Thursday, August 23, 2012
Hic Rhodus, Hic Saltus
There was a man who had been away on a journey and had then come back home. He strutted about town, talking loudly and at great length about the brave deeds he had accomplished in the various lands he had visited. In Rhodes, the man said, he had jumped such a long jump that no man alive could equal it, and he claimed that there were witnesses who could back up his story. A bystander then remarked, 'All right! If you're telling the truth, here is your Rhodes: go on and jump!'The Greek:
The fable shows that talking is a waste of time when you can simply provide a demonstration.
ἄνθρωπός τις ἀποδημήσας ἧκε πάλιν εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν χώραν. φρυαττόμενος δὲ ἐκαυχᾶτο μεγάλως, ὡς ἀνδραγαθήσας εἰς διαφόρους τόπους· ἐν δὲ τῇ Ῥόδῳ ἔφασκε πήδημα μέγα πηδήσας, ὅπερ οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων δύναται πηδῆσαι, καὶ μάρτυρας ἔφασκεν ἔχειν εἰς τοῦτο. τῶν δὲ παρόντων τις ὑπολαβὼν ἔφη αὐτῷ· ὦ οὗτος, εἰ τοῦτο ἀληθές ἐστι, ἰδοὺ Ῥόδος καὶ πήδημα.The moral of this fable has a certain contemporary relevance. If a man, running for the office of president, claimed that he never paid less than 13.9% of his income in taxes, someone might quote this fable to urge him to release all of his tax returns and prove his claim.
ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ, ὅτι, ἐὰν μὴ πρόχειρος ἡ πεῖρα τοῦ πράγματος, πᾶς λόγος περιττός ἐστιν.
This proverb is discussed in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1498 (p. 1099), in the form "Hic Rhodus, hic salta," and also in Erasmus, Adagia 3.3.28. Here is Erasmus in my translation:
Hic Rhodus, hic saltus.Erasmus in the original:
Αὐτοῦ Ῥόδος, αὐτοῦ πήδημα, i.e. here's Rhodes, let's see your jump. Commonly said of those who bragged too arrogantly of some business of which there was no proof. Taken from a fable included among those of Aesop. When a certain young man was bragging that he made remarkable jumps when he was in Rhodes, one of his listeners interrupted his story and said, "Here's Rhodes, let's see your jump." It will be suitable, therefore, on an occasion when someone is ordered to demonstrate in fact what he brags he did elsewhere. Ovid [Metamorphoses 13.14-15]: "Let Ulysses tell about the exploits which he does without a witness." Related to this, I think, is what was said by Theocritus in his Wayfarers [Idylls 5.60]: Αὐτόθι μοι ποτέρισδε καὶ αὐτόθι βωκολιάσδευ, i.e. "Compete against me on the spot, and feed your cows on the spot." Some people, when it's safe, are big mouths; when danger is at hand, they turn tail: against these folks this song will be able to be sung. With a similar expression the Greeks, when they demand money to be paid cash down, say Αὐτοῦ καταβαλοῦ, i.e. "Put it down right here." Athenaeus in book six [225 b]: Ἔπειτά γ’ ἅν τἀργύριον αὐτοῦ καταβάλῃς, i.e. "If you put your money down then." Although in printed copies αὐτῷ is found, incorrectly unless I'm mistaken.
Hic Rhodus, hic saltusHegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1820), Vorrede, quotes both the Greek and the Latin of this proverb, then continues (tr. T.M. Knox):
Αὐτοῦ Ῥόδος, αὐτοῦ πήδημα, id est Hic Rhodus, hic saltus. Vulgo jactatum de his, qui sese de negotio quopiam jactarent insolentius, cujus fides non exstaret. Sumptum ex apologo, qui fertur inter Aesopicos. Adulescenti cuidam jactanti sese, quod, dum Rhodi esset, admirabiles fecisset saltus, quidam ex auditoribus interpellato sermone Ἰδοὺ Ῥόδος, inquit, ἰδοὺ πήδημα, id est Ecce Rhodus, ecce saltus. Conveniet igitur, ubi quis jubetur re praestare, quod alibi se fecisse jactat. Ovidius: Sua narret Ulysses, / Quae sine teste gerit. Arbitror huic adfine, quod dictum est apud Theocritum in Hodoeporis:
Αὐτόθι μοι ποτέρισδε καὶ αὐτόθι βωκολιάσδευ, id estQuidam, cum tutum est, gloriosa loquuntur; ubi praesto periculum, tergiversantur: his occini poterit hoc carmen. Simili figura Graeci, cum jubent protinus numerari praesentem pecuniam, Αὐτοῦ καταβαλοῦ, id est Hoc ipso loco depone. Apud Athenaeum libro sexto:
Mecum istic certa, simul istic pascito tauros.
