DescriptionAbout the Author
By tradition, a slave, contemporary of Croesus and Peisistratus in the mid-sixth century BCE in ancient Greece. He is known only for the genre of fables ascribed to him. He was by tradition extremely ugly and deformed, which is the sole basis for making a grotesque marble figure in the Villa Albani, Rome, a "portrait of Aesop".
Sources of Aesop's life date from long after his death, and most biographical material about him is almost certainly mythical. His name was associated with a huge number of fables, most of which probably were composed not by the historical figure of Aesop but by later authors.
The earliest Greek sources (including Aristotle) indicate that Aesop was born in Thrace at a site on the Black Sea coast which would later become the city Mesambria; a number of later writers from the Roman imperial period (including Phaedrus, who adapted the fables into Latin), say that he was born in Phrygia.The 3rd-century B.C. poet Callimachus called him "Aesop of Sardis,"and the later writer Maximus of Tyre called him "the sage of Lydia".
Aristotle is also the earliest source (following Herodotus) for the information that Aesop was a slave in Samos and that his masters were first a man named Xanthus and then a man named Iadmon; that he must eventually have been freed, because he argued as an advocate for a wealthy Samian; and that he met his end in the city of Delphi.Plutarch tells us that Aesop had come to Delphi on a diplomatic mission from King Croesus of Lydia, that he insulted the Delphians, was sentenced to death on a trumped-up charge of temple theft, and was thrown from a cliff; the Delphians subsequently suffered pestilence and famine. Before this fatal episode, Aesop also met with Periander of Corinth, where Plutarch has him dining with the Seven Sages of Greece, sitting beside his friend Solon, whom he had met in Sardis.
Problems of chronological reconciliation dating the death of Aesop and the reign of Croesus led the great Aesop scholar Ben Edwin Perry in 1965 to conclude that "everything in the ancient testimony about Aesop that pertains to his associations with either Croesus or with any of the so-called Seven Wise Men of Greece must be reckoned as literary fiction," and Perry likewise dismissed Aesop's death in Delphi as legendary; but subsequent research has established that a possible diplomatic mission for Croesus and a visit to Periander "are consistent with the year of Aesop's death."Still problematic is the story by Phaedrus which has Aesop in Athens, telling the fable of the frogs who asked for a king, during the reign of Peisistratos, which occurred decades after the presumed date of Aesop's death.
1. Aesop's Fables / translated by G. F. Townsend
Includes a Life of Aesop
2. The Fables of Aesop / translated by Joseph Jacobs
Includes a short history of the Aesopic Fable