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World translation in general and European translation in particular has a long tradition. The earliest mention of translation used in viva voce goes back to approximately the year 3000 BC in ancient Egypt where the interpreters or dragomans, as they are called, were employed to help in carrying on trade with the neighbouring country of Nubia: to accompany the trade caravans and help in negotiating. In 2100 BC, Babylon translations are known to have been performed into some languages including Greek, Armenian and Egyptian. As far back as 1900 BC, in Babylon, there existed the first known bilingual (Sumerian-Akkadian) and multilingual dictionaries. In 1800 BC, in Assyria there was already something of a board of translators headed by a certain Giki.
Interpreters and translators of the Persian and Indian languages are known to have been employed in Europe in the 4th century by Alexander the Great (356-323), during his military campaign against Persia and India.
The history of European translation, however, is known to have started as far back as 280 BC with the translation of some excerpts of The Holy Scriptures. The real history of translation is supposed to have begun in 250 BC in Egyptian city of Alexandria. The local leaders of the Jewish community there decided to translate the Old Testament from Aramaic, which was no longer understood into ancient Greek – their spoken language (72 Jews in 70 days). In reality, the Septuagint (Latin for 70), as their translation has been called since then, took in fact several hundreds of years to complete. The bulk of the Septuagint has been done in a slavishly literal (word-for-word) translation.
The next best known translation of the Old Testament into Greek was performed this time sense-to-sense (200 BC). Translations from Greek into Latin were started by the scholar Livius Andronicus, who made a successful translation of Homer’s poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey in 240 BC. A significant contribution was made by the orator and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), who became famous for his principles of the so-called “sense-to sense translation”, which have been in opposition to the principle of strict word-for-word translation. The principles were accepted by Horace (65-68 BC), but he used them in his own way: he would change the content. This free interpretation was accepted by Apuleius, who would rearrange the originals beyond recognition. So, the Roman translators began to omit all insignificant passages, rearrange even whole stories of their own. This practice of Roman translators began to dominate in all European literatures throughout the next centuries and during the Middle Ages.