κακοὶ μάρτυρες ἀνθρώποισιν ὀφθαλμοὶ καὶ ὦτα βαρβάρους ψυχὰς ἐχόντων -> eyes and ears are poor witnesses for men if their souls do not understand the language (Heraclitus Phil.: Fr. B 107; Testimonia: Fragment 16, line 6)

vbd. · 12 · 4066

vbd.

  • Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 719
    • Gender:Male
Heraclitus Phil. : Testimonia : Fragment 16, line 6

Hey Bill. I can't copy the text from TLG because I have a demo version which won't allow me to. Translations for this line; one would be "the eyes and ears of men 'with barbarian souls' bear bad witness", the other is "eyes and ears are poor witnesses for men if their souls do not understand the language". How would you translate? More importantly, what do you think of the way "barbarian" is used?

ὁ δὲ Ἡράκλειτος, ἐπεὶ πάλιν ἐδόκει δυσὶν ὠργανῶσθαι ὁ ἄνθρωπος πρὸς τὴν τῆς ἀληθείας γνῶσιν, αἰσθήσει τε καὶ λόγωι, τούτων τὴν <μὲν> αἴσθησιν παραπλησίως τοῖς προειρημένοις φυσικοῖς ἄπιστον εἶναι νενόμικεν, τὸν δὲ λόγον ὑποτίθεται κριτήριον. ἀλλὰ τὴν μὲν αἴσθησιν ἐλέγχει λέγων κατὰ λέξιν <‘κακοὶ ... ἐχόντων’> [B 107], ὅπερ ἴσον ἦν τῶι ‘βαρβάρων ἐστὶ ψυχῶν ταῖς ἀλόγοις αἰσθήσεσι πιστεύειν’. (127) τὸν δὲ λόγον κριτὴν τῆς ἀληθείας ἀποφαίνεται οὐ τὸν ὁποιονδήποτε, ἀλλὰ τὸν κοινὸν καὶ θεῖον. τίς δ' ἐστὶν οὗτος, συντόμως ὑποδεικτέον· ἀρέσκει γὰρ τῶι φυσικῶι τὸ περιέχον ἡμᾶς λογικόν τε ὂν καὶ φρενῆρες.


The line I'm referring to is in bold.
« Last Edit: 29 Oct, 2008, 15:45:01 by billberg23 »
At last, I have peace.





billberg23

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 6064
    • Gender:Male
  • Words ail me.
The line I'm referring to is in bold.
The line you refer to in the title of your post seems not to be from Heraclitus, but from Sextus Empiricus, who remarks (after quoting Heraclitus’ fr. B 107 Diels): “This was like saying ‘It is the behavior of barbarian souls to trust their irrational senses.’”

Fr. B 107, which you translate, goes as follows:  Κακοὶ μάρτυρες ἀνθρώποισιν ὀφθαλμοὶ καὶ ὦτα βαρβάρους ψυχὰς ἐχόντων.   I like Burnet’s translation best (the one you quote second).  “Of those who have barbarian souls” would logically mean “whose souls don’t speak Greek,” or “who don’t have intelligible language.”  Back in the “dark” ages, Greeks evidently called their Middle Eastern trading partners barbaroi because they heard the syllable “bar” so often from them as they called to each other (bar means “son of” in West Semitic languages, invariably used in names, so it must have been uttered fairly frequently).  If your soul just knows “bar bar bar bar,” and can’t “read” the messages brought by your ears and eyes, those messages are pretty useless.

P.S. Do you want to change the title of this thread to reflect fr. B 107?



vbd.

  • Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 719
    • Gender:Male
Thank you. Exactly that is the whole point Bill. I'm examining the meaning of "barbarian" throughout the ages. In classical Greece, the pejorative meaning assigned to it is due to the differences in the political thought (democracy/love for freedom vs tyranny/slavishness) rather than the -always obvious- linguistic gap. Determining which authors' "barbarian" (first) has this evaluative sense rather than being just a descriptive adjective of those who don't speak Greek helps us decide more definitively when this change took place. (Of course it first was expressed properly in 472 Aeschylus' Persae but that's not a sufficient answer, nor does it fully explain why this change occured. This again can be explained on many levels, the most important of which for me personally seems to be the Athenian hegemony -they needed an enemy who would make their allies have to fight together, they needed to show that the "other" was lesser because slavery was a main characteristic of the 5th century Athens, and saying that those barbarians are slavish by nature was a good excuse etc etc but there's much more to this matter).

