Reading 12:      With the Help of the Gods
                    -- Prayers for Divine Assistance --

Thanatos and Heracles Zeus Hercules Hermes
Thanatos Zeus Hercules Hermes

Selected Fables

Perry Index Fable Name Aesopica Versions Reading Selection
Perry 60 The Poor Man and Death Syntipas 2 #12 Primary (1)
Perry 60 The Poor Man and Death Chambry 78 version 1 #12 Primary (2)
Perry 60 The Poor Man and Death Chambry 78 version 2 #12 Primary (3)
Perry 231 The Man, the Fleas and Heracles Chambry 356 #12 Optional
Perry 291 Heracles and the Driver Babruis 20 #12 Advanced (1)
Perry 291 Heracles and the Driver Chambry 72 #12 Advanced (2)


About the Fables

In all of these fables we find men in commonplace everyday troubled situations calling out to the gods for help, as is usual, this only happens when they NEED THE HELP. The Aesop fables are full of stories about Zeus and Hermes. Other gods occur less frequently, but some more than others. A list of which gods occur and how many fables they occur in is given below. The five steps of grief are denial, negotiating, anger, depression and resolution. We see all stages of these steps in the fables. Two 'negotiating fables' where a man prays to the gods 'and offers what he does not have' are Perry 28 The Sick Man and the Gods and Perry 34 The Sick Man and his Wife. These fables are not included in this reading, but are representative of human nature and of how ancients looked toward the gods for help. The three fables below were chosen because they represent Greek wit, have parallel versions and deal with the common day events in life.

Perry 60 The Poor Man and Death
In these three very similar fables, an old man collapses on the road an calls out to Death for help. When death shows up, he has a sudden change of heart and 'has to explain his way out of the predicament.' The first primary version is from Syntipas, who translated Syriac fables back into the Greek in the eleventh century A.D. Syntipas' vocabulary is a little different than the two anonymous Chambry accounts.

Perry 231: The Man, the Fleas and Heracles
There is only one version of this melodramatic fable. The 'bite of a flea' bacame a motif -- Laura Gibbs in her book (Aesop Fables, A New Translation, Oxford University Press 2003) says " This motif was proverbial: 'calling on the gods because of the bite of a flea' (see Erasmus, Adages 3.4.4). In other versions of this story (included in Chambry's first edition of the Greek fables), the man is said to be an athlete who expects Heracles to help him defeat his competitors. The latter fable is not included in this reading.

Perry 291: Heracles and the Driver
Heracles is a gain called on for aid - his superb strength was needed, this time to pull a wagon out of a ditch. Hercules obliges, and shows up on the scene, with an unwanted message for his supplicant. Two almost identical versions of this fable are Babrius 40 and Chambry 72.

About Death

καὶ τὸν Θάνατον οἰκτρῶς ἐνεκαλεὶτο, λέγων "ὦ Θάνατε."

THANATOS (or Thanatus) was the god or spirit (daimon) of non-violent death. His touch was gentle, like that of his twin brother Hypnos (Sleep). Violent death, on the other hand, was the domain of Thanatos' blood-loving sisters, the Keres, spirits of slaughter and disease.

Thanatos was depicted as a winged and bearded god, most often in the company of his twin brother Hypnos (Sleep). The two were shown carrying off the body of a dead man. (from

  Thanatos - Death
Online Resources on Thanatos
The Greek Mythology Link is a collection of myths retold by Carlos Parada
Theoi Project, a site exploring Greek mythology and the Greek gods in classical literature and art.
The University of Pennsylvania has a very involved discussion of Greeks and death


About Heracles

Ὁ δὲ τὸν Ἡρακλῆν ἐπὶ συμμαχίαν ἐκάλει.....στενάξας εἶπεν· Ὦ Ἡράκλεις

In Greek mythology, Heracles or Herakles ("glory of Hera", or Alcides, original name) "Ἥρα + κλέος, Ἡρακλῆς)" was a divine hero, the son of Zeus and Alcmene. He was the greatest of the Greek heroes and was known for his extraordinary strength, courage, ingenuity, and sexual prowess with both males and females. He was also a known drunk and carouser.

Hercules' Latin name is not directly borrowed from Greek Herakles, but is a modification of the Etruscan name Hercle, which derives from the Greek name via syncope. An oath invoking Hercules (Hercle! or Mehercle!) was a common interjection in Classical Latin. Heracles had his own cult and celebration, the festival of the Herakleia, which commemorated the his death.

