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Translation attempt from Johannes Trithemius (1621)

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Translation attempt from Johannes Trithemius (1621)

Postby autophile » Sat May 10, 2008 12:30 am

Hi all, self-learner here.

Well, having 24 chapters of Wheelock's under my belt, I decided to try my hand at translating an actual sentence from an actual author of Latin text, hooray for me! My interests are mainly in Renaissance-era scientific works rather than the classics or ecclesiastical works. This sentence is from the introduction to Johannes Trithemius's Steganographia, which describes the art of hiding messages inside of messages. Today, steganography is used to hide, for example, messages in JPEGs on the Intarwebz.

Trithemius's Steganography was written around 1500, but not published until around 1600. Trithemius didn't publish it during his lifetime due to the magical-sounding methods, which he was afraid would get him in trouble. Remember, even simple substitution ciphers were ooh-ah high technology back then :)

Anyway. Here's my sentence, and my attempt at translation, for which I have a bunch of questions. The sentence itself is rather large, so let's just focus on the first segment (in bold)

Diuus etiam et inter nostros eruditissimus Hieronymus tot pene
in Apocalypsi Ioannis mysteria latere affirmat,
quot verba Graecorum
Sapientes non parvae apud suos aestimationis praetereo: nostrosque et
Philosophos et Poetas doctissimos intermitto, qui fabulis conscribendis
operam navantes, aliud imperitis, atque aliud eruditis homonib. unius
narrationis serie sagaci adinventione tradiderunt.

My stab at this phrase:

The blessed, and furthermore among our most learned, Hieronymus asserts that so many provisions lie hidden in the Apocalypse of John...

Q: Where does mysteria fit? I broke down what I think the phrases are as follows:

1. NOM phrase: Diuus etiam et inter nostros eruditissimus Hieronymus
2. NOM or ACC, plural, neuter: tot pene -- I'm pretty sure pene is declined from penum, not penis, in which case this would be an ABL singular masculine, and also wouldn't make a whole lot of contextual sense!
3. ABL prepositional phrase: in Apocalypsi Ioannis
4. NOM or ACC, plural, neuter: mysteria
5. Infinitive, present: latere
6. Verb, present 3rd person singular: affirmat

I'm pretty sure that the subject of the verb at (6) is (1). Also, I'm positive that the infinitive at (5) is an indirect statement, thus "Hieronymus asserts that..."

So now I'm looking for the ACC subject of the infinitive at (5), and I have two choices at (2) or (4). This is what is throwing me off. Also, I'm not even sure of my translation of (2), "so many provisions".

Does anyone have an idea?

Thanks,

--Rob
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Re: Translation attempt from Johannes Trithemius (1621)

Postby thesaurus » Sat May 10, 2008 6:29 am

autophile wrote:
Diuus etiam et inter nostros eruditissimus Hieronymus tot pene
in Apocalypsi Ioannis mysteria latere affirmat,
quot verba Graecorum
Sapientes non parvae apud suos aestimationis praetereo: nostrosque et
Philosophos et Poetas doctissimos intermitto, qui fabulis conscribendis
operam navantes, aliud imperitis, atque aliud eruditis homonib. unius
narrationis serie sagaci adinventione tradiderunt.

My stab at this phrase:

The blessed, and furthermore among our most learned, Hieronymus asserts that so many provisions lie hidden in the Apocalypse of John...

Q: Where does mysteria fit? I broke down what I think the phrases are as follows:

1. NOM phrase: Diuus etiam et inter nostros eruditissimus Hieronymus
2. NOM or ACC, plural, neuter: tot pene -- I'm pretty sure pene is declined from penum, not penis, in which case this would be an ABL singular masculine, and also wouldn't make a whole lot of contextual sense!
3. ABL prepositional phrase: in Apocalypsi Ioannis
4. NOM or ACC, plural, neuter: mysteria
5. Infinitive, present: latere
6. Verb, present 3rd person singular: affirmat

I'm pretty sure that the subject of the verb at (6) is (1). Also, I'm positive that the infinitive at (5) is an indirect statement, thus "Hieronymus asserts that..."

So now I'm looking for the ACC subject of the infinitive at (5), and I have two choices at (2) or (4). This is what is throwing me off. Also, I'm not even sure of my translation of (2), "so many provisions".

Does anyone have an idea?

Thanks,

--Rob


All in all, you should be very pleased with yourself, as you've managed to teach yourself many of the fundamentals of Latin without having the benefit of a class or instructor. So congratulations!

