Aesop Summer Reading Group


Reading 4:   Tortoise Fables 
Perry 226 The Tortoise and the Hare (Chambry 352) Primary Reading
Perry 106 Zeus and the Tortoise (Chambry 125 versions 1 and 2) Secondary Reading - read both versions
Perry 230 The Tortoise and the Eagle (Chambry 351 versions 1 & 2) Optional Reading
Perry 230 The Eagle and the Tortoise in the Air (Babrius 115) Optional Reading
Note: The camel story, Perry 287 The Arab and his Camel, will be included in a later reading with some other fables about camels.     
Aesop Summer Reading Schedule

Due: Sunday, June 24 8:00 GMT (Saturday, Midnight US Central Standard Time)




The Tortoise: Slow, Simple, Stupid....but Steady

He wants to learn to fly. He is a homebody who doesn't like to go anywhere. He plods along. But he is not the most despised of animals. If he puts his mind to it, he can finish the job.

Almost every modern version of Aesop's fables in English include the fable 'The rabbit and the tortoise.' Those in the Latin world know this fable as De lepore et testudine. Most of us have learned it from childhood. Rabbits, proverbial cowards in most of Greek storytelling, have one great redeeming quality--they can run quickly. Tortoises, while slow, just keep on going....(The Greeks surely would not have chosen the Energizer Bunny as a mascot!) I never remembered a fox being the the judge, but it is in the Greek.. Chambry only includes 'The Tortoise and the Hare' fable in Greek.

Aesop for Children (translator not identified), 1919. Illustrations by Milo Winter (1886-1956). Available online at Project Gutenberg.   Aesop's Fables: A New Translation by V.S. Vernon Jones with illustrations by Arthur Rackham (1912). This book is available online at Project Gutenberg.


Why does the Tortoise have its shell?

The tortoise has his house on his back.Why is he unlike the other animals? The answer: He didn't attend Zeus' wedding, and so was cursed. Chambry has two versions of the fable 'Zeus and the Tortoise'. The moral of this fable is not what one would expect, Οἶκος φίλος, οἶκος ἄριστος, it's more like 'There is no place like home.' (There are no pictures I can find for this fable.)

A tortoise's shell is also his demise - he cannot run away, he can only crawl inside its protection. Another, very common story about tortoises, involves birds: eagles, crows, ravens, etc. carrying the tortoise high into the air and dropping it onto the rocky crags below to break its shell and eat it. Sometimes, the tortoise is the cause of his own demise (he opens his mouth, letting go of the stick that eagles were carrying); Other times, he is a pawn in the hunt, and has no say in the matter. Babrius includes the fable of 'The Eagle and the Tortoise in the Air'; Babrius 115 is great reading and will stretch your Greek vocabulary

(An aside, In one fable, one of the three things that would never be created is a house on wheels. Anyone think of RV's back then? Apparently not.) Bewick's Select fables of Aesop and others, with illustrations by Thomas Bewick. 1871 (first edition published in 1818). Available online at Michigan State University.




The Tortoise and the Hare (Chambry) 1st Selection
    Chambry 352 = Perry 226
CT   Χελώνη καὶ λαγωός.
C1   Ποδῶν χελώνης κατεγέλα λαγωός. Ἡ δὲ ἔφη· Ἐγώ σε τὸν ταχύπουν νικήσω.
C2   Ὁ δέ· Λόγῳ μόνῳ λέγεις τοῦτο· ἀλλ' ἔριζε καὶ γνῶθι.
C3   – Τίς δὲ τὸν τόπον ὁρίσει, ἔφη, καὶ βραβεύσει τὴν νίκην;– Ἀλώπηξ, ἔφη, ἡ δικαία καὶ σοφωτάτη. Ἔταξε δὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν τὴς ὥρας τοῦ δρόμου.

Ἡ δὲ χελώνη μὴ ῥᾳθυμήσασα ἤρξατο τῆς ὁδοῦ. Ὁ δὲ λαγωὸς τοῖς ποσὶ θαρρῶν ἐκοιμήθη. Ἐλθὼν δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν ὡρισμένον τόπον εὗρε τὴν χελώνην νικήσασαν.

