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(6th century BC) Greek writer. One of the oldest genres of world literature is the fable, a type of short story starring personified animals whose didactic purpose made explicit in a moral end. The classical Greece attributed to Aesop the invention of this genre, as assigned by the paternity of the epic to Homer. Until many centuries later did not doubt the effective existence of both, noting also the perfect antithesis between the two figures: Homer as singer of the heroic deeds of the heroes, Aesop as a portraitist of the Plebs, human weaknesses under the aspect of animals. In both cases many cities competed for the honor of being his birthplace.
The lion and the mouse (illustration by Gustave Doré)
Few safe data exist about the biography of Aesop, and already in classical times the real character was surrounded by legendary elements, being definitely covered by the fiction and fantasy as might have historically. This has not necessarily to refute their existence, since a historian of both credit and Herodotus describes him as a slave to a citizen of Samos who lived in the previous century. According to a widespread tradition, Aesop was born in Phrygia, although there is who does it originally from Thrace, Samos, Egypt or Sardes. About it circulated a lot of anecdotes and even descriptions of his physical are collected in the Life of Aesop, published in the 14th century in front of a collection of his fables prepared by the Benedictine monk maximum Planudes.
So has that Aesop was slave of a such Xanto or xanthus of Samos, which gave him freedom. Due to its great reputation by his talent for the apolog, Croesus called him to his court, showered favors and then sent him to Delphi to consult the Oracle and to offer sacrifices on their behalf and distribute rewards among the inhabitants of that city. Irritated by the fraud and greed of that town's priests, Aesop directed them their sarcasm and limited to offer to the gods the sacrifices commanded by Croesus, returned to this Prince riches for the inhabitants of Delphi.
These, vengeance, hid among the luggage of Aesop a Gold Cup dedicated to Apollo, they accused him of sacrilegious theft and precipitated him from the top of the rock Hiampa. Later they repented, and offered satisfaction and compensation to the descendants of Aesop which arose to demand it; He attended was a wealthy merchant from Samos, descendant of the one who Aesop had belonged when he was a slave. All this story it seems historical that Aesop was a slave and that he traveled much with his master, the philosopher Janto; also is awarded enough credibility to his death episode.
The mention of which makes them know the historian Herodotus, Aesop's Fables were very popular in the classical Greece, a claim attested also by Plato and Aristophanes. Meet Aesop never was a privilege of lawyers: in addition to disclosed orally, his fables were used as first reading book in schools. The oldest known collection is that made in the 4th century BC the rhetorical Falero Demetrio, disciple of Theophrastus, who grouped around five hundred Fables and which has not come down to us.
The collections preserved complete are very later: the Collectio Augustana, presumably of the century I or II d. C., the Collectio Vinobenensis, composed by somewhat more colorful stories, albeit with a slightly sloppy style, and a recasting of the previous two, the Collectio Accursiana (1479 or 1480), which has long been the most widespread collection. Written in the language of his time, and far therefore from the original texts of the classical era, these collections contain an esopico primitive nucleus then increased and significantly transformed in the course of the centuries.
The fable genre was already defined by Aesop to give most of his stories in a series of features consistent. Aesop's Fables are short narratives composed in a style simple and clear (like speech of the people that move), which usually have starring personified animals, i.e., endowed with the ability to think and speak, and whose purpose is to convey a moral teaching elementary and practical. Precedents of this literary form is found in Hesiod, that presents the most ancient example with its tale of the goshawk and the Nightingale in the works and days, and in the lyric of Archilochus, with stories from the Fox and the monkey.
Esopica fable has as predominant theme relationships and social interactions between humans, which are described from an ironic view of the world and the power structures. One of the most short Fables says: "a Fox looked with contempt to a lioness because he had never given birth more than one puppy. Only one, replied the lioness, but a lion"." The teaching contained in these short pieces is a common and popular moral: prudence and moderation are the supreme virtues; fidelity, appreciation and love to work are estimated. Despite this, it is not at all discredited, for example, the cunning that knows to take advantage of the stupidity of others. Not expressed, therefore a rigid ethics, but a pragmatic and popular moral chaired by common sense.
The lion and the mouse (illustration by Gustave Doré)
Animals embody certain qualities or attitudes to life; such attributes can be negative or positive, and accordingly will be punished or rewarded in the outcome of the story. These qualities are attributed to animals following a typology that would remain unchanged between followers and imitators who developed the genre: the Fox is the embodiment of cunning; Wolf, evil; the Ant, the forecast; the lion, the Majesty. In this way, through the behavior of animals, the virtues and defects of the human being are alive and effectively put highlight to the reader. It should be noted that, although this is the general trend, some of the Fables involved also human beings or deities.
The outcome of the story suggests, as already indicated, moral teaching: the outcome rewards or punishes animals characters depending on whether they have a positive or negative attribute. Despite this, and so that there is not any doubt, an explicit in the form of sententious phrase moral is added after the story.
See, for example, the dog and meat: "next to a river's gentle course and crystal clear waters, walked some dog thief with a beautiful piece of meat between your teeth. Suddenly, he was portrayed in the water. And as he saw that his mate was also in the mouth a good piece of meat, he would seize it. He let go the meat, which disappeared in the River, and contemplated, scared, that it was without the real bite and the false". It is obvious that history prevents against greed, defect that the dog has been punished, but also adds the judgmental moral: "it always happens to the greedy, who loses the same wanting to take possession of the alien."
Five centuries after Aesop, a Latin poetry collection of the 1st century AD by Phaedrus, a slave freed by the Roman Emperor Augustus, included Fables invented by the author along with other traditional esopicas, reworked with much grace and that influenced the way adopted by subsequent writers. Similar scope had in the 2nd century d. C. Greek Fables in verse of Babrius, and during the middle ages those of Aesop had an extraordinary acceptance. In the 18th century, with the rise of neoclassicism, the genre seemed to live a golden age in the hands of authors as prestigious as the French La Fontaine. In Spanish the Fables of Tomás de Iriarte and Félix Samaniego achieved great fame at the same time.