31 Dec St Andrews University’s Motto
The motto of St Andrews University, “aien aristeuein”, “Ever to excel!”, is unusual because it is in Greek. It is taken from line 206 of Book VI of Homer’s renowned epic poem, the “Iliad”, probably first written down in the first half of the Eighth Century B.C. in the new Greek alphabetic script, very possibly designed specifically for this purpose. This quotation is contained in a speech made by Glaucus, the leader, together with Sarpedon, of the Lycian contingent, which came to the assistance of Troy against their Greek assailants. In this speech which he makes to the Greek hero, Diomedes, King of Argos, Glaucus tells of his illustrious ancestry, and, in particular, gives an account of the deeds of his famous grandfather, Bellerophon, the slayer of the dread Chimaera. The University’s motto, αἴεν ἀριστεύειν”, comes in the midst of the following extract (lines 206-211 of Book VI), which I now read, first in the original Greek verse, transliterated into Roman script, and then in English.
“Hippolochos d’ em’ etikte, // kai ek tou phaimi genesthai:
pempe de m’es Troiain, // kai moi mala poll’ epetellen
aien aristeuein // kai hupeirochon emmenai allown,
maide genos paterown aischunemen, // hoi meg’ aristoi
en t’ Ephurai egenonto // kai en Lukiai eureiai.
tautais toi geneais te // kai haimatos euchomai einai.”
“Hippolochus begat me, and I declare that I am his son; and he sent me to Troy, and he very often enjoined (upon me) that I should ever excel and be distinguished above others, and not disgrace the stock of my forebears, who were by far the noblest in Ephyra and in broad Lycia. I avow that I am truly of this family and of this blood.”