Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

By Cuervo, in 'Latin to English Translation', Aug 13, 2006.

  1. Cuervo New Member

    Ive been trying to translate these quotes myself with little progress, and was wondering if anyone could help??

    There are two main phrases which i need checking...

    1.Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi
    (need to know if thats gramatically ok, and the spelling is correct)

    2. english to latin.. 'to the heavens through adversity, for the road to evil is for the weak'... or something to that affect.
    (The best i could do was "Ad astra per aspera, Facilis descensus Averno". But i would much prefer the word 'astra' or stars to be replaced by heavens, and the word 'aspera' or difficulties to be replaced by 'adversity'...and the 'facilis' to something like 'for the weak')

    If anyone could either point me in the right direction or help me translate them i would be greatly appriciative.
    thanks for your time

  2. Cuervo New Member

    anyone? :roll:
  3. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    Re: Translation help??

    This is a Latin proverb which literally means "the deepest rivers flow with the least sound." It is often paraphrased as "Still waters run deep." It is grammatically correct (this is the way the quote works) and spelled properly.

    Replace astra with [/i]caelum[/i] and facilis - "easy" with infirmis - "(for the) weak". aspera is OK for adversity, but if you want that specific word, replace it with res adversas.
  4. Cuervo New Member

    Re: Translation help??

    This is a Latin proverb which literally means "the deepest rivers flow with the least sound." It is often paraphrased as "Still waters run deep." It is grammatically correct (this is the way the quote works) and spelled properly.

    Thankyou :D, i thought thats what it read as, but i needed to make sure

    Replace astra with caelum[/i] and facilis - "easy" with infirmis - "(for the) weak". aspera is OK for adversity, but if you want that specific word, replace it with res adversas.[/quote][/i]

    So would this read correctly:
    Ad caelum per res adversas, Infirmis descensus Averno

    Thankyou soo much for the help, its really appriciated :D its been bothering me for months :brickwall:
  5. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    1. With respect to Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi, chjones, I do not quite agree.

    I believe that the original of this, in exactly these words, is the Historiae Alexandri Magni of Q. Curtius Rufus (vii: iv: 13).

    But broaden the context a little:

    Adicit deinde, quod apud Bactrianos vulgo usurpabant, canem timidum vehementius latrare quam mordere, altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi.

    It seems to me that that terminal deponent-infinitive makes sense here only in the context of the oratio obliqua. If the rivers are isolated from the rest of the passage, it would make more sense to me to put the verb into the present indicative (in which form the saying is sometimes encountered):

    Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labuntur.

    But perhaps I am misinterpreting something here?

    2. I would advocate for in or ad Avernum rather than plain Averno. For a model consider the old Apostles' Creed:

    ...descendit ad inferos; tertia die resurrexit a mortuis; ascendit ad coelos...

    Or in the Nicean:

    ...ascendit in coelum...
  6. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    This is interesting; I've never seen the proverb written with the verb in pres. ind., and didn't know the source, so I always assumed the trailing infinitive was historical or somesuch. Indirect speech didn't occur to me, but from the context this is the best interpretation. I also agree that as a stand-alone Iynx's translation using labuntur is better.

    Here though the original quote is from the Aeneid VI.126, when the Sybil begins to lead Aeneas into Hades:

    ..."sate sanguine divum,
    Tros Anchisiade, facilis descensus Averno"

    I presumed the slight change was meant to echo this quote; dative is unusual here, but it's Virgil...
  7. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    Cuervo, I hope we haven't lost you here.

    The issue with respect to the deep-rivers sentence had to do with the form of the final verb. In the original (a 1st-century AD biography of Alexander the Great) someone says that

    "as used commonly to be said among the Bactrians, a timid dogs barks more furiously than he bites, but the deepest rivers run silently".

    The sentence involves what is called oratio obliqua or "indirect discourse"-- we are being told by A what B said, not in the form of a direct quotation, but obliquely: "he said that...". In Latin the verb(s) in B's alleged statement are often to be found in the infinitive, as are the barking, the biting, and the running in the original Q. Curtius Rufus quote. And certainly it would make sense to quote the phrase in that form.

    But if we view the bit about the rivers as an independent sentence, separate from the rest, then there is no indirect discourse, and a different verb-form makes more sense.

    I'm still a little confused about the Avernus question; I'll come back to it in a little while.
  8. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    I thank you, chjones, for pointing out the allusion to Virgil, which I had completely missed.

    But I have two questions:

    1. What sort of everloving dative is that? Is it a possessive?

    2. Surely we have textual problems here? I see that Thomas Browne (III: ii: 5) quotes the Virgil as facilis descensus Averni, with an i at the end-- genitive, I presume. This alone wouldn't bother me, as Browne is prone to free adaptation. In this very place he omits line 127 altogether, and in 129 reverses the hic and the hoc.

