Talk:Beware of Greeks bearing gifts

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"I fear the Danaans (Greeks) even if they bring gifts" Are you sure about that? "et dona ferentes". I don't see any "even if they bring gifts" there. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think it says "I fear the Danaan (Greeks) and the gifts (they are) bearing".

et = and
dona = accusative plural of "donum", which means "gift"
ferentes = accusative plural of "ferens", which is the present participe of "ferre", "to bear".

That makes "I fear" being the subject, then there is "and", followed by "the Greeks and the gifts (they are) bearing" which is all accusative.

Hence: "I fear the Greeks and gifts they are bearing". The "they are" are nowhere to be seen in Latin, but you need to add them in most modern language to make some sence. ~

The correcter translation has quite a different feeling than the oftenly used interpretation. Especially if you know the story, it is rather important to use the translation "and the gifts they are bearing". Now let's see the difference when compared to the story to illustrate my point:

Laocoön, the high priest of Neptune/Poseidon and soothsayer tries to warn the Trojans with said phrase. Laocoön becomes angry because the Trojans don't believe him, and he hurls a spear into the flank of the wooden horse. Minerva/Athena sends some sea serpents to kill Laocoön and his sons in order to silence him.

"even if they bring gifts" means that it's polite of them to bring gifts, but that Laocoön still doesn't trust them. In that case he couldn't care less about the gifts, but still the Trojans should at least distrust the Greeks. "and the gifts they are bearing" on the other hand does not only warn the poor Trojans to be careful with the vicious Greeks, but also that the gifts are dangerous themselves, which - of course - turns out to be true. And if you look at the entire quote, this version makes a lot more sense too.

Equo ne credite, Teucri / Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes!
"Do not trust the Horse, Trojans / Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts."
"Do not trust the Horse, Trojans / Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks and the gifts they are bearing."

I think - and hope - that I made my point quite well. Kennin (talk) 03:23, 12 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Interesting idea, but wrong. A Roman wouldn't use the phrase dona ferentes to mean "the gifts they are bearing." He would instead go with dona lata (or portata, vel sim.) Latin has no present passive participle, so authors were stuck using the perfect passive participle. That's why the Greek play Prometheus Desmotes ("Prometheus [being] Bound)") is translated into Latin as Prometheus Vinctus. Ifnkovhg (talk) 02:48, 30 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The "even if" is the simplest way to convey the meaning of the participium coniunctum construction in English in this case. As you said yourself, ferentes is in the accusative, thus part of the object of the verb "timere". So the most literal translation would be "I fear gift-bearing Greeks, too". If the meaning were "the gifts they are bearing" the phrase would have to be something like "et dona quae ferunt" or "et dona ferenda". I changed the article accordingly.

Regards, Teiresias —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:50, 22 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Funny you should have this discussion here. I just came here because I googled the expression as I remember it "Timeo danaos ut dona ferentes" - UT, not ET! - "ut" in my recollection would carry exactly the meaning you are finding lacking here with the "et" ("and".) Most of the time "ut" can be translated as "so that" or just "that." The meaning I get here is "even though" or "even if" or even "especially if."

The shocking aspect of this for me is that my Google results gave me tons of hits for "et" and even when I insisted that I wanted results for "ut" it still had pages and pages of "et" - are we losing our Latin? (talk) 15:18, 6 July 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Three minutes on Google Books found me an 1868 edition of the Aeneid and it's 'et' as I remember it (going back 50 years now) and not 'ut.' Cross Reference (talk) 02:28, 30 April 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

And isn't it 'ferentis' and not 'ferentes'? — Preceding unsigned comment added by R*elation (talkcontribs) 12:06, 18 February 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Popular cultureEdit

The phrase is referenced in thousands of works The Rock seems to be the least of these. I am removing this section, since it seems pretty useless. —Preceding unsigned comment added by --Woland (talk) 00:59, 9 May 2010 (UTC) Reply[reply]

Why not have a section that mentions some of the most famous references to this, like John Mason in "The Rock". I dont see it as useless. I actually expected to see it in the article already. Bjs5005 (talk) 07:38, 5 November 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Please review my recent change to give the correct form primacyEdit

it seems to me to make sense to give the correct form up front and then to give the erroneous form second. Please review the intro... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:34, 11 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The 2nd meaning?Edit

The english phrase "Even I fear the Greeks bearing gifts" is not a possible translation of the latin one. To express this meaning, a latin author would have had to write something like "Et ego timeo ..." --Sokoljan (talk) 18:55, 4 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Dating VergilEdit

RE: "written by Virgil twelve centuries after the Trojan War." -- surely it would be more appropriate to date a historical author with reference to a historical event, rather than a legendary one? How about "written by the Augustan Age Roman poet, Vergil." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:04, 14 April 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Although the commonly used form of this quotation has ferentēs (with a long ē), the original text has ferentīs (with a long ī). The "-ēs" form is more common in classical Latin.

The quotation has been translated in Ancient Greek as Φοβοῦ τοὺς Δαναοὺς καὶ δῶρα φέροντας."

There is no "original text"; as with any classical author there are some error-laden manuscripts which classical scholarship tries to put to rights. Writing -is for -es is highly likely to be a matter of a scribe's, rather than the author's, preference.

