The Hispanic lion, that big forgotten
The lion is a feline that is present in the symbolism of Spain from the dynastic union of the Catholic Kings. Together with the bull, it is the allegory or zoomorphic national personification of the Iberian country. This may seem strange, since in Spain there are no lions; However, it was not always the case: there were and their presence left its mark on the collective imagination.
The lion, the undisputed king of animals, has aroused the admiration and respect of animals since the beginning of time. humans. From prehistoric times the lion generated terror in our ancestors. Below, we will see some elements to better understand the history of the Hispanic lion, that great forgotten.
First representations of the lion in Spain
In the Iberian Peninsula, the first representations of the lion appear with the Iberian tribes. At that time the king of the felines was used as inspiration to make the stone sculptures . One of the most famous stone lions is Pozo Moro, in Albacete, which is part of the corner of a funerary monument.
Among the evidence of the physical existence of lions in the peninsula, is the discovery of a cave lion skeleton in excellent condition in the cave of Arrikrutz (Guipúzcoa).
There is also another unusual finding of the remains of a lion devoured by a group of Homo heidelbergensis . In the bones of the animal you can see clear signs of skinning and traces of human tools; this happened approximately 350,000 years ago.
The lion in Greek and Roman times
The lion was always present in myths and legends of the Greeks. This is a question that seems very natural if one considers that, in the time of Aristotle (4th century BC), the roars of lions were heard in Athens itself.
The Romans were undoubtedly the civilization that most interacted with the lions of the Mediterranean region. Along with other wild animals, the lions were protagonists of the shows that took place in the amphitheatres of Ancient Rome.
The worst use that was given to these felines is to be implements . The first Christians being devoured by lions is an image that lives on in the collective imagination.
Even when the lion had already disappeared from Europe, three centuries after Aristotle, the Romans continued to import them to satisfy their leisure activities . A curious way to use lions was to tie them to the cars of the victors .
The Hispanic lion in the Christian kingdoms
When the Middle Ages arrived, the image of the lions inherited from the Romans was adopted by several Christian kingdoms . One of the most representative cases is the kingdom of León, with its purple feline. This lion appears for the first time in the coins minted by the Emperor Alfonso VII, in 1126.
This symbol is considered one of the first heraldic elements of Europe. However, the use of the Spanish lion was not exclusive to Christian kings . A proof of this are the 12 lions carved in the well-known main fountain of the courtyard of the Alhambra.
The 'lion of Spain' in the time of Philip II
During the reign of Felipe II, the use of the lion as a symbol of the Hispanic Monarchy was extended.The dragon was evidently defeated by the lion, king of the animals.
The Hispanic lion as a democratic symbol
In the contemporary age the lion he became the guardian of democratic institutions . Proof of this are the two lions located at the doors of the Congress of Deputies in Madrid.
Finally, after the Civil War, the lion was definitively removed from the Spanish symbolism. This happened due to its association with the republican side. Currently the Iberian bull, among other animals, has stolen the lion's share in the iconic representation of Spain.