This page has links to (I) Lorenzo Valla's Preface to Thucydides, (II) Thucydides' Plataean Debate with Valla's Latin translation, and (III) Thucydides' Melian Dialogue with Valla's translation.


(I) Valla's Preface, made in 1452, was transcribed by me from microfilm copies of two Vatican manuscripts, namely V = Vat. lat. 1801, scribe Iohannes Lamperti de Rodenberg (this is the famed Vatican "archetypus" signed by Valla) and V2 = Vat. Chig. lat. J VIII 276, dated 1475, scribe Bernardus Petri de Basilea. (identified below in the list of abbreviations); the English translation in the right column is mine. 


(II) For the Plataean Debate Valla's translation of 1452 is given as it was printed by Stephanus in his 1588 edition. It was transcribed by two undergraduate classics students at the University of Dallas, STEPHANIE POTTS (chapters 53-59) and WILLIAM FARRIS (chapters 60-68); they used a copy of it in PDF format from (call number AWN-5478).  I then checked it against the two Latin MSS; the apparatus to the Latin records any differences I noticed, even when trivial.


(III) The Melian Dialogue was transcribed by me from Stephanus' edition, then checked against the two Valla MSS.  Again, the apparatus records any differences, even if trivial (except that here I did not record trivial spelling differences: Stephanus "quum" = mss. "cum", "imo" = "immo", and the like).


WHY THESE FILES EXIST. We took pains with this work, but know that any expert reading any page of it will easily recognize the hand of amateurs; but we offer it for what it's worth.  The motive was given by an undergraduate Thucydides course at the University of Dallas, in fall 2008, where at my suggestion, two students chose to transcribe Valla's translation of the Plataean Debate (using Stephanus' text) instead of writing a term paper.  I suggested this knowing that it would help both their Latin and their Greek, and give them a glimpse (normally denied to undergraduates) of the rich (in Thucydides' case peculiarly, immensely rich) history of classical scholarship.  But when I saw that they did this work with gusto, remarkably carefully and accurately, it occurred to me that it might interest others too; so I added the apparatus, and now put the whole thing online.


For Valla's translation fascinates both by itself (it now and then interprets Thuc. brilliantly) and as a supplement to the Greek manuscripts.  For one can discern that he used a very interesting Greek exemplar, now lost, that had ancient readings now otherwise lost.   The trouble is that no critical edition of this Latin has ever been published; so that scholars tend to use either Stephanus or a single Latin MS.  For more about this and for bibliography, see e.g. Karl Maurer, Interpolation in Thucydides, Leiden, 1995, (p. 88-99) and App. iv (p. 211-216).  For more about Latin MS copies of Valla, see e.g. R. J. W. Westgate, "The Text of Valla's Translation of Thucydides" in TAPA 67 (1936) 240-251, Maurer, "Thucydides, Lorenzo Valla and Vat. lat. 1801," Latomus 58 (1999) 885-889.  For a table roughly showing the interrelations of the main Thucydides MSS (and Valla), see


For the brief apparatus to the Greek text I used the OCT apparatus by Jones and Powell, supplemented in a few places by E. F. Poppo, Thucydidis de Bello Peloponnesiaco libri octo, 11 vols. (Leipzig: 1821-1851) and Thomas Arnold (ed.), Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, 3 vols. (Oxford: 1830-1835) (for it is only these old editions that record some readings of recentiores.  But for these I always try to use the modern sigla).  Some Pi2 and H2 readings I took from G. B. Alberti, "Questione Tucididee", XIII, in Bollettino del Comitato per la preparazione dell' Edizione Nazionale dei Classici Greci e Latini, Accademia dei Lincei, Rome 1967.


Lastly, a word about STEPHANUS.  He is sometimes thought to have emended Valla privily (so e.g. Westgate cited above, p. 245-6).  This is wrong, I think.  He certainly used a rather bad copy (or perhaps an earlier printed edition of Valla, e.g. that of Parthenius: I am indebted for this good suggestion to Prof. Mortimer Chambers of UCLA).  But he nowhere, I think, deliberately changes it; for he discerned just as clearly as we do that Valla's Latin often reflects a different Greek text, which is at least worth attention.  So for example, at 7.14.1 ἐπισταμένοις δ' ὑμῖν γράφω (etc.), where Valla had written "Nam (intelligentibus autem scribo)," etc., Stephanus's bad copy had "Non intelligentibus autem scribo" etc. He does not emend but prints it; then says in the margin that he's never seen a Greek exemplar that had a negative there.  At 7.12.1 οὐ γὰρ ἐφορμοῦσιν, where Valla wrote "ut qui non obsident", Stephanus's bad version lacks the negative, but he prints it anyway, and writes in the margin: " Videtur non legisse οὐ, et verbum ἐφορμοῦσι non intellexisse.  Vide annot. de toto hoc loco et de seq."  Still more curious is 7.5.2; for here Stephanus knew that he was printing sheer nonsense:


THUC. 7.5.2:  καὶ ἐν χερσὶ γενόμενοι ἐμάχοντο μεταξὺ τῶν τειχισμάτων, ᾗ τῆς ἵππου τῶν Συρακοσίων οὐδεμία χρῆσις ἦν.  καὶ νικηθέντων τῶν Συρακοσίων (κτλ.).


