Aesop: Aesop's Fables


1 A History of the Literature of Ancient Greece, by K. O. Mueller. Vol. i, p. l9l. London, Parker, 1858.

2 Select Fables of Aesop, and other Fabulists. In three books, translated by Robert Dodsley, accompanied with a selection of notes, and an Essay on Fable. Birmingham, 1864. P. 60.

3 Some of these fables had, no doubt, in the first instance, a primary and private interpretation. On the first occasion of their being composed they were intended to refer to some passing event, or to some individual acts of wrong-doing. Thus, the fables of the "Eagle and the Fox" and of the "Fox and Monkey' are supposed to have been written by Archilochus, to avenge the injuries done him by Lycambes. So also the fables of the "Swollen Fox" and of the "Frogs asking a King" were spoken by Aesop for the immediate purpose of reconciling the inhabitants of Samos and Athens to their respective rulers, Periander and Pisistratus; while the fable of the "Horse and Stag" was composed to caution the inhabitants of Himera against granting a bodyguard to Phalaris. In a similar manner, the fable from Phaedrus, the "Marriage of the Sun," is supposed to have reference to the contemplated union of Livia, the daughter of Drusus, with Sejanus the favourite, and minister of Trajan. These fables, however, though thus originating in special events, and designed at first to meet special circumstances, are so admirably constructed as to be fraught with lessons of general utility, and of universal application.

4 Hesiod. Opera et Dies, verse 202.

5 Aeschylus. Fragment of the Myrmidons. Aeschylus speaks of this fable as existing before his day. See Scholiast on the Aves of Aristophanes, line 808.

6 Fragment. 38, ed. Gaisford. See also Mueller's History of the Literature of Ancient Greece, vol. i. pp. 190-193.

7 M. Bayle has well put this in his account of Aesop. "Il n'y a point d'apparence que les fables qui portent aujourd'hui son nom soient les memes qu'il avait faites; elles viennent bien de lui pour la plupart, quant a la matiere et la pensee; mais les paroles sont d'un autre." And again, "C'est donc a Hesiode, que j'aimerais mieux attribuer la gloire de l'invention; mais sans doute il laissa la chose tres imparfaite. Esope la perfectionne si heureusement, qu'on l'a regarde comme le vrai pere de cette sorte de production." M. Bayle. Dictionnaire Historique.

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