Friday Filosophy v.07.29.2022
Founder and managing member Ron Slee shares quotes and thoughts for consideration from Aesop, the fable writer, in Friday Filosophy v.07.29.2022.
Aesop, 620–564 BCE, was a Greek fabulist and storyteller credited with a number of fables now collectively known as Aesop’s Fables. Although his existence remains unclear and no writings by him survive, numerous tales credited to him were gathered across the centuries and in many languages in a storytelling tradition that continues to this day. Many of the tales associated with him are characterized by anthropomorphic animal characters.
Scattered details of Aesop’s life can be found in ancient sources, including Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch. An ancient literary work called The Aesop Romance tells an episodic, probably highly fictional version of his life, including the traditional description of him as a strikingly ugly slave who by his cleverness acquires freedom and becomes an adviser to kings and city-states. Older spellings of his name have included Esop(e) and Isope. Depictions of Aesop in popular culture over the last 2,500 years have included many works of art and his appearance as a character in numerous books, films, plays, and television programs.
The name of Aesop is as widely known as any that has come down from Graeco-Roman antiquity [yet] it is far from certain whether a historical Aesop ever existed … in the latter part of the fifth century something like a coherent Aesop legend appears, and Samos seems to be its home.
The earliest Greek sources, including Aristotle, indicate that Aesop was born around 620 BCE in the Greek colony of Mesembria. A number of later writers from the Roman imperial period (including Phaedrus, who adapted the fables into Latin) say that he was born in Phrygia. The 3rd-century poet Callimachus called him “Aesop of Sardis,” and the later writer Maximus of Tyre called him “the sage of Lydia.”
From Aristotle and Herodotus we learn that Aesop was a slave in Samos and that his masters were first a man named Xanthus and then a man named Iadmon; that he must eventually have been freed, because he argued as an advocate for a wealthy Samian; and that he met his end in the city of Delphi. Plutarch tells us that Aesop had come to Delphi on a diplomatic mission from King Croesus of Lydia, that he insulted the Delphians, was sentenced to death on a trumped-up charge of temple theft, and was thrown from a cliff (after which the Delphians suffered pestilence and famine). Before this fatal episode, Aesop met with Periander of Corinth, where Plutarch has him dining with the Seven Sages of Greece, sitting beside his friend Solon, whom he had met in Sardis. (Leslie Kurke suggests that Aesop himself “was a popular contender for inclusion” in the list of Seven Sages.)
Aesop may not have written his fables. The Aesop Romance claims that he wrote them down and deposited them in the library of Croesus; Herodotus calls Aesop a “writer of fables” and Aristophanes speaks of “reading” Aesop, but that might simply have been a compilation of fables ascribed to him. Various Classical authors name Aesop as the originator of fables. Sophocles, in a poem addressed to Euripides, made reference to the North Wind and the Sun. Socrates while in prison turned some of the fables into verse, of which Diogenes Laërtius records a small fragment. The early Roman playwright and poet Ennius also rendered at least one of Aesop’s fables in Latin verse, of which the last two lines still exist.
- No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
- We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
- The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.
- Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either.
- It is easy to be brave from a safe distance.
- Appearances are often deceiving.
- Slow but steady wins the race.
- Persuasion is often more effectual than force.
- Please all, and you will please none.
- It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.
- A doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy. Let a man be one thing or the other, and we then know how to meet him.
- Self-conceit may lead to self-destruction.
- He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.
- Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in.
The Time is Now.
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