Oculus Tigris (“Eye of the Tiger” in Latin)

The Definitive 80s Arena Hit In The Language Arenas Came From

In Medias Res
Mar 6 · 3 min read
Nos intente aspiciens oculo tigris. (Photo by George Desipris)

[Editor’s Note. “Eye Of The Tiger” is one of those songs that came out pretty much exactly its creators intended. Sylvester Stallone commissioned the song from the band Survivor to serve as the theme song for Rocky III. Stallone wanted to use Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” but didn’t receive permission to use it, and needed an equivalent arena anthem. The song, an ode to the competitive spirit, became a massive hit and has remained popular almost forty years later. This translation by Luke Henderson has long been used at spoken-Latin events. Henderson’s Latin is difficult but always skillful, and he stays quite close to the literal meaning of the lyrics, which are worth reviewing in order to appreciate the Latin here. Henderson chooses to render “thrill of the fight” as pugnae flos, using flos with its meaning of “the best part,” as in flos lactis for “cream.” It’s a neat way of thinking of the song as a whole, which emphasizes the good part of competition. “Rising up to the challenge of our rival,” becomes inimicum certatum adorimur, a neat use of a supine (certatum) and a spot-on use of the verb adoriri, which means to “to rise up for the purpose of undertaking something great, difficult, or hazardous” or “to attack.” Fun fact: Jim Peterik, Survivor’s guitarist and one of the writers of this song, started out as the lead vocalist for the band Ides of March, named after a school-days readthrough of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Even if you don’t recognize the band name, you might recognize the big-band sound of their song “Vehicle.”]

EYE OF THE TIGER (OCULUS TIGRIS)
(Survivor) (Sullivan/Peterik)(tr. Henderson)[1982]

Oriens, rursus in via,
et fortunam expertus,
usque veni, nunc resurgo ego,
modo vir superesse volens.

Multoties, actumst citius
pro gloria studiose.
Ne amittas somnia praeterita,
summa ope sic niti decet.

[Chorus]
Praestat oculus tigris praestat et pugnae flos
inimícum certátum adorímur
et supérstes praedátur ultimus sic noctu
nos intente aspiciens o — culo tigris.

Avidi, coram in aestu
duri, fortes, adversi,
fraude praestantes donec recedamus
trucidantes qui supersimus.

[Chorus]
Praestat oculus tigris praestat et pugnae flos
inimícum certátum adorímur
et supérstes praedátur ultimus sic noctu
nos intente aspiciens o — culo tigris.

Oriens, usque ad summum
gloriam iam adeptus
fortitudine sic praeditus nunc
modo vir superesse volens.

[Chorus]
Praestat oculus tigris praestat et pugnae flos
inimícum certátum adorímur
et supérstes praedátur ultimus sic noctu
nos intente aspiciens o — culo tigris.

In Medias Res

Written by

A magazine for lovers of the Classics, published by the Paideia Institute.

In Medias Res

A magazine for lovers of the Classics, published by the Paideia Institute.

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