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Fable of the Day: Leo socius (Phaedrus)

Numquam est fidelis cum potente societas.
Testatur haec fabella propositum meum.
Vacca et capella et patiens ovis iniuriae
socii fuere cum leone in saltibus.
Hi cum cepissent cervum vasti corporis,
sic est locutus partibus factis leo:
"Ego primam tollo nomine hoc quia rex cluo;
secundam, quia sum consors, tribuetis mihi;
tum, quia plus valeo, me sequetur tertia;
malo adficietur si quis quartam tetigerit".
Sic totam praedam sola improbitas abstulit.

Source: Phaedrus.

Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 339.

Here is the poem in a more prose-like word order for easy reading:

Numquam societas cum potente est fidelis.
Haec fabella testatur propositum meum.
Vacca et capella et ovis patiens iniuriae
fuere socii cum leone in saltibus.
Cum hi cepissent cervum vasti corporis,
partibus factis, sic leo locutus est:
"Ego tollo primam quia hoc nomine cluo rex;
secundam tribuetis mihi, quia sum consors;
tum, tertia sequetur me quia plus valeo;
si quis tetigerit quartam, adficietur malo."
Sic improbitas sola abstulit totam praedam.


An alliance with a powerful person is never reliable. This little story proves my contention. A heifer and a she-goat and a long-suffering sheep were allies with a lion in the woods. When they had seized a gigantic stag, and it had been divided into parts, the lion spoke these words: "I take the first part because by name I am called king; you will give the second part to me because I am one of the team; then, the third part will go to me because I am stronger; if anyone should touch the fourth part, he will find himself in trouble." So it is that wickedness all by itself carried off the whole prize.

[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.]


Here is an illustration from an early printed edition; click on the image for a larger view.

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