PALEOLITHIC ART MAGAZINE
A MOUSTERIAN SCULPTURE OF THE EUROPEAN LION: BETWEEN MYTH AND RITUAL
The lion in the representation: from the Paleolithic to the historical times
The lion, the sacrality and the ritual
The myth and its interlaces: lion and sun
The lion in the fable and in the iconology
The myth of Heracles and the Nemean lion
The emotionality and the Paleolithic man
The lion of the Arma delle Manie
The lion in the representation: from the Paleolithic to the historical times
In 1982, October, at the I International Conference of Human Paleonthology, Nice, Pietro Gaietto ( Genova, Italy) introduced a Mousterian suspended zoomorphic sculpture, found in the 'Arma delle Manie (Liguria, Italy), discovered by him in 1975 and representing a head of roaring feline .
Of dimensions identical to those of a real head of lion, the sculpture was attributed by Gaietto to the Mousterian, for typological affinities with small sculptures in silex of heads of feline of that culture.
Hanging, in how much it has some holes made intentionally for hanging, it precedes other hanging sculptures of the Aurignacian found in Dordogne, geometric and vaguely anthropomorphic and zoomorphic, shown at the National Museum of Les Eyzies (France) and in visitable layers to the open in the same zone.
In nature, between the fossils, 24 species of felines are known, between which 6 living.
At Olduvai Gorge, in Africa, has been found the Panthera gombaszoegensis, form of middle between lion and tiger, 1,5 million years old, the earliest lion ancestor known by us.
The " cave lion ", Panthera leo spelaea that lived in Europe 600,000 years ago, now is extinct. Fossils have been found in England and near Alazeya River in Siberia. In a British site was found the skull of the most ancient feline (100,000 years ago), 43 cm., but the lions drawn in the caves (Chauvet, Lascaux etc), were more small, about like the current lions (perhaps, the most similar currently are the lions of the Northern India, in the forest of Gir).
Beyond that for the changes of climate, the lions disappeared progressively from Europe also for the great competition with the man for the hunting and the living in the caves.
During the Aurignacian and the Gravettian, in Europe, there are representations in sculpture of felines.
In particular, during the Aurignacian, we find not only representations of animals important to the aims of the feeding , but also of others, like the lion. They could be considered testimonial of the hunting magic, like the 17 statuines in ivory of the bestiary, found in 1931 at Vogelherd (near Stetten, Jura Souabe, Germany, approximately 32,000 / 34,000 years ago), particular also because it represents not hunting prey, like horse, mammouth, feline, bison, just like those painted on the walls of the Chauvet cave in France, of the same time.
Between these statuines, usured for a long use and with signs periodically engraved, excels the so called man-lion.
" The statuines of felines and the man with the feline head - perhaps, having as aim the appropriation of the spirit and of the force of the animal-, had without doubt a meaning more complicated."(Kozlowski, p 317).
We also find in Moravia a lively feline represented in the action to complete a leap (ivory, Pavlov, 23,000 years old approximately).
At Twyfelfontein (Namibia, south Africa), many lions between the 2500 engravings of rock art (from 2000 to 6000 years; some paintings have been dated at 27,000 years).
Recently, the exploration of the cave of Chauvet (France), has placed in the Aurignacian also most ancient and beautiful representations in painting of many animals, between which the felines. The cave is remarkable for the richneand successives the Godsts bestiary and the represented species, but above all for the technical ability of the artist, probably alone, who frescoed it.
During the Magdalenian, there are representations of felines in the art in cave (Lascaux , Le Gabillou, La Marche, Les Trois-Frères, Les Combarelles, La Vache, etc.), and as mobile sculpture.
However, it is correct to think that the representation of felines is not exclusively characteristic of a given culture, also because we have only insufficient testimonies of the art of the Paleolithic: the greater part of it (comprised that on perishable materials, like wood and, we could presume, skins), was destroyed for the limited resistance to the action of the time. It is credible to think, in my opinion, that, probably, changes only the percentages in which a given animal has been represented, and this could be tied to this single culture, and especially to the cult.
