War is hell

rupertbrooke

Senior Member
English UK
This sentence seems simple enough but is deceptively so. Apparently it was first said by a general Sherman in a speech
Here are supposedly General Sherman's words. I quote from Wikipedia:-

"I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!
As quoted from accounts by Dr. Charles O. Brown in the Battle Creek Enquirer and News (18 November 1933).
Here are some of my attempts at translation based on Virgil and Cicero:-
bellum est infandum (weak in this context, I feel) war is an abomination
inmite est bellum war is pitiless
res cruenta et infanda est Mars War is a blood-soaked atrocity
Mars furit infandus War blasphemously rages out of control.
Marte nulla pestis saevior est no instrument of destruction is more savage than war.
For 'infandus' the word 'nefandus' could be substituted, the difference being that nefandus implies the idea of a crime which nefandus does not necessarily always do, as 'arma nefanda' = "war so base that it is not to be spoken of without horror'.
Perhaps something as simple as 'atrocissimum est bellum'.
Any suggestion from colleagues?
 
  • Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings

    The fact that there have been no answers so far is sufficient demonstration that there is no easy answer.

    Bella, horrida bella / Et Thybrim multo spumantem sanguine cerno (Virgil)

    In truth and sooth, Romans did not regard war and its consequences with the abomination that we do. But horridum bellum (or bellum horridum) would convey the right nuances.

    Σ
     

    rupertbrooke

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thanks, Σ. I agree. It is a difficult translation. Thanks for your contribution. I toyed with 'Mars est mors'. It is somewhat of a conceit. I like your reference to Virgil 6. 'Hell' and 'hellish' are difficult ides to translate these ideas into Latin before Christianity with its infernum/inferna and Gehenna. Tartarus is the nearest equivalent. But this is reserved for notorious ill-doers with punishments matching their offences. The Christian hell differs considerably from the pagan, if you read the summary conveniently founds at Christian views on Hell - Wikipedia.
     

    rupertbrooke

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thanks, Σ. I agree. It is a difficult translation. Thanks for your contribution. I toyed with 'Mars est mors'. It is somewhat of a conceit. I like your reference to Virgil 6. 'Hell' and 'hellish' are difficult ides to translate these ideas into Latin before Christianity with its infernum and Gehenna. Tartarus is the nearest equivalent. But this is reserved for notorious ill-doers with punishments matching their offences. The Christian hell is quite different and even nastier. But since General Sherman lived in post- Christian times, he might well have said in Latin, as my friend Emeritus Professor James Diggle of Cambridge has suggested 'bellum est Gehenna'.
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    And who am I to argue with Prof. Diggle?:)

    But my partner, who won a prize for Biblical studies when she was at University, tells me incidentally that Gehenna is Hebrew for a 'rubbish-tip'—usually a place at some moderate distance outside towns or other inhabited and civilised settlements. I'm not 100% sure that this carries the connotations that Sherman intended.

    Σ
     
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    rupertbrooke

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I studied Hebrew in Cambridge under Henry St J. Hart and he mentioned Gehenna which, even though it was a small rubbish dump in a Valley near Jerusalem because of its past associations with the sacrifice of victims to Moloch it became the destination of the wicked. This note I submit as background to the question I asked since I asked a friend, Emeritus Professor of Latin and Greek at Cambridge, what he would say for 'war is hell' and he pointed out that Sherman who lived in post Classical times would have used 'bellum est Gehenna'. He wrote: "For maximum effect you need a single snappy noun to balance 'bellum', rather than an adjective or periphrasis. I suggest 'bellum est gehenna'. This is, according to Lewis and Short, the biblical term (there's also 'infernus', but that's pallid by comparison). See 'Gehenna' in L&S.
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings all round

    To rupertbrooke, of whose intellectual background in Hebrew I was unaware when I wrote # 6 here, I must apologize for teaching grandmother to suck eggs. He will be better equipped than I to evaluate the usefulness the bellum est Gehenna as a rendering of Sherman's aphorism.

    Σ
     

    rupertbrooke

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Scholiast, I had no intention of going one up on your partner, whose basic idea on Gehenna is correct. James (Diggle), who was my slightly younger contemporary at Rochdale Grammar School, since demolished, is always ready to comment on, and make, suggestions about, my attempted answers to Latin questions or anything else in Latin I might submit to him. Notice that he thought none of my suggestions matched the brevity of Sherman's words. I looked long for a noun to balance bellum, as, e.g. bellum est strages/caedes. But nothing matches the horror of the Judeo-Christian Gehenna, since modern warfare and the concentration camps are the nearest terrestrial equivalent. The trenches of WWI and the piles of corpse in the extermination camps have no word in the Classical world to match their horror. We are colleagues on this forum and all submissions I have received have been helpful. Please apologise to your partner on my behalf. Winning such a prize marks her as special.
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    @rupertbrooke # 9:

    Yes I now see that in the light of the Nazi death-camps in particular, 'Gehenna' is more appropriate than I had thought when I submitted # 6 here,* though of course Sherman cannot have thought of that, or them. Prof. Diggle, with some of whose published work I am acquainted, though I don't think I have ever met him in person, was right, strages/caedes would be prosaic and partly tautological. (I take it your reference is to Liddell and Scott, s.v. γέεννα, with reference to Matt. 5.22? There appears to be nothing of the kind in Lewis and Short or OLD).

    And rest assured, my best-beloved is not one to take offence at things like this. And yes, she is special, but not only as an expert Hebraist.:)

    As you say, we are all colleagues here—she too, with whom I often discuss matters arising from Latin (or Greek) Forum discussions, especially when they touch on biblical or ecclesiastical language and history.

    Σ

    *Edited afterthought: although Sherman's own Christianity lapsed, his devoutly Catholic upbringing will of course have acquainted him with 'Gehenna'.
     
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    rupertbrooke

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thanks for this comment, Scholiast. I meant by L&S Lewis and Short, where you will find it under 'Gehenna'. In my LSJ there is this entry under γέεννα:-
    γέεννα, ης, ἡ, Hebr. gé-hinnóm, the valley of Hinnom, which represented the place of future punishment,Ev.Matt.5.22, al.
     
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