Online Resources on Thanatos
The Theoi project has an ongoing section on: Heracles
Many pictures of statues and reliefs of Heracles can be found on Carlos Parada's Greek Mythology Link as can a detailed event-list of Heracles life.


Fables about Sick Men, Old Men, Drivers, and Fleas

There is no good index for 'praying' to the gods' on the Aesopica site. The following fables are about the subject matter included in the fables for this reading.

sick man and gods 477
... man and good symptoms 585
... man and vow 478
... man returns from Hades 587
... and shipwreck 412
... rescued by Castor and Pollux 166
old man 484
... and donkeys 423
... and sons 493
... warns donkey 11

driver 2, 344, 486
... and Heracles 481
... and wagon 225
... from Sybaris 344


flea 482; see also gnat
... and abbot 119
... and ox 226
... begs mercy 120

Indexes (and Oxford numbering) are from the Aesopica website by Laura Gibbs


Fables about the Gods

The gods appear in many different fables. But there are only a few gods which appear in many fables. Zeus is the winner by far and appears in 40 fables. No other god even comes close. Hermes is clearly second with 22 fables. The next closest are Fortune and Apollo with 11 each. The rankings are as follows::

Name of God Number of Fables Fables in which they occur
Gods occuring most frequently
40 Zeus (statue) 562
Zeus (temple) 523, 577
Zeus 205, 253, 406, 413, 423, 518, 525, 526, 527, 528
... and ant 513
... and Apollo 162, 182, 529
... and bee 509
... and camel 510
... and donkeys 568
... and eagle 153
... and fox 351
... and frogs 27, 436
... and goats 512
... and hare 511
... and Hermes 10, 27, 329, 522, 524, 569
... and logos 514
... and oaks 40
... and potsherds 524
... and Prometheus 515, 530, 535
... and snake 135
... and tortoise 508
Hermes 22 Hermes 182, 464, 520
... and ants 171
... and Arabs 521
... and axes 474
... and cobblers 519
... and gods' statues 562
... and raven 479
... and sculptor 563
... and Tiresias 475
... and traveller 476
... and two women 462
... and Zeus 10, 27, 329, 522, 524, 569
Hermes (statue) 562, 563, 564
... and treasure 464
... for sale 561
11 Fortune 91, 121, 413, 417, 419, 420, 535, 547, 550
... and farmer 469
... and man by well 470
Apollo 11 Apollo 97, 162, 205, 472, 479, 485, 504, 537
... and dreams 529
... and snake 172
... and Zeus in contest 182
Prometheus 8 Prometheus 247, 514, 527
... and Dionysus 517
... and tears 516
... and Truth 530
... and Zeus 515, 535
7 Aphrodite 197, 205, 468
... and hen 573
... and slave-woman 483
... and weasel 350

Heracles 185, 205, 535
... and Athena 534
... and driver 481
... and flea 482
... and Plutus 413

Athena 6 Athena 97, 205, 320, 518, 534
... and drowning man 480
Ares 4 Ares 182, 579, 590
... and Hubris 533
Demeter 4 Demeter 1, 180, 539, 559
Gaia 4 Gaia 469, 499, 557
... and Hermes 522
Other gods - infrequent and less popular
Bacchus 468
Bathyllus 591
Castor 166, 451
Charybdis 557
Dionysus 517, 559
Eros 350
Hades 587
Hera and Aphrodite 573
... and peacock 507
Hera (statue) 562

Heraclitus 403
Juno, see Hera
Kore 180
Lethe 587
Opportunity (statue) 536
Orion 123
Orpheus 503

Pandora 526
Persephone 180, 587
Pluto, see Hades
Plutus 413
Pollux, see Castor
Poseidon 518Theseus 185
Tiresias and Hermes 475
Vulcan, see Hephaestus
Indexes (and Oxford numbering) are from the Aesopica website by Laura Gibbs


There are only several pictures of these fables. You view the various illustrated fables on the Aesopica website by Laura Gibbs.

Perry 60 The Old Man and Death: Jacobs 69

Perry 231 The Man, the Flea and Heracles

Perry 291 Heracles and the Driver Jacobs 61

Illustrated Versions of Aesop's Fables

Steinhowel (1479)
Steinhowel (1501)
Steinhowel (1521)
Osius (1574)
Salomon (1574)
Francis Barlow (1687)
Thomas Bewick (1818)
Townsend - Weir (1867)
Walter Crane (1887)
Jacobs-Heighway (1894)
Jones-Rackham (1912)
Milo Winter (1919)

Texts and Questions

Primary Reading

Reading 11 - Primary Reading (1) Syntipas 2

.Ἄθρωπος πένης καὶ θάνατος.

