A riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in dead languages
June 28, 2010 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Can someone help me translate this short riddle into either Ancient Hebrew or Ancient Greek (or something equivalent?)

I'm looking to translate this riddle into an ancient language (I already have it in Latin so that's out.) I need something that might have been used in the Middle East, around the 1st -4th century AD.

The riddle is:

"Without light, I am silent. As you see me, you are seen by yourself."

It refers to a mirror. (I know that mirrors only existed in the form of igneous glass back then, but that's not really important. It's for a story I'm working on.)

Can any cunning linguist help me out with this? Please note: I only need the phonetic English translation, not the actual written language version itself.
posted by egeanin to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hebrew:

Mibbeli 'or 'acharish
Ke-tir'ani ke-titra'eh

מבלי אור אחריש
כתראני כתתראה
posted by felix betachat at 4:48 PM on June 28, 2010

(I know that mirrors only existed in the form of igneous glass back then, but that's not really important. It's for a story I'm working on.)

If this is a derail, go ahead and remove, but I want to point out there were other mirrors.

Mercury was used in gazing pools and fountains in Islamic Spain. There were also reflections in calm waters and other minerals act as mirrors.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:14 PM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: Imperfect Aramaic:
(I've never learned to form sentences in Aramaic, so this is an approximation. I'm fairly certain that anybody who can read it would understand though.)

B'li nehara ashtik
d'achazisei, chaziseich.

בלי נהרא אשתיק
דאחזיתי, חזיתך

Note: the 'ch' sounds are x, as in loch.
Also, the word for mirror in Aramaic (less commonly in Hebrew as well) is one of my favorite words in any language: Aspaklaria / אספקלריה
posted by mhz at 5:18 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's a stab at Classical Greek (I can't figure out accents on my computer, so don't go handing this in as homework. Underlined letters are long.):

ανευ του φωτος, σιγαω. εμε ορων, σεαυτον ορας

Aneu tou photos, sigao. Eme opon, seauton oras.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:26 PM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: I'd go with Aramaic over Hebrew because the extent to which Hebrew was a common (as opposed to scholarly or liturgical) language even in Israel at that time period is controversial. Incidentaly, "aspaklaria" is a Latin loan word.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:08 PM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: You guys are amazing. If I ever die rich I'm leaving all my money to metafilter. Thanks!
posted by egeanin at 9:56 PM on June 28, 2010

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