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[Transcriber's note A: Original had "WIER".]


The Life and History of Æsop is involved, like that of Homer, the most
famous of Greek poets, in much obscurity. Sardis, the capital of Lydia;
Samos, a Greek island; Mesembria, an ancient colony in Thrace; and
Cotiæum, the chief city of a province of Phrygia, contend for the
distinction of being the birthplace of Æsop. Although the honor thus
claimed cannot be definitely assigned to any one of these places, yet
there are a few incidents now generally accepted by scholars as
established facts, relating to the birth, life, and death of Æsop. He
is, by an almost universal consent, allowed to have been born about the
year 620 B.C., and to have been by birth a slave. He was owned
by two masters in succession, both inhabitants of Samos, Xanthus and
Jadmon, the latter of whom gave him his liberty as a reward for his
learning and wit. One of the privileges of a freedman in the ancient
republics of Greece was the permission to take an active interest in
public affairs; and Æsop, like the philosophers Phædo, Menippus, and
Epictetus, in later times, raised himself from the indignity of a
servile condition to a position of high renown. In his desire alike to
instruct and to be instructed, he travelled through many countries, and
among others came to Sardis, the capital of the famous king of Lydia,
the great patron in that day, of learning and of learned men. He met at
the court of Crœsus with Solon, Thales, and other sages, and is
related so to have pleased his royal master, by the part he took in the
conversations held with these philosophers, that he applied to him an
expression which has since passed into a proverb, "μᾶλλον ὁ Φρύξ"--"The
Phrygian has spoken better than all."

On the invitation of Crœsus he fixed his residence at Sardis, and was
employed by that monarch in various difficult and delicate affairs of
state. In his discharge of these commissions he visited the different
petty republics of Greece. At one time he is found in Corinth, and at
another in Athens, endeavoring, by the narration of some of his wise
fables, to reconcile the inhabitants of those cities to the
administration of their respective rulers, Pariander and Pisistratus.
One of these ambassadorial missions, undertaken at the command of
Crœsus, was the occasion of his death. Having been sent to Delphi
with a large sum of gold for distribution among the citizens, he was so
provoked at their covetousness that he refused to divide the money, and
sent it back to his master. The Delphians, enraged at this treatment,
accused him of impiety, and, in spite of his sacred character as
ambassador, executed him as a public criminal. This cruel death of Æsop
was not unavenged. The citizens of Delphi were visited with a series of
calamities, until they made a public reparation of their crime; and "The
blood of Æsop" became a well-known adage, bearing witness to the truth
that deeds of wrong would not pass unpunished. Neither did the great
fabulist lack posthumous honors; for a statue was erected to his memory
at Athens, the work of Lysippus, one of the most famous of Greek
sculptors. Phædrus thus immortalizes the event:--

Æsopo ingentem statuam posuere Attici,
Servumque collocarunt æterna in basi:
Patere honoris scirent ut cuncti viam;
Nec generi tribui sed virtuti gloriam.

These few facts are all that can be relied on with any degree of
certainty, in reference to the birth, life, and death of Æsop. They were
first brought to light, after a patient search and diligent perusal of
ancient authors, by a Frenchman, M. Claude Gaspard Bachet de Mezeriac,
who declined the honor of being tutor to Louis XIII. of France, from his
desire to devote himself exclusively to literature. He published his
life of Æsop, Anno Domini 1632. The later investigations of a host of
English and German scholars have added very little to the facts given by
M. Mezeriac. The substantial truth of his statements has been confirmed
by later criticism and inquiry.

It remains to state, that prior to this publication of M. Mezeriac, the
life of Æsop was from the pen of Maximus Planudes, a monk of
Constantinople, who was sent on an embassy to Venice by the Byzantine
Emperor Andronicus the elder, and who wrote in the early part of the
fourteenth century. His life was prefixed to all the early editions of
these fables, and was republished as late as 1727 by Archdeacon Croxall
as the introduction to his edition of Æsop. This life by Planudes
contains, however, so small an amount of truth, and is so full of absurd
pictures of the grotesque deformity of Æsop, of wondrous apocryphal
stories, of lying legends, and gross anachronisms, that it is now
universally condemned as false, puerile, and unauthentic. It is given up
in the present day, by general consent, as unworthy of the slightest




The Wolf Turned Shepherd.

