Who is Aesop? - Biography, Fables & Morals

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  • 0:04 Biography
  • 1:15 Fables and Morals
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

In this lesson, we will discuss the biography of Aesop and the question of whether he truly existed. We will also discuss some of his more famous fables and the morals that these fables taught.


The life of Aesop is a bit of a mystery. There is even some debate if Aesop was an actual person or just a name used by another writer. However, there have been mentions of Aesop in Greek history, which has allowed historians to piece together a biography (if it is true that he exists). Many of the stories about Aesop contain mythical interventions and legends.

Aesop is believed to have been alive from 620 to 560 BC. It was believed that he was a slave, but was given his freedom because of his literacy and storytelling. He is also described with many physical deformities and a speech impediment that was healed by a deity. Aesop was said to have escaped punishment many times throughout his life, often standing up to his accusers and telling a story that showed the irony or the characteristics of those punishing him. His death is just as much of a mystery as his life. It is believed that he stole a gold or silver cup and was violently put to death by being thrown off a cliff.

Although Aesop is mentioned in Greek history, particularly by Greek historian Herodotus and Aristotle, many scholars do not believe that he actually existed. There is simply just not enough proof to confirm that he was alive.

Fables and Morals

Aesop is credited with more than six hundred fables. Fables are short stories that teach a moral, or lesson, to children. The stories are often funny, and the themes are easy for children to understand. The characters of fables are usually animals who act and talk like people but still have animal traits. The fables tell a story and end with a moral or lesson. Some of the more well-known morals credited to Aesop are:

  • A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush
  • Beauty is only skin deep
  • Birds of a feather flock together
  • Choose the lesser of two evils
  • Every man for himself
  • Let well alone
  • Necessity is the mother of invention
  • Once bitten, twice shy
  • One good turn deserves another
  • Slow but steady wins the race
  • Think before you act
  • You cannot escape your fate

There are many more, but these are just a few of the ones that we still say today.

Just like his morals, Aesop's fables are still shared with children today. In one fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, an ant is gathering food for the winter while a grasshopper plays. He encourages the Ant not to worry about the winter but just think about the summer food they already have. The Ant continues to work, and when winter comes, the Grasshopper dies while the Ant has plenty of food. The lesson stated at the end is: 'It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.'

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