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A number of the fables credited to Aesop seem to have been created to illustrate already existing proverbs. The tale of Herakles and the Cowherd, first recorded by Babrius towards the end of the 1st century CE, is one of these. The rustic’s cart falls into a ravine and he calls on the deified strongman for help, only to be advised by a voice from Heaven to put his own shoulder to the wheel first. In a variant recorded by the near contemporary Zenobius an ass founders in the mud, while in the later Latin of Avianus it is a cart drawn by oxen that gets stuck there. The fable appears number 291 in the Perry Index. Another fable of the same tendency is numbered 30 in that index. It tells of a man who is shipwrecked and calls on the goddess Athena for help; he is advised by another to try swimming (‘moving his arms’) as well.

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