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Rómverja saga: an introduction and a translation

Rómverja saga: an introduction and a translation

By Svala Lind Birnudóttir

Master’s Thesis, University of British Columbia, 2017

Sallust Monument in L’Aquila – photo by Ra Boe / Wikipedia

Abstract: Rómverja saga (‘The Saga of the Romans’) is an Old Icelandic translation of three Latin works by Sallust and Lucan on historical themes from the classical period. In this thesis, I provide the first English translation of this little-known text in the hope that it might prove a tool for scholars interested in the reception of Latin literature in the medieval period. The saga is a free rendition of its models, and as such it gives us a glimpse into what elements a culture removed in both time and place valued and appropriated from Classical Rome.

In the introduction, I will start by placing Rómverja saga in its literary context. I will then review the modern scholarship on the saga, focusing on its two different versions. Following that, I will list features and key terms that show how the redactor has adapted the text to his native context. The introduction ends with an overview of my translation choices. The translation of the second version of Rómverja saga follows.

Introduction: Rómverja saga is an Old Icelandic translation of three Latin works on historical themes from the classical period. In this thesis, I provide the first English translation of this little-known text in the hope that it might prove a resource for scholars interested in the reception of Latin literature in the medieval period. The saga is a free rendition of its models, and as such it gives us a glimpse into what elements a culture removed in both time and place valued and appropriated from Classical Rome. Rómverja saga might at first glance seem insignificant, but the fact that it constitutes among the first, if not the very first, renditions of Sallust and Lucan into the vernacular – and not just any vernacular but one of the predominant literary languages of the Middle Ages – makes the saga an essential site of reception for the classical texts in question.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of British Columbia

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