“The Criminal We Selected”: A Fable for Our Time

Phaedrus 1.31 Kite and doves

“Whoever trusts a dishonest man to keep him safe,
Discovers ruin where he thought he would find aid.

When the doves were often fleeing from the kite
And were avoiding death by wings’ rapid flight
The kite turned his plans toward deceit
And tricked the silly race with this conceit:
“Why do you live a live with so much worrying,
When with a simple oath, you could make me king?
I would keep you safe from every harm?”
Believing him, they put their safety in his arms.

Once he gained the realm he ate them one by one
And exercised his power with the harshest talons.
Then one of the remaining doves reflected,
“We deserve this: we gave our life to a criminal we selected.”


I.31 Milvus et Columbae

Qui se committit homini tutandum improbo,
auxilia dum requirit, exitium invenit.
Columbae saepe cum fugissent milvum,
et celeritate pinnae vitassent necem,
consilium raptor vertit ad fallaciam,
et genus inerme tali decepit dolo:
“Quare sollicitum potius aevum ducitis
quam regem me creatis icto foedere,
qui vos ab omni tutas praestem iniuria?”
Illae credentes tradunt sese milvo.
Qui regnum adeptus coepit vesci singulas,
et exercere imperium saevis unguibus.
Tunc de reliquis una “Merito plectimur,
huic spiritum praedoni quae commisimus”.


Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana VII

“The king, swelling up with rage because of what was said, responded, “You think that I am lying about them, when I have discovered that they are the most disgusting of people who are plotting against me?

And you are saying that they are good people, and serious? Well, I suppose if they were asked about you that they wouldn’t say that you’re a wizard, a madman, a braggart who is greedy and breaks the laws? That’s how evil your conspiracy is, you filthy criminals.

The trial will prove everything. I know how much you all swore under oath, why you did it, when you did it, and what you sacrificed, as if I were there and joined in with you!”

Ἀνοιδήσας δ᾿ ὁ βασιλεὺς ὑφ᾿ ὧν ἤκουσε “συκοφάντην με οὖν” εἶπεν “ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς εἴληφας, ἵν᾿ οὓς ἐγὼ μιαρωτάτους ἀνθρώπων καὶ τοῖς ἐμοῖς ἐπιπηδῶντας εὗρον, σὺ δ᾿, ὡς χρηστοί τέ εἰσι λέγεις καὶ νωθροί; καὶ γὰρ ἂν κἀκείνους ἡγοῦμαι ὑπὲρ σοῦ ἐρωτωμένους μήθ᾿ ὡς γόης εἶ, φάναι, μήθ᾿ ὡς ἴτης, μήθ᾿ ὡς ἀλαζών, μήθ᾿ ὡς φιλοχρήματος, μήθ᾿ ὡς φρονῶν ὑπὲρ τοὺς νόμους, οὕτως, ὦ μιαραὶ κεφαλαί, κακῶς ξυντέταχθε. ἐλέγξει δ᾿ ἡ κατηγορία πάντα· καὶ γὰρ ὁπόσα ὀμώμοται ὑμῖν, καὶ ὑπὲρ ὧν καὶ ὁπότε καὶ τί θύσασιν, οὐδὲν μεῖον οἶδα, ἢ εἰ παρετύγχανόν τε καὶ ἐκοινώνουν.”

A Predator and His Council: A Fable for Our Times

Phaedrus 2.6: The Eagle and the Crow

“Against those in power, no one has enough defense
If a wicked adviser also enters the scene
His power and malice ruins their opposition.
An eagle carried a tortoise on high,
When he pulled his body in his armored home to hide,
And rested hidden untouched by any attack,
A crow came on a breeze flying near them:

“You have well seized a precious prize with your talons,
But, if I don’t show what you need to do,
It will pointlessly wear you out with its heavy weight.”

Promised a portion, the crow instructs the eagle to drop
The hard shell from the stars upon a cliff’s rock.
It would be easy to feed on the broken flesh!

The eagle followed up these wicked instructions
And also split the feast with her teacher.
Just so, the tortoise who was safe by nature’s gift.
Was ill-matched to those two and died a sad death.”

Contra potentes nemo est munitus satis;
si vero accessit consiliator maleficus,
vis et nequitia quicquid oppugnant, ruit.
Aquila in sublime sustulit testudinem:
quae cum abdidisset cornea corpus domo,
nec ullo pacto laedi posset condita,
venit per auras cornix, et propter volans
“Opimam sane praedam rapuisti unguibus;
sed, nisi monstraro quid sit faciendum tibi,
gravi nequiquam te lassabit pondere.”
promissa parte suadet ut scopulum super
altis ab astris duram inlidat corticem,
qua comminuta facile vescatur cibo.
inducta vafris aquila monitis paruit,
simul et magistrae large divisit dapem.
sic tuta quae naturae fuerat munere,
impar duabus, occidit tristi nece.

