Phaemon’s Dog

Phaemon the philosopher had a little dog whom he had trained to go to the butcher every bring back a lump of meat in a basket. This virtuous creature, who would never dare to touch a scrap until Phaemon gave it permission, was one day set upon by a pack of mongrels who snatched the basket from its mouth and began to tear the meat to pieces and bolt it greedily down. Phaemon, watching from an upper window, saw the dog deliberate for a moment just what to do. It was clearly no use trying to rescue the meat from the other dogs: they wouild kill it for its pains. So it rushed in among them and itself ate as much of the meat as it could get hold of. In fact it ate more than any of the other dogs, because it was both braver and cleverer.

from Claudius the God, by Robert Graves, 1935

Such is the cruel fate of the virtuous when faced with suffuse and irradicable corruption.

One Response to “Phaemon’s Dog”

  1. Di Says:

    Hello Michel I read this story in Robert Graves’ book and interpreted it that once the game was up for a loyal supporter s/he might just as well indulge in the spoils himself rather than let the “enemy” have them. This seemed to me to be an exercise in logical thinking. You refer to it as “cruel fate” and not survival. Why is this?

    For me the important fact about the story is that the dog’s master witnessed what had happened and therefore (presumably) did not feel anger towards his loyal friend for letting him down on this one occasion.

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