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The lion is the only one of all the wild beasts that shows mercy to the suppliant; after it has conquered, it will spare,1 and when enraged, it will vent its fury rather upon men than women, and never upon children, unless when greatly pressed by hunger. It is the belief in Libya, that it fully understands the entreaties which are addressed to it. At all events, I have heard it asserted as a fact, that a female slave, who was returning from Gætulia, was attacked by a number of lions in the forests; upon which she summoned sufficient courage to address them, and said that she was a woman, a fugitive, helpless creature, that she implored the compassion of the most generous of animals, the one that has the command of all the others, and that she was a prey unworthy of their high repute —and by these means effectually soothed their ferocity. There are various opinions on this point, as to whether it is through some peculiar disposition of the animal, or merely by accident, that their fury is thus soothed by addressing them. As to what is alleged, too, about serpents, that they can be drawn from their holes by singing, and thus be made to yield themselves up to death, the truth or falsity of it has not by any means been satisfactorily ascertained.2

The tail of the lion gives indication of the state of his feelings, just as the ears do in the horse; for these are the distinguishing signs which Nature has given to each of the most generous of animals. Hence it is that, when pleased, the tail is without motion, and the animal fawns upon those who caress him; a thing, however, that very rarely happens, for his most frequent state is that of rage. He begins by beating the earth with his tail; and as he becomes more furious, he lashes his sides, as if trying to excite himself. His greatest strength is situate in the breast. From every wound that he makes, whether it is with his claws or his teeth, a black blood issues.3 When his hunger is satisfied, he becomes harmless. The generous disposition of the lion is more especially manifested in time of danger; not only at the moment when, despising all weapons, he long defends himself solely by the terror which he inspires, and protests, as it were, that he is compelled thus to defend himself, but when he rises at last, not as though constrained by danger, but as if enraged by the mad folly of his adversaries. This, however, is a still more noble feature of his courage—however numerous the dogs and hunters may be that press upon him, as he makes his retreat he comes to a stand every now and then upon the level plain, while he is still in view, and scowls contemptuously upon them: but as soon as ever he has entered the thickets and dense forests, he scours away at the swiftest possible pace, as though aware that the place itself will shelter his shame. When in pursuit, the lion advances with a leap, but he does not do so when in flight. When wounded, he discovers, with wonderful sagacity, the person who struck the blow, and will find him out, however great may have been the multitude of his pursuers. If a person has thrown a dart at him, but has failed to inflict a wound, the animal seizes him, whirls him round and throws him to the ground, but without wounding him. When the lioness is defending her whelps, it is said that she fixes her eyes steadily on the ground, that she may not be frightened at the spears of the hunters. In all other respects, these animals are equally free from deceit and suspicion. They never look at an object obliquely, and they dislike being looked at themselves in such a manner. It is generally believed, that, when the lion is dying, he bites at the earth, and sheds tears at his fate.4 Powerful, however, and fierce as this animal is, he is terrified by the motion of wheels or of an empty chariot, and still more on seeing the crest or hearing the crowing of a cock;5 but most of all, is he afraid of fire. The only malady to which the lion is subject, is loss of appetite; this, however, is cured by putting insults upon him, by means of the pranks of monkeys placed about him, a thing which rouses his anger; immediately he tastes their blood, he is relieved.

1 Although these accounts of the generosity and clemency of the lion are in a great measure fabulous, still the accounts of those who have had the best opportunity of becoming acquainted with the character of different animals, agree in ascribing to it less ferocity and brutality, in proportion to its size and strength, than to other animals of the same family.—B.

2 In various countries, and more especially in Egypt, the magicians profess to charm serpents by incantations; and it appears that they are able to acquire some power over them by imitating their natural cries. Cuvier informs us, that Geoffroi St. Hilaire had witnessed the fact, and was himself able to produce the effect.—B.

3 Aristotle says, a matter of a yellow colour, ἰχῶρες ὠχρὸι.

4 Probably, there is no foundation for this opinion: it does not appear that any animal, except man, has the faculty of weeping, i. e. of shedding tears, in connection with a peculiar condition of mind and feeling.—B. But query as to the horse. See c. 64 of the present Book, and the Introduction to vol. i. p. xvii.

5 This supposed fear is without foundation, but appears to have been a generally received opinion, as it is referred to by Lucretius, B. iv. 1. 714 —725.—B.

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