BTW the 2 articles from Fabula are amazing. They gave me more food for thought and things to work with than I could ever have imagined.
At last, I have peace.



billberg23

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 6064
    • Gender:Male
  • Words ail me.
Quote
βαρβάρους ψυχὰς ἐχόντων
Thanks for making me obsess over this line, Alex.  Now I'm thinking there may be a value judgment implied here, after all.  And wondering if it's ever been correctly translated.  Nobody seems to care that there's a disconnect between the dative of ἀνθρώποισιν and the genitive of ἐχόντων (and there's no grammatical excuse for calling it a "genitive absolute").  What do you think of this:
"The eyes and ears of men who have illiterate/uneducated/inarticulate (βαρβάρους) minds are bad witnesses for the rest of us (ἀνθρώποισιν)"?  I.e., you can't trust their reports about what's really out there, they haven't learned the logos.
« Last Edit: 30 Oct, 2008, 03:26:58 by billberg23 »


vbd.

  • Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 719
    • Gender:Male
Bill that's exactly what I was thinking except you managed to word it out with the proper syntactical and philological terminology etc.
Now, I was reading this book the other day that had a comment about this particular line... She dismissed it, saying that the use of "barbarian" here is descriptive and there's no value judgment involved. However, this was not her only argument. She put forth quite a few others, unfortunately I don't have the book anymore, but I'll get it and re-read the passage, see exactly what points she makes. However this here is a good start, and I think you'll agree with me that this alone doesn't mean much; a sole instance of such a use of "barbarian" doesn't necessarily express the whole society of the time. I'm on it though. I have 3 new amazing books to read and either way, once I know more I'll let you know. Gotta see if we have any archaeological data to support what Heraclitus might be expressing.

Spiros, nice one. Modern poetry is not really my thing, but this poem always I have liked. It has something so intrinsically nostalgic about it.
At last, I have peace.


spiros

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 814140
    • Gender:Male
  • point d’amour
Spiros, nice one. Modern poetry is not really my thing, but this poem always I have liked. It has something so intrinsically nostalgic about it.

Well, Kavafy is not exactly modern (unless you are suggesting Ancient Greek poetry); but yes, many of his poems emanate a strong nostalgic feeling -:)


vbd.

  • Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 719
    • Gender:Male
Coming back at this; Bill, I stumbled across an interpretation: "'the philosopher is hardly advancing the chauvinist thesis that non-Greek speakers cannot attain knowledge'. His use of the word seems to be metaphorical: the sense-perceptions of those 'who do not understand' are unreliable. This instance certainly does not imply the generic sense designating all non-Greeks which the word was to possess in the fifth century." (my italics)

What do you think? I think the interpretor is terribly mistaken, for the simple reason that you can't use a word with positive connotations metaphorically as one with negative connotations; you can't say "she is an angel" and be meaning that she's ugly. You can however say "she is a beast" and mean that she's ugly. You're using the words "angel" and "beast" metaphorically, but what matters is that it's negative connotation doesn't part ways with the word no matter whether you're using it literally or not. In other words, if "barbaros" is appropriate to be used metaphorically as a pejorative term, it must be pejorative when used literally too. Obviously it probably does not imply "the generic sense designating all non-Greeks" etc, but that's one thing. Dismissing it as completely unimportant is another.
At last, I have peace.


billberg23

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 6064
    • Gender:Male
  • Words ail me.
'The philosopher is hardly advancing the chauvinist thesis that non-Greek speakers cannot attain knowledge'.
Right, nobody said he was.  (Who is being quoted, by the way, both in the internal and in the external quotation?)

I have to back off a bit and remind myself that H. is not commenting on barbarians, but rather on Greeks who have "barbarian" minds, i.e. minds incapable of understanding the plain Greek that's right in front of their eyes and flowing into their ears. 

So despite the fact that the term βαρβάρους is neutral, still it has negative implications, in that it designates a primitive, unfinished state unsuitable for an educated Greek.  In that sense I'm with you all the way, Alexander.


vbd.

  • Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
    • Posts: 719
    • Gender:Male
I'm quoting Edith Hall's "Inventing the Barbarian: Greek self-definition through tragedy" (1989). She was quoting Jonathan Barnes' "The pre-socratic philosophers" (1986).
What you reminded yourself is indeed a very good point; you worded it perfectly. Thank you for your valuable insight, it helps me a lot to approach a matter from different perspectives.
At last, I have peace.


 

Search Tools