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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. 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. Like The Alexander Romance , The Aesop Romance became a folkbook, a work that belonged to no one, and the occasional writer felt free to modify as it might suit him.
The earliest known version was probably composed in the 1st century CE, but the story may have circulated in different versions for centuries before it was committed to writing,  and certain elements can be shown to originate in the 4th century BCE. At first he lacks the power of speech, but after showing kindness to a priestess of Isis , is granted by the goddess not only speech but a gift for clever storytelling, which he uses alternately to assist and confound his master, Xanthus, embarrassing the philosopher in front of his students and even sleeping with his wife.
After interpreting a portent for the people of Samos, Aesop is given his freedom and acts as an emissary between the Samians and King Croesus. 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.
Sophocles , in a poem addressed to Euripides , made reference to the North Wind and the Sun. Phaedrus , a freedman of Augustus , rendered the fables into Latin in the 1st century CE. At about the same time Babrius turned the fables into Greek choliambics. A 3rd-century author, Titianus, is said to have rendered the fables into prose in a work now lost. With a surge in scholarly interest beginning toward the end of the 20th century, some attempt has been made to determine the nature and content of the very earliest fables which may be most closely linked to the historic Aesop.
Scholars have begun to examine why and how this "physiognomic tradition" developed. A much later tradition depicts Aesop as a black African from Ethiopia. The first known promulgator of the idea was Planudes , a Byzantine scholar of the 13th century who wrote a biography of Aesop based on The Aesop Romance and conjectured that Aesop might have been Ethiopian, given his name.
When asked his origin by a prospective new master, Aesop replies, "I am a Negro "; numerous illustrations by Francis Barlow accompany this text and depict Aesop accordingly. In William Martin Leake repeated the false etymological linkage of "Aesop" with "Aethiop" when he suggested that the "head of a negro" found on several coins from ancient Delphi with specimens dated as early as BCE  might depict Aesop, presumably to commemorate and atone for his execution at Delphi,  but Theodor Panofka supposed the head to be a portrait of Delphos , founder of Delphi,  a view more widely repeated by later historians.
Lobban cited the number of African animals and "artifacts" in the Aesopic fables as "circumstantial evidence" that Aesop may have been a Nubian folkteller. Based on a script by British playwright Peter Terson ,  it was radically adapted by the director Mark Dornford-May as a musical using native African instrumentation, dance and stage conventions.
The former slave, we are told "learns that liberty comes with responsibility as he journeys to his own freedom, joined by the animal characters of his parable-like fables.
In it Chinese theatrical routines are merged with those of a standard musical. There Portuguese missionaries had introduced a translation of the fables Esopo no Fabulas, that included the biography of Aesop. This was then taken up by Japanese printers and taken through several editions under the title Isopo Monogatari.
Even when Europeans were expelled from Japan and Christianity proscribed, this text survived, in part because the figure of Aesop had been assimilated into the culture and depicted in woodcuts as dressed in Japanese costume. According to Philostratus, The Fables are gathering about Aesop, being fond of him because he devotes himself to them. And Aesop, methinks, is weaving some fable; at any rate his smile and his eyes fixed on the ground indicate this. The painter knows that for the composition of fables relaxation of the spirit is needed.
And the painting is clever in representing the persons of the Fables. For it combines animals with men to make a chorus about Aesop, composed of the actors in his fables; and the fox is painted as leader of the chorus. In France there was I. Early on, the representation of Aesop as an ugly slave emerged. The later tradition which makes Aesop a black African resulted in depictions ranging from 17th-century engravings to a television portrayal by a black comedian.
In general, beginning in the 20th century, plays have shown Aesop as a slave, but not ugly, while movies and television shows such as The Bullwinkle Show  have depicted him as neither ugly nor a slave. In , the archaeologist Otto Jahn suggested that Aesop was the person depicted on a Greek red-figure cup,  c.
He has pulled his mantle tightly around his meager body, as if he were shivering Aesop began to appear equally early in literary works. The presentation is anachronistic and Aesop, while arguably not handsome, displays no physical deformities.
It was partnered by another portrait of Menippus , a satirical philosopher equally of slave-origin. A similar philosophers series was painted by fellow Spaniard Jusepe de Ribera ,  who is credited with two portraits of Aesop.
There he is also shown at a table, holding a sheet of paper in his left hand and writing with the other. The story casts the two slaves Rhodope and Aesop as unlikely lovers, one ugly and the other beautiful; ultimately Rhodope is parted from Aesop and marries the Pharaoh of Egypt. Some editions of the volume were illustrated with an engraving by Francesco Bartolozzi of a work by the painter Angelica Kauffman.
Titled "The beautiful Rhodope in love with Aesop", it pictures Rhodope leaning on an urn; she holds out her hand to Aesop, who is seated under a tree and turns his head to look at her. His right arm rests on a cage of doves, towards which he gestures. There is some ambiguity here, for while the cage suggests the captive state of both of them, a raven perched outside the cage may allude to his supposed colour. She stands while he sits; he is dressed in dark clothes, she in white.
The theme of their relationship was taken up again in by Walter Savage Landor author of Imaginary Conversations , who published two fictional dialogues between Aesop and Rhodope. Its unlikely plot made it the perfect vehicle for the Hollywood spectacular, Night in Paradise. The perennial image of Aesop as an ugly slave is kept up in the movie, with a heavily disguised Turhan Bey cast in the role.
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. 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. Like The Alexander Romance , The Aesop Romance became a folkbook, a work that belonged to no one, and the occasional writer felt free to modify as it might suit him.
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