Reading 13:   Miscellaneous Fables and Jokes

Selected Fables

Perry Index Fable Name Aesopica Versions Reading Selection
Perry 80 The Flies and the Honey Chambry 239 version 1 #13 Primary (1)
Perry 80 The Flies and the Honey Chambry 239 version 2 #13 Primary (2)
Perry 248 Diogenes and the Bald Man Chambry 97 #13 Optional (1)
Perry 287 The Arab and His Camel Babruis 8 #13 Optional (2)
Perry 7 The Cat and the Hen Babruis 121 #13 Advanced (1)
Perry 7 The Cat and the Hen Chambry 14 #13 Advanced (2)


About the Fables

The following four fables contain two fables and two jokes.

Perry 80 The Flies and the Honey
In these two versions of this well known fable, flies realized their imminent death after getting their feet stuck in honey. This type of fable 'Woe is Me, I am going to die because....' is very common in the fables of Aesop. Another other example is The Mouse in the Pot.

Perry 248: Diogenes and the Bald Man
There are a number of fables about the famous Cynic philosopher Diogenes. Diogenes (Greek: Διογένης ὁ Σινωπεύς Diogenes o Sinopeus) "the Cynic", Greek philosopher, was born in Sinope (modern day Sinop, Turkey) about 412 BC (according to other sources 399 BC), and died in 323 BC at Corinth. Details of his life come in the form of anecdotes ("chreia") from Diogenes Laërtius, in his book The Lives of Eminent Philosophers.

He was quite a character. Wikipedia says "Many anecdotes of Diogenes refer to his doglike behavior, and his praise of a dog's virtues. It is not known whether Diogenes was insulted with the epithet "doggish" and made a virtue of it, or whether he first took up the dog theme himself. The modern terms cynic and cynical derive from the Greek word kynikos, the adjective form of kyon, meaning dog [1].

Diogenes believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog. Besides performing natural bodily functions in public without unease, a dog will eat anything, and make no fuss about where to sleep. Dogs live in the present without anxiety, and have no use for the pretensions of abstract philosophy. In addition to these virtues, dogs are thought to know instinctively who is friend and who is foe. Unlike human beings who either dupe others or are duped, dogs will give an honest bark at the truth."

Perry 287: The Arab and His Camel
This joke is about the camel. Camels were generally praised in
Aesopic tradition - they are mentioned as gentle, but clumsy creatures. Remember, the Aesopic fable had a strong tradition (if not beginning) in the Near East, where camels were one of the primary source of transportation. This joke relies on 'an ungiven option, of which the camel muses should have been given him.

Perry 7: The Cat and the Hen
Two fables, one in verse by Babrius, the other an anonymous prose fable (Chambry) tell the story of the cat and the hen. As anyone who has ever had cats know, they love to kill birds. Cats were not kept as housepets as frequently as dogs, but they are mentioned in 13 fables. (Greeks often employed weasels to catch rodents in their houses). There are some great pictures and engravings of the cat fables. In this fable, a cat pretends to be a physician and 'make a house call'. The hen(s) is up to the cat's tricks.


Related Fables

Flies and Honey

fly and ant 198
... and bald man 582
... and honey 427
... and mule 223

honey 345, 427, 463

Diogenes and bald man 580
... and ferryman 85
... and honest man 555

Arab and camel 560
Arab and Hermes 521

camel 56, 65
... and Arab 560
... and elephant 23
... and gnat 224
... and monkey (dancing) 354
... and people 268
... and Zeus 510
... at party 353
... in river 565


cat and fox's tricks 236
... and mouse 98, 118, 250, 299
... and rooster 299, 489
... and rooster's excuses 129
... and stork 105
... as doctor to chickens 310
... eagle and sow 128
... mouse and cheese 435
cat's birthday party 95

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



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 13 - Primary Reading (1) Chambry 239 Version 1


[1] Ἔν τινι ταμιείῳ μέλιτος ἐπεκχυθέντος, μυῖαι προσπτᾶσαι κατήσθιον· διὰ δὲ τὴν γλυκύτητα τοῦ καρποῦ οὐκ ἀφίσταντο. [2] Ἐμπαγέντων δὲ αὐτῶν τῶν ποδῶν, ὡς οὐκ ἐδύναντο ἀναπτῆναι, ἀποπνιγόμεναι ἔφασαν· Ἄθλιαι ἡμεῖς, αἳ διὰ βραχεῖαν ἡδονὴν ἀπολλύμεθα. [E] Οὕτω πολλοῖς ἡ λιχνεία πολλῶν αἰτία κακῶν γίνεται. 


Reading 13 - Primary Reading (2) Chambry 239 Version 2


[1] Ἔν τινι ταμείῳ μέλιτος ἐκχυθέντος, μυῖαι προσπτᾶσαι κατήσθιον. [2] Ἐμπαγέντων δὲ τῶν ποδῶν αὐτῶν, ἀναπτῆναι οὐκ εἶχον. Ἀποπνιγόμεναι δ' ἔλεγον· Ἄθλιαι ἡμεῖς, ὅτι διὰ βραχεῖαν βρῶσιν ἀπολλύμεθα.
[E] Ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ ὅτι πολλοῖς ἡ λιχνεία πολλῶν κακῶν αἰτία γίνεται.


Questions for Primary Reading 13: The Flies and the Honey

Q1 Translate the phrase διὰ δὲ τὴν γλυκύτητα τοῦ καρποῦ οὐκ ἀφίσταντο in line1-[1].

Q2 The phrase ἀναπτῆναι οὐκ εἶχον in version 2-[2] is paralleled by the phrase ὡς οὐκ ἐδύναντο ἀναπτῆναι in version 1-[2]. Is there any difference in meaning between the two words δύναμαι and ἔχω when they are used with a complementary infinitive, as in this instance?

