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Fable of the Day: De Avibus Scarabeos timentibus

Title: De Avibus Scarabeos timentibus: Birds Frightened of Dung-Beetles, by Abstemius


Latin Text:



Magnus timor aves incesserat, ne Scarabei arcu pilari eas occiderent, a quibus magnam pilarum vim in sterquilinio summo labore fabricatam audierant. Tunc passer: "Nolite (inquit) expavescere. Quo modo enim pilas in nos per aera volantes iacere poterunt, cum eas per terram magno molimine vix trahant?" Haec fabula nos admonet ne hostium opes extimescamus, quibus deesse videmus ingenium.


Here is a segmented version to help you see the grammatical patterns:



Magnus timor
aves incesserat,
ne Scarabei
arcu pilari eas occiderent,
a quibus
magnam pilarum vim
in sterquilinio
summo labore fabricatam
audierant.
Tunc passer:
"Nolite (inquit) expavescere.
Quo modo enim
pilas
in nos
per aera volantes
iacere poterunt,
cum eas
per terram
magno molimine vix trahant?"
Haec fabula nos admonet
ne hostium opes extimescamus,
quibus deesse videmus ingenium.

Crossword Puzzle: You can play a crossword puzzle based on the vocabulary in this fable.



Translation:



A great fear fell upon the birds, thinking that the beetles were going to kill them with their ball thrower. They heard that the beetles were making a great force of balls in the dung hill, working very hard at it. Then the sparrow said, "Don't be afraid. How can the beetles hurl balls at us, flying through the air, when they are barely able using all their strength to drag them across the ground?" This fable warns us not to fear our enemies resources when we see that they are lacking the capacity to use them.



[This translation is meant as a help in understanding the story, not as a "crib" for the Latin. I have not hesitated to change the syntax to make it flow more smoothly in English, altering the verb tense consistently to narrative past tense, etc.]



Source: Abstemius 37 (You can see a 1499 edition of Abstemius online, but I am doing my transcription from the 1568 edition of Aesopi fabulae in the EEBO catalog.)



Another English translation. Sir Roger L'Estrange included the fables of Abstemius in his amazing 17th-century edition of Aesop's fables. So, here is L'Estrange's translation:



The Birds were in a terrible Fright once, for fear of Gun-shot from the Beetles. And what was the Bus'ness, but the little Balls of Ordure, that the Beetles had rak'd together, the Birds took for Bullets: But a Sparrow in the Company, that had more Wit than his Fellows, bad them have a good Heart yet, for how shall they reach us in the Air, says he, with those Pellets that they can hardly roll upon the Ground?
Many People apprehend Danger where there's None, and reckon themselves sure where there is, for want of taking the true Measure of Things, and laying Matters rightly together.
[Note: You can find more of these fables at the old blog address for Latin Via Fables.]
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