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An Aesopian Mythos


Aesop

 

Aesop is supposed to be a man who lived 600 years before Christ and who created the famous Greek fables. Scholars still debate about whether he was an actual person or "a name invented to provide an author for the fables". The story of the life of Aesop, whether actual or invented, is interesting, especially if it was really invented by ordinary people. In any event, we find references about Aesop in the works of the historian Herodotus (484 – 420 BC), the comedy writer Aristophanes (450 – 388 BC), the philosopher Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), etc. Also, the German Martin Luther of the Christians was very much interested in Aesop.

 

According to the story of his life, Aesop was born in Phrygia, the west central part of Turkey. Phrygia was famous for its trade of exporting slaves. Aesop is described as rather ugly, dark skinned, and a stutterer. In classical Greece his name was supposed to be a compound of the words "aetho" (burn) and "ops" (face), that is his face was black as if burned. As a matter of fact, the classical Greeks characterized him as black as an Ethiopian. [Once more, that damned place, black Africa, that insists to claim that it is the root of humanity, even for blond, blue-eyed Westerners from Berlin, Boston, Oslo, etc.]

 

So, inevitably, being dark-skinned, etc, Aesop was sold as a slave [let us not forget that was 600 years before Christ, After Christ, there were… no more slaves]. The farmer that bought him decided to send him to work in the fields, because he considered him as useless for household work. Aesop denounced the foreman in the fields because he was maltreating the slaves. The foreman, then, accused falsely Aesop to the farmer-owner saying that he cursed the Gods. The angry farmer gave Aesop away to the foreman who in his turn sold him to a slave trader. Finally, Aesop ended up at the slave market on the beautiful Greek island of Samos [fortunately, today not yet discovered by the tourists as was Myconos and Paros]. 

 

On Samos, Aesop was bought by a philosopher named Xanthos [meaning in Greek "blond" (!)], because he was cheaper than two more presentable slaves, who [obviously] were more expensive. Also, because he impressed the philosopher with his intelligent answers to questions put by him. Freed from slavery, after the people of Samos demanded that from Xanthos, Aesop found himself in the courts of kings, Croesus of Lydia (Turkey of today) and Lyceros of Babylon (Baghdad, Iraq, of today, and of the Bush family of Texas) who appreciated his intelligence. He goes on traveling all over the, then known, world and ends up at the "sacred" place of the Delphi in Greece.

 

At Delphi, where Aesop arrived to deliver money from king Croesus to the priests there, he took a look at the priests and not only he did not give them the money, but angrily derided them for not only being worthless but also for not working and demanding to be fed by the offerings of the faithful! As expected, the priests reacted, as priests usually do [for example, against doctors who perform abortions] by planting the "sacred golden flask" of the God Apollo in his baggage. Then, they triumphantly, "discovered" the flask and killed Aesop, for sacrilege, by throwing him alive over the fearsome rocky precipice at the edge of Delphi. That was the end of Aesop.

 

[Note: My estimate is that since 1930, when the Greek poet Sikelianos and his wife, Eva Palmer, an upper-class girl from New York, made Delphi known to ordinary people, between 40 to 60 million people have visited Delphi, mostly Americans and Germans. All these people have enjoyed the view of the gorge at the edge of Delphi. I wonder if their guides ever mentioned to them the unfortunate relationship between Aesop and the priests.

 

My personal experience with Delphi, in contrast to that of Aesop, is quite warm and nostalgic. In 1960, my late wife, born and raised in the wider Delphi area, introduced me to her aunt Kaloussa ("Kind woman", in English) and her uncle John, the husband of Kaloussa, both of whom were born and lived their entire life in Delphi. Aunt Kaloussa, about 65 at the time I met her, was a petite, lively, radiant, and very beautiful woman. Uncle John was a tall Greek mountaineer, a leftist, in a US-occupied country, who with only an elementary school educational background could analyze very accurately the arrogant and brutal acts of all the US presidents during his lifetime.

 

One of the "tourist attractions" of Delphi is the "Kastalia spring", with its "sacred" running water, etc, etc. When facing Kastalia, on one's right hand there is a tiny plot on the incline at the foot of the Parnasos mountain. This tiny plot belonged to Kaloussa who tended it most of her life, planting and harvesting the usual grains of the Delphi area. A couple of years after I met her, as she was tending the plot she was attacked by a huge snake with an unnaturally big head (according to her description). Being petite and agile she managed to jump to the asphalt road that borders the plot and run away. She never set foot on that plot for the rest of her life. I wonder what the descendents of the snake feel by watching all those millions of humans parading in front of Kaloussa's plot.

 

Finally, my reference, above, to priests in general, excludes the honest "liberation theology" priests of Central America, massacred by the CIA.]

 

Back to Aesop: Starting as a slave and possessing a "natural" wisdom, in contrast to the "wisdom" of philosophers of his time who had acquired their knowledge in schools, Aesop was depicted as part of his admirers; the ordinary people. On the other hand, the aristocratic philosophers and other classical Greek heroes were depicted as handsome and proud individuals. Take Plato: his name in Greek means the "broad [shouldered] one", who was also a discus thrower, and who had a majestic appearance.

 

[Parenthesis: The "platonic" discus throwing brings to my mind a vivid case of "majestic vs. ordinary" people. In the late 1940s I had the luck, as an 18-year old, to see Bob Fitch of Iowa, the first human to throw the discus beyond 180 feet, in a track and field meeting in Athens. I was impressed with the simplicity and modesty of Fitch and instinctively compared that to the "majestic" and haughty behavior of the other athletes who could not throw the discus even to half that distance.]

