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Æsop’s Fables, a wonderful way to read Latin

Aesop, also spelled Æsop, is well known for the many wonderful fables attributed to him.  Most of us grew up hearing these classic tales read to us by our parents and grandparents.  Did you ever realize, however, they were handed down to us via Latin?  Recently, Laura Gibbs stumbled across a 17th century collection of Latin Fables at GoogleBooks.  She is now in the process of digitizing them, one by one, at her Latin Via Fables blog.  These whimsical fables present a marvelous way to draw students into the joys of reading real Latin.  Please visit Laura’s fabulous blog at http://latinviafables.blogspot.com.  The fables will also be included in the daily Bestiaria Latina blog post (which is available by email, in addition to being online): http://bestlatin.blogspot.com/.

A bit more about Aesop:

These famous fables are Aesop’s only literary legacy.  Aesop was a Greek slave who lived c. 620-560 B.C.  Most of his fables involve animals, sometimes interacting with gods and man, in amusing situations.  Each fable serves to teach a moral lesson to its audience.  For a long time oral tradition was responsible for passing down Aesop’s fables from one generation to the next.  It is said that Socrates spent much of his time in prison turning Aesop’s fables into poetic verse.  Another Greek philosopher, Demetrius Phalereus, created the first written collection around 300 B.C.  Phaedrus translated this collection into Latin the first century A.D.

Phaedrus was a Roman fabulist who lived from 15 B.C. – A.D. 50, during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius.  He was born a slave on the Pierian Mountain in Macedonia in the Roman Province of Pydna.  Some scholars believe he was a tutor in the house of Augustus, who granted Phaedrus his freedom.  Phaedrus is best known as the first to Latinize books of fables attributed to Aesop.  He then added his own fables to the collection.  For a time Phaedrus’ work was forgotten.  Around the 10th century A.D., a prose adaptation of Phaedrus’ work was discovered bearing the title “Romulus.”  This collection became quite popular throughout Europe and remained so through the 17th century.  Now with a little technology help from Laura Gibbs, you and your students can enjoy them too.

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Æsop’s Fables, a wonderful way to read Latin”

  • On behalf of Aesop and his fables, I want to thank you for this nice post! I’ve been working on Aesop’s fables for over 20 years now, and still have not gotten tired of them. People are often surprised to find out that famous stories such as The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs can be found in the pages of Aesop’s fables. There are also wonderful fables that most people have never heard of, but which are so much fun, such as The Lion in Love… the story of a lion who was so much in love with a woman that he agreed to be declawed in order to marry her – but with very sad results for the poor lion! Given that Aesop’s fables have been told and re-told in both Greek and Latin for three thousand years, there are THOUSANDS of fables to read – in Latin verse, in Latin prose, from the ancient world, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance – plenty of reading pleasure for all! Thanks again for spreading the word about Aesop in Latin! 🙂

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