Friday Fable. Odo of Cheriton’s “An Athenian”*

Posted by jlubans on May 31, 2013

(Here is a second fable from Odo of Cheriton. The first, “The Weeping Bald Man and Some Partridges”, included historical information about the fabulist and his contribution to the Aesopic tradition.)

“It was a custom among the Athenians that anyone who wanted to be thought of as a philosopher should be flogged, vigorously. And if he bore up patiently, then he would be esteemed a philosopher.
Now one man was being thoroughly whipped. Then before judgment had been pronounced where he should be held a philosopher (indeed, immediately following the whipping), he started shouting. ‘I am more than worthy,’ he exclaimed, ‘to be called Philosopher!’ And another answered him: ‘Brother, you might have been – if you could have kept quiet.’”

20130531-bearded goat.jpg
I am reminded of the Polish folk saying “Broda nie czyni filozofa.” (“If the beard were all, the goat might philosophize.”) Obviously, the Athenians in this fable have a higher standard for their philosophers. There is something to the notion that if we hold steadfast and silent in the face of adversity, we are better able to say sincerely who we are and what we are about. It is like Mr. Stand-Fast in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress reaching deep into himself to resist the temptress, Madam Bubble.
Or, the moral of this story might be that any one, in declaring himself to be a great leader or great thinker or great writer, confirms the opposite. Often, such declarations of greatness are not explicit, rather implicit in a recounting of accomplishments, a process by which the teller self-leverages onto what he believes is a lofty pedestal.

*Source: The Fables of Odo of Cheriton, translated by John C. Jacobs. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1985 p. 150.

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