Friday, September 05, 2008

The lion’s tail gives a clue to his state of mind; the ears serve the same functions as in horses. For Nature has endowed all the noblest beasts with these means of expressing themselves. So the lion’s tail is still when he is calm, and moves gently when he wishes to cajole, which is rarely. Indeed, his anger is more frequently displayed: at its onset his tail lashes the earth, and, as it increases, his back, as if to goad him on. The lion’s strength is in his chest. Black gore flows from every wound, whether the injuries result from claw or tooth. When lions have eaten their fill they are harmless.

The lion’s noble spirit is most discernible in dangers: he sneers at weapons and protects himself for a long time by fearsome threats only — it is as if he protests that he will be acting against his will. And then he leaps forward, not as if forced by danger but rather as roused to anger by madness. A further sign of his noble spirit is that however large the number of dogs and hunters bearing down upon him in level plains and open ground, he gives ground contemptuously and stops every now and again. But when he reaches the undergrowth and forest, he races off very swiftly, as if the place hides his disgrace. He bounds forward when in pursuit, but not when running away.

If wounded, he memorizes his attacker with a marvellous power of observation and singles him out in however large a crowd you care to imagine. He seizes anyone who hurls a weapon at him, yet does not wound him, and whirls him round and throws him to the ground, but without inflicting any injury.

Pliny the Elder, Natural History