Your problems are fairly minor. Here is how I would translate the phrase:

Diuus etiam et inter nostros eruditissimus Hieronymus tot pene
in Apocalypsi Ioannis mysteria latere affirmat,
quot verba Graecorum
Sapientes non parvae apud suos aestimationis praetereo: nostrosque et
Philosophos et Poetas doctissimos intermitto, qui fabulis conscribendis
operam navantes, aliud imperitis, atque aliud eruditis homonib. unius
narrationis serie sagaci adinventione tradiderunt.

And also the divine [i.e., Saint] Jerome--and among us most the most learned--affirms that nearly so many [words] lay hidden in the mysteries of the Apocalypse of John [i.e., book of the Bible(?)], I pass over how many words of the Greeks the Wise [held(?)] among themselves not of little value: and I admit both our most learned Philosophers and Poets, who doing their best in writing down stories--one thing for the unskilled, and yet another for learned men--they told of one story with serious and keen invention.
[N.B., "operam navare" "do one's best;" "homonib."="hominibus"?]

The two main things that tripped you up were "pene" and the prepositional phrase "in." Pene=paene, not penis as you probably figured. You wouldn't have known this, but the diphthong "ae" was often written/pronounced as a simple "e" in medieval/Renaissance texts. For example, you might also see "hec" instead of "haec." This is one of the random little changes that happened over time.

Otherwise, the prepositional phrase may be rewritten "in mysteria Apocalypsi Ioannis." The prep must govern "mysteria" because it is accusative and the other two words are genitive. You probably didn't see it coming because you weren't sure how to decline "Apocalypsus," and because the accusative was loitering in the sentence. But this is a very frequent type of construction, and you must suspend your grammatical judgment and keep and open mind for semantic groupings that may be scattered all over. But don't worry, because this is one of the hurdles everyone clears as a beginner. Once you have more of the basic grammar internalized you'll be able to cope with the syntax.

Otherwise, the fact you only translated part of the sentence added to your difficulty. "tot" is in fact referring to "verba," and you'll notice it is coupled with the similar word "quot," "so many... how many."

By sticking to Renaissance texts you'll encounter your own set of difficulties, as the age had its own mannerisms. Some of them liked to imitate Cicero and will be filled with difficult verbosity, but others will be quite simple, yet might be full of less classically Latin constructions and words. I don't know anything about the genre in question, but I bet after you've had some practice you'll pick up the lingo. Keep finishing your Wheelock and you'll be cruising through this stuff in no time.
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Postby Alatius » Sat May 10, 2008 9:31 am

I agree that pene probably stands for paene. However, I think that apocalypsis is (usually anyway?) an I-stem third declension noun, which would make apocalypsi an ablative. This frees up mysteria, and makes it unnecessary to supply verba.

I have troubles making sense out of the following phrase: "quot verba Graecorum Sapientes non parvae apud suos aestimationis praetereo". Neither verba nor Sapientes seems to work as subjects (unless you supply some verb), and I don't know what to do with them if they are both accusatives. It may be drastic, but I wonder if we should not add a full stop after "verba". In that case, I would translate it all as follows:

"Also the divine and amongst our folk the most learned Jerome affirms there to be hidden in the Apocalypse of John almost as many mysteries as there are words. The wise of the Greek people, who are held in no small regard amongst their own, I pass over. I also omit our most learned philosophers and poets, who, doing their best in writing down stories, in a single continuous narrative related one thing to the ignorant, and another to the learned men, by means of clever invention." (I.e. by cleverly exploiting double meanings of words and allusions which would be apparent only to the learned; or so I take it, anyway.)
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Postby autophile » Sat May 10, 2008 1:55 pm

Thanks all, this is great information. I will definitely need to remember the ae -> e rule of thumb. Sadly, this means that I'd have to translate a sentence incorrectly first, and then if it doesn't make sense, go through all the words to see if there was an ae -> e substitution, and see if that makes more sense. I guess that's an issue when you don't know all the Latin words :/ Do you think this substitution may have been made only on the common adverbs and adjectives? Because looking at the original scan of the book, plenty of ae-dipthongs abound...

I checked, and Apocalypsis does seem to be the correct root, at least according to the Latin Words program, thus making Apocalypsi an ablative.

So the thing that might still have tripped me up, even if I had known these two things, is that tot paene is separated from mysteria by the prepositional phrase. I suppose I could buy the text being written "almost as many, in the Apocalypse of John, mysteries..." which seems to be a staple of Latin, grrr :/

So does paene, an adverb modify tot, a cardinal? As a rule, can Latin adverbs modify not only verbs but also cardinals?

Finally, again I checked the original scan of the book, and there is definitely no period after quot verba, but the translation with a full stop works so much better. Perhaps this is a printer's error -- after all, Trithemius was quite dead when the book was printed from his manuscript, and not exactly available for editorial oversight. Two other editions, 1606 and 1676, have the same missing full stop.

