HERODOTUS, in the third book of his Histories, has left the statement that lionesses give birth but once during their whole life, and at that one birth that [p. 429] they never produce more than one cub. His words in that book are as follows: 1 “But the lioness, although a strong and most courageous animal, gives birth once only in her lifetime to one cub; for in giving birth she discharges her womb with the whelp.” Homer, however, says that lions (for so he calls the females also, using the masculine or “common” (epicene) gender, as the grammarians call it) produce and rear many whelps. The verses in which he plainly says this are these: 2
He stood, like to a lion before its young,In another passage also he indicates the same thing: 3
Beset by hunters in a gloomy wood
And leading them away.
With many a groan, like lion of strong beard,Since this disagreement and difference between the most famous of poets and the most eminent of historians troubled me, I thought best to consult that very thorough treatise which the philosopher Aristotle wrote On Animals. And what I find that he has written there upon this subject I shall include in these notes, in Aristotle's own language. 4 [p. 431]
From which a hunter stole away its young
Amid dense woods.