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Aesop

(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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Aesop

 

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.

PUBLICATION

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

REFERENCES

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

M. L. GASPAROV

Aesop

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

Aesop

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

AESOP

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