Climbing Mount Helicon: The development of Aesop’s speech

Date & time

5.15–6.30pm 21 September 2017


Milgate Room, 1st Floor, A.D. Hope Bldg, Australian National University


Dr Sonia Pertsinidis, ANU


Phoebe Garrett

Presented by the ANU Centre for Classical Studies

Aesop is renowned as the originator of fables. Yet, in the Life of Aesop, an outrageously entertaining comic biography from the 1st-2nd centuries AD, Aesop begins life as a mute. Speech is gifted to Aesop as a reward for piety by the goddess Isis and the nine Muses. In this seminar, I will discuss the carefully constructed narrative of the Life of Aesop, following the development of Aesop’s speech through the genres of comedy, rhetoric, philosophy, symposia and ultimately to the interpretation of omens. Surprisingly, it is only towards the end of Aesop’s life that he begins to use the language of fable. As a fearless speaker of the truth, Aesop is hated by the Delphians and falsely accused of sacrilege. He meets a tragic death after hurling himself from the cliffs in Delphi. Paradoxically, however, Aesop achieves the fame that was predicted by the goddess Isis, and his artful speech finds its place on the slopes of Mount Helicon, the home of the Muses.
Dr Sonia Pertsinidis is a Lecturer in the Centre for Classical Studies and she holds a PhD in Ancient Greek Literature from the Australian National University. She is the author of a book entitled An Introduction to Theophrastus’ Characters (Routledge, forthcoming) and she has published academic papers on the subject of Aristophanes’ use of fable and on classical education. Sonia received an Early Career Award from the Australasian Society for Classical Studies (2016) and a grant from Australasian Women in Ancient World Studies (AWAWS) in 2017. Sonia will use the AWAWS grant to publish a revised version of this paper in 2018.

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