Sunday, August 4, 2013

Aesop's Fables, by Aesop

Barnes & Noble

Aesop (c620-560 BC), known only for the genre of fables ascribed to him, was by tradition a slave who was a contemporary of Croesus and Peisistratus in the mid-sixth century BC in ancient Greece. 

The various collections that go under the rubric Aesop's Fables are still taught as moral lessons and used as subjects for various entertainments, especially children's plays and cartoons. Most of what are known as Aesopic fables is a compilation of tales from various sources, many of which originated with authors who lived long before Aesop.  Aesop himself is said to have composed many fables, which were passed down by oral tradition.

Socrates was thought to have spent his time turning Aesop's fables into verse while he was in prison. Demetrius Phalereus, another Greek philosopher, made the first collection of these fables around 300 BC. This was later translated into Latin by Phaedrus, a slave himself, around 25 BC. The fables from these two collections were soon brought together and were eventually re-translated into Greek by Babrius around A. D. 230. 

Many additional fables were included, and the collection was in turn translated to Arabic and Hebrew, further enriched by additional fables from these cultures.

Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
Sour grapes. 
Honesty is the best policy.
Necessity is the mother of invention.

This is the first time I read more than one fable in a row.  A few items of note:
  1. The stories themselves are really short.  Some are only a few lines long.  I thought they were much longer.
  2. Aesop loved to write about wolves, sheep, foxes, horses, and other animals.  Whenever he spoke of cocks and asses*, I giggled like a child. 
  3. The Librivox narrator did a fantastic job.  I can't imagine reading more than 300 fables--some of which are strikingly similar--hour after hour after hour.
  4. It's pretty amazing how these lessons have stood the test of time.  Over 2,500 years later, they still ring true and are used all.the.time.  I can't imagine the quotes that will be used from our era in 2,500 years.  Too legit to quit?  I am not a crook?  I did not have sex with that woman?  

* Roosters and donkeys, people.  Get your minds out of the gutter.

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