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Early Indo-European Texts

Classical Greek

Winfred P. Lehmann and Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Classical Greek with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Classical Greek Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Classical Greek language and its speakers' culture.

from Aristotle's The Poetics, Book 4: 22-26

Archê men oun kai oion psuchê ho muthos tês tragôdias, deuteron de ta êthê. paraplêsion gar estin kai epi tês graphikês. ei gar tis enaleipseie tois kallistois pharmakois chudên, ouk an homoiôs euphraneien kai leukographêsas eikona. estin te mimêsis praxeôs kai dia tautên malista tôn prattontôn. Triton de hê dianoia. touto de estin to legein dunasthai ta enonta kai ta harmottonta. hoper epi tôn logôn tês politikês kai tês hrêtorikês ergon estin. hoi men gar archaioi politikôs epoioun legontas, hoi de nun hrêtorikôs. Estin de êthos men to toiouton ho dêloi tên proairesin, hopoia tis en hois ouk esti dêlon ê proaireitai ê pheugei. dioper ouk echousin êthos tôn logôn en hois mêd' holôs estin ho ti proaireitai ê pheugei ho legôn. Tetarton de tôn en logô hê lexis. legô de, hôsper proteron eiretai, lexin tên dia tês onomasian hermêneian. ho kai epi tôn emmetrôn kai epi tôn logôn echei tên autên dunamin.


The plot is truly the first principle and so to say the soul of tragedy; and the second is character. It is the same also in painting. For if someone painted with the best colors at random, it would not delight as much as painting an image in white on a black background. For it is a representation of action in actual life, and because of that most of all of those in action.
The third element is thought. This is the ability to say what is possible and what is fitting. It is provided in the words and the activities of the statesman and of the rhetorician. For the old writers made the characters speak like statesmen and the new writers like rhetoricians.
Now character is that which reveals choice, i.e. what sort of thing one chooses or avoids among those where it is not clear. So those have no character in the words, in which it is not wholly clear what the speaker chooses or avoids.
The fourth of the elements in the literary items is style. And I mean, as has been said earlier, that style is the means of interpretation through meaning. And this has the same force for poetry and prose.