[Ads-l] Adage: An army of stags led by a lion is more formidable than an army of lions led by a stag. Attributed to Plutarch

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 22 12:15:35 EST 2021


Back in October 2020 Jonathan Lighter (off list) suggested that I
investigate the expression "An army of donkeys led by a lion is better
than an army of lions led by a donkey". I found similar expressions
based on a diverse menagerie.

"The Macmillan Book Of Proverbs" credits Plutarch with an instance.
Also, the adage appears in a 1655 translation of commentaries from
Julius Caesar. In addition, a 1658 citation containing the adage is
titled "Ovid's Invective or curse against Ibis".

What are the best books (or websites) for verifying ascriptions to
Plutarch? Ovid? Julius Caesar?

Here is an overview with dates.

1655: There is greater hope of a herd of Harts led by a Lion, then of
so many Lions conducted by a Hart

1658: An army of valiant Lions led by a cowardly Hart, is not so
prevalent as an army of Harts led by a Lion

1736: An Army of Sheep, headed by a Lyon, is more to be apprehended,
than an Army of Lyons headed by a Sheep

1741: Better to have a Lyon at the Head of an Army of Sheep, than a
Sheep at the Head of an Army of Lyons

1803: An army of stags is more to be feared under the command of a
lion, than an army of lions led by a stag

1823: An army of deer commanded by a lion is better than an army of
lions commanded by a deer

1835: An army of sheep commanded by a lion, is more formidable than an
army of lions commanded by a sheep

1855: An army of lions led on by donkeys

1864: An army of asses led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of
lions led by an ass

Citation details are omitted for brevity.

Garson O'Toole

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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