Heraclitus Fragment 36 – A New Translation
In my view, the Greek text known as fragment 36 – attributed to Heraclitus by Clemens Alexandrinus in his Στρώματα and which work is the source of the text – has been somewhat mis-understood, along with some of the other texts attributed to Heraclitus.
The text of fragment 36, as given by Diels in Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (Berlin 1903), is:
ψυχῆισιν θάνατος ὕδωρ γενέσθαι, ὕδατι δὲ θάνατος γῆν γενέσθαι, ἐκ γῆς δὲ ὕδωρ γίνεται, ἐξ ὕδατος δὲ ψυχή.
My translation is:
Where the water begins our living ends and where earth begins water ends, and yet earth nurtures water and from that water, Life.
I feel this somewhat expressive translation captures the meaning, possibly the nuances of the original and thus possibly also something of the subtly of the language and the philosophy of Heraclitus.
April 2012 ce
Image credit: Attic Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena (Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany)