The Fables of Phaedrus

[ Classics and Ancient World ]

The Fables of Phaedrus

Translated by P. F. Widdows

A translation of the earliest surviving Roman animal fables.



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6 x 9 | 196 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72473-0

Animal fables are said to have originated with Aesop, a semilegendary Samian slave, but the earliest surviving record of the fables comes from the Latin poet Phaedrus, who introduced the new genre to Latin literature. This verse translation of The Fables is the first in English in more than two hundred years.

In addition to the familiar animal fables, about a quarter of the book includes such diverse material as prologues and epilogues, historical anecdotes, short stories, enlarged proverbs and sayings, comic episodes and folk wisdom, and many incidental glimpses of Greek and Roman life in the classical period.

The Fables also sheds light on the personal history of Phaedrus, who seems to have been an educated slave, eventually granted his freedom by the emperor Augustus. Phaedrus' style is lively, clean, and sparse, though not at the cost of all detail and elaboration. It serves well as a vehicle for his two avowed purposes—to entertain and to give wise counsel for the conduct of life. Like all fabulists, Phaedrus was a moralist, albeit on a modest and popular level.

An excellent introduction by P. F. Widdows provides information about Phaedrus, the history of The Fables, the metric style of the original and of this translation, and something of the place of these fables in Western folklore. The translation is done in a free version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, a form used by W. H. Auden and chosen here to match the popular tone of Phaedrus' Latin verse.


Fable 1. The Wolf and the Lamb
2. The Frogs Ask for a King
3. The Presumptuous Jackdaw and the Peacock
4. The Dog Carrying a Piece of Meat across a River
5. The Cow, the She-goat, the Sheep, and the Lion
6. The Frogs Complain about the Sun
7. The Fox and the Tragic Actor’s Mask
8. The Wolf and the Crane
9. The Sparrow Gives Advice to the Hare
10. The Wolf and the Fox Receive Judgment from the Ape
11. The Lion and the Ass Go Hunting
12. The Stag at the Fountain
13. The Fox and the Crow
14. From Cobbler to Physician
15. What the Ass Said to the Old Shepherd
16. The Sheep, the Stag, and the Wolf
17. The Sheep, the Dog, and the Wolf
18. A Woman in Childbirth
19. The Dog and Her Litter of Puppies
20. The Hungry Dogs
21. The Old Lion, the Boar, the Bull, and the Ass
22. The Weasel and the Man
23. The Faithful Dog
24. The Frog Who Burst Himself and the Bull
25. The Dogs and the Crocodiles
26. The Fox and the Stork
27. The Dog, the Treasure, and the Vulture
28. The Fox and the Eagle
29. The Ass Insults the Boar
30. The Frogs Afraid of the Battle of the Bulls
31. The Kite and the Doves

Author’s Prologue
Fable 1. The Bullock, the Lion, and the Bandit
2. Two Women, One Old, One Young, in Love with the Same Man
3. Aesop’s Words to a Man about the Success of Wrongdoers
4. The Eagle, the Cat, and the Wild Boar
5. Tiberius’ Words to an Attendant
6. The Eagle and the Crow
7. The Two Mules and the Robbers
8. The Stag and the Oxen
9. The Author Speaks

Prologue: Phaedrus to Eutychus
Fable 1. What the Old Woman Said to the Wine Jar
2. The Panther and the Shepherds
3. Aesop and the Farmer
4. The Butcher and the Monkey
5. Aesop and the Impudent Fellow
6. The Fly and the Mule
7. The Wolf and the Sleek Dog
8. Brother and Sister
9. Socrates to His Friends
10. The Poet, on Believing and Not Believing
11. The Eunuch’s Reply to His Insulting Adversary
12. The Cock and the Pearl
13. The Wasp Adjudicating between the Bees and the Drones
14. On Play and Seriousness
15. The Dog and the Lamb
16. The Cicada and the Owl
17. The Trees under the Patronage of the Gods
18. The Peacock Complains to Juno about His Voice
19. Aesop’s Reply to the Joker

Prologue: The Poet to Particulo
Fable 1. The Ass and the Priests of Cybele
2. The Weasel and the Mice
3. The Fox and the Grapes
4. The Horse and the Wild Boar
5. Aesop and the Enigmatic Will
6. The Battle of the Mice and Weasels
7. Phaedrus and the Critic
8. The Viper and the File
9. The Fox and the Goat
10. On the Faults of Men
11. The Thief and His Lamp
12. The Evils of Wealth
13. The Reign of the Lion
13A. The Reign of the Lion
13B. The King of the Apes
14. Prometheus
15. Prometheus Again
16. The Bearded She-goats
17. On the Fortunes of Men
18. The Dogs Send Envoys to Jupiter
19. The Snake Fatal to the Compassionate Man
19A. The Snake Fatal to the Compassionate Man
20. The Fox and the Dragon
21. Phaedrus
22. About Simonides
23. The Mountain in Labor
24. The Ant and the Fly
25. Simonides Saved by the Gods
Epilogue: The Poet to Particulo

Prologue: The Poet Again
Fable 1. King Demetrius and the Poet Menander
2. The Two Soldiers and the Robber
3. The Bald Man and the Fly
4. The Ass and the Pig’s Barley
5. The Buffoon and the Countryman
6. The Two Bald Men
7. King, the Flute Player
8. Time
9. The Bull and the Calf
10. The Old Dog and the Hunter

Fable 1. The Ape and the Fox
2. The Author
3. The Author
4. Mercury and the Two Women
5–6. Prometheus and Guile
7. The Author
8. The Author
9. Aesop and the Writer
10. Pompey and His Soldier
11. Juno, Venus, and the Hen
12. The Bullock and the Old Ox
13. Aesop and the Victorious Boxer
14. The Ass and the Lyre
15. The Widow and the Soldier
16. The Two Suitors
17. Aesop and His Mistress
18. The Cock and the Cats Who Carried His Sedan Chair
19. The Sow Giving Birth and the Wolf
20. Aesop and the Runaway Slave
21. The Race Horse
22. The Hungry Bear
23. The Traveler and the Raven
24. The Shepherd and the She-goat
25. The Snake and the Lizard
26. The Crow and the Sheep
27. Socrates and the Rascally Servant
28. The Hare and the Herdsman
29. The Courtesan and the Young Man
30. The Beaver
31. The Butterfly and the Wasp
32. The Ground Swallow and the Fox

The translator, P. F. Widdows (1918–1997) was Professor of Classics at Concordia University in Montreal.