[1] Ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν πένης, ὃς καὶ ξύλων γόμον ἐπὶ τῶν νώτων ἐβάσταζε, [2] κατὰ δὲ τὴν ὁδοιπορίαν ἰλιγγιάσας ἐκαθέσθη καὶ τὸν γόμον κατέθετο καὶ τὸν Θάνατον οἰκτρῶς ἐνεκαλεὶτο, λέγων "ὦ Θάνατε." [3] αὐτίκα γοῦν ὁ Θάνατος ἔφθασε καὶ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἔφη "τίνος χάριν ἐκάλεσάς με;" [4] λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ ἀνὴρ "ἵνα τὸν γόμον ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς συνεξάρῃς μοι."
[E] Οὗτος δηλοῖ ὅτι πάντες ἄνθρωποι φιλόζῳοι τυγχάνουσιν, εἰ καὶ θλίψεσι καὶ ἀνάγκαις συνέχονται.


Reading 11 - Primary Reading (2) Chambry 78 Version 1

Γέρων καὶ θάνατος.

[1] Γέρων ποτὲ ξύλα κόψας καὶ ταῦτα φέρων πολλὴν ὁδὸν ἐβάδιζε. [2]Διὰ δὲ τὸν κόπον τῆς ὁδοῦ ἀποθέμενος τὸ φορτίον τὸν Θάνατον ἐπεκαλεῖτο. [3] Τοῦ δὲ Θανάτου φανέντος καὶ πυθομένου δι' ἣν αἰτίαν αὐτὸν παρακαλεῖται, [4] ὁ γέρων ἔφη· Ἴνα τὸ φορτίον ἄρῃς.
[E] Ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ ὅτι πᾶς ἄνθρωπος φιλόζωος, [ἐν τῷ βίῳ] κἂν δυστυχῇ


Reading 11 - Primary Reading (3) Chambry 78 Version 2

Γέρων καὶ θάνατος.

[1] Γέρων ποτὲ ξύλα κόψας καὶ ταῦτα φέρων πολλὴν ὁδὸν ἐβάδιζε, [2] καὶ διὰ τὸν πολὺν κόπον ἀποθέμενος ἐν τόπῳ τινὶ τὸν φόρτον, τὸν Θάνατον ἐπεκαλεῖτο. [3] Τοῦ δὲ Θανάτου παριόντος καὶ πυνθανομένου τὴν αἰτίαν δι' ἣν αὐτὸν ἐκάλει, [4] δειλιάσας ὁ γέρων ἔφη· Ἴνα μου τὸν φόρτον ἄρῃς.
[E] Ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ ὅτι πᾶς ἄνθρωπος φιλοζωεῖ, εἰ καὶ δυστυχεῖ καὶ πτωχός ἐστι.


Questions for Primary Reading 12: The Old Man and Death

Q1 Which lemma is παριόντος from, παρ-εῖμι or παρ-ειμί?

Q2Parse the words πυθομένου C78.1.3 and πυνθανομένου C78.2.3.

Q3 Translate the phrase κατὰ δὲ τὴν ὁδοιπορίαν ἰλιγγιάσας. The word ἰλιγγιάσας was a tough one to find on Perseus (for some reason). Do we often see an intial iota - vary in spelling with εἰ-? LSJ has the entry

ἰλιγγ-ιάω [ῑ], become dizzy, lose one's head, as when one looks down from a height, ἰλιγγιῶν ἀφ' ὑψηλοῦ κρεμασθείς Pl.Tht.175d; from drunkenness, ψυχὴ ἰ. ὥσπερ μεθύουσα Id.Phd.79c; ἰ. κάρα λίθῳ πεπληγμένος Ar.Ach.1218; ἰ. καὶ χασμᾶσθαι Phld.Rh.2.176S.; from perplexity, ἐσκοτώθην καὶ ἰλιγγίασα Pl.Prt.339e; ἰ. ὑπὸ τῆς τοῦ λόγου ἀπορίας Id.Ly.216c; ὑπὸ τοῦ δέους Ar.Ach.581; ἐπί τινι Luc.Tox.30; πρὸς τὴν θέαν Hld.5.6:—
also written εἰλιγγιάω, freq. in codd. of Pl., cf. AP7.706 (Diog.), Plu.Alex.74; ἰλ- Phld. l.c.; εἰλιγγιάω but ἴλιγγος acc. to Sch.Ar.Ach.581, Suid. S1.v. εἰλιγγιῶ.

