Sunday, November 2, 2014
androcles and the lion
The earliest form of the story is found in the fifth book of Aulus Gellius's 2nd century Attic Nights. The author relates there a story told by Apion in his lost work Aegyptiacorum ("Wonders of Egypt"), the events of which Apion claimed to have personally witnessed in Rome. In this version, Androcles is given the Latin name of Androclus, a runaway slave of a former Roman consul administering a part of Africa. He takes shelter in a cave, which turns out to be the den of a wounded lion. He removes a large thorn from the animal's foot pad, forces pus from the infected wound, and bandages it. As a result, the lion recovers and becomes tame toward him, acting like a domesticated dog, including wagging its tail and bringing home game that it shares with the slave.
After several years, the slave eventually craves a return to civilization, resulting in his imprisonment as a fugitive slave and condemnation to be devoured by wild animals in the Circus Maximus of Rome. In the presence of an unnamed emperor, presumably either Caligula or Claudius, the most imposing of these beasts turns out to be the same lion, which again displays its affection toward the slave. The emperor pardons the slave on the spot, in recognition of this testimony to the power of friendship, and he is left in possession of the lion. Apion then continues:
"Afterwards we used to see Androclus with the lion attached to a slender leash, making the rounds of the tabernae throughout the city; Androclus was given money, the lion was sprinkled with flowers, and everyone who met them anywhere exclaimed, This is the lion, a man's friend; this is the man, a lion's doctor." (read more)