CE   Ὅτι πολλαὶ φύσεις ἀνθρώπων εὐφυεῖς εἰσιν, ἀλλ' ἐκ τῆς ῥᾳθυμίας ἀπώλοντο, ἐκ δὲ νήψεως καὶ σπουδῆς καὶ μακροθυμίας τινὲς καὶ φύσεως ἀργῆς περιεγένοντο.
Chambry 352 Questions
Q1 C1 1 What are the different dialectical lemma differences for the word rabbit? (See λαγῶς). Does Chambry use the Epic, Attic or Ionic variant?
Q2 C1 2 Why is Ποδῶν in th genitive?
Q3 C1 3 The word γνῶθι exhibits a variant ending which only occurs in certain words. Can you identify the form and list several other common words that show this form?
Q4 C1 4 Who asks the question 'Who will determine the place and ... in line?" C3?
Q5 C1 5 Is the genitive in the phrase ἤρξατο τῆς ὁδοῦ a 'usual and customary usage'? If you were writing in Greek prose, would you have chosen the genitive with the verb or the accusative?
Q6 C1 6 The word ἤρξατο is most likely from ἄρχω. Can you list what other common verb this word form could be derived from?
Q7 C1 7 The moral of this fable seems to have a very positive aspect of human nature. The phrase πολλαὶ φύσεις ἀνθρώπων εὐφυεῖς εἰσιν would not be found in New Testament influenced literature, would it? Can you find an opposite to that phrase in New Testament literature? On the whole, how does Greek secular literature deal with the basic instincts of human nature?
Q8 C1 8 Many English speakers may think that the word σπουδῆς has to do with doing things to quickly or having excessive haste. Can you find any negative instances of σπουδῆς in Greek literature or is the word always positive?


Answers to the questions can be sent directly to Paul Fonck When answering questions, use the following format:

  1. Precede each answer with the proper identifiers: Version, Question number, and your initials. C


Zeus and the Tortoise (2nd Selection)
    Chambry 125 (version 1) = Perry 106
C1-T   Ζεὺς καὶ χελώνη.
C1-1   Ζεὺς γαμῶν πάντα τὰ ζῷα εἱστία.
C1-2   Μόνης δὲ χελώνης ὑστερησάσης, διαπορῶν τὴν αἰτίαν, τῇ ὑστεραίᾳ ἐπυνθάνετο αὐτῆς διὰ τά μόνη ἐπὶ τὸ δεῖπνον οὐκ ἦλθε.
C1-3   Τῆς δὲ εἰπούσης· Οἶκος φίλος, οἶκος ἄριστος,
C1-4   ἀγανακτήσας κατ' αὐτῆς παρεσκεύασεν αὐτὴν τὸν οἶκον αὐτὸν βαστάζουσαν περιφέρειν.
C1-E   Οὕτω πολλοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων αἱροῦνται μᾶλλον λιτῶς οἰκεῖν ἢ παρ' ἄλλοις πολυτελῶς διαιτᾶσθαι. 


Zeus and the Tortoise (Optional Reading)
    Chambry 125 (version 2) = Perry 106
C2-T   Ζεὺς καὶ χελώνη.

