What is the History of Translation of Herodotus in Finnish?

Answer by Antti Lampinen

Somewhat surprisingly, Herodotus has been translated into Finnish only once. Edvard Rein’s complete translation of the Histories appeared as Herodotoksen historia-teos in three volumes (1907, 1908 and 1910), published by Werner Söderström Oy (Porvoo). The first edition was printed by the K. J. Gummerus Oy in Jyväskylä. This translation has since gone through several non-revised reprints. In 1964 it was published by WSOY in two volumes, and in 1997, the fourth imprint appeared as a single-volume paperback in the ‘Ancient Classics’ series of WSOY.

Edvard Rein (1873-1940) was born in Helsinki to well-connected parents: his father was the Professor and State Councillor Karl Gabriel Thiodolf Rein and his mother the social activist and philanthropist Hedvig Maria Sofia Florin, who was related to the Adlercreutz noble family. Rein studied at the Normal Lyceum of Helsinki (1891), and went on to gain his Master’s degree (1896) and doctorate (1907) from Helsinki University. He first worked as the lecturer in Latin (1904-25), then as the professor extraordinarius in Ancient Greek and Byzantine Philology (1925-30) and finally as the professor ordinarius in Greek Literature (1930-40), a chair that he had also held as a locum tenens in 1910-11, 1920-22 and 1926-29. His publication record was fairly modest, but included studies on the mythology and genealogy of Aeacus, several studies on Byzantine manuscripts and literature, and the first popular account of Byzantine history in the Finnish language. His translations into Finnish included a selection of essays by the important 18th-century humanist Henrik Gabriel Porthan (1904), the story of Amor and Psyche from Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (1907), and Herodotoksen historia-teos (1907-10), for which he is best known today.

There are a number of current translation projects underway in Finland that seek to produce a new translation of the Histories, but to my knowledge none of these are very close to completion. Talks are also underway of the several translators to join forces in order to produce a collaborative translation-commentary that would not only update Rein’s dated diction – which also often adopts a rather high style, as was typical in his original context – but would also offer the Finnish reading public, for the first time, a full commentary of Herodotus’ rich work. In this, the groundwork has already been laid by a 2021 publication of Christa Steinby’s general guide to Herodotus and his world, Herodotos. Historiankirjoituksen isä ja hänen maailmansa (Otava, Helsinki).