Nonnos and Truth

Date: Wed Oct 28 1998 - 16:16:37 EST

I want to share, from time to time, bits of Nonnos in the Greek, which are
very difficult to render into English, but which constitute its idiosyncratic
poetic charm.

The poem itself is a twenty one book Alexandrian epic paraphrase of the Gospel
of John, written around 450 AD. The translation is being published serially at
my website:

The following lines from Book 18 correspond to John 18:37, 38. (I will not
transcribe the Koine.) John uses, in his brusque Greek, ale^theia, three
times, in three different contexts. Follows Nonnos, in 5th Century dactyllic

kai genome^n eis touto kai e^luthon, ophra ken aiei
martus ete^tumie^s panthelgeos andrasin eie^n;
kai pas, hos probeboulen ale^theie^s zugon helkein,
glo^sse^s he^metere^s apseudea muthon akouei.
kai Pilatos thambe^sekai empalin eireto mutho^:
atrekie^ ti pelei? ....
(I havent versified this section yet, but it will be posted within a couple of

In these verses, Jesus says he was born to be a witness of ete^tumia, from
etumos, true, genuine, real (Lat. sincerus)

Then he talks about those who drag the yoke of ale^theia, truth with tones of
frankness and honesty

Then he says his word is apseudea, not false...

Finally, Pilate asks, what is atrekeia, reality, strict truth, accuracy as in
a court of justice.

Just sharing some of the joys of greek!


Tony Prost

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