Aesop: the hard road or the easy road?

Sometimes we are faced with a choice between a hard road and an easy road. Which one should we choose? Let’s see what Aesop has to say. First, a bit of context.

Aesop, the much-loved fable-teller, began life as a slave. Eventually, the people of Samos granted Aesop his freedom because they needed his help and wise counsel. A foreign king, Croesus of Lydia, was demanding tribute and taxes from the Samians and he was threatening war against them if they refused. Aesop was called on to give advice but he refused to do so. He told them the following fable instead:

“Once, at the command of Zeus, Prometheus described to men two ways, one the way of freedom, and the other that of slavery. The way of freedom he pictured as rough at the beginning, narrow, steep and waterless, full of brambles, and beset with perils everywhere, but finally a level plain amid parks, groves of fruit trees, and water courses where the struggle reaches its end in rest. The way of slavery he pictured as a level plain at the beginning, flowery and pleasant to look upon with much to delight but at its end narrow, hard, and like a cliff.” 1

The Samians listened to Aesop, understood his words, and told the king’s emissary that they would choose the hard road.

  1. Text from The Aesop Romance (translated by Lloyd W. Daly), as reprinted in W. Hansen (ed.), Anthology of Ancient Greek Popular Literature, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1998, p. 149.

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