J. Wight Duff (essay date 1927)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Phaedrus and Fable: Poetry of the Time," in A Literary History of Rome: In the Silver Age, edited by A. M. Duff, Ernest Benn Limited, 1964, pp. 107-27.

[In the following essay, first published in 1927, Duff discusses what is known of Phaedrus's life, reviews the critical consensus on his work, and locates his work in the tradition that spans from Aesop to the medieval French interest in fables.]

Phaedrus: The Fabulist of Rome

Phaedrus, the fabulist of Roman literature, was an alien slave of Thracian, or, to use his own adjective, 'Pierian' origin. The lines1 in which he laid claim to birth 'almost in the very school of the...

(The entire section is 7460 words.)

Ben Edwin Perry (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Babrius and Phaedrus, Harvard University Press, 1965, pp. lxxiii-xlvii.

[In the essay that follows, Perry surveys the autobiographical information gleaned from Phaedrus's poetry, as well as major stylistic issues of the fables, particularly the innovations Phaedrus contributed to the Aesopic tradition.]

According to the testimony of the principal manuscript P, in which his fables have come down to us, Phaedrus was a freedman of the emperor Augustus.1 Everything else that can be known or surmised about his life and personality must be inferred from what he himself, a very self-conscious author, tells us in his own book, whether...

(The entire section is 7598 words.)

John Henderson (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Homing Instinct: A Folklore Theme in Phaedrus," in Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, Vol. 23, 1977, pp. 17-31.

[In the following essay, Henderson examines the possible historical conduits by which Phaedrus's literary work might have been dispersed, and suggests that the parallelism of Phaedrus's narratives and modern "analogues " may be based in archetypal structures.]

This paper examines a diffusionist view shared by several classical scholars and folklorists. The 'popular theme' cast into Latin senarii by the fabulist Phaedrus in the early 1st century A.D. which appears in modern editions has, it is as 'Appendix been Perottina' 16...

(The entire section is 6625 words.)

T. C. W. Stinton (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Phaedrus and Folklore: an Old Problem Restated," in Classical Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 2, 1979, pp. 432-35.

[In the essay that follows, Stinton argues that the similarities between Phaedrus's poetry and more modern fables are likely to have resulted from the diffusion of classical culture into Europe.]

I. Mythos

There was once a man in a certain village in the mountains, who made his living by making up stories, which he used to tell to the people of his village to while away their evenings.1 One day he went on a journey to a strange village far away in the plains, and there he saw a group of men sitting round another...

(The entire section is 2293 words.)

F. R. D. Goodyear (essay date 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Phaedrus," in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, edited by E. J. Kenney, Cambridge University Press, 1982, pp. 624-26.

[In the essay that follows, Goodyear highlights Phaedrus's choice of style and attempts to explain his stature as an obscure poet.]

Phaedrus holds no exalted rank amongst Latin poets, but he claims serious attention by his choice of subject matter and his individualistic treatment of it. He was, as far as we know, the first poet, Greek or Roman, to put together a collection of fables and present them as literature in their own right, not merely as material on which others might draw. And on this collection he firmly imprinted his...

(The entire section is 1373 words.)

H. MacL. Currie (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Phaedrus the Fabulist," in Aufstig undNiedergang der Romischen Welt, Vol. 32, No. 1, 1985, pp. 497-513.

[In the following essay, Currie examines the literary tone and worldview of Phaedrus and emphasizes the influence of classical Greek literature in his poetry]

I. Introduction

Under the name of Phaedrus there have descended to us five books of little stories in verse which the author seems to have called fabellae Aesopiae ("anecdotes in the manner of Aesop").1 This œuvre is not complete as it stands. The length of the books is disproportionate, the total of ninety-three fables being distributed thus over the...

(The entire section is 8081 words.)

David Lee Rubin (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "La Fontaine and Phaedrus: A Relation Reargued," in French Studies: In Honor of Philip A. Wadsworth, edited by Donald W. Tappan and William A. Mould, Summa Publications, Inc., 1985, pp. 19-26.

[In the essay that follows, Rubin compares the degrees of subtlety and ambiguity in the fables of Phaedrus and the seventeenth-century French writer de La Fontaine, who used Phaedrus as a source.]

Off-hand, it would be difficult to think of a subject less immediately promising than this one.1 We already know—or think we know—how La Fontaine adapted his sources. He revealed it himself in the preface to the 1668 edition of the Fables, and generations...

(The entire section is 3864 words.)

P. F. Widdows (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Fables of Phaedrus, translated by P. F. Widdows, University of Texas Press, 1992, pp. 11-23.

[In the following essay, Widdows reviews the fabulist tradition beginning with the "semilegendary" Aesop and discusses the complex issues involved in translating Phaedrus's poetry.]

Life and Works

Almost all our information about Phaedrus, the Roman fabulist of the period of Augustus and Tiberius, is derived from his work itself, some of it directly, some of it by deduction. Outside that there is only one contribution, but it is an important one. It comes from the only surviving manuscript of Phaedrus, the Codex...

(The entire section is 4307 words.)

Anne G. Becher (essay date 1996)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Un de 'ces grands hommes'—Phaedrus, a Precursor of La Fontaine," in Papers on French Seventeenth Century, Vol. XXIII, No. 44, 1996, pp. 115-22.

[In the following excerpt, Becher analyzes Phaedrus's influence on de La Fontaine, a seventeenth-century French fabulist who particularly admired Phaedrus's ironic criticisms of social injustice.]

La Fontaine numbers Phaedrus among the great men whose magnificent simplicity he so much admires. In the preface to the 1668 Fables he acknowledges that it is nearly impossible for him, writing in the French language, to imitate the elegance and extreme economy of Phaedrus' style, although he hopes to be able to...

(The entire section is 2816 words.)