Sophocles Ajax lines 125 & 126

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by fettt21, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. fettt21 New Member

    spanish, english
    I just want your feedback on one of my favorite quotes, taken from Ajax:


    ὁρῶ γὰρ ἡμᾶς οὐδὲν ὄντας ἄλλο πλὴν 125
    εἴδωλ᾽ ὅσοιπερ ζῶμεν ἢ κούφην σκιάν 126

    “For I see the true nature of all of us that live.
    We are dim shapes, no more, and weightless shadows.”

    I feel it has many meanings, from Odysseus accepting the frailty of man, cruelty of the gods ... to an almost Buddhist belief proverb.

    I will love this quote to be my first tattoo eventually. I want to run it past the community for feedback on the phrase, characters, variations, etc.

    Are these lines ancient Greek or modern Greek? Does it look ok? I will eventually take the jpg file I attached to the tattoo artist.
  2. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Hi there! It's ancient Greek. The only difference is that, in Classical times, they wrote a bit differently. No lower case, no aspiration or accent marks and no spaces between the words (plus the subscript was actually written as an actual letter but it doesn't concern your tatoo).
    So, for instance, your first line would appear like so:


    Apart from those studying scripts writen in pottery or stone or whathaveyou everyone else goes with the standard, aspirated, accented, spaced script. I'm just putting it out there, since we are talking about a tatoo. Don't know if you are also interested in the different ways the letters looked (I do hesitate to call it a font) tell me.

    I will assume the sentence starts earlier on and that's why it doesn't start with a capital but you may consider doing so (again, your choice). If so the aspiration will have to go left of the omicron (I'll type it for you if you are interested).

    Anyhow, enough random information you may not be interested at all for now eh? :)
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2013
  3. fettt21 New Member

    spanish, english
    Ireney, this is exactly what I wanted to know. I am definitively interested, and I love random information.

    So that means that this "original" text is classical text, but spaced, and punctuated as modern greek?

    You are right, the sentence starts earlier. Here's a section of the book that includes the whole sentence.

    Oddyseus Greek Line.jpg

    In that case, what do you recommend? Its interesting that the original classical text doesn't have any spaces, lowercase letters, etc. How would the text look in that case?

    If I decide to go with the "modernized" version of the sentence, then it would make sense to have the first letter be a capital letter like you suggested. I need to break down the sentences in two or three lines so I can accommodate it in my arm. I was thinking either:

    Odysseus Final.jpg

    I really appreciate your help with this!


  4. sotos Senior Member

    It is great for tatoo. You'd better write it in small letters so that can be read by some. Aspiration etc were exactly invented to be used by non-Greeks and, although useless today, are symbols of the universality of Greek. The fisrt letter O can be capital and you can ommit the word γαρ so that all doesn't look like a fragment of a longer phrase. The meaning does not change. (of course you ommit the numbers).
  5. Αγγελος Senior Member

    Should you prefer to write it in all capitals (in which case all diacritical marks would be omitted), this is what it would look like:

    To save space, you could legitimately omit the word ΓΑΡ (=for) and even the words
    ΟΣΟΙΠΕΡ ΖΩΜΕΝ (=as many of us as are alive)
  6. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    And possibly also a more literal sense: in the Odyssey, the souls of the dead appeared to the living as shadows, if I well recall. It was the picture that the ancient Greeks had of the underworld.
  7. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member


    This is not to contradict any of the advice that fettt21 has already received, just a gentle warning: if you're planning to have a tattoo in classical Greek, just make sure that the breathings and accents are right. It's hard to see from the font here whether they all are so, and I do not imagine that many tattooists are familiar enough with Greek accentuation and diacritics to get it right automatically.

    Ajax is one of Sophocles' most underestimated plays, and I'm delighted that you have hit upon this excellent quotation.
  8. fettt21 New Member

    spanish, english
    Would something like this look right to you? Are all the accentuation and diacritics there?:

    Oddyseus Final.jpg

    Except with the capital letter Omicron:


    And eliminating ΓΑΡ...

    Thank you all for the feedback!
  9. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member


    Yes the accents are all there (in the attached scan) - I think I recognise the typeface of the Oxford Classical Text edition. I am loth to take issue with a native Greek such as Sotos (#4), but according to the modern conventional style of printing ancient Greek, characters are not capitalised at the beginning of sentences (though they are for proper names). So stick to ὁ (lower case) for the start of the quotation. And for style, better leave γὰρ in there.

    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013

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