Hungry Dogs, Old Lions: More Fables for Our Time

Phaedrus Fabulae

The Hungry Dogs, 1.20

“A foolish plan not only lacks a happy end,
But it invokes doom too for mortal men.
Some dogs saw a hide half sunk in a stream,
In order to get it and eat it with ease
They began to drink the water up: but they burst
And died before they could grab what they wanted first.”

I.20. Canes Famelici

Stultum consilium non modo effectu caret,
sed ad perniciem quoque mortalis devocat.
Corium depressum in fluvio viderunt canes.
Id ut comesse extractum possent facilius,
aquam coepere ebibere: sed rupti prius
periere quam quod petierant contingerent.

The Elderly Lion, 1.21

“Whoever has lost his ancient dignity
Is a joke to baser men in the midst of grave mistake.
A lion worn by years and deprived of his strength,
Was at last lying prone and ready to take
His last breath as a boar came foaming with bright teeth
And avenged an ancient wound with a strike.
Soon a bull gored him too with horns beneath
His enemy flesh. Even a donkey, when he knew
He could hurt him without harm, kicked his head anew.
But as he breathed out at last, the lion said:
“Without merit I endured the insults of the strong.
But, because of you, nature’s joke, I now seem twice-dead!”


I.21. Leo Senex

Quicumque amisit dignitatem pristinam,
ignavis etiam iocus est in casu gravi.
Defectus annis et desertus viribus
leo cum iaceret spiritum extremum trahens,
aper fulmineis spumans venit dentibus,
et vindicavit ictu veterem iniuriam.
Infestis taurus mox confodit cornibus
hostile corpus. Asinus, ut vidit ferum
impune laedi, calcibus frontem extudit.
At ille exspirans “Fortis indigne tuli
mihi insultare: Te, Naturae dedecus,
quod ferre certe cogor bis videor mori”.

No Day Without a Latin Motto

From The New-England Courant, February 11, 1723:

p.s. Gentle Readers, we design never to let a Paper pass without a Latin Motto if we can possibly pick one up, which carries a Charm in it to the Vulgar, and the learned admire the pleasure of Construing. We should have obliged the World with a Greek scrap or two, but the Printer has no Types, and therefore we intreat the candid Reader not to impute the defect to our Ignorance, for our Doctor can say all the Greek Letters by heart.

Hamilton, A Second Cato (Maybe)

William Cunningham to John Adams, Aug. 18, 1809:

“Cato valued himself on his integrity, and was, it is said, addicted to intemperance, but the friends of Cato prized him so highly for his main excellence that they looked on his occasional intoxication with indulgence—Thus I have understood it of Hamilton—he set the estimation made of his uprightness against that which might be formed from the confession of his lewdness, and he determined that the weight of his cardinal virtues would preponderate over every defect, and keep forever that scale immoveably down.”

The Life and Sayings of Anacharsis the Skythian

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 10.50

“Anacharsis the Skythian, when a they had a drinking contest at Periander’s house, asked for the first prize because he was the first of the drinkers to get drunk, believing that the  goal of a drinking contest was the same as running: being first.”

᾿Ανάχαρσις δ’ ὁ Σκύθης παρὰ Περιάνδρῳ τεθέντος ἄθλου περὶ τοῦ πίνειν ᾔτησε τὸ νικητήριον πρῶτος μεθυσθεὶς τῶν συμπαρόντων, ὡς ὄντος τέλους τούτου καὶ τῆς ἐν τῷ πότῳ νίκης ὥσπερ καὶ τῆς ἐν τῷ τρέχειν.


“Anacharsis has shown that getting drunk keeps our eyes from seeing clearly—that opinions of the drunk tend to be wrong. For when a fellow drinker saw his wife at a party, he said “Anacharsis, you have married an ugly woman.” And he responded, “That’s quite clear to me. But pour me a stronger drink, child, and I’ll make her pretty!”

ὅτι δὲ τὸ μεθύειν καὶ τὰς ὄψεις ἡμῶν πλανᾷ σαφῶς ἔδειξεν ᾿Ανάχαρσις δι’ ὧνεἴρηκε, δηλώσας ὅτι ψευδεῖς δόξαι τοῖς μεθύουσι γίγνονται. συμπότης γάρ τις ἰδὼν αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα ἐν τῷ συμποσίῳ ἔφη· ‘ὦ ᾿Ανάχαρσι, γυναῖκα γεγάμηκας αἰσχράν.’ καὶ ὃς ἔφη· ‘πάνυ γε κἀμοὶ δοκεῖ· ἀλλά μοι ἔγχεον, ὦ παῖ, ποτήριον ἀκρατέστερον, ὅπως αὐτὴν καλὴν ποιήσω.’


