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Greek/Greek translation


I was wondering how you would translate the quote "Either with this or on it" in Ancient Greek. I'm also wondering what the translation would be in capital letters.


ἢ τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς (in Greek small letters) that is to say: Η  ΤΑΝ  Η  EΠΙ  ΤΑΣ (in Greek capital letters) is the ancient  Greek quote we read in Plutarch’s Sayings of Spartan Women, 241f, which is a part of his work "Apophthegmata Laconica" meaning: ”Sayings of the Ancient Spartans”.

Such a phrase, which  has been translated as  "Either with this or on it“ , where the pronoun “it” stands for the noun “shield”, was the exhortation addressed of a Spartan mother to her son when she gave him the shield before he went to war.

In short, she wished her son to return from war either with his shield or on it, after falling in battle.
In fact, if a soldier  returned home alive without his shield, this would have meant that he had lost it, while running for his life, and then he had been a coward.

Therefore Spartan mothers said something like this : "Return with this shield or upon it", i.e. "Either bring the shield back or be brought home dead upon the shield".

Hope this is clear enough.

Best regards,
Note that:

-ἢ  (transliterated as "he") as a disjunctive conjunction = either

-τὰν (transliterated as "tan") as a Doric feminine accusative  related to the implied accusative feminine  ἀσπίδα (aspίda) meaning “shield” depending on the implied verb equivalent to "Bring back" = this

-ἢ (he) as a disjunctive conjunction  = or

- ἐπὶ (transliterated as "epě") as a  preposition which  takes the genitive case  = upon/ on. Here the implied verb is the equivalent of "Return".

-τᾶς (transliterated as "tăs" ) as a Doric genitive  related to the implied genitive feminine ἀσπίδος (aspίdos) = this.
Note that Spartan shields were large enough to serve as stretchers or funeral biers.
The Greek biographer Plutarch  was born in 46 AD and died in 122 AD.


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I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning ANCIENT GREEK. So, do not ask me please questions regarding MODERN GREEK as it is different from Ancient Greek either in spelling/meaning or in pronunciation.


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I received my Ph.D in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy) and my thesis was about ancient Greek drama (Aeschylus).

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