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.
ʼΑρχὴ μὲν οʼυ̂ν καὶ οʼι̂ον ψυχὴ ὁ μυ̂θος τη̂ς τραγῳδίας, δεύτερον δὲ τὰ ʼήθη. παραπλήσιον γάρ ἐστιν καὶ ἐπὶ τη̂ς γραφικη̂ς. εἰ γάρ τις ἐναλείψειε τοι̂ς καλλίστοις φαρμάκοις χύδην, οὐκ ʼὰν ὁμοίως εὐφράνειεν καὶ λευκογραφήσας εἰκόνα. ʼέστιν τε μίμησις πράξεως καὶ διὰ ταύτην μάλιστα τω̂ν πραττόντων. Τρίτον δὲ ἡ διάνοια. του̂το δέ ἐστιν τὸ λέγειν δύνασθαι τὰ ἐνόντα καὶ τὰ ἁρμόττοντα. ʽόπερ ἐπὶ τω̂ν λόγων τη̂ς πολιτικη̂ς καὶ τη̂ς ῥητορικη̂ς ʼέργον ἐστίν. οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀρχαι̂οι πολιτικω̂ς ἐποίουν λέγοντας, οἱ δὲ νυ̂ν ῥητορικω̂ς. ʼΈστιν δὲ ʼη̂θος μὲν τὸ τοιου̂τον ʽὸ δηλοι̂ τὴν προαίρεσιν, ὁποι̂ά τις ἐν οʽι̂ς οὐκ ʼέστι δη̂λον ʼή προαιρει̂ται ʼή φεύγει. διόπερ οὐκ ʼέχουσιν ʼη̂θος τω̂ν λόγων ἐν οʽίς μηδ' ʽόλως ʼέστιν ʽό τι προαιρει̂ται ʼὴ φεύγει ὁ λέγων. Τέταρτον δὲ τω̂ν ἐν λόγῳ ἡ λέξις. λέγω δὲ, ʽώσπερ πρότερον εʼίρεται, λέξιν τὴν διὰ τη̂ς ὀνομασίαν ἑρμηνείαν. ʽό καὶ ἐπὶ τω̂ν ἐμμέτρων καὶ ἐπὶ τω̂ν λόγων ʼέχει τὴν αὐτὴν δύναμιν.
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.