Authors: Aesop

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Greek fable writer

Author Works

Short Fiction:

Aesopea, fourth century b.c.e. (Aesop’s Fables, 1484, expanded translation as The Complete Fables, 1998).

Biography

Although many Greek cities claim to be the birthplace of Aesop (EE-sahp), most scholars believe he never existed. In a marble figure on the Villa Albani, Paris, he is depicted as a dwarf, deformed and ugly, perhaps to symbolize his near approach to the so-called lower animals and his peculiar sympathy for their habits. Yet history contains a reference to a “noble statue” of him by Lysippus in Athens. Diego Velasquez’s painting presents him as a sturdy figure in a brown cloak.{$I[AN]9810000277}{$I[A]Aesop}{$I[geo]GREECE;Aesop}{$I[tim]0620 b.c.e.;Aesop}

Aesop

(Library of Congress)

Many fables, supposedly by Aesop, have been traced to earlier Indian or fourteenth century b.c.e. Egyptian versions. Somebody, however, wrote them down, and this may have been the legendary sixth century b.c.e. slave of Iadmon of Samos. Tradition tells of his travels to Lydia, to meet Solon at the court of Croesus, and to Periander in Corinth. While visiting Athens, to keep its citizens from deposing Pisistratus, legend has him recounting to them the fable of the frogs who asked for a king.

Phaedrus, a Macedonian freedman of Augustus, translated the fables in five volumes of Latin verse. Babrius versified them two centuries later, and Planudes Maximus, a learned thirteenth century Byzantine monk, compiled a collection in prose, prefaced by his account of Aesop’s life. Children and people of all ages and all ranges of sophistication have enjoyed the fables ever since. Jean de La Fontaine gave them their most polished and sophisticated form in his Fables (1668-1694).

Further Reading:Aesop. Aesop’s Fables. Translated by Laura Gibbs. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. This compilation of six hundred fables represents all the main collections in ancient Latin and Greek. Fables are arranged according to themes and story elements.Aesop. The Fables of Aesop: Selected, Told Anew, and Their History Traced by Joseph Jacobus. London: Macmillan, 1894. Reprint. New York: Macmillan, 1950. Skillful retellings of the fables with excellent illustrations and source notes.Babrius. Fabulae Aesopeae: English and Greek, Babrius and Phaedrus. Edited and translated by Ben Edwin Perry. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990. A scholarly edition of the Greek and Latin texts, together with facing prose translations.Daly, Lloyd W. Aesop Without Morals: The Famous Fables, and a Life of Aesop. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1961. This English translation of the Fables includes a translation of the first century c.e. Life of Aesop.Wheatley, Edward. Mastering Aesop: Medieval Education, Chaucer, and His Followers. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.Zafiropoulos, Christos A. Ethics in Aesop’s Fables: The Augustana Collection. Boston: Brill, 2001. Recounts the history of the fable and analyzes the theme of conflict in Aesop’s fables from the perspective of ethical philosophy in ancient Greece. Argues that the fable is a form of ethical reasoning.
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