The Leontophonus The Pegasus The Crocotta

The Lion has a dreadful enemy, according to Pliny, who says:--"We have

heard speak of a small animal to which the name of Leontophonus[36]

has been given, and which is said to exist only in those countries where

the Lion is produced. If its flesh is only tasted by the Lion, so

intensely venomous is its nature, that this lord of the other quadrupeds

instantly expires. Hence it is that the hunters of the Lion burn its

y to ashes, and sprinkle a piece of flesh with the powder, and so

kill the Lion by means of its ashes even--so fatal to it is this poison!

The Lion, therefore, not without reason, hates the Leontophonus, and,

after destroying its sight, kills it without inflicting a bite: the

animal, on the other hand, sprinkles the Lion with its urine, being well

aware that this, too, is fatal to it."

We have read, in the Romances of Chivalry, how that Guy, Earl of

Warwick, having seen a Lion and a Dragon fighting, went to the

assistance of the former, and, having killed its opponent, the Lion

meekly trotted after him, and ever after, until its death, was his

constant companion. How, in the absence of Sir Bevis of Hampton, two

lions having killed the Steward Boniface, and his horse, laid their

heads in the fair Josian's lap. The old romancists held that a lion

would always respect a virgin, and Spenser has immortalised this in his

character of Una. Most of us remember the story given by Aulus Gellius

and AElian, of Androcles, who earned a lion's gratitude by extracting a

thorn from its paw, and Pliny gives similar instances:--

"Mentor, a native of Syracuse, was met in Syria by a lion, who rolled

before him in a suppliant manner; though smitten with fear, and desirous

to escape, the wild beast on every side opposed his flight, and licked

his feet with a fawning air. Upon this, Mentor observed on the paw of

the lion, a swelling and a wound; from which, after extracting a

splinter, he relieved the creature's pain.

"In the same manner, too, Elpis, a native of Samos, on landing from a

vessel on the coast of Africa, observed a lion near the beach, opening

his mouth in a threatening manner; upon which he climbed a tree, in the

hope of escaping, while, at the same time, he invoked the aid of Father

Liber (Bacchus); for it is the appropriate time for invocations where

there is no room left for hope. The wild beast did not pursue him when

he fled, although he might easily have done so; but, lying down at the

foot of the tree, by the open mouth which had caused so much terror,

tried to excite his compassion. A bone, while he was devouring his food

with too great avidity, had stuck fast between his teeth, and he was

perishing with hunger; such being the punishment inflicted upon him by

his own weapons, every now and then he would look up, and supplicate

him, as it were, with mute entreaties. Elpis, not wishing to risk

trusting himself to so formidable a beast, remained stationary for some

time, more at last from astonishment than from fear. At length, however,

he descended from the tree, and extracted the bone, the lion, in the

meanwhile, extending his head, and aiding in the operation as far as it

was necessary for him to do. The story goes on to say, that as long as

the vessel remained off that coast, the lion shewed his sense of

gratitude by bringing whatever he had chanced to procure in the chase."

The same author mentions two curious animals, the Leucrocotta, and the

Eale, which are noticeable among other wonders:--"AEthiopia produces the

lynx in abundance, and the sphinx, which has brown hair and two mammae on

the breast, as well as many monstrous kinds of a similar nature; horses

with wings, and armed with horns, which are called pegasi: the Crocotta,

an animal which looks as though it had been produced by the union of the

wolf and the dog, for it can break anything with its teeth, and

instantly, on swallowing it, it digests it with the stomach; monkeys,

too, with black heads, the hair of the ass, and a voice quite unlike

that of any other animal."