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Scattered details of Aesop's life can be found in ancient sources, including Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch. An ancient literary work called The Aesop Romance tells an episodic, probably highly fictional version of his life, including the traditional description of him as a strikingly ugly slave (δοῦλος) who by his cleverness acquires freedom and becomes an adviser to kings and city-states. Older spellings of his name have included Esop(e) and Isope. Depictions of Aesop in popular culture over the last 2500 years have included several works of art and his appearance as a character in numerous books, films, plays, and television programs.
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Aesop’s Fables is a collection of stories attributed to Aesop (c. 620-560 BCE), thought to have been a slave in ancient Greece. Aesop’s fables are generally short, feature animals talking and acting like humans, and are instructive, typically ending with a moral lesson.
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Aesop was probably a prisoner of war, sold into slavery in the early sixth century BCE, who represented his masters in court and negotiations and relied on animal stories to put across his key points. Such fables vividly reveal the strange superstitions of ordinary ancient Greeks, how they treated their pets, how they spoilt their sons and even what they kept in their larders. As these stories became well-known, 'Aesopic' one-liners were widely quoted at drinking-parties, and the collection eventually came to include more satirical tales of alien creatures - apes, camels, lions and elephants - which presumably originate in Libya and Egypt.
In a series of pithy, amusing vignettes, Aesop created a vivid cast of characters to demonstrate different aspects of human nature. Here we see a wily fox outwitted by a quick-thinking cicada, a tortoise triumphing over a self-confident hare and a fable-teller named Aesop silencing those who mock him. Each jewel-like fable provides a warning about the consequences of wrong-doing, as well as offering a glimpse into the everyday lives of Ancient Greeks.
Of diverse origins, the stories associated with Aesop's name have descended to modern times through a number of sources and include such favorites as The Fox and the Grapes, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Farmer and the Stork, The North Wind and the Sun, The Ant and the Grasshopper and hundreds more.
This new digital edition of The Complete Aesop’s Fables includes an image gallery.