7.1 Parallel text: Euripides
Here are the first three lines of the prologue from Euripides’ play, Bacchae, together with notes on individual words and phrases (see Table 16). Spend a couple of minutes familiarising yourself with it and seeing how much, if any, you can understand. Then attempt to answer the questions that follow.
Euripides, Bacchae, 1.1−3.
The god Dionysus (Bacchus) announces his arrival at the Greek city of Thebes.
I, son of Zeus, have reached this land of Thebans, Dionysos, whom the daughter of Kadmos, Semele, once bore, brought to labour by lightning-bearing flame.
ἥκω Διὸς παῖς τήνδε Θηβαίων χθόνα
Διόνυσος, ὃν τίκτει ποθ᾽ ἡ Κάδμου κόρη
Σεμέλη λοχευθεῖσ᾽ ἀστραπηφόρῳ πυρί
hēkō Dios pais tēnde Thēbaiōn chthona
Dionysos, hon tiktei poth' hē Kadmou korē
Semelē locheutheis' astrapēphorōi pyri
Table 16 Dictionary entries for Bacchae 1−3.
|ἥκω (hēkō)||I have reached||ἥκω (hēkō) – ‘I have come’|
|Διὸς (Dios)||of Zeus||Ζεύς (Zeus) – ‘Zeus’|
|παῖς (pais)||son||παῖς (pais) – ‘son’|
|τήνδε (tēnde)||this||ὅδε (hode) – ‘this’|
|Θηβαίων (Thēbaiōn)||of Thebans||Θηβαῖος (Thēbaios) – ‘Theban’, i.e. from the city of Thebes|
|χθόνα (chthona)||land||χθών (chthōn) – ‘land’|
|Διόνυσος (Dionysos)||Dionysos||Διόνυσος (Dionysos) – ‘Dionysos’|
|ὃν (hon)||whom||ὅς (hos) – the Greek relative pronoun ‘who’|
|τίκτει (tiktei)||bear, give birth to||τίκτω (tiktō) – ‘give birth to’|
|ποθ᾽ (poth')||once||πότε (pote) – ‘once’|
|ἡ (hē)||the||ὅ (ho) – the Greek definite article|
|Κάδμου (Kadmou)||of Kadmos||Κάδμος (Kadmos) – ‘Kadmos’ (or ‘Cadmus’), founder of the city of Thebes|
|κόρη (korē)||daughter||κόρη (korē) – ‘daughter’|
|Σεμέλη (Semelē)||Semele||Σεμέλη (Semelē) – ‘Semele’ (the daughter of Kadmos)|
|λοχευθεῖσ' (locheutheis')||brought to labour||λοχεύω (locheuō) – ‘bring to labour or childbirth’|
|ἀστραπηφόρῳ (astrapēphorōi)||lightning-bearing||ἀστραπηφόρος (astrapēphoros) – ‘carrying lightning’ (or ‘carried by lightning’)|
|πυρί (pyri)||by fire||πύρ (pyr) – ‘fire’|
Identify all proper nouns in this passage (i.e. the names of individuals or peoples). Proper nouns in Greek, as in English, begin with a capital letter.
The passage contains five proper nouns in total.
|Zeus||Διός (Dios)||father of Dionysos|
|Thebans||Θηβαίων (Thēbaiōn)||inhabitants of the city of Thebes in central Greece|
|Dionysos||Διόνυσος (Dionysos)||the god Dionysos|
|Kadmos||Κάδμου (Kadmou)||founder of the city of Thebes and father of Semele|
|Semele||Σεμέλη (Semelē)||mother of Dionysos (by Zeus) and daughter of Kadmos|
What do you notice about the ratio of Greek words to English in this passage?
The English translation uses more words than the Greek (25 English words to Greek’s 17).
Of course, a different English version might have deployed fewer words than 25, or perhaps more. The chosen example is not, however, especially wordy or untypical. It would certainly be difficult to create a literal English translation with just 17 words.