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I want to cite a quote by Seneca at the start of my economics thesis:

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare,
it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.

Here is an example blog entry with it: "This quote comes from his Letter to Lucilius, letter 104, section 26, line 5".

However, on the Wikisource page it is translated like this:

Our lack of confidence is not the result of difficulty;
the difficulty comes from our lack of confidence.

I obviously can't cite the blog. The Wikisource has a different translation. I can't cite the original (how would I even do this correctly), because it is probably in ancient Greek, and I can't translate it myself.

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  • I'm not sure how rigorous you need to be with references for such an inspirational quote in a thesis but my understanding is that you need to include the translator in the reference: "Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letter to Lucilius, letter 104, section 26, line 5, translation: John Smith (2001), "The awesome quotes of the Roman empire", Great Publisher, Cambridge, ISBN ...
    – Roland
    Aug 3 at 9:13
  • This sounds like a great suggestion, thanks! I will see if I can find the translator. If not, I maybe just will print it without a reference. you are probably right about that part too... Aug 3 at 10:20
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    Nitpick: Seneca wasn't Greek. Aug 3 at 13:05

2 Answers 2

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Seneca mainly wrote in Latin. Since you are not working in a field that is even remotely interested in Latin literature, but since this is probably an inspirational quote, you should not include it in the references, but just give the quote and then in parentheses put in the reference.

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult. (Seneca, Letter to Lucilius, 104)

If the quote were of importance to the academic merits of your thesis, you would need to give more information in a citation, including the translator, and you would probably have to give the Latin original.

Most of the classic literature is freely available online, using often translations from the earlier half of the last century. If you want to be very classy, you can also find the Latin original.

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When you make a citation, my expectation is that I can check the citation. So you give me a translation and the citation should tell me where you found it. Since you don’t quote the original, you don’t need a citation.

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