kind of future imperative). If we use debeo we end up with:

Ii, qui magna spectant, debent ministrare


(*) ... ii, simul ac iuvenes esse coeperunt, magna spectare et ad ea rectis studiis debent contendere (Cic.Off.2.45.4)

3

What does “those who would be great” mean, exactly? It's slightly archaic English and depends on context, but I think FlatAssembler has got it right in his answer: it means qui volunt magni esse. (You could also say cupiunt etc., but let's keep it simple.)

Therefore the most straightforward translation seems to me to be: Serviendum est iis, qui volunt magni esse.

However, as brianpck pointed out in a comment, this is ambiguous: It is easily read impersonally as: “one most serve those who want to be great.” It is therefore better to say:

Debent servire, qui volunt magni esse.

This is also somewhat more apt, as (or so my dictionary tells me) debere is used for moral duties, whereas the gerund construction is used for necsessities that flow ineluctably from the circumstances, which is presumably not the case here. (Although, to be sure, I take this differentiation to be more of a general guideline rather than an ironclad law.)

Incidentally, since “must” could also be past tense, a couple of other interpretations of the English original would be possible, but none sound very plausible.

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    I have a lingering problem with "serviendum est iis" here and above: since servire takes the dative, it's inherently ambiguous in a pretty big way, allowing a reading that pretty much reverses the intended meaning.
    – brianpck
    Aug 26 at 16:03
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    I have the same issue as brianpck. Even though I know what this is supposed to say, when I see it my brain wants to read it as 'One must serve those who want....' Perhaps ablative of agent would be preferable in this instance?
    – cnread
    Aug 26 at 16:25
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    The same occurred to me, actually, on reading it again. Aug 26 at 16:51
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    @brianpck Classical Latin was often ambiguous, often purposefully so. Some Romans might have preferred to avoid ambiguity if they felt it impeded understanding (a case can be made for that here), but ambiguity was not always avoided.
    – cmw
    Aug 27 at 12:37
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    @tony, Sorry, I don't understand your point. My reservation is precisely about the ambiguity of the dative case. I have no issue with the impersonal construction itself, which is the only one possible here if a gerundive is used.
    – cnread
    Aug 27 at 16:13
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Thanks to cmw, brianpck (below) & Joonas (CHAT):

"serviendum est eis qui magni esse audent"

=

"it ought-to-be-served by those who (would) dare to be great".

EDIT 26/8/2021:

"serviendum est eis qui magni sint"

=

"it ought-to-be-served by those who would be great".

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    Two things: (1) I think you want magni (nominative), since this isn't an ACI construction, and (2) I don't think the imperfect subjunctive works here, since the main verb is present.
    – brianpck
    Aug 25 at 12:52
  • @brianpck: Thank you. I thought "would dare" would require the subjunctive?
    – tony
    Aug 25 at 13:30
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    In this case I think you could use the present subjunctive (audeant). But doesn't audeo stray a bit from the OP's sentence?
    – brianpck
    Aug 25 at 13:38
  • @brianpck: Yes, but I wasn't sure about "would be great", "magni sint/ essent"; "sunt" would suggest that "they" are already great, without having served, wouldn't it?
    – tony
    Aug 25 at 15:37
0

Perhaps something like "Ii, qui volunt in futuro tempore magni esse, ipsi debent servi esse nunc."?

Google Translate

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    It might have to do with using Google Translate. Or perhaps people just wanted to see more elaboration.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Aug 25 at 7:21
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    I'm pretty sure the OP is just using Google Translate to show the meaning of the Latin phrase (Latin -> English), not as the actual source of the translation. But regardless, it's notoriously bad so it actually lessens credibility. But the translation itself is grammatically correct, though a little too close to English syntax, at least to my ear!
    – brianpck
    Aug 25 at 13:41
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    @Cairnarvon It actually is "ii" (two i's), which is a legitimate spelling of ei (sans serif fonts strike again!)
    – brianpck
    Aug 26 at 19:19
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    @FlatAssembler Both are acceptable. L&S has a convoluted note about the masculine plural nominative: "Plur. nom. m. ĕi, Plaut. Mil. 2, 4, 32; id. Stich. 1, 3, 47; Ter. Ad. prol. 23; but in the MSS. ii; Cic. de Or. 1, 19, 87 et saep.: “eei,” Inscr. Neap. 2423, 8: iei, C. I. L. 1, 185; Varr. L. L. 9, 1, 2 al.; “but ī,” Plaut. Trin. prol. 17; id. Mil. 3, 1, 158 al.; v. Ritschl prol. p. 98;"
    – brianpck
    Aug 26 at 20:03
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    @Cairnarvon It sounds a bit unidiomatic to me, but it seems to have a decent amount of attestations.
    – brianpck
    Aug 26 at 20:12

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