Ζεὺς γάμους τελῶν πάντα τὰ ζῷα εἱστία·

C2-2   Μόνης δὲ τῆς χελώνης ὑστερησάσης, διαπορῶν τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς ὑστερήσεως, ἐπυνθάνετο αὐτῆς τίνος χάριν αὐτὴ ἐπὶ τὸ δεῖπνον οὐ παρεγένετο.
C2-3   Τῆς δὲ εἰπούσης· Οἶκος φίλος, οἶκος ἄριστος,
C2-4   ἀγανακτήσας κατ' αὐτῆς κατεδίκασε τὸν οἶκον βαστάζουσαν περιφέρειν.
C2-E   Ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ ὅτι οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων αἱροῦνται μᾶλλον λιτῶς παρ' ἑαυτοῖς ζῆν ἢ παρ' ἄλλοις πολυτελῶς.
Chambry 125 Questions
Q1   The word εἱστία looks to be a first declension feminine noun, at first glance. Can you parse it and tell from which lemma it comes?
Q2   Both versions use the phrase διαπορῶν τὴν αἰτίαν. The verb is a strenghthend form of the simplex. How would one translate it here, 'wondering', 'at a loss', 'perplexed' or 'dismayed', 'confounded', etc?
Q3   Should the phrase διὰ τά in line C1-2 really be written διὰ τ? Could the word μόνη be neuter nom/acc plural in form? Was only one tortoise invited?
Q4   How would you translate Οἶκος φίλος, οἶκος ἄριστος. What are the variations one can make of this phrase?
Q5   How are the words παρεσκεύασεν and κατεδίκασε different? The latter has the idea of 'to pass sentence on', what is the main idea of the former word?
Q6   How do the words ζῆν and διαιτᾶσθαι differ in meaning?
Q7   In line C2-2, the verb ἐπυνθάνετο governs which words? Explain the case usages, i.e. genitive of source, etc.?
Q8   Is the phrase in line C2-2 χάριν αὐτὴ ἐπὶ τὸ δεῖπνον οὐ παρεγένετο an example of a direct quote? What does χάριν mean here? What were Zeus' actual words?


The Eagle and the Tortoise (Three Optional Readings)

For sake of completeness, three fables of the tortoise being dropped onto rocks by an eagle are included. Chambry gives us two anonymous versions; Babrius also includes this fable.

Line   Text
  Chambry 351 (version 1)= Perry 230
C1-T   Χελώνη καὶ ἀετός.
C1-1   Χελώνη ἀετοῦ ἐδεῖτο ἵπτασθαι αῦτὴν διδάξαι.
C1-2   Τοῦ δὲ παραινοῦντος πόρρω τοῦτο τῆς φύσεως αὐτῆς εἶναι, ἐκείνη μᾶλλον τῇ δεήσει προσέκειτο.
C1-3   Λαβὼν οὖν αὐτὴν τοῖς ὄνυξι καὶ εἰς ὕψος ἀνενεγκὼν εἶτ' ἀφῆκεν.
C1-4   Ἡ δὲ κατὰ πετρῶν πεσοῦσα συνετρίβη.
C1-E   Ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ ὅτι πολλοὶ ἐν φιλονεικίαις τῶν φρονιμωτέρων παρακούσαντες ἑαυτοὺς ἔβλαψαν.
  Chambry 351 (version 2)= Perry 230  (variant version from Chambry's first edition)
C2-T   Χελώνη καὶ ἀετός.
C2-1   Χελώνη θεασαμένη ἀετὸν πετόμενον ἐπεθύμησε καὶ αὐτὴ πέτεσθαι.
C2-2   Προσελθοῦσα δὲ τοῦτον παρεκάλει ἐφ' ᾧ βούλεται μισθῷ διδάξαι αὐτήν.
C2-3   Τοῦ δὲ πείθοντος καὶ λέγοντος ἀδύνατον εἶναι, καὶ ἔτι αὐτῆς ἐπικειμένης καὶ ἀξιούσης, ἄρας αὐτὴν καὶ μετέωρος ἀναβὰς ἀφῆκεν ἐπί τινος πέτρας, ὅθεν κατενεχθεῖσα ἀπερράγη καὶ τέθνηκεν.
C2-E   Ὅτι πολλοὶ ἐν φιλονεικίαις τῶν φρονιμωτέρων παρακούσαντες ἑαυτοὺς ἔβλαψαν.
Chambry 351 Questions
Q1   Verbs of pleading, asking, begging generally take what case(s)? cf. Χελώνη ἀετοῦ ἐδεῖτο
Q2   In line C2-1, the word ἵπτασθαι occurs. How do you explain the initial iota in the word, if the word comes from the lemma πέτομαι?
Q3   How would you parse ἀπερράγη in C2-3. What is the general class you would call this type of verb?
Q4   The verb τέθνηκεν is what tense? How would/could one translate it?

