interpreting in antiquity

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In antiquity as in other eras, interlingual behaviour was determined by the specific situation and, within it, by individual decision.

ANCIENT EGYPTSuch was typically the case in Ancient Egypt, where the honorary title of man/human being was only bestowed on its own people, foreign races being considered wretched barbarians.

The inscriptions which record the speeches delivered when foreigners were received at court are not their actual words, translated from their own languages.

Under such circunstances no real communication could take place when it came to talking to foreigners in everyday life, and the interpreter, could not act as a genuine interlingual mediator

Interpreters appear more and more frequently in the inscriptions of Aswan Elephantine, whose provincial ruler often bears the title overseer of dragomans. The bilingual border area of the first Cataract, the Province of Elephantine, was the home not only of the interpreters who mediated between the resident Nubians and Egyptians, but also of most leaders of famed expeditions to Sudan.

The Egyptians did not leave further testimony about this oldest instance of interpreting in the history of the world.The interpreter was thought of, rather disparangingly, as the speaker of strange tongues

The foreign-language education of youth, here reported for the period of the first regular Egyptian-Greek relations, appears to have been an old custom in the land of the Nile

Greece/ RomeFor the greeks, the term interpreter or translator meant a person who acts like Hermes

While the Greek concept emphasizes the divine and, to a lesser extent, the intellectual character, the latin equivalent defines the down-to-earth situation of the person interpreting.

The word interpres is derived from inter-partes or inter-pretium, the term designates the human mediator positiones between two parties or values, performing far more diverse activities than simply providing linguistic mediation between parties transacting business.

When it came to practical interpreting in interlingual communication in ancient times, the language problem varied. While the greeks were in every way on a par with the Egyptians in terms of arrogance over the barbarians, considering their language to be the only one worthy of human beigns from early colonization.

Interpreters were constantly needed in the administration, particulary for contacts with the non-classical peoples: the Egyptians, Syrians, Seythians, Germans, Celts, and so on. Sometimes they were paid by the state.

The christian late classical periodMore than theorical considerations, what proved significant to Christianity was the practical example of interpreting and translating in the synagogue.

The language problem of the synagogue applied to Jesus presching too. When, he expunded Moses and the prophets to the disciples, he could only have explained the Hebrew written text in Armanic.

Before the ocurrence of drastic languages changes, such as the one carried out in Rome under Poper Damasus I, linguistic mediators were required at religious services.