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billmills1968

A Passionate Prodigality by Guy Chapman

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KOBE

Excellent review, Bill. I read this book a year or two ago and found it thoroughly fascinating but there's one thing that's been bugging me - on the last page, out of nowhere, Chapman inserts a single sentence in what appears to be ancient Greek. I know he was a highly educated man and was probably writing for a similar audience, little knowing that one day plebs like me might read it! Google actually hasn't been much help with this so I'd appeal to any scholars of the classics out there who may have read the book.

 

The quote in context - 

 

"Our civilization was being torn in pieces before our eyes.England was said to be a country fit only for profiteers to live in. έστι δε όυ πρός Λαχεδαιμονίους ήμίν δ άγων [sic]. Many of us were growing bitter. We had no longer the desire to go back. It was an island we did not know."

 

 

 

(Note - I have the 1990 edition. Perhaps later editions have some notation or a translation?)

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Uncle George

“Here are the Spartans.” It reminds me of Simonides’ epitaph to the 300 Spartans who fell at Thermopylae: ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

 

This may be translated as, “Stranger, go tell the Spartans that we, who lie here, did as we were ordered.”

 

There’s a great Burt Lancaster film, ‘Go Tell the Spartans’, set during the Vietnam War, which also concerns men needlessly sent to their deaths.

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KOBE

It is a bit of a puzzler isn't it?

 

And I shall keep an eye out for the film, cheers.

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Maureene

The book is available online on Archive.org as part of the Books to Book/Lending Library  part of the website. where only one person at a time can read the book online.

 

It is a 1966 American  reprint edition with a special preface  by the author, setting out his reasons for writing the book.

 

https://archive.org/details/passionateprodig00chap/page/n7/mode/2up

 

Cheers

Maureen

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KOBE

Hi Maureene, well spotted on the archive, that will be very handy for anyone who wants to read it (as it can be a bit hard to get hold of). 

 

Unfortunately this version also lacks any translations of the foreign verses, so I'm still at a loss, but thank you anyway.

 

 

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Uncle George

‘Google translate’ tells us: “έστι δε όυ πρός Λαχεδαιμονίους ήμίν δ άγων” is “and here's to the Spartans”. But I think “here are the Spartans” is more likely.

 

But there seems to be too many Greek words for this to be right.

 

‘Google translate’ also tells us that “ήμίν δ άγων” in isolation is “I was just waiting”. So, ‘Here are the Spartans, just waiting’ may be a better stab at it.
 

I think it likely that Chapman, he of Westminster School, would have known the fairly well-known Simonides quote I mentioned upstream, and was making reference to it. 

 

 

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KOBE

Yes, I've run the quote through Google translate and also parts of the quote in quotation marks. It seems to point to a book about the history of the Peloponesian War but, bizarrely, it also appeared in another text (the name of which I can't remember) with a completely different translation! I think we need a Greek scholar to straighten this out...

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apwright

Book V Chapter 91 of Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War:

 

ἔστι δὲ οὐ πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους ἡμῖν ὁ ἀγών = yet with the Spartans we are not now contending

 

Adrian

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KOBE

Thanks, Adrian. That does seem to make at least a little bit of sense? I'm sure there's probably more context to the quote or Chapman wouldn't have felt the need to include it, but it definitely helps!

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