The word ἀξιούσης is from ἀξιόω. In later NT/LXX Greek this word has the idea of 'deeming something/someone worthy or unworthy'' (with the idea of weighing something.). However, is that the normal sense in most of Greek literature? What meaning would you give it here?

Q6   ἐφ' ᾧ is from what two words? How would one translate it here?



Babrius 115 = Perry 230


Babrius' account is very interesting and really makes one work on their Greek. Some of the words are not readily accessible on the Perseus site. The fable includes the endomythium, where the turtle himself, realizes and states the moral of the story. Four lines deal with negotiations for payment of the flying lesson.

B1 Νωθὴς χελώνη λιμνάσιν ποτ' αἰθυίαις  
B2 λάροις τε καὶ κήυξιν εἶπεν ἀγρώσταις·  
B3 "κἀμὲ πτερωτὴν εἴθε τις πεποιήκει."  
B4 τῇ δ' ἐντυχὼν ἔλεξεν αἰετὸς σκώπτων·  
B5 "πόσον, χέλυμνα, μισθὸν αἰετῷ δώσεις,  
B6 ὅστις ς' ἐλαφρὴν καὶ μετάρσιον θήσω;"  
B7 "τὰ τῆς Ἐρυθρῆς πάντα δῶρά σοι δώσω."  
B8 "τοιγὰρ διδάξω" φησίν. ὑπτίην δ' ἄρας  
B9 ἔκρυψε νέφεσιν, ἔνωεν εἰς ὄρος ῥίψας  
B10 ἤραξεν αὐτῆς οὖλον ὄστρακον νώτων.  
B11 ἡ δ' εἶπεν ἐκψύχουσα "σὺν δίκῃ θνῄσκω·  
B12 τί γὰρ νεφῶν μοι, καὶ τίς ἦν πτερῶν χρείη,  
B13 τῇ κα ζε δυσκόλως προβαινούσῃ;"  
B1 The word εἴθε in B3 is used to express a wish: is the wish attainable or unattainable? Is there a standard formula for both forms? If so, what are they? What is the epic form of this word?  
B2 The word χέλυμνα in B5 appears to be a vocative in form. From what word is it? Is it in LSJ?  
B3 ὑπτίην in line B8 was translated by Ben Perry as 'upside-down'. Do you agree?  
B4 Parse the word ἔνωεν. How does it fit into the sentence?  


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.

The following images and texts were gleaned mostly from Aesopica's website and are in the public domain. Many thanks to Laura Gibbs for collecting these together.


The Baby's Own Aesop (verse fables by W.J. Linton), 1887. Illustrations by Walter Crane. Available online at International Children's Digital Library.



Aesop's Fables (French, English, Latin), with illustrations by Francis Barlow, 1687. Page images available online at Michigan State University.


Bernard Salomon: Aesop (1547)

Fable 94. Tortoise and Hare.



Les Fables d'Esope Phrygien, mises en Ryme Francoise, with illustrations by Bernard Salomon. 1547. The images, but not the text, are available online at the Studiolo website.

Steinhowel's Aesop: Illustrations

(Steinhowel 1479) 118. De testudine et avibus.


(Steinhowel 1501) Click on the image to see the entire page.


(Steinhowel - in Spanish, 1521)


Illustrations from the 1479 edition of Steinhowel come from the online edition at the Library of Congress. This edition is in German, not Latin, so I have reproduced only the images here. The illustrations for the 1501 edition of Steinhowel are online at the University of Mannheim. So that you can see the Latin text on these pages, each 1501 image is linked to a full page view of this edition (although the images are poor quality gif images, unlike the high-quality images at Library of Congress). Finally, I have included a 1521 edition of Steinhowel translated into Spanish, also from the Library of Congress. As you can see, the illustrations continue to follow the same basic pattern but have a decidedly different element of style.