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AESOPUS
Form: Gr.Aisopos.
The famous writer of fables, the first author who created an independent class of stories about animals, so that in a few generations his name and person had become typical of that entire class of literature. In course of time, thanks to his plain, popular manner, the story of his own life was enveloped in an almost inextricable tissue of tales and traditions, which represent him as an ugly hunchback and buffoon. In the Middle Ages these were woven into a kind of romance. A Phrygian by birth, and living in the time of the Seven Sages, about 600 B.C., he is said to have been at first a slave to several masters, till Iadmon of Samos set him free. That he next lived at the court of Croesus, and being sent by him on an embassy to Delphi, was murdered by the priests there, is pure fiction. Under his name were propagated in all parts of Greece, at first only by tradition in the mouth of the people, a multitude of prose tales teaching the lessons of life under the guise of fables about animals. We know how Socrates,during his last days in prison, was engaged in turning the fables of Aesop into verse, The first written collection appears to have been set on foot by Demetrius of Phalerum, B.C. 00. The collections of Aesop's Fables that have come down to us are, in part, late prose renderings of the version in choliambics by Babrius (q.v.), which still retain here and there a scrap of verse; partly products of the rhetorical schools, and therefore of very different periods and degrees of merit.
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