“I also know that Anacharsis the Skythian, when comedians were performing at a dinner party, sat there without laughing. But when a monkey came in, he laughed and said “This is funny by nature; but the man has to practice.”

καίτοι γε οἶδα καὶ ᾿Ανάχαρσιν τὸν Σκύθην ἐν συμποσίῳ γελωτοποιῶν εἰσαχθέντων ἀγέλαστον διαμείναντα, πιθήκου δ’ ἐπεισαχθέντος γελάσαντα φάναι, ὡς οὗτος μὲν φύσει γελοῖός ἐστιν, ὁ δ’ ἄνθρωπος ἐπιτηδεύσει.



s.v. Angkura: Note that Anakharsis, a Skythian philosopher, invented the anchor and the potter’s wheel. He lived around the time of Kroisos.

Ἄγκυραν: ὅτι Ἀνάχαρσις Σκύθης φιλόσοφος εὗρεν ἄγκυραν καὶ τὸν κεραμεικὸν τροχόν. ἦν δὲ ἐπὶ Κροίσου.

“s.v. Anacharsis, the son of Gnuros, and a Greek woman. A Skythian, philosopher, and brother of the king of the Skythians, Kadouias. He wrote Laws of the Scythians in epic verse, On the Simplicity of the Affairs of Human Life, adding up to around eight hundred lines. He invented the anchor and the potter’s wheel. He died while performing Greek rites because his brother was conspiring against him. According to others, he died in deep old age, nearly 100 years old.”

᾿Ανάχαρσις, Γνύρου, μητρὸς δὲ ῾Ελληνίδος, Σκύθης, φιλόσοφος, ἀδελφὸς Καδουΐα τοῦ Σκυθῶν βασιλέως. ἔγραψε Νόμιμα Σκυθικὰ δι’ ἐπῶν, Περὶ εὐτελείας τῶν εἰς τὸν ἀνθρώπινον βίον ἔπη πάντα ω′. εὗρε δὲ οὗτος ἄγκυραν καὶ τὸν κεραμεικὸν τροχόν. ἦν δὲ ἐπὶ Κροίσου. καὶ τετελεύτηκεν ῾Ελληνικὰς τελετὰς ἐπιτελῶν ἐν Σκύθαις, ἐπιβουλεύσαντος αὐτῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ· κατὰ δέ τινας ἐν γήρᾳ βαθεῖκαὶ μέχρις ἐτῶν ρ′.


Anacharsis the Scythian, Diogenes Laertius 1.8 103-105

“He said that the vine bears three grapes: pleasure, inebriation, and disgust. He said that he was surprised how among the Greeks experts competed and amateurs judged them. When he asked how someone could avoid being a drunk, he said “if you keep the shame of drunks before you.” He also used to say that he was surprised how the Greeks make laws against arrogance when they honor athletes for hitting each other. When he learned that a ship’s side was four-fingers thick, he said that the sailors were only that far from death.

He used to say that olive oil was a drug of madness since Athletes went crazy at each other when they rubbed it on themselves. He used to ask how we outlaw lies, but lie openly in commerce. And he used to wonder at how the Greeks drink from small cups at the beginning of the feast, but big ones when they are full.  This is inscribed on his statues: Master your tongue, your stomach, and your genitals.” When asked if there were pipes in Skythia, he said “No, nor grapevines.” When asked what kind of boats were safest, he said “those on shore.” And he said that the most amazing thing he saw among the Greeks was that they leave the smoke on the mountains and take the wood into the cities.

When asked whether there were more men living or dead he asked, “Where would you count the men on the sea?” When he was reproached by some Attic man for being Skythian, he said, “my country is a reproach to me; but you are a reproach to your country.” When asked what is good and what is bad for men, he said “the tongue.” He used to say that it was better to have one friend worth much than many worth little. He called the market a place designated for deceiving and depriving one another. When he was insulted over wine by a young man he said, “boy, if you can’t handle wine when you’re young, you’ll be carrying water when you’re old.”


