General Question

food's avatar

Why are lions depicted in old European buildings if there are no lions there?

Asked by food (790 points ) January 22nd, 2010

I´m curious as to where people got their first image of a lion, and why they started showing them on buildings if they didn´t even have these animals in their territory…

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10 Answers

oratio's avatar

Lions were common in ancient Greece, as well as the Middle East, but became extinct.

A population of the Asiatic Lion survived until the tenth century in the Caucasus, their last European outpost. Wikipedia

African lions were often used in the arenas of Rome, and have been a common symbolism of strength through history.

TehRoflMobile's avatar

I’m pretty sure lions were often brought up to regions as show, or as @oratio said, in Romes case to be used in the arena. Lions are were so awe inspiring and ferocious (to some one who had never seen one before) that they quickly became honored and feared.

filmfann's avatar

they were turned into statues.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Lions symbolize power and were frequently used outside government buildings to remind people of the power of the state.

Nullo's avatar

You might also take issue with the leopards used in some British art and symbolism.

food's avatar

Thanks! That solves the mystery! It´s very interesting that there were lions in Greece and Middle East, which explains why they were mentioned in the Bible. And it makes sense that the Romans would have spread the reverence of lions over Europe..(I feel sorry for the poor animals and gladiators, though).
Interesting, I haven´t noticed the leopards…Now I will look for them….

Jewel's avatar

Maybe for the same reasons there are gargoyles on bulidings in the U.S. and Europe? I mean, there aren’t any gargoyles living here either.

filmfann's avatar

@Jewel, you mean except Ann Coultier and Janet Reno?

Jewel's avatar

@filmfann Why, yes! Of course. Silly of me to forget them. Thanks for carching it!

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