As for the Greek φοβοῦ (shouldn't have a capital) is an imperative meaning "fear [the Greeks]". φοβοῦμαι is what's needed. And even if the translation were accurate, so what? It isn't by a classical author (doesn't show up on a tlg search) and simply isn't interesting. Or sourced. Northutsire (talk) 19:55, 28 February 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It is a notable Modern Greek phrase. I suggest we add to the article the following sentence: "In the modern era, the phrase was translated to Katharevousa Greek as "Φοβοῦ τοὺς Δαναοὺς καὶ δῶρα φέροντας". --Omnipaedista (talk) 06:43, 26 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It is a notable phrase and has been translated into many modern languages:

Temo a los dánaos incluso cuando traen regalos

ich fürchte die Danaer, selbst wenn sie Geschenke bringen

Je crains les Grecs, même quand ils font des présents

φοβάμαι τους Έλληνες ακόμα κι όταν φέρνουν δώρα

Jeg frykter grekerne, også når de kommer med gaver

and so on. If we give the Greek, why not the others?

I don't know Katharevousa but all the online dictionaries give φοβοῦμαι or φοβάμαι for "I fear". The imperative Φοβοῦ, if that is what it is, makes sense as a proverb, if the 2nd person singular imperative can be used this way in proverbs, but is an adaptation not a translation.

You are confusing Dimotiki (vernacular Modern Greek) with Katharevousa (revived Ancient Greek). The Katharevousa Greek translation is especially notable because Katharevousa Greek phrases are often taken to be original Ancient Greek phrases and this leads to confusion—even among scholars. Notable examples include "Φοβοῦ τοὺς Δαναοὺς καὶ δῶρα φέροντας", "μὴ μου τοὺς κύκλους τάραττε!", "ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα", "πάντα ῥεῖ", and "ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός". Despite the fact that in some academic sources those phrases are presented as pieces of Ancient literature, they are in fact 20th century constructs that have been widely yet falsely attributed to ancient authors. By the way, an IP editor added the phrase "The original version of the text had the archaic form ferentis for the Classical Latin ferentes." Why did you remove it? --Omnipaedista (talk) 04:18, 27 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am not confusing anything with anything. Do you accept that Φοβοῦ is an imperative?

Your point is a piece of original research about scholarly standards in modern Greece (I think). It has only the most tenuous relevance to the article. I'll mark it CN and OR and come back in a couple of weeks. As for the deletion, I'll paste here what I say further up the page:

"There is no "original text"; as with any classical author there are some error-laden manuscripts which classical scholarship tries to put to rights. Writing -is for -es is highly likely to be a matter of a scribe's, rather than the author's, preference." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Northutsire (talkcontribs) 13:09, 27 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes, Φοβοῦ is an imperative (cf. Mark 5:36); this is the standard Katharevousa Greek translation. It is not original research. The phrase itself is documented in the reliable Modern Greek dictionary Papyros – Dictionary of Greek Language [Πάπυρος – Mέγα Λεξικό της Ελληνικής γλώσσας]: "φοβούμαι" ("παροιμ. φρ. α) «φοβού τους Δαναούς και δώρα φέροντας» — να δυσπιστείς πάντοτε, να μην έχεις ποτέ εμπιστοσύνη σε παλαιούς εχθρούς σου, έστω και αν επιδεικνύουν καλές διαθέσεις"). The fact that it is a Modern Greek translation is documented in, a highly notable Greek translation web portal [1]. Yes, strictly speaking I am talking about scholarly standards in modern Greece. But it is not that simple. The German Wikipedia article about Greek phrases lists this phrase as if it were an Ancient Greek quote. This is an indication that both Greek-speaking and non-Greek-speaking readers may come across the Katharevousa Greek translation in a text (for example an English translation of a text written by a Modern Greek writer) and take it for an Ancient Greek quote. It would be good service to our readers to include information in this article that clarifies this point.
Re: ferentis. You wrote "The final word is usually spelled ferentis in modern editions of Virgil<ref>e.g. Mynors ''P. Vergili Maronis Opera'' Oxford Clarendon Press 1969, </ref>; this is an orthographical variant of ferentes and the choice of variant makes no difference to the meaning." Well, I remark that the Latin Word Study Tool of the Perseus Project has ""ferentis": part pl pres masc acc". I also remark that that the phrase "modern editions" is ambiguous and slightly inaccurate. Vergil. Bucolics, Aeneid, and Georgics of Vergil. J. B. Greenough. Boston. Ginn & Co. (1900) and The Works of Virgil: In Latin & English. The Aeneid, Volume 2 (1778), p. 138 also have ferentis. The "scribe's error" theory seems to be OR.
--Omnipaedista (talk) 07:16, 28 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have not advanced a "scribe's error" theory; I have said that the use of either of the valid alternatives in a ms. is likely to reflect a scribal preference - there is no question of "error". This is not OR, it is something within the knowledge of any competent Latinist.

If Φοβοῦ is imperatve and timeo is first person indicative, it seems to follow that you should be saying "the phrase has been mistranslated..."

And if the German wikipedia contains an error, would not the simplest approach be to edit the German wikipedia? Just a thought. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Northutsire (talkcontribs) 17:32, 28 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am suspicious about the scibe's error claim because (1) you have not provided a source that explicitly supports that (I do know that there are no sensu stricto "original" texts and that the standard and etymologically expected form is ferentes, but these facts by themselves do not exclude the possibility that variants existed in antiquity), (2) in most printed versions of the Aeneid there are more than one occasions where -is denotes part pl pres masc acc. See IV.430 ("ferentis" instead of "ferentes") (source: Vergil: Aeneas und Dido, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007, p. 29). So, "dona ferentes" is not exceptional. I would like to see a source explicitly stating that these orthographic variants are a scribe's preference that "classical scholarship [has] put to rights".
Regardless whether someone edits the German article, the confusion will not go away. Apart from that, the phrase "Φοβοῦ..." is a common Modern Greek proverb (well-documented in Greek dictionaries) and thus notable enough to be included in the "uses" section.
In any case I think that the article's current version is quite satisfactory: it is adequately sourced and makes no tenuous claims. --Omnipaedista (talk) 11:19, 29 May 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]