Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The fables attributed to Aesop were actually composed over the course of many centuries. Aesop is a semilegendary figure, about whom various stories have been told. All that can be known with any certainty about Aesop is that he was a Phrygian slave who was later freed by his Greek master because of the wit and charm of his stories. All other details about Aesop’s life appear to have been invented after his death. For example, it is said that Aesop served under two masters, Xanthus and Iadmon, on the island of Samos. After being freed by Iadmon, Aesop is reported to have traveled as far as the Lydian city of Sardis, where he became a favorite of King Croesus (c. 600-546 b.c.e.). Another legend reports that the citizens of Delphi were outraged by Aesop’s description of them as mere parasites, living off the wealth of others. To punish Aesop for this insult, the Delphians are said to have hidden a golden bowl among his possessions just before he left the city. When the bowl was discovered, Aesop was convicted of theft and executed by being thrown from a cliff. None of these incidents is likely to have occurred. While the historian Herodotus (c. 484-c. 425 b.c.e.) does describe Iadmon as Aesop’s master and says that the former slave was murdered by the Delphians, it must be remembered that Herodotus is not always reliable. In the fourth century b.c.e., the comic poet Alexis...
(The entire section is 1628 words.)
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