Beast

Sources : Lion

Aesop's Fables [6th century BCE +] (Ass, Cock, and Lion; Perry 82) A donkey and a rooster lived together on a farm. A lion who had noticed the donkey crept up and was about to pounce when the rooster let loose a squawk. This frightened the lion (for they say that lions are terrified of the rooster's crowing) and he turned tail and ran. The donkey was elated at the thought of the lion running away from a rooster. He took off in pursuit of the lion but when the donkey had gone some distance away from the farm, the lion turned around and ate him. - [ Gibbs translation]

Herodotus [c. 484 – c. 425 BCE] (Histories, Book 3.108) ...the lioness, a very strong and bold beast, bears offspring but once in her life, and then but one cub; for the uterus comes out with the cub in the act of birth. This is the reason of it: — when the cub first begins to stir in the mother, its claws, much sharper than those of any other creature, tear the uterus, and as it grows, much more does it scratch and tear, so that when the hour of birth is near seldom is any of the uterus left whole. - [Godley translation]

Aristotle [ca. 350 BCE] (De animalibus Book 6, chapter 28.1): The Syrian lions produce five times; at first five cubs, and then one less every time. After this they produce no more, but continue barren. [Book 9, chapter 31.1] The lion in his manner of feeding is very cruel; but when he is not hungry, and is full fed, his disposition is gentle. [Book 9, chpater 31.3] There are two kinds of lions. One of these has a round body and more curly hair, and is a more cowardly animal. The other is of a longer form, has straight hair, and is more courageous. - [Cresswell translation, 1887]

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 17-21): Pliny notes the popular belief that the lioness only gives birth once, because her womb is injured by the claws of the cub, but (quoting Aristotle) refutes this. The lioness bears five cubs the first year, four the next, and one less each following year, until she becomes barren after the fifth year. The cubs are born as mere lumps of flesh the size of weasels, do not move at all in their first two months of life, and cannot walk until six months old. Lions are found in Europe only between the rivers Achelous and Mestus; these lions are stronger than those of Syria and Africa. There are two kinds of lions: a timid kind, with curly manes; and a long-haired kind that is bold. They drink infrequently, and eat only every other day, sometimes fasting for three days after a large meal. If a lion eats too much, it will reach down its throat with its claws and pull out the meat from its stomach. The lion is the only animal that spares people who prostrate themselves before it. When angry it attacks men, not women, and only attacks children when extremely hungry. A lion's greatest strength is in its chest, and its blood is black. When a mother lion is defending her cub from hunters, she looks at the ground so as not to be intimidated by the sight of the hunter's spears. Lions are frightened by turning wheels, empty chariots, crowing cocks, and fire. A lion which has lost its appetite for food can cure itself by tasting the blood of a monkey. (Book 10, 83): Lions produce young that are unfinished at birth, and shape them by licking them. In this they are like bears and foxes. (Book 11,115): The lion's breath contains a severe poison.

Aelianus [170-230 CE] (On the Characteristics of Animals, Book 4, chapter 34): There is no season of the year in which [the lion] abstains from coupling, and the lioness is pregnant for two months. Five times does she give birth, at the first birth to five cubs, at the second to four, after that to three, after that to two, and finally to one. [Book 5, chapter39] And when he has eaten more than enough, he empties himself by lying quiet and abstaining from food, or alternatively he catches a monkey and eats some of it, voiding and emptying his belly by means of its flesh. - [Scholfield translation]

