You are here:

Greek/Lucius Cornelius Sulla's epitaph

Advertisement


Question
I wanted to get an inscription made for a book I'm having bound for a friend, based on Lucius Cornelius Sulla's epitaph, and I both am stymied by the variety of choices I have when choosing between accuracy and personal opinion, and I saw that you had some experience with the quote.

I believe from line 24 and 25 of Plutarch's Life of Sulla it reads: “Οὔτε τῶν φίλων τις αὐτὸν εὖ ποιῶν οὔτε τῶν ἐχθρῶν κακῶς ὑπερεβάλετο“

1. I've seen his epitaph written as a few variations, like "No better friend, no worse enemy", but the first version I'd seen, and my favorite, is "No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full." Is the latter an accurate translation of the original Greek?

2. Even though from what I understand the original quote was recorded in Greek, since I assume the epitaph would have been written in ancient Latin, how would the latter be translated into Latin?

3. Would that be the same as translating the original Greek back into Latin?

Thank you so much in advance, I really appreciate it.

Answer
Hello,

here are my answers:

1)"No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full" is NOT an accurate translation of the original Greek “Οὔτε τῶν φίλων τις αὐτὸν εὖ ποιῶν, οὔτε τῶν ἐχθρῶν κακῶς ὑπερεβάλετο “ (Plutarch, Life of Sulla, chapter 38, section 4) which  literally means:
“None of his  friends ever surpassed him (i.e. Sulla) in doing good, nor any of his enemy in doing harm”, i.e. “No friend ever surpassed him in kindness, and no enemy in wickedness”).

Plutarch says in fact that such words were the inscription that  Sulla himself wrote for his monument in the Campus Martius, Rome.

[See “ τὸ μὲν οὖν μνημεῖον ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ τοῦ ῎Αρεώς ἐστι• τὸ δὲ ἐπίγραμμά φασιν αὐτὸν ὑπογραψάμενον καταλιπεῖν, οὗ κεφάλαιόν ἐστιν ὡς οὔτε τῶν φίλων τις αὐτὸν εὖ ποιῶν οὔτε τῶν ἐχθρῶν κακῶς ὑπερεβάλετο” meaning “At any rate, his monument stands in the Campus Martius, and the inscription on it, they say, is one which he wrote for it himself, and the substance of it is, that no friend ever surpassed him in kindness, and no enemy in mischief”, translated by Bernadotte Perrin].



2)"No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full”  could be translated into Latin as follows:
“Nec amicus mihi bene fecit  nec inimicus mihi  nocuit, quem pariter remuneratus non sum”.



3)The Latin translation “Nec amicus mihi bene fecit  nec inimicus mihi  nocuit, quem pariter remuneratus non sum” is NOT the same as translating the original Greek back into Latin.


Lastly, I have to point out that  "No better friend, no worse enemy" is  nothing but  an English adaptation of the  original Latin epitaph “Nullus melior amicus, nullus peior inimicus” that allegedly Lucius Cornelius Sulla, famous general and cruel dictator who was known to be a fanatically loyal friend, and an equally implacable enemy, wrote in 78BC for his own tomb in the Campus Martius, Rome.

Anyway the Latin epitaph “Nullus melior amicus, nullus peior inimicus” is the best equivalent of Plutarch‘s quotation as “Οὔτε τῶν φίλων τις αὐτὸν εὖ ποιῶν, οὔτε τῶν ἐχθρῶν κακῶς ὑπερεβάλετο“ fully reflects the idea and feelings of Sulla about friendship and hatred/vengeance.


To conclude, the tomb of the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla was erected in the campus Martius (79 BC), by order of the senate (Livy, Epit. 90; Plutarch, Sulla 38; Appian. BC I.106; Lucan II.222), and restored by Caracalla (Cass. Dio LXXVII.13). Its site is today unknown.

Best regards,
Maria  

Greek

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Maria

Expertise

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.

Experience

Over 25 years teaching experience.

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

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.