VALLA: Et cum ad manus uentum est (certabatur autem inter utrorumque munitiones) ibi nullus usus fuit Syracusani equitatus atque sociorum.  Itaque uicere Athenienses (etc.)


STEPH.:  & quum ad manus ventum est, (cohortabatur autem Syracusanorum equitatus atque sociorum, itaque inter vtroruunque munitiones ibi nullus vsus fuit  ) vicere Athenienses (etc.),


Stephanus then crowds the margin with an accurate translation of the whole sentence; then comments: "Videtur autem depravata hic esse quaedam Vallae verba."  Of course, as we know from better copies of Valla, that guess is right!  Plainly some very sleepy copyist of Valla skipped "inter... fuit", then inserted it right where he happened to be when he realized his error.  Probably a whole line got transposed, and the sleepy copyist's exemplar looked something like this:


& quum ad manus ventum est (certabatur autem

inter vtrorunque munitiones ibi nullus vsus fuit                           (42 letters)

Syracusanorum equitatus atque sociorum) itaque  ^       (41 letters)

vicere Athenienses, victisque mortuos reddidere (etc.)


Stephanus, then, has a hunger for the truth and a self-discipline superior to that of some later scholars.  He prints even Latin which he scorns, in case some acute reader can see more than he; and for the same reason, for the Greek records even trivial 'variae lectiones', so that even today editors cite him in the apparatus.  He wrote in Greek a charming epigram which he printed as a preface to his 1588 edition.  Several centuries later, in 1821, E. F. Poppo purloined it for his own great edition; several centuries still later, I purloin it once more (the Engl. translation is mine):


            Ε Ρ Ρ Ι Κ Ο Υ  Τ Ο Υ  Σ Τ Ε Φ Α Ν Ο Υ 


                         Ε Ι Σ   Θ Ο Υ Κ Υ Δ Ι Δ Η Ν


Ὦ ξνε, εἰ μύθων πολυδαίδαλα ψεύδεα δίζῃ,

        Τῶνδ' ἐγὼ οὐδὲν ἔχω · ἐς χέρα μή με λάβε.

Εἰ μαλακοῖς φθόγγοισι τεαὶ χαίρoυσιν ἀκουαὶ,

        Οὐδὲν ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί · ἐς χέρα μή με λάβε.

Σύντομον εἰ ῥῆσιν στυγέεις, ξένε, καινοπρεπῆ τε,

        Πᾶν τε τὸ δισξύνετον · ἐς χέρα μή με λάβε.

Εἰ δέ σε ἱστορίης παναληθέος ἵμερος αἱρῇ,

        Γράμμα τὸ Θουκυδίδου ἐς χέρα, ξεῖνε, λάβε.

Εἰ σὺ βαρυφθόγγου τέρπῃ σάλπιγγος ἀϋτῇ,

        Σαλπίζοντι ἔοικ' · ἐς χέρα, ξεῖνε, λάβε.

Σύντομον εἰ φιλέεις λόγου ἀτραπὸν ἠδ' ἀπάτητον,

        Κᾄν που ἔῃ χαλεπή · ἐς χέρα, ξεῖνε, λάβε.


                     H e n r i c u s  S t e p h a n u s 

                           t o  T h u c y d i d e s


Guest, if you covet ornate lies of stories,

        for you I've nothing: do not pick me up.

Or if your ears delight in pretty voices,

        I again have nothing: do not pick me up.

If you dislike terse utterance, the new-fashioned,

        the twice-intelligent, do not pick me up.

But if you thirst for accurate history,

        then pick up, Guest, this by Thucydides!

If you delight in the deep-wailing war-horn,

        like a horn-player, Stranger, pick me up:

or love a terse, untrodden, sometimes hard

        pathway of speech, O Stranger, open me.



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Karl Maurer, Department of Classics,  215 Carpenter Hall, The University of Dallas,

1845 East Northgate Drive, Irving, TX 75062 (