Image result for medieval manuscript eagle and crow and tortoise

Mouse Meets Frog: Both Die Terribly

Aesop, Fabula 302

“There was a time when all the animals spoke the same language. A mouse who was on friendly terms with a frog, invited him to dinner and led him into a storehouse of his wealth where he kept his bread, cheese, honey, dried figs and all of his precious things. And he said “Eat whatever you wish, Frog.”

Then the Frog responded: “When you come visit me, you too will have your fill of fine things. But I don’t want you to be nervous, so I will fasten your foot to my foot.” After the Frog bound his foot to the mouse’s and dragging him in this way, he pulled the tied-up mouse into the pond. While he drowned, he said “I am being corpsified by you, but I will be avenged by someone still alive!” A bird who saw the mouse afloat flew down and seized him. The Frog went aloft with him too and thus, the bird slaughtered them both.

A wicked plot between friends is thus a danger to them both”

ὅτε ἦν ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, μῦς βατράχῳ φιλιωθεὶς ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὸν εἰς δεῖπνον καὶ ἀπήγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς ταμιεῖον πλουσίου, ὅπου ἦν ἄρτος, τυρός, μέλι, ἰσχάδες καὶ ὅσα
ἀγαθά, καί φησιν „ἔσθιε, βάτραχε, ἐξ ὧν βούλει.” ὁ δὲ βάτραχος ἔλεγε• „ἐλθὼν οὖν καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου. ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ ὄκνος σοι γένηται, προσαρτήσω τὸν πόδα σου τῷ ποδί μου.” δήσας οὖν ὁ βάτραχος τὸν πόδα τοῦ μυὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ποδὶ ἥλατο εἰς τὴν λίμνην ἕλκων καὶ τὸν μῦν δέσμιον. ὁ δὲ πνιγόμενος ἔλεγεν• „ἐγὼ μὲν ὑπό σου νεκρωθήσομαι, ἐκδικήσομαι δὲ ὑπὸ ζῶντος.” λούππης δὲ θεασάμενος τὸν μῦν πλέοντα καταπτὰς ἥρπα-σεν. ἐφέλκετο οὖν σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ ὁ βάτραχος καὶ οὕτως ἀμφοτέρους διεσπάραξεν.
ὅτι ἡ τῶν φίλων πονηρὰ συμβουλὴ καὶ ἑαυτοῖς κίνδυνος γίνεται.

Note 1: ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, “common animal language”: It is unclear whether, in these halcyon days before the fall from linguistic harmony, a Frog would squeak or a Mouse would croak when in the other’s company.

Note 2: ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν :”you will have your fill of good things”. If the Mouse knew his Pindar (῎Αριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, 1.1), he would suspect that the Frog will do what in fact does, which is to fill his lungs with water. This illustrates that good things are in fact relative. A Mouse and Frog will hold different things dear.

This fabula (and more!) appears in our book on the Homeric Battle of the Frogs and Mice. This is a periodic reminder that it exists: Here is Bloomsbury’s Homepage for the book.

This bad-boy is coming out in paperback soon…

Surprise! Wolf Slaughters Lamb on Slight Pretext

Phaedrus, Fabula 1.1


“A wolf and lamb arrived at the same stream
Compelled by thirst. The wolf was standing above it,
And the lamb far below. Then with wicked jaw agape
For a bark the wolf began to argue his case:

“Why”, he asked, “did you dirty up the water that
I am drinking?” The little lamb responded in fear:

“Please, how can I have done what you have accused, wolf?
The water runs from you to my jaws.”

Rebuffed by the strength of truth, he said,
“Six months ago you maligned my name.”

The lamb responded, “But I was not yet born!”
The wolf said, “By god, then your father did me wrong.”
And he then he killed the lamb by tearing him to pieces.

This fable has been written against those men
Who oppress the innocent for trumped-up reasons.”



Ad rivum eundem lupus et agnus venerant,
siti compulsi. Superior stabat lupus,
longeque inferior agnus. Tunc fauce improba
latro incitatus iurgii causam intulit;
‘Cur’ inquit ‘turbulentam fecisti mihi
aquam bibenti?’ Laniger contra timens
‘Qui possum, quaeso, facere quod quereris, lupe?
A te decurrit ad meos haustus liquor’.
Repulsus ille veritatis viribus
‘Ante hos sex menses male’ ait ‘dixisti mihi’.
Respondit agnus ‘Equidem natus non eram’.
‘Pater hercle tuus’ ille inquit ‘male dixit mihi’;
atque ita correptum lacerat iniusta nece.
Haec propter illos scripta est homines fabula
qui fictis causis innocentes opprimunt.

For more, go to mythfolklore

Continue reading “Surprise! Wolf Slaughters Lamb on Slight Pretext”

Education: Insurance for the Shipwrecked

Phaedrus, Fabulae 4.23

“A person of learning always has wealth on on their own.

Simonides, who wrote exceptional lyric poems,
Thanks to this lived more easily with poverty
He began to go around the Asia’s noble cities
Singing the praise of victors for a set price.

