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Aesop, or ?sop (from the Greek Aisopos), known only for his fables, was by tradition a slave of African descent who lived from about 620 to 560 B.C. in Ancient Greece. Aesop's Fables are still taught as moral lessons and used as subjects for various entertainments, especially children's plays and cartoons.
Nothing was known about Aesop from credible records. The tradition was that he was at one point freed from slavery and that he eventually died at the hands of Delphians. In fact, the obscurity shrouding his life has led some scholars to deny his existence altogether.
The place of Aesop's birth is uncertain – Thrace, Phrygia, Aethiopia, Samos, Athens and Sardis all claim the honour. Some scholars believe that he could have been African. His given name, Aesop, is the Ancient Greek word for "Ethiop," the archaic word for a dark-skinned person of African origin.
According to the sparse information gathered about him from references to him in several Greek works (he was mentioned by Aristophanes, Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle), Aesop was a slave of a Greek named Iadmon, who resided on the island of Samos. Aesop must have been freed, for he conducted the public defence of a certain Samian demagogue (Aristotle, Rhetoric, ii. 20). He subsequently lived at the court of Croesus, where he met Solon, and dined in the company of the Seven Sages of Greece with Periander at Corinth. During the reign of Peisistratus he was said to have visited Athens, where he told the fable of The Frogs Who Desired a King to dissuade the citizens from attempting to depose Peisistratus for another ruler. A contrary story, however, said that Aesop spoke up for the common people against tyranny through his fables, which incensed Peisistratus, who was against free speech.
According to the historian Herodotus, Aesop met with a violent death in the hands of the inhabitants of Delphi, though the cause was not stated. Various suggestions were made by later writers, such as his insulting sarcasms, the embezzlement of money entrusted to him by Croesus for distribution at Delphi, and his alleged sacrilege of a silver cup. A pestilence that ensued was blamed on his execution, and the Delphians declared their willingness to make compensation, which, in default of a nearer connection, was claimed by Iadmon, grandson of Aesop's former master.