Also the distinction " lion-lioness" is rather controversial, in how much, being the cave lion without mane, is not clearly distinguishable if in the paleolithic artistic representattions it is matter of lions males or females.
Between those traditionally classified as lionesses, I remember some, paintings, engravings and sculptures, attributed to the Aurignacian: the lionesses of the Cave of Chauvet, in France; an engraving of the contours of a lioness, at Les Trois Frères; a graffito, always in the same cave, of a lioness (or lion) on a natural shelf, with the head retouched with dots, and varies attempts, in black or graffito, to represent the tail (to this purpose, the count of Bégouen formulated the hypothesis, and after him the abbé Breuil and other scholars of the paleolithic art, there would been a magical use of the action to represent ex novo or again-to represent animals, above all in relation to the hunting; instead, between the sculptures, beyond to that one of Pavlov (Fig.1),
Fig.1 Lioness engraved on ivory, Gravettian, Pavlov, Moravia
in ivory, a head of lioness in clay, lenght 4.5 cm., of the Gravettian of Dolni Vestonice (Moravia, Czechoslovakia)(Fig. 2);
Fig.2 Head of lioness in clay, Gravettian, Dolni Vestonice, Moravia
an other, of the same origin and material, 6 cm. (Fig.3)
Fig.3 Clay head of lioneand successives, Gravettian, Dolni Vestonice, Moravia
and an engraving representing a cave lion, lenght 70 cm., and a graffito very emphasized of lion at Les Combarelles (France)(Fig. 4);
Fig.4 Lion, engraving, lenght 70 cm., Les Combarelles, France
Remarkable, between all, the " chapel" in the magdalenian cave Les Trois-Frères, known from more time and therefore more deeply studied, in which there are a lion modeled on a stalagmite, a lioness and a baby lion, engraved and painted, and ahead two felines with the threatening look that seem to want to stop the visitor ( Fig.5).
Fig.5 Two felins, drawing by abbé Breuil, from engraving, Les trois Frères, France
Denis Vialou, of the Institute of Human Paleonthology, has deepened these aspects of the " chapel of the Lioness ". He describes it like a chapel at some ten of meters from the sanctuary of the " horned God " or " wizard ", the lioness is drawn realistically, with an upper human member protruding from the genito-anal zone, just like, in the case of the Wizard, the sex of the feline, with a twofold reference to the human-feline arm and to the sex human feline-leg.
But the other interesting circumstance, adressing us with our thought to an important sculpture, i.e. to the divinity man-feline of El Juyo, is that " the relationship man-feline expressed in an obvious sexual context exists also for the faces with the graphical ambiguity of masks."(Vialou, p 298)
In the Sanctuary there are other four masks with human face and at the same time head of feline, frontal vision, " and just the head of the man is represented frontally and framed from three heads of lion frontally; beyond to being accompanied by a baby lion whose head is represented again frontally. There are finally other two frontal heads of feline painted and engraved very near in the great gallery. It is stated that the reference to the felines is meaningful of a sure graphical complicity between the man and this animal. " (ibidem).
In all this, and in the way of the realization, concludes Vialou, the prehistoric man has transmitted his dreams to us. Also at Tuc d'Audoubert (Montesquieu-Avantès, near Saint-Girons, Ariège, France), we find half-felines with function of guardian.
At Montespan there is a great feline modeled in clay, of which remaining rests (part of a posterior leg, breast, neck and anterior legs. It is full of holes provoked from lances and javelins, and presumably it testifies of rituals that could have to do with the sympathetic magic of the hunting.
Similarly, a well-built cave lion engraved in horn of reindeer, found at Isturitz (Fig. 6), in the Pyrenees.
Fig.6 Lion with symbols shaped as arrow, lenght 9,9 cm., Isturitz, France
Beyond to engravings as arrow, on the body there are some holes, that have made to think to a magical symbology.
Finally, always pertaining to the magdalenian culture, the great sculpture in stone of El Juyo half human and half animal, that, according to Freeman, the discoverer, could be a half head of lion.
