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Online Introduction to

The Fables of Babrius,

Translated by James Davies.

Did you now that Aesop never wrote anything? I didn’t. All his fables were passed on by oral tradition. The written collection familiar to us has been taken from the text of Babrius, who wrote down the Fables of Aesop in verse form. The history and the scanty details about Babrius are covered in the Preface by Davies to this book of his translated into English. The poems Babrius composed follow.

Some will be familiar to you, many won’t. One is even funny. Several are tragic, and my sympathy for the fate of the poor donkey that wanted to be petted and loved as much as his owner’s lap-dog was heart-felt.

I hope you find some that you like.

Sir George Cornewalle Lewis, 2nd Baronet, 1806-1863, was a noted British politician, as well as a linguist, author, and Editor of the Edinburgh Review for some years. This, with more information about his important work, both political and scholarly, is from the Wikipedia entry on him. His edition of Babrius is the one that Davies has translated.

The old book of Babrius that I have states on it that it is “from the Author.” It is very neatly written in ink on the title page. It was given to Richard Garnett, whose signature is above it in the same style as the previous words. According to Wikipedia, Richard Garnett, 1835-1906, was a philologist, author, and librarian at the British Museum Library. He also did several translations and wrote original works. He has written several notes in the margins of the text in German and Greek, but I have not included them. If someone is interested in them, I will make them available, just let me know. His father, also named Richard Garnett, was a noted philologist, too, and an assistant keeper at the British Museum. He commands his own entry on Wikipedia.

There is very little information on James Davies to be had. Wikipedia does not mention him. Other than this translation, he also edited Terence, Aeschylus, Hesiod and Theognis and authored other works. Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, Volume I, 1875, states that he was born James Banks, in 1920, but that his great uncle Davies named him his successor at Moor Court, in Herefordshire, and he changed his name to James Davies then, as a condition of the will. He had eight children.

The Archaeologia Cambrensis, 4th Ser. Vol. XIV, printed an obituary of James Davies in 1883, in which it is stated that he was ordained minister in 1857, and after he assumed the ownership of Moor Court, he built a chapel there and presided over it, as well as performing the other duties of a landowner and prominent citizen of the county. He was later the Prebendary of the Hereford Cathedral. He published articles in several journals and was a long-time member of the Cambria Archaeological Association.

About the online edition: the quote marks which are repeated on every line of verse, by the same speaker, in the distracting French style, are omitted here. Fortunately the English and American standards changed in the 20th century and quit doing this. There are a few typos, and mis-numbered references to fables, especially in the Notes, which are corrected. The original mistakes are noted in the source code for that page.

Additonally, I incorporated the individual translator’s Note, for any fable that had one, at the end of the fable itself, for convenience. The original complete Notes section, at the end of the book, is still included on its own page.

Get started with the Preface, by Davies, outlining the history of Babrius’ discovery and the conjectures about his life, which Lewis’ decides is that he was Greek and wrote about the third century A.D.:




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