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Is this translation for “If I cannot move Heaven, I will raise Hell.” correct?

Latin Language Asked by Lesley on August 25, 2021

I want to make sure this is the correct translation for “If I cannot move Heaven, I will raise Hell.” Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta noveno.

One Answer

The last word is wrong, it should be movebo. Then it is an exact quote from Vergil's epic Aeneid (liber VII, 312), one of the most famous works in the Latin language, and in world literature.

It does indeed roughly mean “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” More literally: If I cannot bend heaven to my will, make heaven do my bidding, etc., I will move, set into motion, rouse hell.

Note that for heaven and hell, Vergil did not use words which mean exactly that; he thought in different terms altogether. For “heaven,” you actually have superi, which are “those above” (i.e., the gods above). For “hell,” you have Acheron, which is a pretty harmless river in Greece, but in ancient mythology, this river was closely associated with the underworld (the realm of the dead), and for Vergil in particular, with Tartarus, a deep abyss and site of torment.

Answered by Sebastian Koppehel on August 25, 2021

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