You are here:

Ancient Languages/Alexander the Great

Advertisement


Question
Hi Maria, you have helped me on a number of occasions now and I wonder whether you could do once more. I am interested in a particular saying attributed to Alexander the Great, however I have come across two different variations:

a) There is nothing impossible to him who will try

and

b) For the courageous, nothing is unattainable

I am looking for the correct quote and appropriate Greek translation if you can?

Much appreciated
Steve

Answer
Hello,

both “There is nothing impossible to him who will try” (loose adaptation) and “For the courageous, nothing is unattainable”(literal translation) are two different variations of the same saying  of Alexander the Great as we read in Plutarch’s  “Parallel Lives”, and exactly in  “Life of Alexander”, chapter 58, section 1, where we find the original Greek saying  attributed to Alexander the Great.

Here it is:

οὐδὲν τοῖς θαρροῦσιν ἀνάλωτον
(literally,"Nothing is unattainable to those who have courage", i.e.:”For the courageous, nothing is unattainable”.

Note that:

-οὐδὲν (transliterated as “oudèn”) is the neuter pronoun meaning “nothing”;

-τοῖς θαρροῦσιν (transliterated as “toîs tharroûsin”), meaning “to those who have courage”, is the present participle in the dative plural of the verb θαρρέω (=I am courageous") ;

-ἀνάλωτον (transliterated as “análoton”), meaning “unattainable”/”invincible”,  is an adjective in the neuter singular agreeing with οὐδὲν; such an adjective implies the verb “εστί” (transliterated as “estí”) which is the 3rd person singular of the present indicative of “εἰμί “(= I am”)  and means “is”.

Lastly, note that οὐδὲν τοῖς θαρροῦσιν ἀνάλωτον  is followed in Plutarch, “Life of Alexander”, chapter 58, section 1,  by  the following words: οὐδὲ ὀχυρὸν ….τοῖς ἀτόλμοις meaning “and nothing secure for the cowards”.

In short,Alexander the Great believed that “ nothing was  invincible for the courageous, and nothing secure for the cowards” (οὐδὲν τοῖς θαρροῦσιν ἀνάλωτον  οὐδὲ ὀχυρὸν… τοῖς ἀτόλμοις).


To conclude, "For the courageous, nothing is unattainable” is the best and faithful translation of Alexander’s saying, whereas “There is nothing impossible to him who will try”  is a loose adaptation of the same saying.

As you can see,  there is no need to have an appropriate Greek translation of Alexander's saying, since we can read the original Greek text in Plutarch, a Greek biographer and essayist died after 119 AD.

Best regards,

Maria

Ancient Languages

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Maria

Expertise

I am an expert in Latin & Ancient Greek Language and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning this matter.

Experience

Over 25 years teaching experience.

Education/Credentials
I received my Ph.D. in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.