previous next


[14arg] The account of Apion, a learned man who was surnamed Plistonices, of the mutual recognition, due to old acquaintance, that he had seen at Rome between a man and a lion.

APION, who was called Plistonices, was a man widely versed in letters, and possessing an extensive and varied knowledge of things Greek. In his works, which are recognized as of no little repute, is contained an account of almost all the remarkable things which are to be seen and heard in Egypt. Now, in his account of what he professes either to have heard or read he is perhaps too verbose through a reprehensible love of display—for he is a great self-advertiser in parading his learning; but this incident, which he describes in the fifth book of his Wonders of Egypt, 1 he declares that he neither heard nor read, but saw himself with his own eyes in the city of Rome.

[p. 423] “In the Great Circus,” he says, “a battle with wild beasts on a grand scale was being exhibited to the people. Of that spectacle, since I chanced to be in Rome, I was,” he says, “an eye-witness. There were there many savage wild beasts, brutes remarkable for their huge size, and all of uncommon appearance or unusual ferocity. But beyond all others,” says he, “did the vast size of the lions excite wonder, and one of these in particular surpassed all the rest. This one lion had drawn to himself the attention and eyes of all because of the activity and huge size of his body, his terrific and deep roar, the development of his muscles, and the mane streaming over his shoulders. There was brought in, among many others who had been condemned to fight with the wild beasts, the slave of an ex-consul; the slave's name was Androclus. When that lion saw him from a distance,” says Apion, “he stopped short as if in amazement, and then approached the man slowly and quietly, as if he recognized him. Then, wagging his tail in a mild and caressing way, after the manner and fashion of fawning dogs, he came close to the man, who was now half dead from fright, and gently licked his feet and hands. The man Androclus, while submitting to the caresses of so fierce a beast, regained his lost courage and gradually turned his eyes to look at the lion. Then,” says Apion, “you might have seen man and lion exchange joyful greetings, as if they had recognized each other.”

He says that at this sight, so truly astonishing, the people broke out into mighty shouts; and Gaius Caesar called Androclus to him and inquired the reason why that fiercest of lions had spared him alone. Then Androclus related a strange and [p. 425] surprising story. “My master,” said he, “was governing Africa with proconsular authority. While there, I was forced by his undeserved and daily floggings to run away, and that my hiding-places might be safer from my master, the ruler of that country, I took refuge in lonely plains and deserts, intending, if food should fail me, to seek death in some form. Then,” said he, “when the midday sun was fierce and scorching, finding a remote and secluded cavern, I entered it, and hid myself. Not long afterwards this lion came to the same cave with one paw lame and bleeding, making known by groans and moans the torturing pain of his wound.” And then, at the first sight of the approaching lion, Androclus said that his mind was overwhelmed with fear and dread. “But when the lion,” said he,“had entered what was evidently his own lair, and saw me cowering at a distance, he approached me mildly and gently, and lifting up his foot, was evidently showing it to me and holding it out as if to ask for help. Then,” said he, “I drew out a huge splinter that was embedded in the sole of the foot, squeezed out the pus that had formed in the interior of the wound, wiped away the blood, and dried it thoroughly, being now free from any great feeling of fear. Then, relieved by that attention and treatment of mine, the lion, putting his paw in my hand, lay down and went to sleep, and for three whole years from that day the lion and I lived in the same cave, and on the same food as well. For he used to bring for me to the cave the choicest parts of the game which he took in hunting, which I, having no means of making a fire, dried in the noonday sun and ate. But,” said he, “after I had finally grown tired of that wild [p. 427] life, I left the cave when the lion had gone off to hunt, and after travelling nearly three days, I was seen and caught by some soldiers and taken from Africa to Rome to my master. He at once had me condemned to death by being thrown to the wild beasts. But,” said he, “I perceive that this lion was also captured, after I left him, and that he is now requiting me for my kindness and my cure of him.”

Apion records that Androclus told this story, and that when it had been made known to the people by being written out in full on a tablet and carried about the Circus, at the request of all Androclus was freed, acquitted and presented with the lion by vote of the people. “Afterwards,” said he, “we used to see Androclus with the lion, attached to a slender leash, making the rounds of the shops throughout the city; Androclus was given money, the lion was sprinkled with flowers, and everyone who met them anywhere exclaimed: 'This is the lion that was a man's friend, this is the man who was physician to a lion.'”

1 F. H. G. iii. 510.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (5):
    • Harper's, Androclus
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), LEX
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SERVUS
    • Smith's Bio, Androclus
    • Smith's Bio, A'pion
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (3):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: