Aesop Fable II – The Eagle, the Jackdaw, and the Shepherd


“An Eagle once flew down from a lofty rock and snatched a lamb. A Jackdaw saw this and jealously wished to imitate him. Sending himself down with a great whistle he landed upon a ram. He locked his talons into the ram’s wool, and unable to lift the ram, he beat his wings until a shepherd, seeing what was happening, ran up, grabbed the Jackdaw, and cut off his wings. When evening came, the shepherd carried them to his children. When they asked what sort of bird it was, he responded, ‘As I know clearly, he was a Jackdaw; but as he conceived it, he was an Eagle.’

Thus goes the struggle against those who exceed us: in addition to accomplishing nothing, one adds ridicule to misfortune.”



     ἀετὸς καταπτὰς ἀπό τινος ὑψηλῆς πέτρας ἄρνα ἥρπασε· κολοιὸς δὲ τοῦτον θεασάμενος διὰ ζῆλον [τοῦτον] μιμήσασθαι ἤθελε. καὶ δὴ καθεὶς ἑαυτὸν μετὰ πολλοῦ ῥοίζου ἐπὶ κριὸν ἠνέχθη. ἐμπαρέντων δὲ αὐτοῦ τῶν ὀνύχων τοῖς

μαλλοῖς ἐξαρθῆναι μὴ δυνάμενος ἐπτερύσσετο, ἕως ὁ ποιμὴν τὸ γεγονὸς αἰσθόμενος προσδραμὼν συνέλαβεν αὐτὸν καὶ περικόψας αὐτοῦ τὰ ὀξύπτερα, ὡς ἑσπέρα κατέλαβε, τοῖς αὐτοῦ παισὶν ἐκόμισε. τῶν δὲ πυνθανομένων, τί εἴη τὸ ὄρνεον, ἔφη· „ὡς μὲν ἐγὼ σαφῶς οἶδα, κολοιός, ὡς δὲ αὐτὸς βούλεται, ἀετός.”

     οὕτως ἡ πρὸς τοὺς ὑπερέχοντας ἅμιλλα πρὸς τῷ μηδὲν ἀνύειν καὶ ἐπὶ συμφοραῖς προσκτᾶται γέλωτα.

3 thoughts on “Aesop Fable II – The Eagle, the Jackdaw, and the Shepherd

  1. This is where the Aesop’s Greek is really just bad, not because it is stylistically difficult, just because it is poor.

    οὕτως ἡ πρὸς τοὺς ὑπερέχοντας

    Do you thing he means “this is about those who overreach?” That’s the only way I can really make sense of it.

    By the way, the letter ‘r’ occurs twice in overreach. And occur has two ‘c’s…

    1. I think that “overreaching” is probably a better translation for ὑπερτείνω; the force of ὑπερέχω has, I think, to do more with superiority. Consider the old ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων.

      I think that οὕτως here is used just like sic, and we should read “Thus is the contest (ἅμιλλα) against those who excel/are superior πρὸς τοὺς ὑπερέχοντας.

      You may have noted that there are two Lambdas in ἅμιλλα.

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