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What ‘Lies’ Behind Phaedrus’ Fables?

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Chapter Summary

According to the standard modern literary accounts, Phaedrus was a freedman of Augustus who translated Aesopic fables into Latin senarii and, through them, expressed his resigned outlook on the treacheries that were rife in the households of the first two emperors. This chapter examines how Phaedrus' aggressive appropriation of the Aesopic fable bears on the aristocratic identity of the man who lurks behind the storyteller. It considers how his claim to poetic authorship dovetails with an exclusive use of the fable as an unconstrained space for reflecting upon the impact of autocratic rule on elite social relations and cultural practices alike. Marchesi's analysis bears on the interpretation of Phaedrus' fables in at least two ways. First, it implicitly confirms the slave genealogy of the fable that Phaedrus articulates in the Prologue to Book 3; and second, it throws into further relief Phaedrus' self-indulgent engagement with the fable.

Keywords: Aesopic fables; Augustus; Marchesi's analysis; Phaedrus' fables



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