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A Roman poetical fabulist; by birth a Macedonian of the district of Pieria, he came early to Rome as a slave, and acquired a knowledge of Roman literature while still a boy. If the traditional title of his five books of fables after Aesop is to be trusted (Phaedri, Augusti liberti, fabalae Aesopiae), he was set free by Augustus. To Phaedras belongs the credit of introducing fable-writing into Latin poetical literature; a fact of which he was fully conscious, but which secured him neither relief from his miserable position, nor recognition on the part of the educated public; his patrons seem to have been only freedmen like himself. In fact, he even drew upon himself, by his two first published books, the illwill and persecution of the all-powerful favourite of Tiberius, Sejanus, who suspected in them malicious references to contemporary events. In consequence he did not publish the remaining books till after the fall of Sejanus in 31 A.D., and the death of Tiberius in 37. The five books are preserved, though not in a complete form. Whether the further collection of thirty-two fables transcribed from a MS in the 16th century by Archbishop Nicolo Perotti (Fabillae Perottianae) [and published at Naples in 1809] are a genuine work of Phaedrus, is doubtful. The matter of the fables is only to a small extent borrowed from Aesop. Some include stories from history, partly referring to the present or immediate past. In relation to the Greek originals, the material is not always skilfully used, especially in the "morals." The drawing of the characters is at first very cramped, but is afterwards more broadly treated; the language fluent, and in general correct; the metre too (iambic senarius), used with strictness, though wanting the purity which, in this kind of verse, became general from the time of Catullus. About the 10th century an author calling himself Romulus, drew up a prose version of Phaedrus, which served as a model for the mediaeval collections of fables.
Type: Standard
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