Q4 How is the word χάριν used in the sentence "τίνος χάριν ἐκάλεσάς με;"?

Q5 What is the difference between ἄνθροπος πενής and ἄνθροπος πτώχος ? Can one make a clear differentiation between the words?

Q6 The variations of the meaning of φθάνω has been difficult for myself to get a handle on. What is the basic meaning behind the word? Is the way the word is used in Syntipas 2.[3] a normal usage of the word?

Answers to the questions can be sent directly to Paul Fonck via this link

Chambry published a multivolume edition of the fables for the Belles Lettres series in 1925/6 (Paris). He later revised this into a single volume, omitting hundreds of the fable variants. In addition, the numeration between these two volumes is not consistent. The texts here are taken from the 1925/6 edition, but the numeration follows the standard single volume edition.

Optional Reading

Reading 11 - Optional Reading Chambry 356

Ψύλλα καὶ ἀνήρ.

[1] Ψύλλα ποτὲ πηδήσασα ἐπὶ πόδα ἀνδρὸς ἐκάθισεν. [2] Ὁ δὲ τὸν Ἡρακλῆν ἐπὶ συμμαχίαν ἐκάλει. [3] Τῆς δὲ ἐκεῖθεν αὖθις ἀφαλομένης, στενάξας εἶπεν· Ὦ Ἡράκλεις, εἰ ἐπὶ ψύλλῃ οὐ συνεμάχησας, πῶς ἐπὶ μείζοσιν ἀνταγωνισταῖς συνεργήσεις;
[E] Ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ μὴ δεῖν ἐπὶ τῶν ἐλαχίστων τοῦ θείου δεῖσθαι, ἀλλ' ἐπὶ τῶν ἀναγκαίων.

Chambry published a multivolume edition of the fables for the Belles Lettres series in 1925/6 (Paris). He later revised this into a single volume, omitting hundreds of the fable variants. In addition, the numeration between these two volumes is not consistent. The texts here are taken from the 1925/6 edition, but the numeration follows the stanard single volume edition.

Optional Questions - Chambry 356 Questions

Q1 Is there a great difference between the various words for 'to sit': ἦμαι, κάθημαι, κεῖμαι, καθίζω (cf. Smyth §§789-791)? Parse ἐκαθέσθη (from Syntipas 2) and ἐκάθισεν (Chambry 356). Are there any other common words for sitting/sitting down other than those listed above.

Q2 How do you translate the word ἀφαλομένης? From what word(s) is it made of? Why the double lambda in some of the lexicon entries and the variance in aspiration of the pi/phi? The entry in LSJ is as follows:

ἀφάλλομαι, aor. inf. ἀφάλασθια Ael.VH6.14; Ep. aor. part. ἀπάλμενος Bion Fr.10.15:—
spring off or down from, πήδημα κοῦφον ἐκ νεὼς ἀφήλατο A.Pers.305; ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν ..ἀφήλατο jumped off on to his head, Ar.Nu.147; ἀφαλόμενος τοῦ ἵππου Plu.Caes.27, cf. Ael. l.c.; of a river, τῆς πέτρας πλεῖον ἢ στάδιον ἀ. τὴν καταφοράν Plb.10.48.5.

Q3 Are the phrases ἐπὶ συμμαχίαν ἐκάλει and ἐπὶ ψύλλῃ οὐ συνεμάχησας 'fighting words' or just more of a general 'help, aid'? Could hyperbole be at play here?

Q4 Is there a difference in the meaning of the adjective θεῖος used substantivally here τό θεῖον, the Divinity and the word ὁ θέος? Do later writers use both forms of words (espcially religious writers), or is the difference just a dialectical / historical variation?

Q5 Translate the epimythium. Is the epimythium telling one 'not to ask for little things' or just 'it is not necessary to ask for the little things' (μὴ δεῖν δεῖσθαι...)?