 

In the late 19th century a papyrus was found in Alexandria in Egypt, that had some more information about the life of Aesop.

 

So, here ends this "short" introduction to the life of the creator of the most famous "myths" of the world.

 

 

Mythos

 

"Mythos" is a Greek word anglicized to "myth" in 1830. A myth is "a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice…" [Merriam-Webster's]

 

The world is lucky to have such a "myth" as written on a papyrus unearthed recently by archaeologists in the soil of Texas and which dates probably from classical times, that is more than 2,500 years ago.

 

Here is the myth as inscribed on the Texas papyrus and as translated from the Greek to English by me. [The emphasis was added]:

 

The Papyrus Text

 

Once upon a time, there was a place called "Itine" in which lived more than 190 clans of people. The clans differed only in their language and in their folk music. Also, "Itine" was a place very prone to earthquakes.

 

As humans, the people of "Itine" had the potential for rational thinking which they used to invent and construct all kinds of things.

 

Of all the clans of "Itine", there was one, named "Yoo", that used this innate quality of thinking to the utmost and produced a wide spectrum of products. The most important of those products was one named "arma" which the "Yoo" clan exported to the rest of the clans of Itine.

 

Now, this product, "arma", was a socially useless product, however , when sold by "Yoo" to the leaders of the other clans and placed at the center of the community of  a clan, it spread fear among the members of the clan and made them very obedient to the dictates of their leaders.

 

Of course, here there was a paradox. The "arma" was bought with money that were contributed by the members of the clan, but it was used by the leaders to oppress these same members of the clan. Also, there was an additional paradox: the leaders, who collaborated with "Yoo" to oppress the ordinary members of the clan , instead of being considered traitors, for collaborating with a foreign clan, they became extremely rich for being traitors. 

 

So years and years went by and the "arma" seemed to prevail for ever over the people of "Itine". And not only that, the "Yoo" besides the "arma" it, also, exported vulgarity, especially cultural vulgarity that was very profitable.

 

However, as with all human stories, there is always hope. It so happened that the young people of one of the clans managed to train a very close relative to the human species, the gibbon, to carry messages between the members of the clan, emulating the tradition of their forefathers who used pigeons. So, one day the young and the old members of that clan surrounded the "arma" at the center of their community and to their surprise the "arma" became ineffective! Thetre was no fear any more in the hearts of the member of the clan!

 

Happily, they did not stop there. They communicated with the young people of the other (foreign) clans and encouraged them to do the same: to surround the "arma" in the center of their community. 

 

So, the solution for "Itine" was to find a way to communicate; that is the gibbon.

 

As for the problem of quakes in "Itine", because of the Towers of Babel that their leaders have built, an additional myth needs to be invented, some time in the future.

 

As of today, it has not been determined by the experts whether the myth of the Texas papyrus belongs to Aesop. However, given the "fact" that Aesop worked a great part of his life as a "professional" slave, most of the ordinary people of the world would be willing to credit him with so optimistic and liberating a myth as that of the Texas papyrus.

 

Having done the translation of the Texas papyrus it is an obligation for me to help the reader to better understand the myth. Hence, the following Glossary:

 

Glossary

 

Itine: This is the first part of the word "itine[rant], wanderer, migrant, etc. The Greek word for "itinerant" is "planes" ["planetos" in the genitive], hence the English word "planet". Therefore, "Itine" is a "planet". Specifically the planet Earth.

 

- Yoo: is the first sound of the acronym U[SA]. It is identical to the sound of the name of [John] Yoo the Berkley professor of law who devised the legal means for Bush (son) to torture people.

 

-  Arma: This is the modern Greek word for a "tank"; a "heavy combat vehicle that moves on tracks".

 

-  Center: The center of a community is its main square. Thus, the US tanks have a very extensive history of occupying most of the squares of the world: In Greece the Syntagma (Constitution) Square during the 1967 dictatorship, in Egypt theTahrir Square, in Bahrain the Pearl Square, in Libya the Sajhara Square, and on, and on.

 

- Gibbon: It is more than obvious: the Internet.

 

The scholars tell us that in every myth or fable there is "a moral to be derived" from it. The moral from the Texas papyrus is: "Communucate!" The solution for the world is found in our numbers. Would Mubarak, the made-in-the-US monster, have gone to Hell, if in Tahrir Square there were only a few hundred people?

 

In the ZNet Commentary of mine "Of Turks and of Greeks", of May 26, 2010, there are the following paragraphs:

 

"Of what we know, the human adventure in sizable communities started in Turkey, at Catal Huyuk about 8,000 years ago. The next step was in Baghdad, of George W. Bush, emigrant of Texas and destroyer of that part of human heritage, Then followed Egypt, Crete, and Athens.

 

If these are the roots of humanity, then why not let them nourish once more a healthy tree. A vision for a healthy human society away from Palin, Merkel, Sarkozy, Tony the Blair, etc could be the creation of a 'Community'… that starts from Albania, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, for the time being. Which will include Egypt and Jordan after they are liberated from US occupation. This can spread to other "Communities of the planet; Africa, Asia, etc. A chimera? Not so fast! The knife of the West has almost reached the bone of humanity."

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