A wolf, finding that the sheep were so afraid of him that he could not
get near them, disguised himself in the dress of a shepherd, and thus
attired approached the flock. As he came near, he found the shepherd
fast asleep. As the sheep did not run away, he resolved to imitate the
voice of the shepherd. In trying to do so, he only howled, and awoke the
shepherd. As he could not run away, he was soon killed.

Those who attempt to act in disguise are apt to overdo it.

The Stag at the Pool.


A stag saw his shadow reflected in the water, and greatly admired the
size of his horns, but felt angry with himself for having such weak
feet. While he was thus contemplating himself, a Lion appeared at the
pool. The Stag betook himself to flight, and kept himself with ease at a
safe distance from the Lion, until he entered a wood and became
entangled with his horns. The Lion quickly came up with him and caught
him. When too late he thus reproached himself: "Woe is me! How have I
deceived myself! These feet which would have saved me I despised, and I
gloried in these antlers which have proved my destruction."

What is most truly valuable is often underrated.


The Fox and the Mask.

A fox entered the house of an actor, and, rummaging through all his
properties, came upon a Mask, an admirable imitation of a human head. He
placed his paws on it, and said: "What a beautiful head! yet it is of
no value, as it entirely wants brains."


A fair face is of little use without sense.

The Bear and the Fox.

A bear boasted very much of his philanthropy, saying "that of all
animals he was the most tender in his regard for man, for he had such
respect for him, that he would not even touch his dead body." A Fox
hearing these words said with a smile to the Bear: "Oh, that you would
eat the dead and not the living!"

We should not wait till a person is dead, to give him our respect.

The Wolf and the Lamb.


A Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay
violent hands on him, but to find some plea, which should justify to the
Lamb himself his right to eat him. He then addressed him: "Sirrah, last
year you grossly insulted me." "Indeed," bleated the Lamb in a mournful
tone of voice, "I was not then born." Then said the Wolf: "You feed in
my pasture." "No, good sir," replied the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted
grass." Again said the Wolf: "You drink of my well." "No," exclaimed the
Lamb, "I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both food
and drink to me." On which the Wolf seized him, and ate him up, saying:
"Well! I won't remain supperless, even though you refute every one of my

The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny, and it is useless
for the innocent to try by reasoning to get justice, when the oppressor
intends to be unjust.


The One-Eyed Doe.


A Doe, blind of an eye, was accustomed to graze as near to the edge of
the sea as she possibly could, to secure greater safety. She turned her
eye towards the land, that she might perceive the approach of a hunter
or hound, and her injured eye towards the sea, from which she
entertained no anticipation of danger. Some boatmen, sailing by, saw
her, and, taking a successful aim, mortally wounded her. Said she: "O
wretched creature that I am! to take such precaution against the land,
and, after all, to find this seashore, to which I had come for safety,
so much more perilous."

Danger sometimes comes from a source that is least suspected.

The Dog, Cock and Fox.

A Dog and a Cock, traveling together, took shelter at night in a thick
wood. The Cock perched himself on a high branch, while the Dog found a
bed at the foot of the tree. When morning dawned, the Cock, as usual,
crowed very loudly. A Fox, hearing the sound, and wishing to make a
breakfast on him, came and stood under the branches, saying how
earnestly he desired to make the acquaintance of the owner of so sweet a

"If you will admit me," said he, "I should very much like to spend the
day with you."

The Cock said: "Sir, do me the favor to go round and wake up my porter,
that he may open the door, and let you in." On the Fox approaching the
tree, the Dog sprang out and caught him and quickly tore him in pieces.


Those who try to entrap others are often caught by their own schemes.

The Mouse, the Frog, and the Hawk.


A Mouse, by an unlucky chance, formed an intimate acquaintance with a

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