Talk:hic Rhodus, hic salta
I would like to refer to the Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library which contains an excellent discussion of this saying and giving a different explanation based on etymological grounds: http://berlin.wolf.ox.ac.uk/lists/quotations/quotations_by_ib.html
"G. W. F. Hegel
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 [Sämtliche 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.
Special thanks to Terrell Carver for assistance with this account. "
Berlin's remarks about Hegel and Marx as classical scholars are misleading and disingenuous. The comment "but it seems doubtful whether their attempts to improve on Aesop have been of much use to their readers" is nothing but a gratuitous sneer, as neither Hegel nor Marx had the slightest intention or interest in doing anything of the kind. Using a well-known classical reference to Aesop's fable (in Hegel's case), and both this and a well-known contemporary political and philosophical reference (Hegel himself, in Marx's case), the phrase was a striking way of saying "put your money where your mouth is". Both Hegel and Marx were as familiar with Latin and Greek as today's international academics are with English, and knew them far more deeply.