Οὗτος τὴν ἄμπελον εἶπε τρεῖς φέρειν βότρυς: τὸν πρῶτον ἡδονῆς: τὸν δεύτερον μέθης: τὸν τρίτον ἀνδίας. θαυμάζειν δὲ ἔφη πῶς παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἀγωνίζονται μὲν οἱ τεχνῖται, κρίνουσι δὲ οἱ μὴ τεχνῖται. ἐρωτηθεὶς πῶς οὐκ ἂν γένοιτό τις φιλοπότης, “εἰ πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν,” εἶπεν, “ἔχοι τὰς τῶν μεθυόντων ἀσχημοσύνας.” θαυμάζειν τε ἔλεγε πῶς οἱ Ἕλληνες νομοθετοῦντες κατὰ τῶν ὑβριζόντων, τοὺς ἀθλητὰς τιμῶσιν ἐπὶ τῷ τύπτεινἀλλήλους. μαθὼν τέτταρας δακτύλους εἶναι τὸ πάχος τῆς νεώς, τοσοῦτον ἔφη τοῦ θανάτου τοὺς πλέοντας ἀπέχειν.

4 [104] Τὸ ἔλαιον μανίας φάρμακον ἔλεγε διὰ τὸ ἀλειφομένους τοὺς ἀθλητὰς ἐπιμαίνεσθαι ἀλλήλοις. πῶς, ἔλεγεν, ἀπαγορεύοντες τὸ ψεύδεσθαι ἐν ταῖς καπηλείαις φανερῶς ψεύδονται; καὶ θαυμάζειν φησὶ τῶς Ἕλληνες ἀρχόμενοι μὲν ἐν μικροῖς πίνουσι, πλησθέντες δὲ ἐν μεγάλοις. ἐπιγράφεται δὲ αὐτοῦ ταῖς εἰκόσι: “γλώσσης, γαστρός, αἰδοίων κρατεῖν.” ἐρωτηθεὶς εἰ εἰσὶν ἐν Σκύθαις αὐλοί, εἶπεν, “ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲ ἄμπελοι.” ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνα τῶν πλοίων εἰσὶν ἀσφαλέστερα, ἔφη, “τὰ νενεωλκημένα.” καὶ τοῦτο ἔφη θαυμασιώτατον ἑωρακέναι παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν, ὅτι τὸν μὲν καπνὸν ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσι καταλείπουσι, τὰ δὲ ξύλα εἰς τὴν πόλιν κομίζουσιν. ἐρωτηθεὶς πότεροι πλείους εἰσίν, οἱ ζῶντες ἢ οἱ νεκροί, ἔφη, “τοὺς οὖν πλέοντας ποῦ τίθης;” ὀνειδιζόμενος ὑπὸ Ἀττικοῦ ὅτι Σκύθης ἐστίν, ἔφη, “ἀλλ᾽ ἐμοῦ μὲν ὄνειδος ἡ πατρίς, σὺ δὲ τῆς πατρίδος.” 5 [105] ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἐστιν ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἀγαθόν τε καὶ φαῦλον, ἔφη, “γλῶσσα.” κρεῖττον ἔλεγεν ἕνα φίλον ἔχειν πολλοῦ ἄξιον ἢ πολλοὺς μηδενὸς ἀξίους. τὴν ἀγορὰν ὡρισμένον ἔφη τόπον εἰς τὸ ἀλλήλους ἀπατᾶν καὶ πλεονεκτεῖν. ὑπὸ μειρακίου παρὰ πότον ὑβρισθεὶς ἔφη, “μειράκιον, ἐὰν νέος ὢν τὸν οἶνον οὐ φέρῃς, γέρων γενόμενος ὕδωρ οἴσεις.”

How to Learn Latin

John Milton, Tractate on Education: 

“For the studies, first they should begin with the chief and necessary rules of some good grammar, either that now used, or any better: and while this is doing, their speech is to be fashioned to a distinct and clear pronunciation, as near as may be to the Italian, especially in the vowels. For we Englishmen being far northerly, do not open our mouths in the cold air, wide enough to grace a southern tongue; but are observed by all other nations to speak exceeding close and inward: So that to smatter Latin with an English mouth, is as ill a hearing as Law-French. Next to make them expert in the usefulest points of grammar, and withal to season them, and win them early to the love of virtue and true labor, ere any flattering seducement, or vain principle seize them wandering, some easy and delightful book of education would be read to them; whereof the Greeks have store, as Cebes, Plutarch, and other Socratic discourses. But in Latin we have none of classic authority extant, except the two or three first books of Quintilian, and some select pieces elsewhere. But here the main skill and groundwork will be, to temper them such lectures and explanations upon every opportunity as may lead and draw them in willing obedience, inflamed with the study of learning, and the admiration of virtue; stirred up with high hopes of living to be brave men, and worthy patriots, dear to God, and famous to all ages. That they may despise and scorn all their childish, and ill-taught qualities, to delight in manly, and liberal exercises: which he who hath the art, and proper eloquence to catch them with, what with mild and effectual persuasions, and what with the intimation of some fear, if need be, but chiefly by his own example, might in a short space gain them to an incredible diligence and courage: infusing into their young breasts such an ingenuous and noble ardor, as would not fail to make many of them renowned and matchless men.”

