This article deals with Greek animal fables, traditionally attributed to a former slave, Aesop, who lived during the sixth century BCE. As a genre, the Aesopic fables, or the Aesopica, has had a significant impact on the Western fable tradition and modern
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This article deals with Greek animal fables, traditionally attributed to a former slave, Aesop, who lived during the sixth century BCE. As a genre, the Aesopic fables, or the Aesopica
, has had a significant impact on the Western fable tradition and modern Western children’s literature. The Aesopica
owes much to the Mesopotamian fables and has parallels in other Near Eastern cultures. Modern research has concentrated on tracing the oriental roots of the fable tradition and the dating of the different parts of the Aesopica
, as well as defining the fable as a genre. The traditional reading of fables has, however, excluded animals qua
animals, supposing that fables are mainly allegories of the human condition. The moral of the story (included in the epimythia
) certainly guides one to read the stories anthropocentrically, but the original fables did not necessarily include this positioning element. Many fables address the situation when a prey animal, like a lamb, negotiates with a predator animal, like a wolf, by giving reasons why she should not be killed. In this article, I will concentrate on these fables and analyse them from the point of view of their structure and content. Comparing these fables with some animal similes in Homer’s Iliad
, I suggest that these fables deal not only with the ethical problem of ‘might makes right’ as a human condition, but also the broader philosophical question of killing other living creatures and the problem of cruelty.