Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
317. AESOP AND THE SOOTHSAYERS
Perry 495 (Phaedrus
People consider someone with real life experience to be more reliable
than a soothsayer, but they cannot say why: my little fable will be the
first to provide an explanation.
There was a farmer who had a flock of sheep, and those sheep gave birth
to lambs with human heads. Alarmed by this omen the farmer hurried off,
deeply upset, to consult the soothsayers. One soothsayer told him that
the birth of lambs with human heads indicated a matter of life and death
for him as the 'head' of the household, and a sacrifice would be required
to ward off the danger. Another soothsayer insisted that this was instead
a sign that the man's wife had been unfaithful to him, and that she had
passed off other men's sons as his own; this evil omen could only be averted
by an even greater sacrifice. To make a long story short, the soothsayers
argued about their interpretations with one another, heightening the man's
anxiety with more and more causes for alarm. Aesop also happened to be
there, that old man who was nobody's fool: there was no way that nature
could play tricks on him! 'If you want to expiate this omen,' said Aesop,
'I suggest you supply your shepherds with wives!'
Note: This same anecdote is told about the legendary wise man Thales
in Plutarch's Banquet of the Seven Sages.
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.