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The first known translations were 2nd-millennium BCE transfers of the Sumerian epic about Gilgamesh into Asian languages. "Translation" derives from a Latin term meaning "to bring or carry across," while the Greek term was "metaphrasis" (to speak across) -- leading to the distinction between "metaphrase" (a literal or word-for-word translation) and "paraphrase" (a saying in other words). In "De oratore" (55 BCE) Marcus Tullius Cicero instructed translators not to rework foreign texts into Latin word for word but freely, like an orator : "I saw that to employ the same expressions profited me nothing, while to employ others was a positive hindrance… Afterwards I resolved … to translate freely Greek speeches of the most eminent orators". As a consequence, "I not only found myself using the best words, and yet quite familiar ones, but also coining by analogy certain words such as be new to our people, provided only they were appropriate." Quintus Horatius Flaccus ("Horace") (in "Ars Poetica," ca. 20 BCE) advocated a style that would "neither linger in the one hackneyed and easy round; neither trouble to render word by word with the faithfulness of a translator" nor treat the original writer's beliefs with too easy a trust, like someone claiming private property in public ground. They both advocated free imitation rather than word-for-word transcriotion. In 395 BCE Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus ("Jerome"), the translator of the Bible into Latin, "freely announced" to his fellow saint, Pammachius, that "in translating from the Greek -- except of course in the case of Holy Scripture, where even the syntax contains a mystery -- I render not word for word, but sense for sense." To one of his critics he reponded, “What men like you call fidelity in transcription, the learnèd term pestilent minuteness.” Martin Luther, who translated the Bible into German in the 16th cdentury, was the first European to propose that one translates satisfactorily only toward his own language. In the 2nd century Titus Flavius Clemens (Clement of Alexandria) had written that “The Lord’s scriptures bring forth the truth and yet remain virgins, hiding within them the mysteries of the truth." Much the same could be said of translation: it is writing that is and isn't what it is. Translations are creative acts that are not created by the translator, and yet the translator is not just an empty conduit through which the original passes.
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