The Fables of Phædrus
Category: Children
Genres: Fable
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Gaius Julius Phaedrus (/ˈfiːdrəs/; Greek: Φαῖδρος; Phaîdros) was a 1st-century CE Roman fabulist and the first versifier of a collection of Aesop's fables into Latin. Few facts are known about him for certain and there was little mention of his work during late antiquity.

The Fables of Phædrus


Translated by Henry Thomas Riley

The Fables of Phædrus


In the Translation of Phædrus, the Critical Edition by Orellius, 1831, has been used, and in the Æsopian Fables, the text of the Parisian Edition of Gail, 1826. The Notes will, it is believed, be found to embody the little that is known of the contemporary history of the Author.

H. T. R.

Book I

The Prologue

The matter which Æsop, the inventor of Fables, has provided, I have polished in Iambic verse. The advantages of this little work are twofold — that it excites laughter, and by counsel guides the life of man. But if any one shall think fit to cavil, because not only wild beasts, but even trees speak, let him remember that we are disporting in fables.

Fable I.
The Wolf and the Lamb

Driven by thirst, a Wolf and a Lamb had come to the same stream; the Wolf stood above, and the Lamb at a distance below. Then, the spoiler, prompted by a ravenous maw, alleged a pretext for a quarrel. “Why,” said he, “have you made the water muddy for me while I am drinking?” The Fleece-bearer, trembling, answered: “Prithee, Wolf, how can I do what you complain of? The water is flowing downwards from you to where I am drinking.” The other, disconcerted by the force of truth, exclaimed: “Six months ago, you slandered me.” “Indeed,” answered the Lamb, “I was not born then.” “By Hercules,” said the Wolf, “then ’twas your father slandered me;” and so, snatching him up, he tore him to pieces, killing him unjustly.

This Fable is applicable to those men who, under false pretences, oppress the innocent.

Fable II.
The Frogs Asking for a King

When Athens was flourishing under just laws, liberty grown wanton embroiled the city, and license relaxed the reins of ancient discipline. Upon this, the partisans of factions conspiring, Pisistratus the Tyrant seized the citadel. When the Athenians were lamenting their sad servitude (not that he was cruel, but because every burden is grievous to those who are unused to it), and began to complain, Æsop related a Fable to the following effect: —

“The Frogs, roaming at large in their marshy fens, with loud clamour demanded of Jupiter a king, who, by his authority, might check their dissolute manners. The Father of the Gods smiled, and gave them a little Log, which, on being thrown among them startled the timorous race by the noise and sudden commotion in the bog. When it had lain for some time immersed in the mud, one of them by chance silently lifted his head above the water, and having taken a peep at the king, called up all the rest. Having got the better of their fears, vying with each other, they swim towards him, and the insolent mob leap upon the Log. After defiling it with every kind of insult, they sent to Jupiter, requesting another king, because the one that had been given them was useless. Upon this, he sent them a Water Snake, who with his sharp teeth began to gobble them up one after another. Helpless they strive in vain to escape death; terror deprives them of voice. By stealth, therefore, they send through Mercury a request to Jupiter, to succour them in their distress. Then said the God in reply: ‘Since you would not be content with your good fortune, continue to endure your bad fortune.’”

“Do you also, O fellow-citizens,” said Æsop, “submit to the present evil, lest a greater one befall you.”

Fable III.
The Vain Jackdaw and the Peacock

That one ought not to plume oneself on the merits which belong to another, but ought rather to pass his life in his own proper guise, Æsop has given us this illustration: —

A Jackdaw, swelling with empty pride, picked up some feathers which had fallen from a Peacock, and decked himself out therewith; upon which, despising his own kind, he mingled with a beauteous flock of Peacocks. They tore his feathers from off the impudent bird, and put him to flight with their beaks. The Jackdaw, thus roughly handled, in grief hastened to return to his own kind; repulsed by whom, he had to submit to sad disgrace. Then said one of those whom he had formerly despised: “If you had been content with our station, and had been ready to put up with what nature had given, you would neither have experienced the former affront, nor would your ill fortune have had to feel the additional pang of this repulse.”

Fable IV.
The Dog Carrying Some Meat across a River

He who covets what belongs to another, deservedly loses his own.

