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

Perry 522 (Phaedrus 4.26)

Elsewhere I have described the great value people place on learning, and now I will record for future reference how greatly learning is honoured by the gods; this is another story about Simonides, whom I have spoken of before.
In exchange for an agreed upon fee, the poet Simonides was to write a victory ode for a certain boxer. Simonides accordingly sought out a place of peace and quiet, but the unpromising subject matter hampered his artistic impulse. As a result, Simonides relied on the usual poetic license, which allowed him to include the gods Castor and Pollux as part of his poem, alluding to the renown that the sons of Leda, those celestial twins, had also enjoyed in boxing. Simonides' client praised the work but he paid the poet only one third of the agreed upon fee. When Simonides demanded the rest, his patron told him, 'Let the twins pay the rest, since their praise occupies two thirds of the poem! Of course,' the man added, 'I don't want people to think that you have been sent away in anger, so please agree to come to my house for dinner this evening. I have invited all my relatives, and I want you to be in their number as well.' Although Simonides had been cheated and was still upset about the loss he had suffered, he agreed to come, not wanting to harm his reputation by parting with his patron on bad terms. The dinner hour arrived and Simonides took his place at the table. The party sparkled with wine and good cheer, and the house resounded with the delightful sounds of the extravagant banquet, when all of a sudden two young men appeared. They were completely covered with dust and sweat, and they had the bodies of supermen. They ordered one of the servant boys to summon Simonides, urging him to be quick about it, as it was a matter of great importance. The awestruck servant roused Simonides, and the poet had barely moved one foot away from the dining room when the structure suddenly collapsed, crushing everyone beneath it. Meanwhile, there were no young men to be found at the door. When the sequence of events became generally known, everyone realized that with their presence, the gods had repaid the poet by saving his life in lieu of a fee.

Note: Other accounts of this story focus on the aftermath of these events: Simonides was able to identify all the victims of the disaster, despite the fact that their bodies are mangled beyond recognition, because he remembered where each person was sitting, using the technique of the 'loci' or 'places,' a popular mnemonic device (see Cicero, The Orator 2.86 and Quintilian, Institutes 11.2.11 ff.). For Phaedrus's other story about the Greek poet Simonides, see Fable 412.

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.