Ἔπειτά γ’ ἅν τἀργύριον αὐτοῦ καταβάλῃςId est Deinde si pecuniam praesentem numeraris. Quamquam in excusis codicibus habetur αὐτῷ, sed mendose, ni fallor.
To comprehend what is, is the task of philosophy, because what is, is reason. Whatever happens, every individual is a child of his time; so philosophy too is its own time apprehended in thoughts. It is just as absurd to fancy that a philosophy can transcend its contemporary world as it is to fancy that an individual can overleap his own age, jump over Rhodes. If his theory really goes beyond the world as it is and builds an ideal one as it ought to be, that world exists indeed, but only in his opinions, an unsubstantial element where anything you please may, in fancy, be built.Hegel's German:
With hardly an alteration, the proverb just quoted would run:
Here is the rose, dance thou here.
Das was ist zu begreifen, ist die Aufgabe der Philosophie, denn das, was ist, ist die Vernunft. Was das Individuum betrifft, so ist ohnehin jedes ein Sohn seiner Zeit; so ist auch die Philosophie ihre Zeit in Gedanken erfasst. Es ist eben so thöricht zu wähnen, irgend eine Philosophie gehe über ihre gegenwärtige Welt hinaus, als, ein Individuum überspringe seine Zeit, springe über Rhodus hinaus. Geht seine Theorie in der That darüber hinaus, baut es sich „eine Welt, wie sie sein soll", so existiert sie zwar, aber nur in seinem Meinen,—einem weichen Elemente, dem sich alles Beliebige einbilden lässt.Hegel thus understood the proverb to mean "jump over Rhodes," which is not the meaning of the proverb in Aesop. In his further whimsical modification of the proverb, Ῥόδος the city becomes ῥόδον the flower. I confess that "Here is the rose, dance thou here" doesn't bring to my mind philosophical thoughts. Instead I imagine a sultry woman dancing the tango with a rose in her teeth. Or on second thought, perhaps it does remind me of philosophy, of "posterior analytics".
Mit weniger Veränderung würde jene Redensart lauten:
Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze.
The dancing in Hegel, although not the rose, may have been inspired by Goethe, Xenien III.2 (my translation):
If you would prove yourself a poet,Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) probably had Hegel in mind when he wrote:
you must not praise heroes any more than herdsmen.
Here is Rhodes! Dance, you rascal,
and from this opportunity make a poem.
Willst du dich als Dichter beweisen,
So musst du nicht Helden noch Hirten preisen.
Hier ist Rhodus! Tanze, du Wicht,
Und der Gelegenheit schaff' ein Gedicht!
Proletarische Revolutionen dagegen, wie die des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, kritisieren beständig sich selbst, unterbrechen sich fortwährend in ihrem eignen Lauf, kommen auf das scheinbar Vollbrachte zurück, um es wieder von neuem anzufangen, verhöhnen grausam-gründlich die Halbheiten, Schwächen und Erbärmlichkeiten ihrer ersten Versuche, scheinen ihren Gegner nur niederzuwerfen, damit er neue Kräfte aus der Erde sauge und sich riesenhafter ihnen gegenüber wieder aufrichte, schrecken stets von neuem zurück vor der unbestimmten Ungeheuerlichkeit ihrer eigenen Zwecke, bis die Situation geschaffen ist, die jede Umkehr unmöglich macht, und die Verhältnisse selbst rufenThe rendering in the English translation of Marx's treatise by Daniel De Leon (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1907), pp. 7-8, obscures Marx's dependence on Hegel:
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze!
Proletarian revolutions, on the contrary, such as those of the nineteenth century, criticize themselves constantly; constantly interrupt themselves in their own course; come back to what seems to have been accomplished, in order to start over anew; scorn with cruel thoroughness the half measures, weaknesses and meannesses of their first attempts; seem to throw down their adversary only in order to enable him to draw fresh strength from the earth, and again, to rise up against them in more gigantic stature; constantly recoil in fear before the undefined monster magnitude of their own objects—until finally that situation is created which renders all retreat impossible, and the conditions themselves cry out:The rose and dance are in Marx's German and should appear in an English translation.
"Hic Rhodus, hic salta!"
"Here is Rhodes, leap here!"
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.