Freeman speaks about the cavern of the finding like about a sanctuary and, on purpose of the sculpture, he says: " The extraordinary stone face, a fusion of human and animal nature, is probably the most convincing representation of a supernatural being known in the paleolithic art ."(Freeman, Klein, Echegaray, " a " intact sanctuary " at El Juyo ", in Miti e Riti, p 284).
But, regarding the cultural attribution of this sculpture to the Magdalenian, I must say here that Gaietto disagrees from the opinion of Freeman, considering it instead as testimony of the mousterian tradition in parallel to the Magdalenian.
The representation of the lion is frequent in historical age, with a great richness in the Near East. Let follow in chronological order. The Sumerian art is rich in lions, as those represented in a splendid alabaster vase from the temple of Uruk, 3200 BC approximately. In Egypt, approximately 3000 BC, I dynasty, coming from Hierankonpolis, we find a spatula of king Narmer, with two very stylized lions.
3000 BC, from the temple of Shara in Iraq, at Tell Agrab, on a offering vase we can admire in relief some lions.
In a cylindrical Sumerian seal (2500 BC, tomb of Ur), is represented Gilgamesh while fights with the sword against the lions. Images of heroes fighting with two lions; derivated from this iconography originally referred to Gilgamesh, as testimony of exchanges between various traditions and cultures, are found later near othercivilizations (like as example in the engraving of the handlin ivory of a knife in silex of Gebel al-Arak, hold at the Louvre, in which moreover we can see a man who chokes two lions).
We find hunting scenes, like that seeing like protagonist Assurbanipal (1669-1630 BC, at the royal palace of Ninive, Babylon, now at the British Museum), what testifies the deep ritual character of the hunting.
The tradition of the lions guardian of the gates, already seen in the paleolithic cave Les Trois Frères, finds a beautiful example in a Sumerian lion in stone guarding the temple of Dagan, God of the Amorrituals, at Mari (XIXth century BC, Paris, Louvre), characterized from eyes in white stone, having at the center a black schist circle.
Continuing in this ideal travel in the time, we find the Lion Gate, Micene (Aslanlikapi, 1300 BC approximately), whose powerful architrave is surmounted from a triangular frieze, with a column and two rampant lions.
Many lions in the hittite age: approximately in the XII-XIth century BC, a lion guardian of a gate, in a fortreand of the dthereded hittite empire, Malatya (ancient Melid); at Karkemish (ancient Jerablus), two roaring lions like base of a statue of the God Atarsuhis, and carved orthostate of man-lion; and from the temple of the God of the lions, always at Karkemish, carved orthostate of the gods of sun and moon, straight, on the back of a roaring lion.
In the rests of a gate of the powerful walls of the Bogaz-keuy Capital, (Hattusas, Asia, XIIIth century), as bas-relief much jutting out, two lions seen frontally, with the opened wide mouth, frightening guardians of whom has been called Lion Gate approximately 1200 BC).
At a side of the inner gate of Yerkapu, instead, always at Boghaz-keuy, same age, a sphinx with body of lion and human head. At Sam' al ( Zingirli, northern Syria), in a mixed style, but showing strongly signs of the hittite culture, we find lions at the gates, a little figure of genius with lion head (approximately XIIIth century BC), and a great roaring lion .
Coming from the Iranian plateau, natural cultural bridge between Near East and central Asia and sub continent Indian, with cultural aspects of the various areas, we have, at the National Museum of Oriental Art of Rome, like thematic Neolithic remains , some representations of historical age of the lion: a frieze with several animals, between which a feline represented in its entireness, as decoration of a water jug with handles of glazed turquoise ceramics (XIIth century BC); a representation of lion on a tile having stellar shape, for parietal decoration, painted at lustrous and blue (Kashan, XII-XIVth century BC, with probable thematic filiation from the painted ceramics of the regions of Kashan, Luristan and Kerman, V-III millenium BC
At the gates of the ancient Sam' al, approximately X-IXth century BC, a bas-relief with an other fierce roaring lion in the inner gate of the citadel.
