Aesop or Esop (pronounced /ˈeɪsɒp/ ay-sop or /ˈiːsəp/ ee-səp, Greek: Αἴσωπος, Aisōpos, c. 620-564 BCE) was a Greek writer credited with a number of popular fables, although his existence remains uncertain and no writings by him survive. Numerous tales appearing under his name were gathered across the centuries and in many languages in a storytelling tradition that continues to this day. In many of the tales, animals speak and have human characteristics.
Scattered details of Aesop’s life can be found in ancient sources, including Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch. An ancient literary work called The Aesop Romance tells an episodic, probably highly fictional version of his life, including the traditional description of him as a strikingly ugly slave (δοῦλος) who by his cleverness acquires freedom and becomes an adviser to kings and city-states. A later tradition (dating from the Middle Ages) depicts Aesop as a black Ethiopian. Depictions of Aesop in popular culture over the last 2500 years have included several works of art and his appearance as a character in numerous books, films, plays, and television programs.
Hellenistic statue reputed to depict Aesop, Art Collection of Villa Albani, Rome. (See "Depictions of Aesop in art and popular culture", below.)