Maxim Monday Returns! Ηττω υπο δικαιου

Today’s maxim, as translated in the source I’m using, is “Be overcome by justice” (Ηττω υπο δικαιου). That seems like a weird phrase, nu? Let’s see if the translation works. (once again, definitions in italics are from my trusty Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, with occasional support from the Joint Association of Classical Teachers Greek Course, Reading Greek.)

  • Ηττω – well, ηττα is the Attic form of ησσ-, and ησσ- is a defeat, discomfiture: c. gen. defeat by, yielding to. From ησσαομαι, Passive: to be less, weaker, inferior to another: to be beaten, worsted, discomfited: to give way, submit… as law-term, to lose one’s cause.
  • υπο – this is a preposition, roughly meaning “under” but its exact connotations depend on the case of the following word. Since δικαιου appears to be genitive, that gives us: of that under which a thing is, under, beneath.
  • δικαιου – I’m having trouble untangling all the variations on the root (δικα-) to figure out exactly which one is intended here. Argh. However, it’s got a genitive ending. All the variations have to do with legal stuff, power, trials, justice, etc. The definitions for δικη, which is the root word, include: custom, usage, mannerorder, law, rightthe satisfaction or penalty awarded by the judge.

You can really tell how rusty I am! But that said: I’d translate this as “yield to the rule of law” — which is pretty different! “Justice” and “rule of law” are often not the same, as we all well know by this point, I think. I prefer the meaning of the translation in my source, but I don’t think it’s true to the original. There’s too much about legal stuff and tradition, and not enough about justice and what’s right.

I’m enough of an idealist to think that we should act according to justice rather than according to the law. Most of the time the law is A-OK by me (traffic laws save lives!), but when the law is wrong (as it sometimes is, being a creation of human beings and thus imperfect), we have a duty not to submit ourselves to it, not to yield in the face of the rules.

This one is sort of the flip side of the second one I did — if you put your trust in the laws, then you should yield to their rulings, nu? So that makes sense. I’m not totally on board with either one, though.

So let’s see, what’s the count now?

  • Maxims covered: 5
  • Maxims where I disagreed with the translation: 2ish
  • Maxims where I disagreed with the content: 1ish
This entry was posted in Srs Bznss and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.