We find the same eyes of the lion of Mari in a roaring lion of the palace of Kapara (Tell Halaf, IX-VIII century BC).
Of the Siro-Palestinian area, a Phoenician engraving ivory, from Nimrud (Calah), VIIIth century BC, represents a sitting winged sphinx ,surmonted from the symbol of the sun; the other, most interesting in how much showing the tie lion-sun, represents a sitting lion (Fig.7) with on the head the solar disc
Fig.7 Engraving from Nimrud, Phoenicia, panel open worked in ivory, VIIIth century BC
The tradition continues with the sculptures of the Assyrians lions: is probable that this people have taken from the Hittite and Aramaic subjects the custom of great sculptures of animals, between which the lions, like guardians of the gates.
Near the Assyrians the lion was a much privileged subject of representation, especially in sculpture, in how much, like king of the wild animals, represented the power of the kingdom.
Of the neo-Assyrian period , IXth century BC, a roaring lion from a relief with hunting scene (Ashurnasirpal II); an other, much animated, a relief in alabaster, palace of Ashurnasirpal, Nimrud, Iraq, representing Ashurnasirpal II killing a lion; a scene from Ninive, with a fierce dying lion and with a lion outgoing from the cage .
Always numerous the guardian lions, in great part represented in motion and roaring.
Two roaring lions at angle; at the tell Tayanat, in Hatay, approximately VIIIth century BC, two lions placed side by side, at the base of a column; a bronze plate of Siro-Palestinian area, approximately VIIth century BC, with a roaring lion from Golludag, anatolic region of the Tabal, between the VIIIth and the VIIth century BC, two splendid roaring lions near a gate.
Of the VIIth century BC, in a tell at 8 Km from Ayn Dara (60 Km from Aleppo, Syria), have been discovered magnificent lions in stone (now in the museum of Aleppo).
From Persepoli, Iran (approximately 600 BC), a beautiful theory of lions sculpted on a frieze.
Of the VII-VI century BC, at the beginning of the sacred way that carried to the sanctuary of Marduk, along the tree-lined avenue leading to the gate the Ishtar, were great panels of bricks enameled on which lions in motion were modeled in relief, whose representation was also on the gate, and in the decoration of the room of the throne of the palace.
Also in the art of the Scythians, the topic of the lion is present.
At Rome, near the National Museum of Oriental Art, represented on a button of sword-hilt, Vth century BC, a lion with shut mouth, in action to complete a leap.
400 BC, a refined golden winged roaring lion , from Ecbatana, Iran.
The tradition of the guardian lions is then continued for long time both in the West and in East, like testified from a great nombre of predator or guardian lions in front of the gates of churches, especially from the XIIth century AD, in the Romanesque and Gothic period (the prothyres are generally supported from two columns, supported from two lions: see for all the lions of the cathedral of Troy, pugliese- Romanesque style), and, in East, the numerous temples, like as example at Khajuraho, India, temple of Vishwanath, with guardians lions (of the entrance North between AD 950 and 1050 ).
But returning more far away in the time, in different attitudes from the usual, at Khorsabad, on a great slab, inner to the doors (VIIth century; now at the Louvre), a baby lion, rampant and fierce tamed by Gilgamesh.
A majestic lion in action to attack a horse is in a bas-relief of the perron of the palace of Persepoli, Iran, 500 BC approximately.
Much later, at Rome, by the National Museum of Oriental Art, woven in a precious silk (employed then like sacred vestment in the West), a scene of hunting, according to the style of the Iranians miniatures, in which a hunter with arc aims from the high two lions, that attack from the two flanks a horse (Iran, Saffavide period, XVIth century).
A beautiful scene of hunting with a bas-relief of athletic lions at Alaka Hoyuk.
In the splendid golden daggers for the fight body to body of the minoic warriors princes of the Basilicata (XVIth century BC), scenes of hunting with roaring lion are found, and great bas-relief of feline head on round shield (umbone and decoration) (Museo Barraco, Rome).
