It is believed that Aesop lived from about 620 to 560 B.C. and, although his place of birth is uncertain, he spent much of his life living in Greece at the court of King Croesus in Athens.
Aesop's fables were first printed in English by William Caxton in 1484, from his own translation made from the French. The fables were originally used to make thinly disguised social and political criticisms.
THE DOVE AND THE ANT
An ant went to a fountain to quench his thirst, but he tumbled in and began to drown. Fortunately, a dove happened to be sitting on a nearby tree and saw the ant's predicament. So she plucked a leaf off the tree and let it drop into the water. The ant climbed on top of it and was soon washed safely ashore.
Shortly afterward a bird catcher came by, spread his net, and was about to ensnare the dove when the ant bit his heel. The man let out a cry and dropped his net. Realising that she was in danger, the dove flew safely away.
Moral: One good turn deserves another
THE TRAVELLERS AND THE BEAR
Two friends were travelling on the same road together, when they met with a bear. The one, in great fear, without a thought of his companion, climbed up into a tree and hid himself. The other, seeing that he had no chance, single-handed, against the bear, had nothing left but to throw himself on the ground and pretend to be dead; for he had heard that a bear will never touch a dead body. As he lay thus, the bear came up to his head, muffling and snuffling at his nose and ears and heart, but the man immovably held his breath and the beast, supposing him to be dead, walked away.
When the bear was fairly out of sight, his companion came down out of the tree and asked what it was that the bear had whispered to him, 'For', he said, 'I observed he put his mouth very close to your ear'. 'Why', replied the other, 'it was no great secret. He only bade me have a care how I kept company with those who, when they get into difficulty, leave their friends in the lurch.'
Moral: Adversity tests the sincerity of friends