Translations of Some Fragments Attributed to Heraclitus

Preface

The notes to the translations have been collected together in a pdf file entitled Heraclitus – Some Translations and Notes, and may serve to elucidate my often non-literal and rather idiosyncratic translations/interpretations of some of the fragments attributed to Heraclitus.

As explained in the notes, I have deliberately transliterated (instead of translated) πόλεμος, and left δίκη as δίκη – because both πόλεμος and δίκη should be regarded like ψυχή (psyche/Psyche) as terms or as principles in their own right (hence the capitalization), and thus imply, suggest, and require, interpretation and explanation, something especially true, in my opinion, regarding δίκη. To render such Greek terms blandly by English terms such as ‘war’ and ‘justice’ – which have their own now particular meaning(s) – is in my view erroneous and somewhat lackadaisical. δίκη for instance could be, depending on context: the custom(s) of a folk, judgement (or Judgement personified), the natural and the necessary balance, the correct/customary/ancestral way, and so on.

David Myatt
2012


Fragment 1

τοῦ δὲ λόγου τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι γίνονται ἄνθρωποι καὶ πρόσθεν ἢ ἀκοῦσαι καὶ ἀκούσαντες τὸ πρῶτον· γινομένων γὰρ πάντων κατὰ τὸν λόγον τόνδε ἀπείροισιν ἐοίκασι, πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων, ὁκοίων ἐγὼ διηγεῦμαι κατὰ φύσιν διαιρέων ἕκαστον καὶ φράζων ὅκως ἔχει· τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους λανθάνει ὁκόσα ἐγερθέντες ποιοῦσιν, ὅκωσπερ ὁκόσα εὕδοντες ἐπιλανθάνονται

Although this naming and expression [which I explain] exists, human beings tend to ignore it, both before and after they have become aware of it. Yet even though, regarding such naming and expression, I have revealed details of how Physis has been cleaved asunder, some human beings are inexperienced concerning it, fumbling about with words and deeds, just as other human beings, be they interested or just forgetful, are unaware of what they have done.

Fragment 39

ἐν Πριήνηι Βίας ἐγένετο ὁ Τευτάμεω, οὗ πλείων λόγος ἢ τῶν ἄλλων

In Priene was born someone named and recalled as most worthy – Bias, that son of Teutamas

Fragment 43

ὕβριν χρὴ σβεννύναι μᾶλλον ἢ πυρκαϊὴν

Better to deal with your hubris before you confront that fire

Fragment 53

Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι, πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς, καὶ τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς ἔδειξε τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους, τοὺς μὲν δούλους ἐποίησε τοὺς δὲ ἐλευθέρους. 

Polemos our genesis, governing us all to bring forth some gods, some mortal beings with some unfettered yet others kept bound.

Fragment 64

τὰ δὲ πάντα οἰακίζει Κεραυνός

All beings are guided by Lightning

Fragment 80

εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ τὸν πόλεμον ἐόντα ξυνόν, καὶ δίκην ἔριν, καὶ γινόμενα πάντα κατ΄ ἔριν καὶ χρεώμενα [χρεών]

One should be aware that Polemos pervades, with discord δίκη, and that beings are naturally born by discord.

Fragment 112

σωφρονεῖν ἀρετὴ μεγίστη, καὶ σοφίη ἀληθέα λέγειν καὶ ποιεῖν κατὰ φύσιν ἐπαίοντας

Most excellent is balanced reasoning, for that skill can tell inner character from outer.

Fragment 123

Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ

Concealment accompanies Physis

From Diogenes Laërtius Lives of Eminent Philosophers

πάντα δὲ γίνεσθαι καθ᾽ εἱμαρμένην καὶ διὰ τῆς ἐναντιοδρομίας ἡρμόσθαι τὰ ὄντα (ix. 7)

All by genesis is appropriately apportioned [separated into portions] with beings bound together again by enantiodromia


Note: I have used here a transliteration of the compound Greek word ἐναντιοδρομίας rather than given a particular translation, since the term enantiodromia in my view suggests the uniqueness of expression of the original, and which original in my view is not adequately, and most certainly not accurately, described by a usual translation such as ‘conflict of opposites’.  Rather, what is suggested is ‘confrontational contest’ – that is, by facing up to the expected/planned/inevitable contest. Interestingly, Carl Jung – who was familiar with the sayings of Heraclitus – used the term enantiodromia to describe the emergence of a trait (of character) to offset another trait and so restore a certain psychological balance within the individual. For further details regarding enantiodromia , refer to my essay The Change of Enantiodromia.



cc David Myatt 2012 CE
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Image credit:
Attic Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena (Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany)