How a buck/stag could have become a lion!

Dominique.Thillaud thillaud at
Sat Aug 2 14:16:21 UTC 1997

Dear Dr Palaniappa,

	Thinking about your problem, I've found a curious analogy in the
greek mythology. In many occasions, the lion is closely associated with the
1) Achilleus is breeded by the centaur Cheiron and this one give him to eat
'splankhnois leontOn kai suOn agriOn kai arktOn muelois' : 'with inwards of
lions and wild swine and marrows of bears'. The splankhna are (heart,
lungs, spleen, kidneys, liver), in the sacrifice, the part of the victim
first spit-roasted (today's kokoretsi), the rest of the meat is boiled.
2) When Admetos would marry Alkestis, daughter of Pelias, he must, as an
ordeal, yoke together a lion and a boar. Apollon (a great hunter) help him
to do it.
3) When Adrastos, king of Argos, is searching husbands for his two
daughters, an oracle said him to take a lion and a boar: he choose Tydeus
and Polynikes for this reason (the two beasts were on their shields ?).
4) the epic give other examples in metaphors; preys in (IL. 11.292-3):
hOs d'hote pou tis thErEtEr kunas argiodontas
seuEi ep' agroterOi sui kapriOi Ee leonti
'as the hunter slip his white-toothed dogs against the boar, wild hog, or
the lion'; or predators in (IL. 6.782-3):
..., leiousin eoikotes Omofagoisin
E susi kaproisin, tOn te sthenos ouk alapadnon
'..., to lions similar, raw-eater, or to boar-like hogs, their strength
can't be weakened' (NB: raw-eater is not necessarily raw-meat-eater (gr.
Omos = skr. Ama), the main idea is the wildness).

	But this is a strange association because:
1) in Greece, the lion is a mythical beast (Nemeus lion, first heraklean
labour), not a common one as the boar.
2) the lion is not eatable!
3) the stag would be a better companion for the boar (the solitary males
are both very dangerous preys for the hunter and killers of many dogs), but
he is very rare in greek myths (except Akteon's one).

	The greek word leOn (gen. leontos) has the form of a present
participe of a verb *lew- (mycenian instrumental 're-wo-pi'), a verb very
close of the sanskrit rauti and, perhaps, has the first meaning 'roaring'.
But the bell of the stag is the more tremendous sound in the forest (if you
hear it one time, you'll never forget it)!

	Conclusion ? Some of the greek lions are perhaps stags.
	Remembering varAha and narasiMha, the last animal incarnations of
Vishnu, an interresting problem, is'nt'it ?

	Hoping to help,

Dominique THILLAUD
Universite' de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, France

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list