Gaius Julius Solinus [3rd century CE] (De mirabilibus mundi / Polyhistor, Chapter 27.13): Many beasts, indeed, are in Africa’s interior, but it is principally held by lions, which, as Aristotle holds, alone of that type they call “toothed”, can see as soon as they are born. These may be broken into three sorts: the smaller, which have curly manes, are generally cowardly and unwarlike; the larger, which have smooth hair, are more fierce. But those which are produced by leopards lack manes and remain undistinguished. All equally refrain from gorging. They do so because they drink and catch food on alternate days; oftentimes, if they do not enjoy good digestion, they postpone their usual repast another day. [14] If the consumed flesh is greater than what is right, and they are weighed down, they put their claws into their mouths and voluntarily bring it to light. [15] They also do the same when fleeing in a state of satiety. Weakness of the teeth indicates old age. The indications of mildness are many: they spare those who prostrate themselves, and they rage against men rather than women. They do not kill children except in great hunger. Neither are they separated from mercy: in fact, it is well known by many examples that they have been lenient; when many captives were exposed to several lions, they were repatriated untouched. [16] They mate behind, as do lynxes, camels, elephants, rhinoceros and tigers. [17] At the first birth, lionesses bring forth five cubs, then they melt away the number by one with the years passing, and at last the maternal fecundity recedes to one. Then they become barren for eternity. [18] The tail and the forehead indicates the courage of a lion, just as the mettle of a horse is to be understood by its ears: Nature gave these marks to each noblest beast. Lions’ greatest strength is in their breasts, and they have especial firmness in the head. When pressed by dogs, they scornfully withdraw and sometimes halt in doubtful retreat, and feign fear. [19] They do this if hemmed in in naked and open plains, but if in woody places, as though not shrinking from witness of their cowardliness, they take themselves away in flight as fast as they can. When they give chase, they aid their pursuits by leaping. When they flee, they cannot leap. When they walk, they close the sharp points of their claws in the sheaths of their paws, lest their sharpness be blunted by the abrasion. In this they are scrupulous to such a degree that they do not run without withdrawing their little curved blades. [20] Surrounded by hunters, they gaze at the ground in contemplation, so they might be the less terrified by the sight of the hunting spears. They never look aslant and wish least that they should themselves be observed. They fear the songs of domestic poultry, and the noise of wheels, but fear fire more. - [Arwen Apps translation, 2011]

Saint Ambrose [4th century CE] (Hexameron, Book 6, chapter 3.14): The lion, proud in the fierceness of his nature, will not brook mingling with other wild animals. Like a king, he disdains association with them. He scorns the food of the previous day. He turns away even from the fragmentary remains of his meal. What wild beast would venture to associate with him whose roar of itself inspires such terror that many animals who could outrun him will quail on hearing it, as if struck dumb by some strange force. [Book 6, chapter 4.26] A lion is in dread of a cock, especially of one white in color. ... A sick lion searches for an ape which, when devoured, restores him to health. - [Savage translation, 1961]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 2:3-6): The lion is the king of all beasts, thus its name in Greek (leo) means "king" in Latin. The kind of lion with a curly mane is weak, but the ones with straight hair are larger and more violent. Their courage is seen in their front and tail; their endurance is in the head; and their strength is in the chest. If they are surrounded by hunters with spears, they look at the ground so as not to become frightened. They are afraid of the sound of wheels but even more so of fire. They sleep with their eyes open. When lions walk, they erase their tracks with their tail so hunters cannot follow them. When they give birth to a cub, it is thought to sleep for three days and nights, until the place where it sleeps is shaken by the roar of the father, which wakes it. Lions can fight with their claws and their teeth even while they are cubs. Lions will only attack a man when they are extremely hungry; otherwise they are so gentle that they cannot be provoked unless they are struck. They spare anyone who prostrates himself and allow captives to return home.

Aberdeen Bestiary [circa 1200 CE] (folio 7r-8r):They fear the rumbling sound of wheels, but are even more frightened by fire. ... Those who study nature say that the lion has three main characteristics. The first is that it loves to roam amid mountain peaks. If it happens that the lion is pursued by hunters, it picks up their scent and obliterates the traces behind it with its tail. As a result, they cannot track it. Thus our Saviour, a spiritual lion ... concealed the traces of his love in heaven until ... he redeemed mankind, which was lost. ... The second characteristic of the lion is that when it sleeps, it seems to have its eyes open. Thus our Lord, falling asleep in death ... was buried, yet his divine nature remained awake ... The third characteristic of the lion is that when a lioness gives birth to her cubs, she produces them dead and watches over them for three days, until their father comes on the third day and breathes into their faces and restores them to life. Thus the Almighty Father awakened our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day ... Where men are concerned, it is the nature of lions not to grow angry unless they are harmed... The compassion of lions is apparent from endless examples. They spare those whom they have brought down. They allow captives whom they encounter to return home. They vent their rage on men rather than women. They do not kill children except in time of great hunger. Equally, lions refrain from over-feeding. First, because they drink and feed on alternate days; and often, if their food remains undigested, they postpone the next feed... [Lionesses, when] they first give birth, bear five cubs. In the years which follow, they reduce the number by one at a time. Afterwards, when they are down to one cub, the fertility of the mother is diminished; they become sterile for ever. ... A sick lion seeks out an ape to devour it, in order to be cured. The lion fears the cock, especially the white one. King of the beasts, it is tormented by the tiny sting of the scorpion and is killed by the venom of the snake.