Once he had done this to make a wealthier life
He planned to make a seaward journey home.
For it was on Ceos people claim he was born.
He climbed aboard a ship which an awful storm
And its advanced age caused to break apart in the sea.

Some grabbed their money-belts, others their valuable things,
Safeguards for their life. A rather curious man asked
“Simonides, you are saving none of your riches?”
He responded, “Everything that is mine is with me”

Few swam free, because most died weighed down by a drowning burden.
Then thieves arrived and seized whatever each man carried.
They left them naked. By chance, Clazomenae, that ancient city,
Was nearby. The shipwrecked men went that way.
There lived a man obsessed with the pursuit of poetry
Who had often read the poems of Simonides,
He was his greatest distant admirer.

Once he knew Simonides from his speech alone
He greedily brought him home, and decorated him
With clothes, money, servants. The rest were carrying
Signs asking for food. When Simonides by chance
Would see these men he reported “I said that all my things
Were with me: and you lost everything you took.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Shipwreck vase

Homo doctus in se semper divitias habet.
Simonides, qui scripsit egregium melos,
quo paupertatem sustineret facilius,
circum ire coepit urbes Asiae nobiles,
mercede accepta laudem victorum canens.
Hoc genere quaestus postquam locuples factus est,
redire in patriam voluit cursu pelagio;
erat autem, ut aiunt, natus in Cia insula.
ascendit navem; quam tempestas horrida
simul et vetustas medio dissolvit mari.
Hi zonas, illi res pretiosas colligunt,
subsidium vitae. Quidam curiosior:
“Simonide, tu ex opibus nil sumis tuis?”
“Mecum” inquit “mea sunt cuncta.”Tunc pauci enatant,
quia plures onere degravati perierant.
Praedones adsunt, rapiunt quod quisque extulit,
nudos relinquunt. Forte Clazomenae prope
antiqua fuit urbs, quam petierunt naufragi.
Hic litterarum quidam studio deditus,
Simonidis qui saepe versus legerat,
eratque absentis admirator maximus,
sermone ab ipso cognitum cupidissime
ad se recepit; veste, nummis, familia
hominem exornavit. Ceteri tabulam suam
portant, rogantes victum. Quos casu obvios
Simonides ut vidit: “Dixi” inquit “mea
mecum esse cuncta; vos quod rapuistis perit.”

The Fat Dog and Its Collar: A Fable for Our times

Babrius, Fable 100

A super fat dog and a wolf once met
Who was asking him where he was fed
To become a dog so big and filled with grease.
“It is a rich man” he said, “who is feeding me”.
“But,” asked the wolf, “why is your neck so bare?”
“there’s an iron collar which wears my skin there,
A collar which my feeder forged and placed.”
The wolf laughed at him and said to his face:
“I say this kind of luxury can go to heck,
The kind of life where iron wears down my neck.”

Λύκῳ συνήντα πιμελὴς κύων λίην.
ὁ δ᾿ αὐτὸν ἐξήταζε, ποῦ τραφεὶς οὕτως
μέγας κύων ἐγένετο καὶ λίπους πλήρης.
“ἄνθρωπος” εἶπε “δαψιλής με σιτεύει.”
“ὁ δέ σοι τράχηλος” εἶπε “πῶς ἐλευκώθη;”
“κλοιῷ τέτριπται σάρκα τῷ σιδηρείῳ,
ὃν ὁ τροφεύς μοι περιτέθεικε χαλκεύσας.”
λύκος δ᾿ ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ καγχάσας “ἐγὼ τοίνυν
χαίρειν κελεύω” φησί “τῇ τρυφῇ ταύτῃ,
δι᾿ ἣν σίδηρος τὸν ἐμὸν αὐχένα τρίψει.”

Aesop's Fables: The Dog and the Wolf by xCailinMurre
Image from Deviant Art, xCailinMurre

Empty Talk: A Fly and a Mule

Phaedrus 3.6: Fly and Mule

A fly sat on a wagon buzzing at the mule:
“You’re going so slow: why don’t you want to go faster”
Be careful or I will sink my sting in your neck!”
The mule answered, “Your words are not my master;
I fear this fool who sits at the front of my cart:
He holds me back with flicking whip
And pulls at my face with dripping reins as I start!
So screw off with your arrogant show!
I know where I need to dawdle and when I need to run.”
With this story it is therefore right to mock,
Whoever without action offers empty talk.”

Musca in temone sedit et mulam increpans
“Quam tarde es” inquit “non vis citius progredi?
Vide ne dolone collum conpungam tibi.”
Respondit illa: “Verbis non moveor tuis;
sed istum timeo sella qui prima sedens
cursum flagello temperat lento meum,
et ora frenis continet spumantibus.
quapropter aufer frivolam insolentiam;
nam et ubi tricandum et ubi sit currendum scio.”
Hac derideri fabula merito potest
qui sine virtute vanas exercet minas.


Image result for medieval manuscript mule