<< Home Page | Oxford (Gibbs) Index

Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)

Perry 514 (Romulus 3.20)

When the lion made himself king of the beasts, he wanted to be known for his fairness, so he gave up his old habits and contented himself with a limited diet just as the other animals did, committed to dispensing justice with complete honesty. As time went by, however, the lion's resolution began to waver. Since he was not able to alter his natural inclinations, he began to take certain animals aside in private and ask them whether or not his breath smelled bad. It was a clever strategy: the animals who said that it smelled bad and the animals who said it did not were all killed just the same and the lion was thus able to satisfy his appetite. After he had slaughtered a number of the animals in this way, the lion turned to the monkey and asked how his breath smelled. The monkey exclaimed that the lion's breath smelled of cinnamon, as if it were the very altar of the gods. The lion was ashamed to slaughter someone who said such nice things, so he changed his tactics and fooled the monkey with a newly devised stratagem. The lion pretended that he was sick. The doctors came right away, of course, and when they checked the lion's veins and found that his pulse was normal, they ordered him to eat some food that would be light on his stomach, thus alleviating his nausea. 'Kings may eat what they like,' admitted the lion. 'And I've never tried monkey meat... I would like to have a taste of that.' No sooner said than done: the obsequious monkey was quickly killed so that the lion could eat him immediately.
The penalty for speaking and for keeping silent is one and the same.

Note: Cinnamon was an extremely valuable and exotic substance in the ancient Greco-Roman world and in medieval Europe, travelling all the way from the 'Spice Islands' of Indonesia through Arabia to north Africa and ports on the Mediterranean.

Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
NOTE: New cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.