The politics of classical translation

Authored by: Rachel Mairs

The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Politics

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138657564
eBook ISBN: 9781315621289
Adobe ISBN:


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The two most politically important and widespread languages of literacy in the ancient Mediterranean world were Greek and Latin, but other languages with literate traditions included Egyptian (in various phases and scripts), Punic, Etruscan, Italic languages, Aramaic, Hebrew and a host of other languages whose written record is confined to only a few brief texts. The range of languages in contact with Latin alone is extensive (Adams 2003). Translation is attested in a number of spheres. Greek literature was translated into Latin (and, less frequently, vice versa). There was a rich, reciprocal tradition of translation of Greek and Egyptian literary works (Rutherford 2016). The translation of legal documents was common in bi- or multilingual states, in particular Egypt under Greek and Roman rule. Multilingual inscriptions, whose components were translations of the same message, were used to communicate with the linguistically diverse populations of empires from Anatolia to India. Oral translation was essential in institutions such as the Roman army, whose soldiers came from across the empire.

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