Judging others before yourself…

Prometheus was a god, but of the first dynasty. He it was, they say, that fashioned man from earth, to be the master of the beasts.

On man he hung, the story goes, two wallets filled with the faults of human kind; the one in front contained the faults of other men, the one behind the bearer’s own, and this was the larger wallet. That’s why, it seems to me, men see the failings of each other very clearly, while unaware of those which are their own.

BABRIUS, 66, Loeb Classical Library, Aesop’s Fables, The Two Wallets


Now in the original Ancient Greek,

Θεῶν Προμηθεὺς ἦν τις, ἀλλὰ τῶν πρώτων. τοῦτον πλάσασθαί φασι δεσπότην ζῴων ἄνθρωπον ἐκ γῆς·

ἐκ δὲ τοῦ δύω πήρας κρεμάσαι φέροντά φασι τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποις κακῶν γεμούσας, τὴν πρόσω μὲν ὀθνείων, ἰδίων δὲ <τὴν> ὄπισθεν, ἥτις ἣτις ἦν μείζων.διό μοι δοκοῦσι συμφορὰς μὲν ἀλλήλων βλέπειν ἀκριβῶς, ἀγνοεῖν δὲ τὰς οἴκοι.

Now in a simpler version:

ἀνθρώπων ἓκαστος δύο πήρας φέρει. μίαν πρόσθεν, δευτέρην δὲ ὄπισθεν.

πῆραι δὲ γέμουσι κακῶν. άλλ᾽ ἣ μὲν πρόσθεν ἐστίν, ἑτέρων κακὰ ἔχει. ἣ δὲ ὀπισθεν,

αὐτοῦ φέροντος ἔχει κακά, δὲ τόδε οὖν ἄνθωποι σθέων αὐτῶν μὲν κακὰ οὐχ ὁρῶσι,

ἑτέρων δὲ μάλα ῥηιδίος γιγνώσκουσιν.

Does it have more meaning to you because it seems so ancient after reading it in the Greek? Because it is ancient, over 2600 years old possibly, should we heed its words although it has Christian overtones? Do you see how later times have influenced our thoughts of words? This work predates Christianity. It has NOTHING to do with it, yet I presume that it feels that way when you read it.

This is how our own judgments even affect our readings.  That is why reading it in the Greek may be better because it places it in its appropriate context and, I argue, time. It still contains references to a god, Prometheus, but we read it differently based on our judgements about religion.  I argue that is has even more meaning because it predates all religions.


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