a part of the Mishna, the first text of the oral law
it appears in Nezikin, the section of the mishna concerned with torts
it is understood to be the sayings or ethics of the fathers
avot can also be understood to be categories or bases rather than fathers, as in ‘av melacha’ (the categories of work prohibited on shabbat). Thus, Pirkei Avot can be considered to be the categories of dignified behaviours.
while the bulk of the mishna is concerned with actual law, Pirkei Avot is about behaviour, conduct and character
Pirkei Avot was developed in the time of the rishonim
Pirkei Avot appears in the siddur as the conclusion to Shabbas mincha – many people study Pirkei Avot on Shabbat
It is common to study Pirkei Avot in the period after Pesach, leading up to Shavuot. Some people continue studying it until Rosh Hashana. It is thought that this is due to the fact that character refinement is important in the lead up to Shavuot.