Graz Repository of ancient Fables (GRaF)

Fabula docet - Who wants sour grapes?

Who does not know the ‚sour grapes‘? Not only the fable of the fox, who cannot reach the grapes and then calls them sour and therefore unattractive, is well known; fables are generally widely known. But where do they come from? What was their function in antiquity? How are we using them today? Can they be transferred to the present?

The project introduced pupils of Latin and Ancient Greek to literary and cultural studies. Fables are suitable, as the texts are short and relatively easy to translate. In addition, they prompt the reader to interpret them because of their rich imagery. Furthermore, the contextualisation concerning production and reception can be especially well recognized because, in antiquity, fables were used first as means of argumentation, as pictures illustrating a fact. However, when fables are presented in collections or as single poems or prose texts the recipients do not have a context. Together with the pupils we showed, how we can read texts on the one hand asking the completely legitimate question “What is this telling me today?” On the other hand, as researchers, we had to ask what the text, which often has to be painstakingly reconstructed, might have told the recipients in antiquity.

From a scholarly point of view, the project was fascinating. Ancient fables, particularly Phaedrus, Avian and Babrius, had been treated quite rarely. Only in newer studies, the texts are perceived as sophisticated art, taking their own part in the literary discourse of their time. In this project, fables from Phaedrus, Avian and Babrius were annotated and edited in a digital edition with critical apparatus. The work with the schools was based on this scholarly foundation as the students supervised the projects at the schools, the scholars supported the students and the teachers were all be up to date with the latest research. Thus, the pupils not only got to know ongoing research first hand, but were included directly by working together on a digital school edition on a web portal (GRaF). This edition, the centrepiece of the project, contains a selection of fables (Phaedrus, Avian, Babrius, Aesop) including a critical apparatus, which was designed with vocabulary, translation, explanations and parallels regarding the interest of the learning. Materials for learning methods and educational design were added also. Furthermore, the inclusion of pupils served for empirical research in teaching methodology. As a school from Brandenburg participates, comparative studies provided insights in varying education systems and not least in social structures.

The project had its particular charm as historical communication was emphazised for creative presentation. The pupils got the opportunity to examine the studied texts with regard to the transferability of their meaning and to transform them creatively. They presented their ideas on a pupil’s congress, where they got acquainted with this form of scholarly communication.

This project has been completed.