Rarer, and in various attitude, the lionesses.
We remember for all, the beautiful and enigmatic scene of Kalakh carved on an ivory tablet, in phoenician style siro-palestinian, with a lioness attacking an African (VIIIth century BC), and the micenian refined golden rhyton .
The lion, according to the oriental tradition, beyond to being represented in " natural " way, also was represented, and in way rather fantastically composite, often winged, or half lion and half centaur, or with human head.
On purpose of a Maesoptamic bas-relief, (3200 BC), in which a sacred Taurus is eaten from a eagle-lion, specifyes Campbell: "This bird-lion is a Sumerian representation of the force of the sun that constantly swallows the Taurus: the life comes, the life goes " (Campbell, p 51).
Similarly for a liontocephalus aigle that ties two red deers, always first half the IIIth millenium BC (bronze, Sumeriansan Art, Tell Obeid, London, British Museum).
With inverted representation, an apotropaic pendant representing a winged lion of the 2650 BC, in lapis-lazulis, gold, copper and bitumen, from the treasure of Ur (Mari, now at the national Museum of Damasco).
At Karkemish, bas-relief the IIth millennium shows a fabulous animal, a winged lion that, at the top of the head, erects a second head, human, with a hat with two horns, which could allude to a sun-moon ( Fig.8)
Fig.8 Fabulous lion (relief on stone, Karkemish, IIth millennium)
At the Museo Barraco, Rome, there is a couple of small sphynx in basalt of the region of Hfacesut (New kingdom, XXIIIth dynasty, 1479-1459 BC), a couple of lions, of which one has human face, while the other is crouched down, with ornamental scroll of Pharaoh Ramesse II (Medium kingdom, 1279-1213 BC), beyond to some aegyptian lions in wood and basalt.
Also the Gods reassume on themselfs a part of animality, in order to strenghten their force, like as example the aegyptian goddess Thueri the Great , with head and log of hippopotamus, legs of lion and tail of crocodile. Or they search the alliance of the wild animals, by them subjugated, like in the case of Cybele or as symbolically also the myth of Heracles s and the Nemean lion narrates, about which we will speak more ahead. Connected to the myth of Heracles and the Nemean lion, at Rome, hold at the Museum of Centrale Montemartini, can be admired a sitting baby lion in ivory (VIth century BC, period of transition between Etruscan and Roman ctherelization), with pedimental terracotta plates shaped as feline (pertaining to the Boario temple), near the presentation of Heracles to the Olympus by Athena, and still, always in sacred area, two great sitting and opposite felines in heraldic position with between the Gorgon ( Ith half of VIth century).
At the Museo Barraco of Rome, a little bronze representing Heracles with club and the skin the Nemean lion refolded on the left arm (Acerauca, sporadic second middle IIIth century BC). Evidently, here the lion is power and force symbol.
In the Hellenicsstic period, especially in the IIIth and IIth century BC, the mythological erudition derivated from Homer and Hesiod, joined to the oriental infuences, which we have pointed out, has deep influences on the representative typology in sculpture, and often is represented the commixtion man-animal that, in my opinion, probably resumes very more archaic traces. They could derive just from the paleolithic ideological tradition, of which, as example, the wizard-man of the Trois Frères (13,000 years) testimonies.
Thus, in the frieze of the great Altar of Pergamon (Hellenistic age, 323-149 BC), in the particular of the fight between Hecat and a giant, it is assisted to the transformation of the giant in lion, or however to the commixtion between the two animalities, in how much the giant is itself turned into lion, like is looked at from the roaring head and from the powerful claws on the hand-leg.
Still at Rome, coming from the Mithraic temple (end IIth AD century), in the Crypta Balbi, a small little head of lion in marble, with half-shut mouth, the winged body represented wrapped in coils of a snake: the head makes reference to the fire. At Rome, the Persian cult of Mithra was tied to that one of the God Invincible Sun: it was the God Aion (Kronos), personification of the infinite time.
