LCL 434: 680-681
Minor Latin Poets
Epistula Eiusdem Ad Theodosium
Dubitanti mihi, Theodosi optime, quoinam litterarum titulo nostri nominis memoriam mandaremus, fabularum textus occurrit, quod in his urbane concepta falsitas deceat et non incumbat necessitas veritatis. nam quis tecum de oratione, quis de poemate5 loqueretur, cum in utroque litterarum genere et Atticos Graeca eruditione superes et Latinitate Romanos? huius ergo materiae ducem nobis Aesopum noveris, qui responso Delphici Apollinis monitus ridicula orsus est, ut legenda firmaret. verum has pro10 exemplo fabulas et Socrates divinis operibus indidit et poemati suo Flaccus aptavit, quod in se sub iocorum communium specie vitae argumenta contineant.
- 4falsitas codd.: salsitas Baehrens. veritatis codd.: severitatis Lachmann.
- 10legenda codd.: sequenda Lachmann.
The Fables of Avianus
The Fables of Avianus
Dedicatory Letter to Theodosius a
I was in doubt, most excellent Theodosius, to what class of literature I should entrust the memory of my name, when the narration of fables occurred to my mind; because in these, fiction, if gracefully conceived, is not out of place, and one is not oppressed by the necessity of adhering to the truth. Who could speak in your company on oratory or on poetry? In both these divisions of literature you outstrip the Athenians in Greek learning as well as the Romans in mastery of Latin. My pioneer in this subject, you must know, is Aesop, b who on the advice of the Delphic Apollo started droll stories in order to establish moral maxims. Such fables by way of example have been introduced by Socrates c into his inspired works and fitted by Horace d into his poetry, because under the guise of jests of general application they contain illustrations
- a i.e. probably Macrobius Theodosius, author of the Saturnalia: see Introduction. The tone of the dedication suits a literary addressee.
- bThe historical “Aisopos” was a slave in Samos, 6th cent. b.c., who used beast-stories to convey moral lessons. Later generations freely ascribed to him a mass of fables, and the supposed Aesopic fables were collected about 300 b.c. by Demetrius of Phaleron. The authority for Avianus’ statement that Aesop was advised by the Delphic oracle is unknown.
- cThe reference is to Plato’s dialogues (Socraticis sermonibus, Hor. Od. III. xxi. 9–10) which represent much of Socrates’ teaching. In Plato’s Phaedo, 60–61, Socrates says a dream led him to turn Aesopic fables into verse. Avianus here refers to apologues in fable style: e.g. of Grasshoppers, Phaedr. 259; of Plenty and Poverty, Symp. 203; of Prometheus and Epimetheus, Protag. 320–321.
- d e.g. the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse in Sat. II. vi.