Did you know that translation services have been around since ancient times?
There have been many instances when translation played a role in facilitating understanding, developing language and establishing identities. But the most prominent were the religious translations, starting with the earliest recorded translation of the Bible. One translation was attributed to St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators. Other translators worked on translations for politics and education, among other works.
St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin from Greek and Hebrew texts. His translation of the sacred book became the Catholics’ official version.
But an earlier work, the 3rd century Bible translation called the Septuagint was prominent as well. The work translated the Bible from Hebrew into Koine Greek. The name was given in reference to the 72 translators, who were each tasked by King Ptolemy II to translate the Bible individually. They were housed in their individual rooms. The Jewish translators consisted of six scholars from each of the 12 tribes in Israel. They were not immediately told what they were supposed to do. According to legend, King Ptolemy II met each one in their rooms and asked them to translate the Torah. Their translations were finished in 72 days. Surprisingly, although they did not know what each one was working on, they all had the same translation of the Torah.
The Septuagint translation is the basis for many versions of the Old Testament, including Coptic, Old Georgian, Old Armenian, Syrian, Slavonic and Old Latin.
For several centuries, Bible translations were undertaken, but eventually, most of the facets of modern society were touched by translation. During the Industrial Revolution, translators became very much in demand, as the emerging middle class wanted plenty of new materials to read. The translators then were like celebrities, hailed by the nouveau riche and paid handsomely, even if their translations were done to ensure that the translated materials were what the readers wanted, without too much regard for accuracy.
While the translators of old were named and grew in prominence, translators in the 21st century often remained in the background, translating documents and texts diligently despite not receiving recognition, except those who translated classic novels and bestselling books.
But that was not always the case. Several famous authors also worked as translators, such as Roger Bacon, Geoffrey Chaucer, GemistusPletho, Thomas Mallory, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Friedrich Schleiermacher and Yan Fu. Each of them contributed to the development and standardization of translation.
Trace the fascinating history of translation from ancient times to the present using our specially designed infographic.