Q3 Do you think the fable is a little odd in that the fable is written in the plural i.e. μυῖαι κατήσθιον....Ἀποπνιγόμεναι ἔλεγον· Ἄθλιαι ἡμεῖς? Do we have any fables/stories in English that speak of group activity like here? Are there any other Greek fables where the group speaks as one?

Q4 The word λιχνεία comes from what stem? Is this the same root our English word 'lick' is derived from? What other connotations did some forms of the word have (see this link)?

Q5 Parse the word δηλοῖ. What mood is it? Is there any reason why it should be either indicative or optative?

Q6 Translate the epimythium kernel: ἡ λιχνεία πολλῶν αἰτία κακῶν γίνεται.

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


Optional Reading

Reading 13 - Optional Reading (1) Chambry 97

Διογένης καὶ φαλακρός.

Διογένης ὁ κυνικὸς φιλόσοφος λοιδορούμενος ὑπό τινος φαλακροῦ εἶπεν· Ἐγὼ μὲν οὐ λοιδορῶ· μὴ γένοιτο· ἐπαινῶ δὲ τὰς τρίχας ὅτι κρανίου κακοῦ ἀπηλλάγησαν. 


Reading 13 - Optional Reading (2) Babrius 8

Ἄραψ κάμηλον ἀχθίσας ἐπηρώτα
πότερ' ἀναβαίνειν μᾶλλον ἢ κάτω βαίνειν
αἱροῖτο. χὠ κάμηλος οὐκ ἄτερ μούσης
εἶφ' "ἡ γὰρ ὀρθὴ τῶν ὁδῶν ἀπεκλείσθη;"


Optional Questions

Q1Translate the title of Demogenes: Διογένης ὁ κυνικὸς φιλόσοφος. What does κυνικὸς mean? Why was this epithet used? LSJ says

II. Κυνικός, , Cynic, as the followers of the philosopher Antisthenes were called, from the gymnasium ( [Κυνόσαργες] ) where he taught, D.L.6.13; or from their resemblance to dogs in several respects,

Q2 Was Diogenes bald? Did he have a bald spot? The word φαλακρός is a compound word from two roots - what are the words and what do they mean?

Q3 Parse the word λοιδορῶ. Could this verb be a future (either in meaning or form)? What about the word ἐπαινῶ? How do epsilon contract verbs form their future? What would the future form be for these two words?

Q4 The phrase μὴ γένοιτο· is also used in the New Testament in a similar way. Parse γένοιτο and translate the phrase. How many times is this phrase used in the NT (try this link)?

Q5 Why is the optative αἱροῖτο used in line B3?

Q6 The word χὠ in line B3 is crasis of what two words? Why is there no accent? What word form does εἶφ' in B4 come from?

Q7 Translate line B4 εἶφ' "ἡ γὰρ ὀρθὴ τῶν ὁδῶν ἀπεκλείσθη;" How did the camel speak - i.e. what form did his speech take?


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


Advanced Readings

Reading 13 - Advanced Reading (1) Babrius 121


Ὄρνις ποτ' ἠσθένησε. τῇ δὲ προσκύψας
αἴλουρος εἶπε "πῶς ἔχεις; τίνων χρῇζεις;
ἐγὼ παρέξω πάντα σοι· μόνον σώζου."
ἡ δ' "ἢν ἀπέλθῃς" εἶπεν "οὐκ ἀποθνῄσκω."


Reading 13 - Advanced Reading (2) Chambry 14

Αἴλουρος καὶ ὄρνιθες.
[1] Αἴλουρος ἀκούσας ὅτι ἔν τινι ἐπαύλει ὄρνεις νοσοῦσι, σχηματίσας ἑαυτὸν εἰς ἰατρὸν καὶ τὰ τῆς ἐπιστήμης πρόσφορα ἀναλαβῶν ἐργαλεῖα, παραγένετο, καὶ στᾶς πρὸ τῆς ἐπαύλεως ἐπυνθάνετο αὐτῶν πῶς ἔχοιεν. [2] Αἱ δὲ ὑποτυχοῦσα· " Καλῶς, ἔφασαν, ἐὰν σὺ ἐντεῦθεν ἀπαλλαγῇς."
[E] Οὕτως καὶ τῶν ἀθρώπων οἱ πονηροὶ τοὺς φρονίμους οὐ λανθάνουσι, κἂν τὰ μάλιστα χρηστότητα ὑποκρίνωνται.


Reading 13 Advanced Questions

Q1What does the phrase πῶς ἔχεις; or πῶς ἔχοιεν mean? Are there other ways of asking the same question?

Q2 Parse χρῇζεις in line [B2]. Why is there an iota subscript in the word?

Q3 Translate the phase in C1 σχηματίσας ἑαυτὸν εἰς ἰατρὸν καὶ τὰ τῆς ἐπιστήμης πρόσφορα ἀναλαβῶν ἐργαλεῖα. How is the word ἐπιστήμη used here; does it have any special meaing?

Q4 The first words of Chambry 14 line [2] are Αἱ δὲ ὑποτυχοῦσα· " Καλῶς, ἔφασαν.... Can you explain why Αἱ, ὑποτυχοῦσα, and ἔφασαν do not agree in case and number?

Q5 Line [B4] is ἡ δ' "ἢν ἀπέλθῃς" εἶπεν "οὐκ ἀποθνῄσκω." How would you translate the word ἀποθνῄσκω? Is the word ἀποθνῄσκω future in meaing?

Q6 Translate the epimythium [E] of Chambry 14.

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).