    But the line is also quoted as facilis discensus Averni by authors as diverse as Bernard of Cluny (De Octo Vitiis ) and Edgar Allen Poe (The Purloined Letter). And the genitive here does seem more conventional than the dative, does it not?

    I thought that Perseus might lead me to some text-critical material, but (as usual lately), I can't get past the beginning of Book VI there. "Server not found", don't you know.

    I think of you as an expert on Virgil; can you explain what's going on here?
  9. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    This is the rare "Dative of direction" or "Dative of Limit of Motion", generally limited to use by the poets. The only grammar I have handy is Bennett's (careful, 1.6MB); it is dealt with under No. 193

    This is a good question, one that led me to ransack my basement for that Oxford edition of Vergil which gives all the variant readings. Unfortunately, I am still looking...

    The text as you cite it--with the genitive Averni--seems to come from the early 17th century edition of the Spanish Jesuit Juan Luis de la Cerda (I base this only on several webpages marking the date of this quote as 1618). This text was a wide standard across Europe for many years, but was largely supplanted by Otto Ribbeck's (Leipzig) edition of Virgil's opera completed in the 1860's. This is generally considered to be the first "modern" critical edition of Vergil, meaning it made use of German theories of textual criticism (given your knowledge of the NT, I'm guessing your familiar with these). I don't have proof in front of me, but I'll bet Ribbeck changed Averni to Averno based on manuscript recension.

    Still, I think a trip to the library for me is in order...
  10. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    1. I need to apologize to you, chjones, and to anyone else that I sent on a wild goose chase. I have no idea why I wrote "Thomas Browne" last night-- The Anatomy of Melancholy, by ROBERT BURTON, was open in front of me as I did so. Mea maxima culpa.

    2. But apart from typing the wrong name, twice, I got the citations right, to the best of my knowledge.

    3. Thank you, chjones. Both Bernard and Burton of course antedate Father de la Cerda, so the error (if it is an error) cannot be entirely his.
  11. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    The library (and Questia on-line; I've bought a subscription!) is a wonderful thing! A check of a few editions and commentaries on the Aeneid revealed the following about VI.126

    Maurus Servius Romanus--an ancient late 4th century commentator on the Aeneid whose work survives (his text is on Perseus)--had this to say about the line:

    facilis descensus averni legitur et 'Averno', id est ad Avernum; sed si 'Averni', inferorum significat et lacum pro inferis ponit.

    So the confusion is at least as old as the oldest manuscripts; for those of you not interested in the pedantic details, that's all you need to know.

    Mackail's Oxford edition of the Aeneid (1930) notes "In this famous line, Averni and Averno were both read from the earliest times. The majority of editors have followed Heinsius in printing Averno; but there is really little choice." Nicholas Heinsius established a "vulgate" text of the Aeneid in 1676 (published with notes in Florence in 1746). This work was notable because it was the continuation of work done by his father, who was a student of Scaliger. It was indeed the reading adopted by Riddeck's definitive edition published in the 19th century.

    Finally, an argument for Averni comes from Butler's 1920 edition on book VI: "126: Averni R: Averno (corrected to -i), P: Averno M. Servius recognises both readings. The question as to which reading is correct cannot be definitely decided. But Auerni undoubtedly ought to be right. What is required is "the descent of Avernus"--i.e., the cave at Avernus: cp. Plin. 16. 110 descensus speluncae. If we read Auerno=ad Auernum, the descent to Avernus can only mean the descent to Hades. That Auernus can be so used is undoubted: cp. Ov. Am. 3. 9. 27. Luc. 6. 636, etc. But it is not appropriate that it should be so used here in the immediate neighbourhood of the actual lake and caver n."

    R. = "Codex Romanus" P. = "Codex Palatinus"; Butler is noting that his reading of Averni in his edition is at odds with these manuscripts (although there is a correction by a later hand in the Codex Romanus). Truthfully I find Butler's "ought to be right" portion of his argument to be unconvincing, especially given the general manuscript principle that the more difficult reading between two conflicting manuscripts (unless it's an out-and-out copying error) tends to be the older, more correct one (that correction in the Codex Romanus is a dead giveaway).

    The upshot on all this (if anyone still cares:)) is that there isn't much to argue about here; both readings seem defensible. An interesting diversion for me at least; hope someone else learned something as well...
  12. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    I at least am interested, chjones, and I thank you for that scholarly exposition. It's fascinating to realize that I blundered into a 1500-year-old textual riddle

    I note that Servius glosses Averno as ad Avernum-- which I, simplistically, proposed for the expression in the first place.

    But I find your argument based on the "correction" in the Romanus very cogent.

    Thank you.

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