Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

This is a very cool phrase indeed and you can use it to be pseudy, cool, or downright intellectual - and at the right moment it can be bomb shell in a discussion, chat-up scenario (I have dropped it often myself with great effect :-), or even to liven up a really boring business meeting - My preferred English translation from the original Latin text would be:

But who watches the gate keeper?

This is without doubt the most famous single quote from ancient Latin texts, Juvenals' Satire #6 , save probably ' Carpe Diem' (Which by the way is from from another poem this time by Horace - but that's another webpage ;-).

So as you are beginning to see Latin poetry has greatly shaped our modern world and culture, much like the Greek & Egyptian cultures preceding those.

Satire 6 - Original Latin Text

The original text from which this quotes is derived is from Satire 6.

audio quid ueteres olim moneatis amici,
"pone seram, cohibe." sed quis custodiet ipsos
custodes? cauta est et ab illis incipit uxor.

This is often translated to:

I hear always the admonishment of my friends:
"Bolt her in, constrain her!" But who will watch
the guardians? The wife plans ahead and begins with them!.

The Sixteen Satires

Book Cover All 16 of the original Satires have been translated recently again by proffesor Peter Green from Oxford University.

Perhaps more than any other writer, Juvenal (c. AD 55-138) captures the splendour, the squalor and the sheer energy of everyday Roman life.

In "The Sixteen Satires", he evokes a fascinating world of whores, fortune-tellers, boozy politicians, slick lawyers, shameless sycophants, ageing flirts and downtrodden teachers. A member of the traditional land-owning class that was rapidly seeing power slip into the hands of outsiders, Juvenal also creates savage portraits of decadent aristocrats - male and female - seeking excitement among the lower orders of actors and gladiators, and of the jumped-up sons of newly-rich former slaves. Constantly comparing the corruption of his own generation with its stern and upright forebears, Juvenal's powers of irony and invective make his work a stunningly satirical and bitter denunciation of the degeneracy of Roman society.

For less than 10 bucks you can get to visit this steamy world from over two milenia in the past with your very own time machine and see that things (or more accuratlely people) have not really changed as time goes by - Check it out here: Juvenal - The Sixteen Satires.

Juvenal, is by far one of the greatest writers of the Roman era. His biting style and keen insight is a pleasure to read, and has not lost its appeal after the long years since it was written. Many of the subjects that Juvenal lashes at with his sharp wit are still apply today (government corruption and decadence among others).

However, Juvenal clearly wrote his satires for the era of the roman empire, not the 21st century, and his refferences often fly over the reader's head. The translator has done a fabulous job in explaining these details in the copious notes at the back of the book. It is highly suggested that one reads sections of the notes before reading those sections in the satires to gain the greatest understanding.

Peter Green's latest revision to his earlier translations of Juvenal's satires is an absolute joy to read! In the Introduction he recounts the changes he has made with a refreshing candor. In addition, he neatly summarizes the various viewpoints about the problematic portions of the Satires -- possible lacunae (gaps), possible line shuffling, possible transcription errors, etc. While such problems occur with any ancient text (such as the Bible), it is rarely that a translator will discuss the problems, the solutions the translator has employed, and the reasons for his or her choices outside of scholarly works. Peter Green's clear and persuasive arguments are a welcome change from the usual practice.

The translations themselves preserve the sense of the original Latin, with little or no modern colloquialisms. As the translator noted in his Introduction, he was aghast to note in the first edition the extent to which he had both varied from the original line structure of Juvenal's works and the extent to which he had employed contemporary language, which now seemed dated. As a result, Peter Green retranslated most of the Satires to correct these errors. The latest edition of this work thus is far truer to the original work. The resulting text provides fascinating insights into Roman life duriung Juvenal's lifetime.

Another wonderful aspect of this edition are the clear and self-contained footnotes. The reader is not left having to scramble to find some obscure text in order to understand the footnote. Peter Green puts all the information necessary into each footnote, and also provides external references as necessary.

This work stands in stark contrast to Walsh's translation and footnoting of Petronius' Satyricon (Oxford Classics series),which I also reviewed.

Peter Green's translation of Juvenal's Satires is well worth purchasing and reading for anyone at all interested in life and issues in life in late first and early second century Rome.

Translation into Other Langagues

It's important to remember that this is only the translation (and non-exact at that) into the English lanaguage. Here are some translations into the more popular European Langauges:

Deutsch - German Translation of Quote

Aber wer bewacht die Wächter?

wer kontrolliert die Kontrolleure?

Verstehen Sie?

Español (Castellano) - Spanish Translation of Quote

¿Quién vigilará a los vigilantes?

¿Quién guardará a los guardianes?

¿Quién vigilará a los propios vigilantes?

y similares.

Português - Portugeuse Translation of Quote

Quem vigia os vigilantes?

Quem vigia os vigias?

Quem guardará os guardas?

Quem irá vigiar os próprios vigilantes?

ou similares.
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