So… today I wanted to share my favourite quote from Plato’s Republic with you: “χαλεπα τα καλα”
Its rough translation would be something along the lines of “fine things are difficult” which doesn’t make that much sense.
In Ancient Greek, the verb to be (ειμι) is implicit in all of the sentences that do not have a verb, so it could also be written as “χαλεπα τα καλα εισι.”
The first thing you know is that “τα καλα” is the subject of the sentence, mainly because it goes along with the article (τα).
Now, due to the position of “χαλεπα”, and because of the fact that it doesn’t have an article (τα), you can tell that’s the attribute for “τα καλα.”
So if you want to rewrite the sentence to translate it more literally you would write something like “τα καλα χαλεπα εισι.” Now you have the sentence in a hierarchic order.
Onto the actual translation. The first thing you notice it that the article “τα” and the suffix “-α” mean the subject is in plural, and it’s gender neutral. Therefore, “τα καλα” can be translated to “(the) beautiful things”. But if you have read Plato in Greek before you will know that he uses the words “καλος” (beautiful) and αγαθος" (good) interchangeably, so I decided to go with “fine” which is some kind of middle point between these two things.
Like I said before, “ειμι” is to be, and εισι is the third person, plural for of the verb (are).
“χαλεπος” is easier to translate, for we already know it’s neutral and plural; it means difficult.
So a literal translation is “fine things are difficult” but that doesn’t make that much sense, so we have to analyse it a little bit more.If we understand χαλεπα as another noun, rather than an adjective, we get “fine things are a difficulty”, which makes much more sense (at least it does in Spanish, please tell me if it doesn’t in English).
All in all, the sentence means that beautiful things take some struggle, and you can’t reach difficulty and beauty the easy way. And it could also mean that, if you handle it properly, struggles can lead to fine things, and that is why I love that quote.