Language focus | 03.08.2009

Ancient Translation

The history of translation dates back as far the earliest written texts. Here we examine three of the best known examples, which have paved the way for modern day translators.

Created in 196 BC, the Rosetta stone is perhaps the most well known example of ancient translation. Now exhibited in the British Museum in London, the carving would have originally stood outside a temple in Egypt, with the purpose of declaring the tax privileges of priests. The text is written in two Egyptian language scripts (hieroglyphic and Demotic) and in Classical Greek. The discovery of the carving in Egypt in 1799 helped scholars translate previously undecipherable examples of hieroglyph writing.

The Septuagint was translated from Hebrew into Koine Greek (post-Classical ‘common’ Greek) between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC in Alexandria, Egypt. This early translation of the Hebrew Bible was revered in ancient times by important philosophers and was used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament into Slavonic, Old Armenian, Old Georgian and Coptic. The name ‘Septuagint’ comes from the Latin ‘septuaginta’ meaning seventy and refers to the number of translators who worked on the script. Legend states that although the translators worked in separate chambers, they all produced identical versions, thereby proving its authority as a religious text.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest known literary works and, thanks to modern translations in the 19th and 20th centuries, remains widely known today. The poem, which tells the story of the mythological king Gilgamesh, dates as far back as 2000 BC, although the most complete version in existence today is written on 7 clay tablets from the 7th century BC. The Sumerian poem was translated into other Semitic languages spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, including Akkadian; this version later became accepted as the standard version of the text.

The Translation People work with a wide network of professional translators, providing translation services in all world languages. Whether you require translation from or into ancient Greek, Hebrew or Latin, you can rest assured that your ancient language translation will be carried out by a specialist in the language, culture and history of the relevant time period.

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