The actual literal meaning is, 'With power absent, chaos reigns.' The translation, 'In the absence of government, chaos reigns' remains as an entirely reasonable version, but you cold legitimately replace government with authority, or even the State.Source(s): Classics graduate
Chaos is an abstract concept that exists only inside the mind of an observer whom is able to contemplate what they see. The world around us exists according to various laws, such as the natural laws and the laws of physics. If you feed this information into a sufficiently powerful computer you can observe this order and how each action is simply a reaction to something else according to various laws (You drop something and it falls, it bounces X hight and in Y direction, etc). To a computer everything is pure and simple and perfect However a person cannot calculate all of the variables required and their mind tends to wander, wondering about color and aesthetics. It sees pattern were there are no patterns and it cannot accurately calculate what patterns it actually recognizes, therefor it sees the world as being movements of chaos with occasional order. Put another way. The world is perfect, but the human mind tends to look for greater meaning in everything, and this greater meaning cannot be calculated because it is an abstract concept. It is these abstract patterns that are the chaos.
The literal translation is In the absence of an empire chaos reigns
What it really means is In the absence of Government chaos rules.
Hope this helps
In the absence of the king chaos rules