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Various and sundry versions of Aesop's Fables, some in Koine

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 10:17 pm
by bpk
I was wondering if anyone knew of any good article or work that attempts to map out the ancient compositional history of the various version we have of "Aesop's" fables today. Obviously this is a very complicated topic and perhaps one which we cannot really access fully at this point, but I would be very interested to know what we can know about all these version.

I have found Chambry and Syntipas the most "Koine" version, which makes me curious what we know about how they came to be composed.

Anyone have any recommended literature?

Re: Various and sundry versions of Aesop's Fables, some in Koine

Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:20 am
by seneca2008
Have you looked at the appendix of the Babrius loeb (Babrius, Phaedrus. Fables. Translated by Ben Edwin Perry. Loeb Classical Library 436)? This loeb describes the manuscript tradition of Babrius and the appendix gives a conspectus of other sources and how they relate to Babrius “The fables listed below with cross references to their substantial equivalents in other editions, translations, and adaptations are those which are published in the editor’s Aesopica (Vol. I, Urbana, 1952), and the numbers in boldfaced type at the left are those assigned to the fables in that edition. Concerning the sources of these fables, which are manifold and varied, the reader is referred for fuller information to Aesopica.“ it’s a start at least but probably you were aware of this source.

Re: Various and sundry versions of Aesop's Fables, some in Koine

Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:27 pm
by jeidsath
Perry's Loeb, that Seneca mentions, is definitely the place to look. His introduction in Aesopica goes into far more detail, but is all in Latin.

My understanding from Perry in the Loeb is that the first Aesopia collection was made by Demetrius of Phalerum in the fourth century B.C.. It does not survive, but was the principle source for Babrius and Phaedrus. There are also major prose collections of Aesopic fables. The largest collection is the "Augustana" (codex Manacensis 564 and related 10c manuscript 397 in Pierpont Morgan) which comes from a 4th or 5th century A.D. archetype, and "was unknown to Phaedrus and uninfluenced by Babrius". From there on, the manuscript history is complicated (Perry says that there are more than a hundred different manuscripts, all but 3 after the 13th century), and Perry divides it into 4 recensions made at various times after Babrius.

By date, Babrius would be the most "Koine" version, though I don't know exactly what that would be, with everything else influenced by varying levels of later Greek.

Re: Various and sundry versions of Aesop's Fables, some in Koine

Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:58 pm
by mwh
Still more accessible than the appendix to Perry’s Loeb, and also unusually reliable, is Laura Gibbs’ introduction to her Aesop’s Fables in the Oxford World Classics series.
“Syntipas,” as she says, was actually a Byzantine scholar (Michael Andreopoulos, 11th cent.), translating into Greek from Syriac. I don’t know if you’d call that koine.
And Babrius, though Hellenistic, is in verse, which compromises its koine status.

You might also be interested in the “Life” of Aesop. That's in koine, and is a far more interesting thing than the fables. There are papyrus fragments (esp. P.Oxy.3331 + 3720), one from an obscene episode excised from all the main manuscripts of the Life, another from a later section where Aesop is in the service of the king of Babylon as his fixer and problem-solver—this part of the Life is really the wide-spread Assyrian tale of Ahiqar (a real historical figure, it turns out), displaced onto Aesop in this Greek version.

Re: Various and sundry versions of Aesop's Fables, some in Koine

Posted: Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:26 pm
by bpk
All these responses are super helpful. Thank you everyone.

I will have to look into these resources next chance I'm back at the university library.

That is curious that Syntipas was an 11th century Byzantine scholar. I expect that he was probably imitating Koine style as the closest ancient form of literature that was close enough to his own vernacular. If you read some of the Syntipas fables, it really does seem like Koine. Hard to be sure what his intentions were with that, but he is definitely not writing in the Greek of his day, that's for sure.