Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find below an ancient phrase in one language or another, along with its English translation. You may also find the power to inspire your friends or provoke dread among your enemies.
For other examples, visit HERE:
Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε / κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.
Ô xeîn’, angéllein Lakedaimoníois hóti têide / keímetha toîs keínōn rhḗmasi peithómenoi.
Stranger, tell the Spartans that here we lie, obedient to their laws.
This phrase finds its origin in the aftermath of the famous battle of Thermopylae. From Wiki:
A well-known epigram, usually attributed to Simonides, was engraved as an epitaph on a commemorative stone placed on top of the burial mound of the Spartans at Thermopylae. It is also the hill on which the last of them died. The original stone has not survived, but in 1955, the epitaph was engraved on a new stone. The text from Herodotus is:
Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδεκείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.Ō ksein’, angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tēidekeimetha, tois keinōn rhēmasi peithomenoi.O stranger, tell the Lacedaemonians thatwe lie here, obedient to their words.
The alternative ancient reading πειθόμενοι νομίμοις (peithomenoi nomίmois) for ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι (rhēmasi peithomenoi) substitutes “laws” (νόμοι) for “words”.
The form of this ancient Greek poetry is an elegiac couplet, commonly used for epitaphs. Some English renderings are given in the table below. It is also an example of Laconian brevity, which allows for varying interpretations of the meaning of the poem. Ioannis Ziogas points out that the usual English translations are far from the only interpretation possible, and indicate much about the romantic tendencies of the translators.
It was well known in ancient Greece that all the Spartans who had been sent to Thermopylae had been killed there (with the exception of Aristodemus and Pantites), and the epitaph exploits the conceit that there was nobody left to bring the news of their deeds back to Sparta. Greek epitaphs often appealed to the passing reader (always called ‘stranger’) for sympathy, but the epitaph for the dead Spartans at Thermopylae took this convention much further than usual, asking the reader to make a personal journey to Sparta to break the news that the Spartan expeditionary force had been wiped out. The stranger is also asked to stress that the Spartans died ‘fulfilling their orders’.
|Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by,|
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
|William Lisle Bowles|
|Stranger, tell the Spartans that we behaved|
as they would wish us to, and are buried here.
|Stranger! To Sparta say, her faithful band|
Here lie in death, remembering her command.
|Stranger, report this word, we pray, to the Spartans, that lying|
Here in this spot we remain, faithfully keeping their laws.
|George Campbell Macaulay|
|Stranger, bear this message to the Spartans,|
that we lie here obedient to their laws.
|William Roger Paton|
|Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,|
that here obedient to their laws we lie.
|Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell|
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.
|Go, way-farer, bear news to Sparta’s town|
that here, their bidding done, we laid us down.
|Cyril E. Robinson|
|Go tell the Spartans, you who read:|
We took their orders, and lie here dead.
|Aubrey de Sélincourt|
|Friend, tell Lacedaemon|
Here we lie
Obedient to our orders.
|Tell them in Lacedaemon, passer-by,|
that here obedient to their word we lie
|Oh Stranger, tell the Spartans|
That we lie here obedient to their word.
|From the 1962 film The 300 Spartans|
|Stranger, when you find us lying here,|
go tell the Spartans we obeyed their orders.
|From the 1977 film Go Tell the Spartans|
|Go tell the Spartans, passerby:|
That here, by Spartan law, we lie.
|Frank Miller (1998; subsequently used in the 2007 film, 300)|
As mentioned in the table, the line has been continuously kept famous well into the present day.
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