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Page last updated on: March 13th, 2021

Zeus and the Years of Life

A story about the circle of life
Author: Aesop

Zeus and the Years of Life When Zeus, the king of the gods, created the world and the animals that should live on the earth, he determined for each species the years it should live. To the sea turtles he gave a life of three hundred years; to others, like the raven, he gave two hundred years. The elephant was to get one hundred and fifty years, while the whale had five hundred years of life. To the butterflies Zeus gave three days of life.

Everything was new and life was just beginning, so none of the animals boasted or complained about the years they were granted.

After creating the animals, the time came for Zeus to create man. To man he would give something very special, something he had not given any of the animals. Zeus gave man the gift of logic.

"How many years will you give me to live?" the human wanted to know.

"Forty," was Zeus' answer.

The human thought that forty years was too few, considering that a crow, for example, lives for a hundred years. However, he preferred not to complain, fearing that Zeus would take back the forty years of life he had given him.

Man's life began in the spring when everything around him was beautiful, but the nights were cool and unlike the animals, he had thin skin and he was cold. So he decided to create a skin for himself. At first he gathered leaves and sewed and wore them. But soon the leaves withered and his clothes wore out. Finally, he tried using skins from wild animals.

One day he saw the birds building their nests, and he got the idea of building a nest too, but a covered one, not an uncovered one like the birds' nests. Being sensible, he built a house with a roof for protection, a door for coming and going, and windows for seeing what was outside without having to go out of the house.

Slowly, summer moved in. All the animals ran to find trees and lie in their shade. Fortunately, man had his house and did not need shade.

Time passed and winter came, along with rain and snow. All the animals shivered and snuggled together to keep each other warm. But man stayed indoors and felt no cold at all...until one bitterly cold evening, someone knocked on man's door...

"Who is it?" the man wanted to know.

ancient greek horse statue"It's me, the horse!" a voice answered. "Take me with you, man, for I am so cold ...and I will work and pay you back."
"If I do, will you give me ten years of your life?"
"Sure!" promised the horse.

And the man took the horse into his house.

an ox statueThe other night, the ox knocked on the door.
"Take me in and I will work for you!" begged the ox.
"Yes, I will, if you give me ten years of your life," the man demanded.
"With all my heart!" replied the ox.
So the man took the ox into his house and the ox worked for him.

ancient greek dog On the third night the dog came along and shivered. "Man, take me home with you and I will work," he said.
"You are no good for work," replied the man. "But I will take you with me to guard my house when I am gone, provided you give me ten years of your life".
"I will, I will!" cried the dog readily.
So the man took up the dog, and he faithfully guarded his house.

In this way the man gained another thirty years of life. As soon as he had completed his first forty years, he began to live the years of the horse and behaved proudly like a horse. This was followed by the ten years of the ox, during which the man also proved to be ponderous, narrow-minded, and obstinate. The last ten years of life, which were the years of the dog, he became sullen and resented the smallest things.

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