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Oskar Seyffert explains that Phaedrus was born and Macedonia and was brought to Rome as a slave. He introduced fable writing in Latin. He was set free by Augustus. But his writing did not bring him “relief from his miserable position, nor recognition on the part of the educated public; his patron seem to have bee only freedman life himself. In fact, he even drew upon himself, by first two published books, the illiill and persuetuio of the all-powerful favorite of Tiberius, Sejannus who suspected in them malicious references to contemporary events. In consequence, he did not publish the remaining books till after the fall of Sejannus in 31 A.D. and the death of Tiberius in 37.”

This first fable concerns the one who will use any excuse — even if the excuse is merely a false accusation — to destroy another.


BY thirst incited; to the brook

The Wolf and Lamb themselves betook.

The Wolf high up the current drank,

The Lamb far lower down the bank.

Then, bent his ravenous maw to cram,

The Wolf took umbrage at the Lamb.

 “How dare you trouble all the flood,

And mingle my good drink with mud?”

 “Sir,” says the Lambkin, sore afraid,

 “How should I act, as you upbraid?

The thing you mention cannot be,

The stream descends from you to me.”

Abash’d by facts, says he, ” I know

 ‘Tis now exact six months ago

You strove my honest fame to blot”-

 “Six months ago, sir, I was not.”

 “Then ‘twas th’ old ram thy sire,” he cried,

And so he tore him, till he died.

To those this fable I address

Who are determined to oppress,

And trump up any false pretence,

But they will injure innocence.

And here is the Latin originals with my rough translation notes.

Lupus et agnus.

Ad rivum eundem lupus et agnus venerant

A wolf and a lamb came to a river at the same time

Siti compulsi; superior stabat lupus

Being compelled by thirst; the wolf stood above, higher up

Longeque inferior agnus. Tunc fauce improba

And further below the lamb. Then by his wicked mouth

Latro incitatus iurgii causam intulit.

He barked his cause to fight. 

[5] Cur, inquit, turbulentam fecisti mihi

Why, he said, are you making a mess of my

Aquam bibenti? Laniger contra timens:

Water I am drinking? The wooly one fearing

Qui possum, quaeso, facere, quod quereris, lupe?

What ability, I beg, to to that of which you complain wolf?

A te decurrit ad meos haustus liquor.

From you it flows down to me this water to drink.

Repulsus ille veritatis viribus:

Set back by the power of this true

[10] Ante hos sex menses male, ait, dixisti mihi.

After six bad months you say this to me?

Respondit agnus: Equidem natus non eram.

The lamb responded, truly was I not at that time.

Pater hercle tuus, ille inquit, male dixit mihi.

By Hercules, your father he said the evil to me.

Atque ita correptum lacerat iniusta nece.

And then he quickly, unjustly tore him to pieces.

Haec propter illos scripta est homines fabula,

For such people I wrote these fables.

[15] Qui fictis causis innocentes opprimunt.

Who fashion a charge against the innocent.