Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Aesop

Aesop
Born: c. 620 b.c.e.; Possibly Thrace, Greece
Died: c. 560 b.c.e.; Possibly Delphi, Greece

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

Although some scholars claim that he is purely a legendary figure, the following assertions are most often accepted as historically true in the ancient sources pertaining to Aesop (EE-sawp): He originally came from Thrace; he was for a time a slave on the Greek island of Samos, off the coast of Asia Minor, in the service of a man named Iadmon, who later freed him; he was a contemporary of the poet Sappho in the early sixth century b.c.e.; and he was famed as a maker and teller of prose stories.

Later documents add details, of varying degrees of credibility, to Aesop’s biography. For example, The Life of Aesop, apparently written by a Greek-speaking Egyptian in the first century c.e., states that he was very ugly, worthless as a servant, potbellied, misshapen of head, snub-nosed, swarthy, dwarfish, bandy-legged, short-armed, squint-eyed, and liver-lipped. The sources for this late biography may go back as far as the fifth century b.c.e., although that does not guarantee its authenticity. Indeed, its cumulative details relating to Aesop’s life are typically as fanciful and entertaining as the fables attributed to him.

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