Jan van Vianen
Centre-left, 'Ranae Regem Petierunt' (The Frogs Desiring a King)
Etching and engraving
From 'Phaedri Augusti liberti Fabularum Aesopiarum' by David van Hoogstraten
Published by Francisci Halmae, Amsterdam
National Art Library Pressmark: G.28.Z.13
Phaedrus (about 15 BC - about AD 50) is thought to have been a Macedonian slave freed by the Roman emperor Augustus. The writer Avianus says that he wrote five books of fables, verse forms of those referred to as 'Aesop's' fables. Phaedrus added anecdotes drawn from daily life and history.
Prose fables derived from Phaedrus were very popular in the Middle Ages. Of several versions, one called the 'Romulus' is the largest. Apparently dating to the 10th century but based on an even earlier version, it was the source of almost all medieval Latin fables in prose and verse. A 12th century verse version was popular even into the Renaissance.