The greatest storyteller of Ancient Greece

aesopAesop was born by slave parents in 625 BC, in Amoria in Phrygia, he was a slave of the philosopher Ladmon , he lived in Samos, traveled to Egypt and the East and died in Delphi, where he had been sent from King Croesus to receive an oracle of the oracle in 560 BC. He was accused of sacrilege and sentenced to death by ecclesiastical judges. It fell from the top of Parnassus. The versions as to the reasons for his death are many and different.

According to one version, he was sent by Croesus with offerings of gifts to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, where, seeing the frauds of the priests there and their greed, he accused them in a sarcastic manner.

They, then, decided to kill him by treachery. So they took a golden flask from the sanctuary of the temple and hid it in his luggage. Then they accused him of being a thief and a heretic. So with the staged accusation they condemned him to death and killed him by throwing him over the cliff from the top of Parnassus, Yambeia. Immediately after his death, famine and misery fell upon the land.

According to another version, Aesop was a slave of a landowner who used him as a shepherd. One day, when he saw the overseer unfairly beating another slave, he ran to help him, so the overseer, in order to take revenge, accused him of the landowner, who took him to the market of Ephesus to sell him.

There, he was bought by the wise Xanthos from Samos, who appreciated his intelligent look and took him with him as a slave. With him she started traveling and getting to know the world. Xanthos then sold him to the Samian sage Iadmons. Appreciating his spiritual gifts and above all his wisdom and intelligence, he released him.

. Once, when some dared to mock him for his ugliness, they received the following answer: “Do not pay attention to a man’s appearance, but his mind.”

When he was young, he was sold as a slave to a landowner and later to a passing slave trader. He took him to Ephesus and brought him to the market to sell.

Xanthos, a Samian philosopher, passed by the market, and bought him, because he found him at a cheap price, and because from the conversation he had with him, he appeared to him to be an intelligent man. It is said that he then sold it to the Samian philosopher Iadmons as well.

In the house of Iadmon, Aesop told his fables to his master’s children to entertain them, and whenever he wished to advise or teach them he did not say directly what he wanted, but made up a fable.

However, Aesop did not remain a slave for long. He was “released” because he gave a correct interpretation to an omen. The Samians now had him with them and consulted him on all their difficult cases.
That Aesop was a real person is confirmed by Herodotus, who lived a few years in Samos and who, writing for some other person.

In the work of Herodotus Alcarnissios Histories, Logoi IX, Inscribed Musai accidentally also mentions Aesop. According to information derived from this testimony, Aesop was a contemporary of the poetess Sappho and the Seven Wise Men of ancient Greece.

When Aesop was at Samos, Croesus, king of Lydia, having made war, subdued almost the whole region of Phrygia and imposed taxes. He wanted to impose taxes on the Samians as well.

Aesop as an envoy of the Samians visited Croesus and there he spoke with so much wit and wisdom that he managed to get him not to ask for the taxes he demanded and to become their friend. Thus Samos was liberated.
After a while he returned to Samos, where he was received with great honor and gratitude.

From Samos he began his travels to various countries, studying the customs and traditions of various peoples and philosophizing.
The greatest storyteller of antiquity was Aesop, a slave who formulated in a satirical style fables that had a symbolic character.

Herodotus described him as a “reasoner”, while Plutarch described him as an ugly slave, who stammered and had crooked legs. However, he was insightful and created a series of allegories that are still popular with young children. Many versions have been put forward about his life.

The most popular states that he was born in 625 BC. in Amoria in Phrygia from a family of slaves and was engaged in cultivating the land and tending the animals on behalf of his master.

However, he did not remain long in the employ of his first master. He sold him in a slave market in Ephesus and was bought by Xanthos of Samos, a philosopher, who valued him and took him with him on his travels in the then known world.

Aesop had the opportunity to see animals such as lions, observe the animal kingdom, and write fables with central characters the lazy cicada, the industrious ant, the greedy dog, and the sly fox. His fables were short stories with animals that spoke and acted like people and concluded with a moral lesson.

The fables of Aesop

Protagonists in Aesop’s fables are, for the most part, certain animals, such as the fox, the wolf, the lion, the deer, etc. They are mainly dialogues between animals that speak and act like humans (the “vocal animals”), while there are also some with humans or gods.

These are small domestic narratives, formulated with great brevity. Their character is didactic, symbolic and allegorical. These Myths have a special grace, wonderful simplicity and unfathomable teaching.

They are taken from everyday life and nature. He had the unique ability to give animals human qualities, soul and speech, to such an extent that you believe that his fables were once reality and all that he narrates has happened. A key feature of his stories was the epimythium which was understandable for children and the people.

Aesop’s Fables (Aesopou’s Fables) were written in prose. As is well known, until then, only metered speech, poetry, was considered the only expressive genre for writers. Therefore, it can also be considered as a pioneer in its kind. Their ideology is the rejection of evil in its most representative forms: violence, fraud, arbitrariness, betrayal, vanity, arrogance, falsehood, greed, cunning.

The disapproval is attempted sometimes by reference to the Divine judgment, sometimes by persuasive suggestions, but more often by establishing the absurdity of evil, by ridiculing it as well as by the philosophical contemplation of life.

According to Herodotus, Aesop was a well-known “rhetoricist”[8]. Besides fables, he knew and told many jokes and anecdotes. Others argue that he did not create myths but collected them, completed them and perfected them.

They came either from the most ancient Greeks or from other peoples, such as the Phrygians. Of course, it is possible that he invented some of them himself. However, he used them a lot in his life, with such skill and success that his name was eventually associated with them.

It is said that he told these myths not only during his lifetime but also in order to support his innocence in court. In them, his broad, observant spirit and his ability to teach with small, simple stories, which always have a moral lesson at the end, can be distinguished.

Aesop used with his observation and deep wisdom to fashion such stories and tell them around him. In time he gained a great reputation and everyone ran to him to hear some of his fables about some of their problems. Little by little his myths began to be transmitted by word of mouth among the people, until the Hellenistic era when they were collected for the first time.

Edition of Aeop’s fables

A selection of Aesop’s fables in prose was published by Dimitrios Falireus at the end of the 4th century BC. This collection is not preserved and only poetic elaborations by Bavrius in Greek, Phaedrus in Latin and others, saved the material of that epitome. All extant collections are much later and date from the 1st or 2nd century onwards. His fables have been collected in “Collection of Aesopian Fables”.

They were first printed in Milan in 1479 AD, in Venice in 1525 and 1543 by the family of printers Damiano di Santa Maria followed by an edition in Paris in 1547.

Adamantios Korais printed them in 1810 in Paris followed by a critical edition in 1852 in Leipzig from Halm. Since then many editions have appeared and the Myths are believed to have been read worldwide almost as much as the Bible.

Their most recent edition was by the British publishing house Penguin (1997) in 50,000 copies. Their translation into the modern Greek language was made by Andronikos Noukios and Georgios Aitolos, who lived in the 16th century.

The Assassination of Aesop

At some point Aesop arrived at Delphi and met the priests of the oracle, whom he did not value and considered to be deceiving the faithful. In fact, he accused them of being greedy and using the tools to make money.

The priests reacted to the accusation and claimed that he had stolen a holy cup and sentenced him to death and threw him off a cliff of Parnassus.

Despite the fact that he was a slave, the Athenians appreciated his work and built Hadrian in his honor. Although Aesop did not write the fables, but told them orally, most survived by word of mouth.

Demetrius Falireus was the first to publish some myths in the 4th century BC. During the Middle Ages, other collections were released, which became popular and made Aesop known in all countries of the world.