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I did some research about the Greek Gods associated with language and communication and found that the best approximation is the Greek God: Hermes.

I'm writing a research paper about communications, and I want to include as an opening quote in my paper the following (but in Latin):

For my great work is a surprise to Hermes

this is to refer that even though Hermes is the God of language and communication, the advancement in technology and as human species, in general, we changed the way we communicate, or at least as Hermes conceived it. hence, taking him by surprise.

I tried reverse engineering it and reached this translation:

Magnum opus meum mirum est Hermes

which translates:

  • According to Google translate: My great work is amazing Hermes
  • According to translate.com: For my great work is a surprise to Hermes

Can someone help me with a stable translation, please? I want it to say: For my great work is a surprise to Hermes

While also keeping: Great work = Magnum opus.

Thank you in advance

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  • 2
    Have you considered ancient Greek instead of Latin? Latin would have translated Hermes' name to Mercurius instead.
    – cmw
    Jun 20 at 3:36
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    Welcome to the site! This is a nice idea for your paper. To put cmw's question above another way, would you be okay with a translation that had Mercurius (i.e. Mercury), instead of Hermes? If "magnum opus" is important to your quote, then I guess you need it to be in Latin. But is the name "Hermes" also important?
    – Penelope
    Jun 20 at 6:33
  • Thank you cmw, Penelope for your comments. To answer your comment, cmw, I would like to go with Latin for the Magnum opus part. For Penelope, thanks for your welcome. indeed I'm new to this community. Yes, I would be good with a translation with Mercurius, as long as Mercurius refers to the god of language and/or communication. As my paper is about communication. Hope I answered your comments properly. Thank you
    – Xygo
    Jun 20 at 13:50
  • Pinging @Penelope so she can see this. Xygo: when replying to a person, they won't be able to see that you left a comment unless you put the @ sign in front of their name.
    – cmw
    Jun 20 at 17:30

1 Answer 1

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You need a few things left to make it grammatical. First, the "for" in the beginning is missing. You have two options for that. One is nam at the beginning (nam magnum opus) and the other is enim after words (magnum opus enim* or magnum enim opus, the latter I believe is more archaic, judging from a quick glance at early and Ciceronian usage). Both words are about equally common throughout Latin literature, so the choice is yours. Personally, though, for this sentence I'd go with nam in the beginning.

Second, as mentioned in the comments, you wouldn't write Hermes, but his Roman name, Mercurius. They are always equivalent in ancient texts, and the connotations of the former are certainly present with the latter. Not only that, but you'll need it in the right case (the "to" part of "to Hermes"). As you have it now, it's just the nominative, rendering it: "My great and surprising work is Hermes." It sounds like you made Hermes!

Here's where it gets tricky. The typical Latin idiom used the videtur + the dative ("seems") instead of est ("is"). You can see several examples here, and more are present if you separate the words. While mirum est is quite common, mirum est with a dative is much less frequently attested. It's possible, but just not common.

It's difficult to tell if there's any real difference between the two, and one might find it surprising that the Romans did it this way, but the exact phrase mihi mirum videtur occurs in three separate eras of Latin literature, and in the past tense and subjunctive mood you see it again. Meanwhile, mihi mirum est has no hits (nor with fuit, erat, esset, etc.).

So putting it all together, you have the phrase:

  • nam magnum opus meum mirum Mercurio videtur
  • For my magnum opus is a surprise to Mercury/Hermes.

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