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

Perry 278 (Babrius 15)

A man from Athens was journeying together with a man from Thebes in Boeotia. As you would expect, they struck up a conversation. The talk soon turned to heroes, and the men made all sorts of extravagant and pointless claims. The man from Thebes ended up singing the praises of Heracles, Alcmena's son, saying that he was the greatest hero who ever lived on this earth and that he had now taken his place among the gods. The man from Athens replied that Theseus was mightier by far, since he had enjoyed a truly divine fortune in his lifetime, while Heracles had been a slave. With that argument, the Athenian won the debate, for he was a glib speaker. His opponent was only a Boeotian, after all, and could not hope to compete with the Athenian in words. 'Enough!' the Boeotian said, 'You win!' Then he added with a bit of rustic inspiration, 'And may Theseus vent his anger on us, and Heracles on you Athenians!'

Note: Heracles was enslaved for three years to Omphale, the queen of Lydia, in order to expiate a murder. Theseus enjoyed 'divine fortune' as the king of a great city, Athens. The humour of this story depends on the smooth-talking Athenian being bested by a 'country bumpkin' from Boeotia since, when all is said and done, Heracles was a much more formidable hero than Theseus.

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.