Breakfast of Champions (NSFW)?

This is probably not safe for work.

Aristophanes, Wealth 295

“You’re following with your dicks out; and you will eat breakfast [like] goats”

ἕπεσθ’ ἀπεψωλημένοι· τράγοι δ’ ἀκρατιεῖσθε.

From the Suda

“You will breakfast”: Aristophanes in Wealth has “You will breakfast like goats”. This means you will breakfast with an exposed penis: you will do wild things like goats, since after sex, goats lick the penis. [So this means] you will lick the end of a dick like a goat.”

Ἀκρατιεῖσθε: Ἀριστοφάνης Πλούτῳ: τράγοι δ’ ἀκρατιεῖσθε. τουτέστιν ἀπεψωλημένοι ἀκρατιεῖσθε: ἀντὶ τοῦ ὡς τράγοι ἀκρατῆ πράξετε, ἐπεὶ μετὰ τὴν συνουσίαν οἱ τράγοι λείχουσι τὸ αἰδοῖον. τὸ ἄκρον λείξετε ὡς τράγοι.

The scholia to this passage have a few different interpretations:
Scholia ad. Arist. Plut.

“[They used to thing it means] “You are licking your balls like goats”. Clearly, this means: you are licking genitals.”

ἤγουν δίκην τράγων τοὺς ὄρχεις λείχετε. P. λείχετε τὰ αἰδοῖα δηλονότι. Br.

Scholia recentiora Tzetzae

“akratieisthe” stands in for “you would eat”. For akratismos means eating first thing in the morning. Or, “you will do wild things”, since after intercourse, goats lick their own genitals.”

τὸ δ’ “ἀκρατιεῖσθε” ἀντὶ τοῦ “φάγοιτε”· ἀκρατισμὸς γὰρ λέγεται τὸ πρωϊνὸν φαγεῖν. ἢ “ἀκρατῆ πράσσετε”, ἐπειδὴ μετὰ συνουσίαν οἱ τράγοι λείχουσι τὰ αἰδοῖα ἑαυτῶν.

Image result for Ancient Greek goat

Giving Birth: Some Fables from Phaedrus

A Woman Giving Birth, Phaedrus 1.18

No one happily returns to the place of her wound
When the months had past and birth was soon
A woman was lying on the ground, releasing tremulous moans.
Her husband was trying to get her to climb onto her bed
So she could more easily deliver nature’s burden.
“No,” she said, “I don’t think an evil can be relieved
In the very place where it was first conceived.”

I.18. Mulier Parturiens

Nemo libenter recolit qui laesit locum.
Instante partu mulier actis mensibus
humi iacebat, flebilis gemitus ciens.
Vir est hortatus, corpus lecto reciperet,
onus naturae melius quo deponeret.
“Minime” inquit “illo posse confido loco
malum finiri quo conceptum est initio”.


A Dog Giving Birth

“The sweet whispers of an evil man are really a trap,
We should avoid them: the following verses tell us that.
When a dog in labor asked another
If she might enter her home to become a mother
She entered easily and begged again in pleas
Asking for a bit more time, to take her leave
When the pups were strong enough to flee.
When this time too had come and gone
And she asked more strongly for them to move on,
She said if you are equal to my pack all alone,
Then I will gladly now leave your home.”

I.19. Canis Parturiens

Habent insidias hominis blanditiae mali;
quas ut vitemus, versus subiecti monent.
Canis parturiens cum rogasset alteram,
ut fetum in eius tugurio deponeret,
facile impetravit. Dein reposcenti locum
preces admovit, tempus exorans breve,
dum firmiores catulos posset ducere.
Hoc quoque consumpto flagitari validius
cubile coepit. “Si mihi et turbae meae
par” inquit “esse potueris, cedam loco”.