As a Dog, swimming through a river, was carrying a piece of meat, he saw his own shadow in the watery mirror; and, thinking that it was another booty carried by another dog, attempted to snatch it away; but his greediness was disappointed, he both dropped the food which he was holding in his mouth, and was after all unable to reach that at which he grasped.

Fable V.
The Cow, the She-Goat, the Sheep, and the Lion

An alliance with the powerful is never to be relied upon: the present Fable testifies the truth of my maxim.

A Cow, a She-Goat, and a Sheep patient under injuries, were partners in the forests with a Lion. When they had captured a Stag of vast bulk, thus spoke the Lion, after it had been divided into shares: “Because my name is Lion, I take the first; the second you will yield to me because I am courageous; then, because I am the strongest, the third will fall to my lot; if anyone touches the fourth, woe betide him.”

Thus did unscrupulousness seize upon the whole prey for itself.

Fable VI.
The Frogs’ Complaint against the Sun

Æsop, on seeing the pompous wedding of a thief, who was his neighbour, immediately began to relate the following story:

Once on a time, when the Sun was thinking of taking a wife, the Frogs sent forth their clamour to the stars. Disturbed by their croakings, Jupiter asked the cause of their complaints. Then said one of the inhabitants of the pool: “As it is, by himself he parches up all the standing waters, and compels us unfortunates to languish and die in our scorched abode. What is to become of us, if he beget children?”

Fable VII.
The Fox and the Tragic Mask

A Fox, by chance, casting his eyes on a Tragic Mask: “Ah,” said she, “great as is its beauty, still it has no brains.”

This is meant for those to whom fortune has granted honor and renown, leaving them void of common sense.

Fable VIII.
The Wolf and the Crane

He who expects a recompense for his services from the dishonest commits a twofold mistake; first, because he assists the undeserving, and in the next place, because he cannot be gone while he is yet safe.

A bone that he had swallowed stuck in the jaws of a Wolf. Thereupon, overcome by extreme pain, he began to tempt all and sundry by great rewards to extract the cause of misery. At length, on his taking an oath, a Crane was prevailed on, and, trusting the length of her neck to his throat, she wrought, with danger to herself, a cure for the Wolf. When she demanded the promised reward for this service, “You are an ungrateful one,” replied the Wolf, “to have taken your head in safety out of my mouth, and then to ask for a reward.”

Fable IX.
The Sparrow and the Hare

Let us show, in a few lines, that it is unwise to be heedless of ourselves, while we are giving advice to others.

A Sparrow upbraided a Hare that had been pounced upon by an Eagle, and was sending forth piercing cries. “Where now,” said he, “is that fleetness for which you are so remarkable? Why were your feet thus tardy?” While he was speaking, a Hawk seizes him unawares, and kills him, shrieking aloud with vain complaints. The Hare, almost dead, as a consolation in his agony, exclaimed: “You, who so lately, free from care, were ridiculing my misfortunes, have now to deplore your own fate with as woful cause.”

Fable X.
The Wolf, the Fox, and the Ape

Whoever has once become notorious by base fraud, even if he speaks the truth, gains no belief. To this, a short Fable of Æsop bears witness.

A Wolf indicted a Fox upon a charge of theft; the latter denied that she was amenable to the charge. Upon this, the Ape sat as judge between them; and when each of them had pleaded his cause, the Ape is said to have pronounced this sentence: “You, Wolf, appear not to have lost what you demand; I believe that you, Fox, have stolen what you so speciously deny.”

Fable XI.
The Ass and the Lion Hunting

A dastard, who in his talk brags of his prowess, and is devoid of courage, imposes upon strangers, but is the jest of all who know him.

A Lion having resolved to hunt in company with an Ass, concealed him in a thicket, and at the same time enjoined him to frighten the wild beasts with his voice, to which they were unused, while he himself was to catch them as they fled. Upon this, Long-ears, with all his might, suddenly raised a cry, and terrified the beasts with this new cause of astonishment. While, in their alarm, they are flying to the well-known outlets, they are overpowered by the dread onset of the Lion; who, after he was wearied with slaughter, called forth the Ass from his retreat, and bade him cease his clamour. On this the other, in his insolence, inquired: “What think you of the assistance given by my voice?” “Excellent!” said the Lion, “so much so, that if I had not been acquainted with your spirit and your race, I should have fled in alarm like the rest.”

Fable XII.
The Stag at the Stream

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