2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Have you wondered what this meant?
Here's a bit of the history behind it:
The Greek phrase Molōn labe! (Μολὼν λαβέ; approximate Classical Greek pronunciation [moˈloːn laˈbe], Modern Greek [moˈlon laˈve]), meaning "Effort [το] take [them]!", or more loosely, "Come and take them!", is a classical expression of defiance reported by Plutarch in response to the Persian Army's demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons. It is roughly corresponding to the modern equivalent English phrase "over my dead body". It is an exemplary use of a laconic phrase.
The first word, μολών, is the aorist active participle (masculine, nominative, singular) of the Greek verb βλώσκω "blosko," meaning "having come." Λαβέ is the aorist active imperative (second person singular) of the verb λαμβάνω "lambano," translated "take [them]."
The two words function together in a grammatical structure not present in English called the circumstantial participle. Where English would put two main verbs in two independent clauses joined by a conjunction: "come and take", a strategy sometimes called paratactic, ancient Greek, which is far richer in participles, subordinates one to the other, a strategy called hypotactic: "having come, take." The first action is turned into an adjective. In this structure the participle gives some circumstance attendant on the main verb: the coming.
In regard to aspect, the aorist participle is used to signify completed action, called the perfective aspect. Moreover, the action must be completed before the time of the main verb. The difference in meaning is subtle but significant: the English speaker is inviting his enemy to begin a process with two distinct acts or parts—coming and taking; the Greek speaker is telling his enemy that only after the act of coming is completed will he be able to take. In addition there is a subtle implication: in English "come and take it" implies that the enemy might not win the struggle—the outcome is uncertain; in Greek, the implication is that the outcome is certain—"after you have come here and defeated me, then it will be yours to take." For comparison, these elements happen to be present in the previously-noted English phrase, "over my dead body", or the similar phrase "you can have (object) when you pry it from my cold, dead hands."
Μολὼν λαβέ was reportedly the defiant response of King Leonidas I of Sparta to Xerxes I of Persia at the onset of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC). Xerxes, whose forces vastly outnumbered the Spartans and their allies, offered to spare the lives of Leonidas and his few thousand warriors if they would only surrender and lay down their weapons.
Instead, the Spartans held Thermopylae for three days and, although they were ultimately annihilated, they inflicted serious damage upon the Persian army, and most importantly delayed its progress to Athens, providing sufficient time for the city's evacuation to Salamis Island. Though a clear defeat, Thermopylae served as a moral victory and inspired the troops at the Battle of Salamis and the Battle of Plataea, where the non-medizing Greeks won their freedom and arguably saved the Western World.
The source for this quotation is Plutarch, Apophthegmata Laconica, 225c.11. This work may or may not be by Plutarch (ca. 46 - 127) himself, but it is included among the Moralia, a collection of works attributed to him but outside the collection of his most famous works, the Parallel Lives.
Molon labe has been repeated by many later generals and politicians in order to express an army's or nation's determination to not surrender without a battle. The motto ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ is on the emblem of the Greek First Army Corps, and is also the motto of United States Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT).
In the Anglosphere, both the original Greek phrase and its English translation are often heard from pro-gun activists as a defence of the right to keep and bear arms. It began to appear on pro-RKBA web sites in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Molon labe has been recently used in the feature film 300 (and earlier comic book of the same name), in which the character of Leonidas speaks this famous line in English in response to "Spartans! Lay down your weapons!" as "Persians, come and get them". In the earlier 1962 film The 300 Spartans Leonidas says the phrase both in Greek and English to the Persian general Hydarnes. The same exchange contains Dienekes' remark about "fighting in the shade" (as Persian arrows would "blot out the sun"), assigned to Leonidas.
In the wake of firearm seizures during Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent defiance of Federal court orders by the New Orleans government to return seized weapons, the phrase has gained popularity among Second Amendment supporters.
If you ended up reading all this, use the word.