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Proverbia de Asinis in Fabulis

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These proverbs are all about the Donkey (Asinus) in some story, and you pretty much have to know the story in order to understand the proverb, so you will find some information about the stories included in the notes below.

For more information about the donkey in Latin bestiaries, visit the Asinus in the Zoo. If you find some of the proverbs below difficult to understand, you will find some English translations at the Zoo page, along with many other proverbs! To find stories about donkeys in Aesop's fables in Latin, visit the Content Index section of

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Alia agaso,
alia asinus illius

alia: neuter plural accusative

Note: This proverb is based on a story about a man who said he was carrying a load of barley, not honey, in order to avoid paying taxes, but when the donkey slipped and spilled the load, the tax officials saw that the donkey-driver had lied.

portans mysteria.
Note: This refers to the Aesopic fable about the donkey who is fooled by the crowds bowing down to the image of the divinity he bears on his back.
leonis intectus pelle.

leonis...pelle: split phrase

Note: This refers to the famous Aesopic fable of the donkey in the lion's skin.

Asinus fugitivus
apud Cumanos
pro leone.
Note: This alludes to the Aesopic fable about the donkey in the lion's skin, but which takes place at Cumae - a place where people reportedly had never seen a donkey before, so they were more easily fooled.
Ocnus funiculum torquet,
et asella abrodit.
Note: This story alludes to the punishment of Ocnus in the underworld, who continually twists a rope which a donkey devours (a punishment Ocnus earned in his lifetime by being a hard-working man who let his wife waste all his profits).
De asini prospectu
litem moves.
Note: This proverb refers to an anecdote about a donkey who poked his head into a merchant's shop and broke the pots that stood in the window, so the shop owner sued the donkey-driver for "the donkey peeping in."
De asini umbra
Note: This proverb refers to an anecdote about two men who went to court over "the shadow of the donkey," disputing about whether a man who rented a donkey had also rented the use of the donkey's shadow as shade from the sun.
Auriculas asini
Mida rex habet.

Mida = "Midas"

Note: A story about Midas and his donkey ears was made famous by the poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses, Book 11.

Asini mortes. Note: This proverb refers to a long, drawn-out story about the endless suffering and privations of a donkey, and hence to any long, drawn-out story in general, such as the adventures of the man metamorphosed into a donkey in Apuleius's book, The Metamorphoses.
Male parentem
in rupes protrusit

parentem...asellum: split phrase

Note: This refers to the story about a donkey who would not obey his master's commands, so the man let the donkey plunge off the cliff to teach him a lesson.


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are copyrighted by Laura Gibbs, 2007. No copyright is claimed for any images.