The History of Aesops Fables
Facts & Biography of Aesop From Ancient Greece
The history of Aesops fables, is somewhat obscure. Although most of us grew up hearing many of these famous tales in one form or another, the life of the man who wrote them is vague.
Generally, Aesop's Fables (also called "Aesopian") refers to a collection of very short moral stories credited to an ancient Greek slave and storyteller by the name of Aesop (620–560 BC).
I'm sure many of you will recognize the tales of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, The Lion and The Mouse, and everyone's favorite -- The Hare and the Tortoise.
Since author's life and the history of Aesops fables is scant, I've taken and paraphrased some of the information found in the book: Aesop's Fables: A New Revised Version From Original Sources by Harrison Weir, John Tenniel, Ernest Griset, and Others (1884).
To begin, Aesop's original birthplace is unknown. In fact, many locations claim the distinction of being his rightful birthplace:
- Samos, a Greek island;
- Mesembria, an ancient colony in Thrace;
- Sardis, the capital of Lydia;
- and Cotiæum, the chief city of a province in Phrygia.
Although his actual place of birth can not be pinned down, scholars now generally accept certain facts about the birth, life and death of Aesop.
By almost universal consent, it is agreed that he was born about the year 620 B.C. and was most certainly born a slave. He was owned by two masters in succession, Xanthus and Jadmon, both inhabitants of Samos. It was Jadmon who granted Aesop his liberty as a reward for his learning and wit.
Once free, he traveled through many countries due to his desire to learn and teach. He eventually came to Sardis, the capital of Lydia. At court, he met the great king, Croesus. He also conversed with the philosophers Solon, Thales and other sages, which impressed the king greatly.
Through the direct invitation Crœsus, Aesop settled in Sardis. He was employed by the monarch in various difficult and delicate affairs of state, where his duties required that he visit the different petty republics of Greece. He often used his wise stories to help reconcile the arguments between the inhabitants of these different cities.
Unfortunately, the history of Aesops Fables doesn't have a happy ending for the author. On his last ambassadorial mission was to the city of Delphi. He was sent with a large sum of gold to distribute among the citizens. He was so provoked at their greediness that he refused to divide the money, and sent it back to his master. The Delphians, enraged at this treatment, accused him of impiety, and, in spite of his sacred character as ambassador, executed him as a public criminal.
This cruel death of Aesop did not go unavenged. The citizens of Delphi were visited with a series of calamities, until they made a public reparation of their crime; and "The blood of Aesop" became a well-known adage, bearing witness to the truth that deeds of wrong would not pass unpunished. Interestingly enough, many of the morals of Aesop's tales reflected on how wrong-doing can end in disaster. It was like he had the last word after all.
A statue was erected to his memory at Athens, the work of Lysippus, one of the most famous of Greek sculptors.
These few Aesop facts are all that can be relied on with any degree of certainty, in reference to the history of Aesops Fables. What we do know is that the influence of these moral tales has had a wide impact on how we live our lives. These stories been retold time and again due to their wonderful teaching of morals, especially for children.
Return to top of History of Aesop's Fables
Return to Aesops Fables