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(ē`səp, ē`sŏp), legendary Greek fabulist. According to Herodotus, he was a slave who lived in Samos in the 6th cent. B.C. and eventually was freed by his master. Other accounts associate him with many wild adventures and connect him with such rulers as Solon and Croesus. The fables called Aesop's fables were preserved principally through BabriusBabrius
, fl. 2d cent.?, Greek fabulist, versifier of the fables of Aesop. Many of the medieval prose collections of Aesop were based on Babrius. He may have been a Hellenized Roman.
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, PhaedrusPhaedrus
, fl. 1st cent. A.D., Latin writer, a Thracian slave, possibly a freedman of Augustus. He wrote fables in verse based largely on those of Aesop. The prose collections of fables that were popular throughout Western Europe in the Middle Ages were probably derived from Phaedrus.
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, Planudes MaximusPlanudes Maximus
or Maximus Planudes,
c.1260–c.1330, Byzantine scholar, an exceptionally learned monk. His edition of the Greek Anthology was long the standard. His prose collection of Aesop's Fables is outstanding.
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, and La FontaineLa Fontaine, Jean de
, 1621–95, French poet, whose celebrated fables place him among the masters of world literature. He was born at Château-Thierry to a bourgeois family. A restless dilettante as a youth, he settled at last in Paris.
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's verse translations. The most famous of these fables include "The Fox and the Grapes" and "The Tortoise and the Hare." See fablefable,
brief allegorical narrative, in verse or prose, illustrating a moral thesis or satirizing human beings. The characters of a fable are usually animals who talk and act like people while retaining their animal traits.
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Greek author of fables in the sixth century B.C. According to legend, Aesop was a Phrygian freedman who was employed at the court of the Lydian king Croesus and died a violent death in Delphi. Biographical information on Aesop is drawn from legend.

Aesop has been credited with supplying the themes of most of the fables known in antiquity. Short written versions of these fables were collected in the fourth and third centuries B.C.; more than 300 fables with short “morals” appear in many later manuscripts ranging in time from the tenth to the 15th century. Ideologically, Aesop’s fables are skeptical and pessimistic; their protagonists—mainly animals—are avowedly conventional figures, the narrative is concise and straightforward, and the language is simple and close to the colloquial. Aesop’s fables are the basic source of themes for the European literary fable from Phaedrus and Babrius to La Fontaine and I. A. Krylov.


Aesopica, vol. 1. Edited by B. E. Perry. Urbana, 1952.
In Russian translation:
Basni Esopa. Moscow, 1968.


Gasparov, M. L. Antichnye literaturnye basni, Moscow, 1971.
Nøjgaard, M. La Fable antique, vol. 1. Copenhagen, 1964.



semi-legendary fabulist of ancient Greece. [Gk. Lit.: Harvey, 10]


?620--564 bc, Greek author of fables in which animals are given human characters and used to satirize human failings


References in periodicals archive ?
Romulus was the source of all medieval knowledge of the Aesopic fables; he was turned back into verse by an unknown "Walter" in the twelfth century, and Walter's version was the basis for the Esopus Moralisatus of the thirteenth century, which added much extra moralisation, and proved the most popular of all the collections.
Equally, we should also note that Plutarch's variants do not possess a speech by the father elucidating the meaning behind the bundle allegory to the children and exhorting their cooperation, as is common to both Aesopic variants and Porphyrogenitus.
The Aesopic collection was part of a schoolboy's initiation into the masculine culture of classical Latin, and was taken as normative in both the linguistic and moral spheres.
Whereas this reviewer had concentrated on a few familiar favourites, often struggling with unrewarding configurations of fragmentary variants to find incomplete traces of Snow White or Red Riding Hood, Hansen has for the most part 'played safe' and stuck to the nearly incontrovertible on a much broader front, including the whole range of folk- and fairytale evidence, including 'Aesopic' materials and jokes and anecdotes.
Torres continues with excursions into Aesopic collections and, finally, demonstrates a variety of ways to explicate the point of the Homeric poems.
Renaissance Fables: Aesopic prose by Leon Battista Alberti, Bartolomeo Scala, Leonardo da Vinci, Bernardino Baldi.
Smirin, "Evgenii Onegin i 'Domik v Kolomne': Parodiia i samoparodiia u Pushkina," in Tynianovskii sbornik: Vtorye Tynianovskie chteniia (Riga: Znanie, 1986), 254-64; Michael Finke, "The Aesopic Meaning of Pushkin's 'Domik v Kolomne,'" Russian Literature Journal 43:144 (1989): 199-229, reprinted in Metapoesis: The Russian Tradition from Pushkin to Chekhov (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), 1995.
In the 'Vie d'Esope' we can detect a second type, the Aesopic reader, more in tune with the poet's endeavours.
Because so many elements of this Aesopic tradition had come to exist comfortably within European popular lore, pinpointing precisely which models contributed to Samaniego's efforts remains a daunting task, notwithstanding the famously misleading (and highly qualified) assertion that his fable-writing process essentially involved
In a way, it was easier to write before, when there was oppression to be fought and censorship to be evaded with the help of the subtle literary devices of Aesopic language that brought the written text to a level of great complexity and at times great depth.
Among the features of the text which he believes signal its radical orientation are the choice of a low, 'rusticall' diction, the use of Aesopic fables which can be understood by the `ignorant', the deployment of woodcut illustrations somewhat in the manner of almanacs and other widely distributed books, and the frequent allusions to the Plowman, figure who can function as a `spokesman for the common people.