The Fables of Phædrus, Phædrus
The Fables of Phædrus
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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 is an English translation in prose by Henry Thomas Riley, B.A. & Christopher Smart, A.M.

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.’”

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