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When asked his origin by a prospective new master, Aesop replies, "I am a Negro"; numerous illustrations by Francis Barlow accompany this text and depict Aesop accordingly.The tradition of Aesop's African origin was continued in Britain, as attested by the lively figurine of a negro from the Chelsea porcelain factory which appeared in its Aesop series in the mid-18th century. The frontispiece of William Godwin's Fables Ancient and Modern (1805) has a copperplate illustration of Aesop relating his stories to little children that gives his features a distinctly African appearance.
Scattered details of Aesop's life can be found in ancient sources, including Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch.
A number of later writers from the Roman imperial period (including Phaedrus, who adapted the fables into Latin) say that he was born in Phrygia.
we learn that Aesop was a slave in Samos and that his masters were first a man named Xanthus and then a man named Iadmon; that he must eventually have been freed, because he argued as an advocate for a wealthy Samian; and that he met his end in the city of Delphi.
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 () who by his cleverness acquires freedom and becomes an adviser to kings and city-states.
Older spellings of his name have included Esop(e) and Isope.in the latter part of the fifth century something like a coherent Aesop legend appears, and Samos seems to be its home.