Although Aesop has written many fables for everyone to enjoy, his life is not well documented. His place of birth is unknown, as well as most of his childhood. There are eight countries that claim his birthplace and a modern writer believes Africa is a possibility which makes 9 possible birthplaces. The eight countries are Thrace, Phrygia, Egypy, Ethiopia, Samos, Athens, Sardis and Amorium.
It is know that Aesop was a slave who was born about 620 B.C. It is believed that Aesop lived in Samos around 560 B.C. Aesop was a slave to a person called Xanthus. Xanthus lived on the island of Samos. Then Aesop was sold to another slave owner Jadmon. Jadmon gave Aesop his freedom as a reward for his learning and whit.
As a free man Aesop had the right to take an active interest in public affairs. Aesop had a great desire to teach and be taught. He raised himself from the position of a slave to a position of high distinction. He traveled through many countries and came to Sardis, the capitol of the king of Lydia. This was the place of learned men and a great place to learn.
Here in Sardis Aesop was able to meet at the court of Croesus with Solon, Thales and other sages. Sages were extremely wise men in ancient history. It is said that Aesop pleased his royal master during this time with the sages. During some conversations held with these sages, it is said of Aesop, “The Phrygian has spoken better than all.” This expression has since passed into a proverb.
Also during this time with the sages, Aesop was said to have traveled to Athens. Here he told the fable of The Frogs Who Desired a King. This fable was to persuade the people to not attempt disposing of their ruler Peisistratus, for another ruler. This is one story and with the little known facts of Aesops life there is another contrary story of the same incident. Aesop was said to have spoken up for the common people against tyranny through his fables. This made Peisistratus very mad, because he was against free speech.
Aesop was invited by Croesus to make Sardis his residence. He was then employed by Croesus, the monarch, in various and delicate affairs of State. Aesop visited the many different and small republics of Greece during his commission. He was sent to Corinth and Athens. He used his wise fables to make reconciliation with the people and their rulers. The story about Peisistratus is believed to be during this time.
With all his traveling and ambassador missions he was sent on, one resulted in his death. Aesop was sent by Croesus, his commander, to Delphi. Aesop was sent with a large amount of gold that he was to distribute among the citizens. Aesop became so upset at their craving for the gold that he refused to distribute the gold and sent it back to Croesus. The people of Delphi were outraged and accused him of unrighteousness and blasphemy before executing him as a criminal. Back then the ambassadors of the ruler, in this case Croesus, were considered sacred and holy.
Aesop’s death was not ignored. His death was avenged by repeated disasters and tragedy on the people of Delphi. Finally the people of Delphi made amends for Aesop’s death and “The blood of Aesop” became a well known saying. This would bear witness that the deeds of wrong doings would not go unpunished.
There was a statue erected of Aesop memory in Athens. One of the most famous of Greek sculptors, Lysippus, did the sculpture of Aesop. Aesop’s fables also gave him a never-ending existence with people throughout the world.
Some of Aesop’s more popular fables are The Fox and The Grapes, where “sour grapes” came from. Also The Tortoise and The Hare, The North Wind and The Sun, and The boy Who Cried Wolf are very popular with children’s tales.