Chapter I

Hic Rhodus, hic saltus!
Latin, usually translated: “Rhodes is here, here is where you jump!”
The well-known but little understood maxim originates from the traditional Latin translation of the punchline from Aesop’s fable The Boastful Athlete which has been the subject of some mistranslations.
In Greek, the maxim reads:
“ιδού η ρόδος,
ιδού και το πήδημα”
The story is that an athlete boasts that when in Rhodes, he performed a stupendous jump, and that there were witnesses who could back up his story. A bystander then remarked, ‘Alright! Let’s say this is Rhodes, demonstrate the jump here and now.’ The fable shows that people must be known by their deeds, not by their own claims for themselves. In the context in which Hegel uses it, this could be taken to mean that the philosophy of right must have to do with the actuality of modern society (“What is rational is real; what is real is rational”), not the theories and ideals that societies create for themselves, or some ideal counterposed to existing conditions: “To apprehend what is is the task of philosophy,” as Hegel goes on to say, rather than to “teach the world what it ought to be.”