(Sanskrit: "The Book of Five")
Indian collection of animal fables, written by an anonymous author some time before 200. The original core text, consisting of the five chapters for which the book is named, has been lost. Several Sanskrit versions exist, the oldest presumed to date from the first or second century.
The Pancatantra is the most widely distributed work of Indian literature. Via a Pahlavi and an Arabic version1, the fables of the Pancatantra reached Europe in the 11th century in a Greek translation. It was, however, a Hebrew edition, translated to Latin in the 13th century, that was to form the basis for most Occidental translations.
The Pancatantra represents itself as a speculum regis, a manual of kingship, supposedly written by a Brahmin named Vishnusharman, set the difficult task of teaching three naïve princes how to be good kings.
1 See Kalila wa Dimna.