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Numquam est fidelis cum potente societas

Original post date: Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In English: An alliance with someone powerful is never reliable.

Since I have been posting some proverbs connected with fables, I thought I would include this proverb today, which is the moral of a very famous Aesop's fable about the "lion's share."

Pretty much everyone knows the phrase "lion's share," but they often do not know the story that goes with it. When I ask people, they sometimes think the "lion's share" means a lot, or the biggest part of something. The fable, however, is much more biting: the lion's share is the WHOLE thing, taken by violent force from the lion's unfortunate allies.

Here is the version of this story as told by the Roman poet Phaedrus:

Numquam est fidelis cum potente societas.
Testatur haec fabella propositum meum.
Vacca et capella et patiens ovis iniuriae
socii fuere cum leone in saltibus.
Hi cum cepissent cervum vasti corporis,
sic est locutus partibus factis leo:
"Ego primam tollo nomine hoc quia rex cluo;
secundam, quia sum consors, tribuetis mihi;
tum, quia plus valeo, me sequetur tertia;
malo adficietur si quis quartam tetigerit."
Sic totam praedam sola improbitas abstulit.

An alliance with someone powerful is never reliable.This little story proves my contention. A heifer and a she-goat and a long-suffering sheep were allies with a lion in the woods. When they had seized a gigantic stag, and it had been divided into parts, the lion spoke these words: "I take the first part because by name I am called king; you will give the second part to me because I am one of the team; then, the third part will go to me because I am stronger; if anyone should touch the fourth part, he will find himself in trouble." So it is that wickedness all by itself carried off the whole prize.

With friends like a lion, who needs enemies, eh? This fable appears in Steinhowel's Aesop, so you can see some great early illustrations of this fable online.

Meanwhile, hoping you are keeping far away from the lions, here is today's proverb read out loud:

435. Numquam est fidelis cum potente societas.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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