Androcles and the Lion
June 7, 2008
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Aesop told of a slave called Androcles who escaped from his master,
a Roman governor in North Africa, and took refuge in a cave.
This cave turned out to be the den of none-too-happy lion,
who was suffering with a large thorn in his paw. For reasons
lost to history, Androcles decided that rather than run, he
would risk helping the poor cat. He approached delicately, then
removed the thorn from the paw and bandaged it up. The paw
got better, and the noble lion showed his gratitude by bringing
back part of each hunt to Androcles, who ate well in the cave.
After some time, Androcles missed the sound of other human
voices, and he ventured back to civilization -- where he was
quickly recognized, imprisoned, and sentenced to die for his
crime of stealing himself from his master.
They sent him off to be fed to beasts in a public spectacle. When
they tossed him onto the field he found himself face to
maw with a ferocious wild beast, who of course turned out to be
none other than his old feline friend. The lion recognized his
former physician immediately, and lay down meek as a house cat at
his feet. Cheers erupted from the crowd, and the savvy emperor
immediately freed man and beast -- eliciting more cheers.
They say that after that Androcles could be seen walking the
tame lion around Rome. And when free men saw them, they
would say, "This is the lion, a man's friend; this is the man, a
I told this story, or something like it, to the daughters here in
the Colosseum, which still stands despite the hardships inflicted
on it over the millenia by time and weather, the greed of popes
who wanted its marble, and the curiousity of tourists.