Page images

Brachet's invaluable and very interesting Etymological French Dictionary.

For each Fable I have given, where I could, reference to the original as given by Æsop or Phædrus. But in the case of the Æsopic Fables reference is confusing, because different editions have given a different order and number of Fables.

My references are to the edition of Karl Halm, published at Leipsic in 1863, which arranges the Fables by alphabetical order of Greek titles.

For the Phædrus Fables the references are to Messrs. Parkers' Oxford edition, based on that of Orelli.

P. B. S.



(Cf. Article by Dr. G. E. L. Cotton, late Bishop of Calcutta,

in Smith's Dictionary of Biography.) OF F Æsop very little is known, and no works are extant.

He appears from an incidental notice in Herodotus ii. 134, to have lived between 620-564 B.C.

His popular appellation of “the Phrygian slave” rests on a tradition that he was born at Cotiæum, in Phrygia, and spent the first part of his life in slavery under a Samian master. After obtaining his liberty, he became a favourite at the court of Cresus, and was killed by being hurled from a precipice, when sent by Creesus on a mission to the men of Delphi.

The books of Fables purporting to be his were collected by a monk of the fourteenth century, and prefaced by a fabulous biography, in which Æsop is described as a monster of ugliness.

Probably his Fables were never written at all. We are told that Socrates, to beguile his last days, versified those of them which he knew and could remember

– probably those conveying a more serious moral. Aristophanes often alludes to them as popular drolleries ('AcouTOV TI Jéolov) among the Athenians. Different authors quote the same Fable differently. Plato, while


excluding Homer's martial epic from his imaginary Republic, admits Æsop's wise uūdol.

His Fables were in prose ; for Aristophanes calls them λόγοι, and Herodotus calls Esop ο λογόποιος. Now in the earlier Greek literature Nóyos always means prose, as ērn always means verse.

They were versified by Babrius in Greek just before the time of Augustus. Of his ten books only a few odd Fables are extant.

Æsop's Fables in prose, as now extant, are spurious. There are three principal collections of them.

1. One of 136 Fables, published A.D. 1610 from MSS. at Heidelberg. This seems a clumsy forgery.

2. A collection by Maximus Planudes, a monk of Constantinople in the fourteenth century. (Cf. suprā.) Its genuineness is disproved by the frequency of modern terms.

3. That published in 1809 from a MS. at Florence, professing to be written one hundred years before the time of Planudes, and already prefaced by the very

Life of Æsop which Planudes gives.

Some of the Fables attributed to Æsop were probably due to a certain wise Arab—Lukmansaid to be contemporary with David, and described as an “ugly black slave.

Hence the story of Æsop's personal appearance, no more historical than Richard III.'s hunchback. Hence also the oriental character of some of his so-called Fables, reminding the reader of The Arabian Nights.

La Fontaine loved to dwell on the traditional life of Æsop as itself a Fable, pourtraying how all good fabulists must be the slaves of their public, bound to inform without obtruding knowledge.

« PreviousContinue »