Form and Content
Several hundred fables have been associated with the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop. It is difficult to determine with certainty the number of fables composed by him (the estimate stands at about 231), because little is known of the legendary fabulist himself. The fifth century b.c.e. historian Herodotus writes that Aesop was a slave who belonged to Iadmon, a man who lived on the Greek island of Samos. Impressed by Aesop’s stories, Iadmon apparently freed him. Herodotus also notes that Aesop lived during the reign of the Egyptian pharoah Amasis; that is, during the mid-sixth century b.c.e. Tradition holds that Aesop was murdered at the Greek city of Delphi in a dispute with the inhabitants. Still later, colorful tales were added about his life; most notable was the rumor that he was disfigured, ugly, and mute.
The absence of an established text presents another difficulty in determining which fables were originally composed by Aesop. It is not likely that he wrote down his stories himself. The task of recording the fables was undertaken by later writers, notably the first century c.e. Latin writer Phaedrus and the second century c.e. Greek writer Babrius. This act of preservation provided ample opportunity to add new stories, a practice that continued throughout the centuries and that further increased the difficulty of identifying...
(The entire section is 483 words.)