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Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.

Aesop (or Æsop, from Greek Αἴσωπος Aisopos) (c. 620 BC – c. 560 BC) was an ancient Greek fabulist of possibly African descent (his Greek name means Ethiopian or black man in today's parlance), by tradition a slave who credited the African goddess Isis for his gift. Aesop's Fables are still taught as moral lessons and used as subjects for various entertainments, especially children's plays and cartoons.


  • Any excuse will serve a tyrant.
    • The Wolf and the Lamb.
  • Appearances often are deceiving.
    • The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.
  • Be content with your lot; one cannot be first in everything.
    • Juno and the Peacock.
  • Better be wise by the misfortunes of others than by your own.
    • The Lion, The Ass, And The Fox Hunting.
  • Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.
    • The Dog and the Shadow.
  • Beware the wolf in sheep's clothing.
    • The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.
  • Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.
    • The Milkmaid and Her Pail.
  • Don't cry over spilt milk.
    • The Milkmaid and Her Pail.
  • Enemies' promises were made to be broken.
  • Familiarity breeds contempt.
    • The Fox and the Lion.
    • Variant: Acquaintance softens prejudices.
  • I am sure the grapes are sour.
    • The Fox and the Grapes.
  • I will have nought to do with a man who can blow hot and cold with the same breath.
    • The Man and the Satyr.
  • In critical moments even the very powerful have need of the weakest.
    • The Lion and the Mouse.
  • It is easy to be brave from a safe distance.
    • The Wolf and the Kid.
  • It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.
    • The Ant and the Grasshopper.
  • It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.
    • The Jay and the Peacock.
  • Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties.
    • The Fox and the Goat.
  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
    • The Lion and the Mouse.
  • People often grudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves.
    • The Dog in the Manger.
  • Persuasion is often more effectual than force.
    • The Wind and the Sun.
  • Put your shoulder to the wheel.
    • Hercules and the Wagoner.
  • Self-conceit may lead to self-destruction.
    • The Frog and the Ox.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
    • The Hare and the Tortoise.
  • The boy cried "Wolf, wolf!" and the villagers came out to help him.
    • The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf.
  • The fly sat upon the axel-tree of the chariot-wheel and said, 'What a dust do I raise!'
    • The Fly on the Wheel.
  • The gods help them that help themselves.
    • Hercules and the Wagoner.
  • The shaft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagle's own plumes. We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction.
    • The Eagle and the Arrow.
  • Thinking to get at once all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find nothing.
    • The Goose with the Golden Eggs.
  • Union gives strength.
    • The Bundle of Sticks.
  • We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.
    • The Old Man and Death.
  • While I see many hoof marks going in, I see none coming out. It is easier to get into the enemy's toils than out again.
    • The Lion, the Fox, and the Beasts.


  • We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
    • The first known appearance of this "quote" attributed to Aesop, is in the 1965 edition of the book 10,000 Jokes, Toasts & Stories by Lewis and Faye Copeland. No story of fable is known for which it could be the moral or lesson.
    • There is a similar saying on theft by Cato.

Quotes about Aesop[edit]

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