[OPE-L:7768] Re: Re: "Hic Rhodus, hic salta!"

From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Date: Mon Oct 07 2002 - 20:11:41 EDT

On Mon, 7 Oct 2002, Francisco Paulo Cipolla wrote:

> My dictionary of Latin and Greek sentences says that sometimes Hic
> Rhodus, hic salta is used to mean (unproperly) "here is the
> difficulty". The impression I have from the context is that Marx is
> using the phrase exactly in this imprecise and "distorted" way...

Henry Hardy has a nice (and seemingly authoritative, but what do I
know?) discussion of this:

Hic Rhodus, hic salta.

"The origin of this odd saying, whose currency is largely due to Hegel
and Marx, takes a little explaining. Its original form is 'Hic Rhodus,
hic saltus' ('Rhodes is here, here is the place for your jump'), a
traditional Latin translation [see, e.g., Erasmus, Adagia 3. 3. 28] of
a punchline from Aesop. In the fable 'The Braggart' an athlete boasts
that he once performed a stupendous jump in Rhodes, and can produce
witnesses: the punchline is the comment of a bystander, who means that
there is no need of witnesses, since the athlete can demonstrate the
jump here and now.

"The epigram is given by Hegel, rather out of the blue, first in
Greek, then in Latin (in the form 'Hic Rhodus, hic saltus'), in the
Preface to his Philosophy of Right. [Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,
Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts [Sa"mtliche Werke, ed. Hermann
Glockner, vol.  7] (Stuttgart, 1928), p. 35.] He does not explain what
the proverb meant in its original context (without which it can hardly
be understood);  indeed a comment he makes about jumping over Rhodes
suggests that he may not have fully understood it himself. At any
rate, he then offers an adapted German version with a different
meaning, 'Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze' ('Here is the rose, dance
here', an allusion to the rose in the cross of rosicrucianism,
implying that fulfilment should not be postponed to some Utopian
future), punning first on the Greek (Rhodos = Rhodes, rhodon = rose),
then on the Latin (saltus = jump [noun], salta = dance [imperative]).
Marx adopts the saying in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
[Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Werke (Berlin, 1956-83), vol. 8, p.
118.], where he first gives the Latin, in the form 'Hic Rhodus, hic
salta!', a garbled mixture of Hegel's two versions, and then
immediately adds 'Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze!', as if it were a
translation, which it cannot be, since Greek Rhodos (despite what all
the standard commentators say to the contrary), let alone Latin
Rhodus, does not mean 'rose'.

"The confusion, both deliberate and inadvertent, does no credit to
either Hegel or Marx as classical scholars, and the epigram loses much
of its original power - as well as its original meaning - in their
hands.  They were evidently intent on turning it to other purposes,
but it seems doubtful whether their attempts to improve on Aesop have
been of much use to their readers."

Allin Cottrell.

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