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A parody of the Odyssey in the Life of Aesop*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2012

Grammatiki A. Karla
University of Athens


The Life of Aesop is an anonymous text of the first century BC / first century AD, which narrates how Aesop, an ugly slave from Phrygia, gains his freedom thanks to his intelligence, and how he later comes to enjoy fame and popularity, until he arrives at Delphi, where he is falsely accused and finally killed.

Critics have already pointed out that at a crucial point of the narrative, the encounter between Aesop and the inhabitant of Delphi (ch. 124), the author of the Life reaches back to the text of Homer to produce an effective parody. In order to describe the pale faces of the people of Delphi, Aesop quotes Glaucus' words to Diomedes at Iliad 6.146: οἵη περ φύλλων γενεή, τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν (‘As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity’). Nor does Homer's influence seem to be limited to this one conspicuous instance.

In the present paper I hope to show that the meeting between Aesop and his mistress (chs. 29-33) in the Life of Aesop (hereafter the Life) is a comic reversal or parody of a Homeric narrative episode, the meeting of Odysseus and Penelope (Odyssey 19.96–316, 19.508–604). The author of the Life presents the lecherous wife of Xanthos in satirical terms, whilst his allusions to the particular Homeric hypotext produce a clever parody that makes for an even more effective satire.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s). Published online by Cambridge University Press 2011

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