Vulpis et Ciconia

Vulpis et Ciconia

By Dara Sánchez


Author’s Statement:

The poem “Vulpis et Ciconia” tells a tale in which the Fox’s cunning nature does not come to its advantage. In this fable, a Fox invites a Stork to dinner but gives her a plate with liquid broth, which restricts the Stork from eating while the Fox enjoys her meal.1 In response, the Stork invites the Fox to dinner and puts the food in a vase, disabling the Fox from enjoying her dinner as the Stork satisfies herself. The lesson readers are meant to get from this, as explained in the promythium and re-emphasized by the Stork as a dialogued epimythium, is that: harm must not be done, but when it is, the one who caused harm must endure the same punishment for there to be justice.

A question that should be considered here is whether the Fox invited the Stork to dinner with malicious intent. If we consider the Fox to be cunning, as Phaedrus has depicted her in several fables, then we should assume that the Fox intended malice or at least deceit in this invitation. This is further evinced by the fact that a dinner host should be able to appease a guest and feed them dinner as the bare minimum; the Fox violated the rules of hospitality. The fable reinforces the cunning, deceitful characterization of the Fox, though she does not get the upper hand this time around in the name of justice. In order for the Stork to be just in her revenge dinner, it seems more purposeful that the Fox had bad intentions, something that readers must assume for themselves.


Latin text: 26 “Vulpes et ciconia”

Nulli nocendum: si quis vero laeserit,

Multandum simili iure fabella admonet.

Vulpes ad cenam dicitur ciconiam

Prior invitasse et illi in patina liquidam

Posuisse sorbitionem, quam nullo modo

Gustare esuriens potuerit ciconia.

Quae vulpem cum revocasset, intrito cibo

Plenam lagonam posuit: huic rostrum inserens

Satiatur ipsa et torquet convivam fame.

Quae cum lagonae collum frustra lamberet,

Peregrinam sic locutam volucrem accepimus:

Sua quisque exempla debet aequo animo pati.


26 The Fox and the Stork

  1. No one must be harmed; but if anyone does cause harm,
  2. this fable reminds us that he must be punished by the same justice.
  3. It is said that a Fox had invited a Stork to dinner,
  4. and had placed a liquid broth on a marble plate,
  5. which the hungering Stork
  6. would not be able to enjoy at all.
  7. When she had called upon that same Fox, she placed a flask filled
  8. with uneaten food; inserting her beak into it
  9. satisfying herself, and she tormented her table companion with hunger.
  10. When she was licking the neck of the flask in frustration,
  11. it is said that the strange bird spoke thus:
  12. “Everybody ought to endure their own actions patiently.”



  1. Another interesting component of this story is that the Stork appears nowhere else in Phaedrus’ fables. Here, the Stork is implied to have a long rostrum (beak) and is described as peregrinam. Though an imperfect comparison, poem 1.8 describes the tenuous contract between a Wolf and Crane, another less common bird recognized by its long features. In comparison, the highlighted feature of the Crane is the long neck (colli longitudinem), which the Crane uses to take a bone out of the Wolf’s throat — not a long beak like the Stork. Moreover, peregrina is an interesting word because it could refer to the Stork’s migratory characteristic as an animal, meaning “traveler.” Or, it can also refer to the bird being less common, perhaps a “foreign” character that only appears once in Phaedrus’ books.



Babrius, Phaedrus. Fables. Translated by Ben Edwin Perry. Loeb Classical Library 436. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965.


Dara Sánchez (College ’25) is a student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Classical Studies with a concentration in Languages and Literature.