Disputes as to correct translation of PD6 - Should it refer to "sovereignty" and "kingship"?

  • I am informed by Elli P. that there are serious issues with the standard English translation of PD6. The versions we most commonly see are:

    Bailey: "To secure protection from men anything is a natural good, by which you may be able to attain this end." (note the strangely-placed comma)

    Hicks/Loeb: "In order to obtain security from other men any means whatsoever of procuring this was a natural good."

    But Hicks notes a problem:

    Elli cites this version of the ancient Greek text by Archontia Liontaki, who is a philologist οf the ancient and new Greek language, and a member of the current Garden of Epicurus in Athens :

    VI. 6 Ἕνεκα τοῦ θαρρεῖν ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἦν κατὰ φύσιν ἀρχῆς καὶ βασιλείας ἀγαθόν͵ ἐξ ὧν ἄν ποτε τοῦτο οἷός τ΄ ᾖ παρασκευάζεσθαι.

    And this is Liontaki's translation from the ancient to new Greek:

    VI.(6) Με σκοπό την απόκτηση ασφάλειας απέναντι στους ανθρώπους, υπήρχε (πάντα) το φυσικό αγαθό της κυριαρχίας και της βασιλείας, μέσω των οποίων (κάποιος) μπορούσε κάποτε να το καταφέρει αυτό.

    Elli translates this new Greek into English as follows:

    VI. (6) In order to obtain security from other people, there was (always) the natural good of sovereignty and kingship, through which (someone) once could have accomplished this.

    Elli also notes that Eric Anderson translates:

    PD 6 That natural benefit of kingship and high office is (and only is) the degree to which they provide security from other men.

    What a tangled web.

    If specific words such as kingship are there, it would seem they should be included. But some of the best academic minds of the 20th century decided that they had good reason for leaving it out. I would think a fair discussion of which translation is best would have to discuss why Bailey / Bignone / Usener came to the conclusion they did, even if in the end it was wrong. No doubt they had a reason, and they were not just being sloppy. Just saying "they were wrong" doesn't seem like the best approach, or else we call into question everything else they decided (which probably should be done, but can't practically be attempted without a strong foundation).

    Which brings up another topic- many of the ancient texts are translated in very "stilted" and unwieldy English, which is probably not necessarily the way it would be translated by a scholar starting from scratch today. And so we are left with texts written in very hard-to-read fashion that are not necessarily the most accurate in communicating the message intended. We desperately need a full rewrite done by someone who is both (1) competent, and (2) friendly to Epicurus, so as to avoid contamination from Stoic/Platonist preconceptions.

    Elli tells me that such a work is being planned by leaders of the Athenian Garden of Epicurus. As I find out more I will update that information here.

  • One more comment I'd like to preserve here is the observation that the scheme of dividing the Doctrines up into 40 separate items does not seem to go back to the ancient world, and was added somewhere along the way. If the doctrines were written more in "letter" form, with no intent that each of the 40 stand alone, then it would make sense to read six and seven together (as Elli points out). Also, I think I have seen it argued that Epicurus and Lucretius sometimes used the writing device of repetition - saying the same thing several times in different ways in quick succession - for purposes of emphasis and clarity. Maybe what we have as PD 6 is just a warm-up for the main point, which is in PD 7, and the thoughts were never intended by Epicurus to be separated but to be one long flowing single thought.

  • VI. (6) "In order to obtain security from other people, there was (always) the natural good of sovereignty and kingship, through which (someone) once could have accomplished this". This translation comes from the ancient greek to newgreek by Archontia Liontaki, member of the Garden in Athens.


    As we know Bailey et.al erased some words in the above Saying.

    However, in Epicurus’ Description of the Wise Man, by Diogenis Laertius, we observe :

    31. The wise man will appease an absolute ruler when occasion requires. (translation also by Cyril Bailey)

    I find the above as unaccurate translation ! What means "will appease" and what means "when occasion requires" and what means "absolute ruler"?

    I've read from the ancient greek text, by DL : "Ο σοφός και μόναρχον εν καιρώ θεραπεύσειν".

    New greek translation : Ο σοφός σε μια ευκαιρία θα υπηρετήσει ακόμη και βασιλέα/μονάρχη .

    In english my translation is : the wise man in an occasion, will serve even a king/monarch !


    The greek words used are :

    "θεραπεύω" that in ancient greek means "I serve" someone or an art or a science, and NOT "I appease".

    "καιρός" (occasion) literally in greek means "the right time ; and alas, if you let it go or let it pass through your attention".

    "μονάρχης" in greek means the monarch or the king and NOT an "absolute ruler".

    More free translation for the above 31 is : "The wise man will observe the phenomena and if there is the right time he will realize it right away, even to serve a king or monarch. in my opinion that motto "Lathe Viosas" is a cunning and came after, just to be spreaded around, so deviously.":P

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • It's my pleasure...to serve only the one wise monarch and a king of philosophy : Epicurus ! :thumbup:

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!