Answers to the questions can be sent directly to Paul Fonck via this link


Advanced Readings

Reading 11 - Advanced Reading 1 Babrius 20

Βοηλάτης ἅμαξαν ἦγεν ἐκ κώμης.
τῆς δ' ἐμπεσούσης εἰς φάραγγα κοιλώδη,
δέον βοηθεῖν, αὐτὸς ἀργὸς εἱστήκει,
τῷ δ' Ἡρακλεῖ προσηύχεθ', ὃν μόνον πάντων
θεῶν ἀληθῶς προσεκύνει τε κἀτίμα.
ὁ θεὸς δ' ἐπεστὰς εἶπε "τῶν τροχῶν ἅπτου
καὶ τοὺς βόας κέντριζε. τοῖς θεοῖς δ' εὔχου
ὅταν τι ποιῇς καὐτός, ἢ μάτην εὔξῃ."


Reading 11 - Advanced Reading 2 Chambry 72

Βοηλάτης καὶ Ἡρακλῆς.

Βοηλάτης ἅμαξαν ἦγεν εἰς κώμην.
Τῆς δ' ἐμπεσούσης εἰς φάραγγα κοιλώδη,
Δέον βοηθεῖν, ὅδε ἀργὸς εἱστήκει,
Τῷ δὲ Ἡρακλεῖ προσηύχετο μόνῳ
Ἁπάντων θεῶν ὡς πολλὰ τιμωμένῳ.
Αὐτὸς δ' ἐπιστὰς εἶπε· Τῶν τρόχων ἅπτου
Καὶ τοὺς βόας κέντριζε, τοῖς θεοῖς δ' εὔχου,
Ὅταν τι ποιῇς καὐτὸς· μὴ μάτην εὔξῃ.


Reading 12 Advanced Questions

Q1Give the full expanded form(s) and lemma for the following words: κἀτίμα [B5], and προσηύχεθ' [B4].

Q2 How do you translate the phrase ὡς πολλὰ in Chambry 72 line 5. What does the phrase modify?

Q3 The last three lines of Chambry 72 have both the present imperative ἅπτου, κέντριζε, εὔχου and the prohibitory aorist subjunctive μὴ εὔξῃ. How does one read them? How are the commands different?

Q4 The final lines of both fables differ slightlyμάτην εὔξῃ versus μὴ μάτην εὔξῃ. Is one of these lines incorrect? Should the be written as μὴ?

Q5 The word καὐτός [C72.8] stands for what two words? What is the meaning here? What 'position' is the word in?

Answers to the questions can be sent directly to Paul Fonck via this link



Line Numbering and the Structure of Fables

The lines are numbered for collation and reference purposes. The line numbering format is comprised of three elements: Author+Version+Line Identifier: Author = B/C#.1/C#.2/S/A/H for Babrius, Chambry 1, Chambry 2, Syntipas,  Aphthonius or Herodotus; Line Identifier = T/M/#  where  T=Title, P = Promythium, E = Epimythium or  # = Line number (incremental, but not counting the moral or title); The endomythium, the moral 'inside the story, is simply listed as a line number.

Parts of a fable:
Promythium: A moral that comes before the story, so that the reader / listener can properly decode the meaning
Fable Body: the content of the fable, including the endomythium, but not the promythium or epimythiu.
Endomythium: the moral inside the story (listed as a line number)
Epimythium: The moral added at the end of the story to make sure the point of the fable is clear.


Additional Tools and Aids to Reading

The LetsReadGreek website has vocabulary and a list of helpful questions and leads on some of the more difficult words.  A little of topical vocabulary for each is included, along with a Latin version, some English versions of the fables and some engravings and carvings from older books.  The LetsReadGreek site requires one to have a unicode Greek compatible font. I've been trying to get the site properly configured, so please be patient.  A note, SPIonic is not adequate, you must have one of the Windows or Mac unicode fonts installed.  Gentium is a wonderful and easy to read font downloadable from the SIL website at

I highly recommend using the Perseus website tools for vocabulary, morphology, texts and grammar.  There is a lot there; however, Aesop is not.  Some of the vocabulary in the fables do not exist in LSJ (but maybe in the supplement).  To use Perseus adequately, one must learn Perseus’ betacode style with variations, for questions see the FAQ.  I also suggest bookmarking the base pages in your browser, or better yet, drag them if you can and put each one onto your browser’s toolbar.   The following online tools can be found on the Perseus website:

Note: If you are using the Perseus site, you must set your Perseus configuration to properly display the Greek. This may be done by clicking on the "Configure Display" on the Perseus Menu and selecting the corresponding Greek format (choose Unicode or Unicode with pre-combined accents).