A slave who represented his masters in court and negotiations, Aesop relied on allegorical animal stories, collected here in The Complete Fables, to convey his key points. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Greek by Olivia and Robert Temple with an introduction by Robert Temple.
In a series of pithy, amusing vignettes, Aesop created a vivid cast of characters to demonstrate different aspects of human nature. Here we see a wily fox outwitted by a quick-thinking cicada, a tortoise triumphing over a self-confident hare and a fable-teller named Aesop silencing those who mock him. Each jewel-like fable provides a warning about the consequences of wrongdoing, as well as offering a glimpse into the everyday lives of Ancient Greeks. All Aesop’s fables, full of humour, insight and savage wit, as well as many fascinating glimpses of ordinary life, have now been brought together for the first time in this definitive and fully annotated modern edition.
Little is known for certain about the life of Aesop (c.620-564 BC), though details of his life are scattered throughout the works of ancient Greek writers including Aristophanes, Xenophon, Aristotle and Herodotus, who give grounds for thinking that he was a slave, and Plutarch, who identifies him as an entertaining storyteller, executed by the Delphians by being thrown off a cliff.
If you enjoyed The Complete Fables, you might like Ovid’s Metamorphoses, also available in Penguin Classics.
‘Ground-breaking … this version of the fables is a revelation … the translation is excellent’
Peter Jones, Sunday Telegraph
‘Aesop remains a fundamental figure in Western literature’
Frederic Raphael, Sunday Times