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electricsky's avatar

Can someone translate this for me?

Asked by electricsky (825 points ) March 30th, 2009

“Facilis descensus Averno; Noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis; Sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras, Hoc opus, hic labor est.”
-Virgil, The Aeneid
It’s in a book I have to read, and I’d really like to know what it means.

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14 Answers

charliecompany34's avatar

looks like latin and i don’t have a clue, but here is what i interpret not knowing latin at at all:

same thing goes down as the moon. go back at quickly and escape it. it’s the beginning.

Jeruba's avatar

It is certainly Latin, as attributed in the question.

I put the entire phrase into Google and came to this.

charliecompany34's avatar

hmmmm, based on jeruba’s link, i’d say i was a little close?

Jeruba's avatar

These are the pertinent lines of Raean’s citation:

O goddess-born of great Anchises’ line,
The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies.

What is the book you’re reading?

Dansedescygnes's avatar

I just translated it literally:

“The descent to hell is easy; the door of dark Dis (Pluto) lies open [for] days and nights; but to call back the step and to escape to the breezes above, this work, this is the task.”

Here’s the parsing of each word, to my knowledge:

facilis – nom. s. masc. mod. descensus
descensus – nom. subj.
Averno – abl. (?)
Noctes, dies – acc. dur. time
patet – 3 s. pres. act. ind.
atri – gen. s. masc. mod. Ditis
Ditis – gen. poss.
janua – nom. subj.
revocare – pres. act. inf. (?)
gradum – acc. d.o.
superas – acc. pl. fem. mod. auras
auras – acc. o.p. ad
evadere – pres. act. inf. (?)
hoc – nom s. neut mod. opus
opus – nom. subj
labor – nom. p.n.
hic – nom. subj.

electricsky's avatar

@Dansedescygnes: That translation seems to make the most sense regarding the book. Thanks for your help, everyone. :)

Jeruba's avatar

And what is the book with the Latin epigraph?

electricsky's avatar

It’s City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I have to read it for a book club I’m in. I quite like it so far.

t08wilsonm1's avatar

This has been a great help to me, as I am also reading City of Bones, and was wondering the same thing.

grayce's avatar

From Aeneid, Book 6

The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies.

lanaleigh's avatar

It means, “The decent into Hell is easy”

Love the book, not the ending!

I’m getting this tattooed later

jkcb's avatar

Funny thing about foreign languages is that it can be translated to the best of ones ability based on their knowledge. Its going to be different for everyone unless you’re and expert. This translates as the following: “Easy is the descent to Avernus, for the door to the underworld lies open both day and night. But to retrace your steps and return to the breezes above—that is the task, that’s the toil” Its an allusion to Vergil’s own tale of Orpheus and Eurydice.

MortalInstruments1991's avatar

Easy is the descent;
Open night and day the door of black Dis;
But to retrace one’s steps and escape to the air,
This is the work, here is the labor.

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