Thank you for all your help! I will probably have more questions later on. In the meantime, here are two more questions in addition to the ones I've embedded above:

1. Is there a book similar to Wheelock's for Renaissance- and medieval-era Latin? If not, is there something that show all the modifications they made?

2. I keep hearing about the OLD... is that also useful for this era?

Thanks!

--Rob
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Postby thesaurus » Sat May 10, 2008 6:55 pm

Ah, I humbly bow to Alatius' reading of the passage, as it indeed proves mine to be quite mistaken. Ironic I assumed you didn't know the correct declension of a word when in fact I was the one who botched it. I usually fail to read closely enough... Regarding the full stop, that seems like a good reading, as I wasn't sure how to do it without supplying verbs.

I don't think the "ae" to "e" switch is horribly common, and I haven't noticed it in many more places then common words, but I'm sure this varies author to author. Look at the orthographic changes here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_L ... rthography. There's a little info here as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_Latin

autophile wrote:1. Is there a book similar to Wheelock's for Renaissance- and medieval-era Latin? If not, is there something that show all the modifications they made?

2. I keep hearing about the OLD... is that also useful for this era?

Thanks!

--Rob


No and no. Renaissance Latin is essentially the same as classical Latin in grammar, so you won't find much to help with it besides direct experience. There are some grammar's of Medieval/Ecclesiastical Latin you could find on Amazon, but I don't think it's really worth your time to ignore classical. The only real difference is that they will be more simplified and include a few constructions that probably won't be used by the Rennaisance, and you can figure them out easily anyways. (For example, starting an indirect statement with "quod" to mean "that," and then not using the infinitive plus accusative construction).

The OLD doesn't include any post-classical Latin, but the Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary goes to year 800 or something... beyond that, the Latin dictionaries covering the Middle and later ages are a scattered and of varying quality/availability. Fortunately, you can find the Lewis and Short on the Perseus website. However, Whittaker's words includes many later Latin words, and it'll probably be your best friend.
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Postby adrianus » Sun May 11, 2008 2:09 am

Salvete. Could this sentence be understood as omission [of "quot verba et quot"] plus understatement? -- Nonne est hoc asyndeton et meiosis?
Also, our most learned Saint Jerome maintains there are almost as many secrets in the Apocalypse of John as there are words, [so many even that] I neither mention the Greek thinkers esteemed by their countrymen, nor include our own wisest philosophers and poets, who, when writing pieces, are at pains to communicate one thing to the ignorant and another thing to the wise in a single narrative by clever manipulation of word-order.

i.e., " as a religious, I, Trithemius, don't need to go beyond the Bible to give you great examples of what I'm talking about [secret codes], but there are, of course, loads of examples wherever you look."
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Postby autophile » Sun May 11, 2008 7:01 pm

Well, I think it probably makes more sense for Trithemius to be listing the places where hidden knowledge lies, since he's really setting up the stage for anyone, not just learned men, to hide messages in plain sight. Prior to this sentence he brings up Moses writing about the creation of heaven and earth, and hiding messages there, too. So really this is probably just a litany of, hey lookit all these places that really, really smart people hid messages... but not for you. But now, with this new high-tech Steganography, you can do it too!

--Rob
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Postby adrianus » Sun May 11, 2008 7:54 pm

I'm seeking to understand and explain, Autophile, why Trithemius says "I pass over" and "I omit", and how this could make sense as a single sentence with the mention of Jerome. I suspect that, for him, there are different types of sources of authority. First in importance comes what the prophets (originally in Hebrew), and then the apostles, report about the word of God (and then Jesus) --translated from the Hebrew and Greek into Latin by Jerome and others,-- then you've got particular ancient Greek philosophers, and finally you've got particular later or recent writers who are least in the pecking order. Saying "I pass over" and "I omit" allows him to have his cake and eat it too.

Intellegere et explicare quaeso, Autophile, cur dicit Trithemius "praetereo" et "intermitto". Huic scriptori, ut suspicor, varia sunt fontum auctoritatis genera. Primum statu est quod dixerunt Hebraicè prophetae (tunc apostoli) de verbo dei (tunc Jesu) --Hieronymo aliisque Latinè traductum ex Hebraicè Graecéque,-- deinde quosdam Graecè philosophos antiquos habes, postremò minimi statu sunt scriptores quidam novissimi. Trithemio "praetereo" et "omitto" in dicendi, illi viro placentam suam et edere et habere licet.
Last edited by adrianus on Sun May 11, 2008 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby adrianus » Sun May 11, 2008 9:44 pm

oops. Perperam hanc epistulam misi.
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