Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
2. DEMOSTHENES AND THE ATHENIANS
Perry 460 (pseudo-Plutarch,
Lives of the Ten Orators 848a)
They say that during an assembly in Athens, Demosthenes was prevented
from making his speech, so he told the audience he wanted to say just
a few words. When the audience had fallen silent, Demosthenes began his
tale. 'It was summertime, and a young man had hired a donkey to take him
from Athens to Megara. At midday, when the sun was blazing hot, the young
man and the donkey's driver both wanted to sit in the donkey's shadow.
They began to jostle one another, fighting for the spot in the shade.
The driver maintained that the man had rented the donkey but not his shadow,
while the young man claimed that he had rented both the donkey and all
the rights thereto.' Having told this much of the story, Demosthenes then
turned his back on the audience and began to walk away. The Athenians
shouted at him to stop and begged him to finish the story. 'Indeed!' said
Demosthenes. 'You want to hear all about the donkey's shadow, but you
refuse to pay attention when someone talks to you about serious matters!'
(d. 322 B.C.E.) was a renowned orator of fourth-century Athens. Megara
is a Greek city on the Saronic Gulf to the west of Athens. The 'donkey's
shadow' was an ancient cliche for something of trivial importance (see,
for example, Plato,
Phaedrus 260c and Aristophanes,
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.