Always with reference to these representative commixtions, we remember that the Persians in origin did not have zoomorphic representation of the divinity, thus the sun, expression of Mithra, ikon of the solar sky, often was represented with head of lion (see Silio Italico and Stazio, AD Ith century), probably indication of the greater vigor of the sun in the zodiacal sign of the lion, the fire for the Persian symbology. The Persian God Mithra was seen like the reconciliator of the luminous Orzmud with the tenebrous Ahrimane. In the mithriac mysteries, it was the use of disguises under shapes of animals, between which the lion. At Rome, in the Mithraic temple Barberini, the God Mithra, with lion head, is in coils of a snake, straight on a globe, with at his sides sun and moon.
Therefore, in many cultures of the same age, also if geographically far, the lion is often associated to the sun, also symbol in all the times of the divine power.
Campbell, on purpose of an Athenian ceramic of the Vth century BC, in which the figure of the lion appears, defines it still animal solar and powerful symbol of energy: " the sun does not have shadows, is constantly free from the limit of the time, the birth and the death. Therefore it is absolute life."(Campbell, p 22).
So, the energetic aspect would be at the base of the tie between the symbol of the lion and that one of the sun, like more deeply it will see, seeing the mythical aspect.
Between the zodiacal signs, frequently the figures of the sun and the lion are associated. To see images in the sky, is something borned with the man, as we can suppose from findings of Babylonian engraved tablets, 6000 BC, valley of the Euphrates, naming the constellations of the Lion, Taurus and Scorpion. According to the news that we have, they were Romans and Greeks to institute parallelisms between mythological personnages and constellations. During the Renaissance, in the Libro dell'Amore (Book of the love), ,Marsilio Ficino , also ignoring such circumstance, spoke about stars like of the " animals of the sky ". Recently, in the cave of Lascaux, Michael Rappenglueck ( University of Munchen of Bayer), has observed a shape as triangle, formed from the eyes of a Taurus, a man-bird and a bird on the top of a stick, that would represent a great map of the sky .
We can find similar signs in some pendantifs cited by Kozlowsky (see p 315), representatives animals, like fish, horse etc. It would be interesting to study it more deeply and to be able to verify the hypothesis that, like those of the lunar calendar discovered by Marschack, also they were ancient calendars, and, in a sure sense, also a shape of writing , or that there is an ancient correlation between stars and animals, perhaps at the origin of our zodiac.
The German archaeologist supports that the men of the Paleolithic characterized in the sky most numerous animals and spirits guides.
It would be of a sure interest that some astronomer studied the positioning of several stars in the constellation of the lion, in order to see if is found some analogy with the stellar maps characterized in the magdalenian paintings in cave, trying also to inquire about which was the positioning of the constellations in our hemisphere at the age in which the paleolithic artists first traced these celestial maps .
The lion, the sacrality and the ritual
The representation of the lion, therefore, uninterruptedly covers the history of the man from the Paleolithic, maintaining intact its symbology of force, power and royalty.
In particular then, the presence of recurrent sculptures of felines, often incontestably tied to the sacrality, put the problem of their meant, beyond the represented zoomorphic image, and put us directly in the subjects concerning the ritual and the mythography.
In fact, from what we have seen, all the representations of the lion, culturally and chronological different, have a characteristic in common: they associate the image of the lion to a quality that in some way has to do with sacrality (the power, royalty or astuteness and sadness at the maximum degree), often by connecting like mythical figure to the religion or identifying directly with dtvine beings, both male and female.
It could be asked firstly why this mythical figure of lion is identified both with the male, and with the female, this beginning, as it has been looked at, from the cave LesTrois Frères, in which it seems to prevail the representation of the lioness, except the case where it is a problem of style of representation, like already in the more ancient lithic sculptures of felines, or of the fact that, like already has been said, the cave lion was without mane.
Later on, in the iconography of the historical times, we find nearly always the lion male, even aand successivesociated at the beginning, like in Egypt, in Greece and at Rome, with feminine divinity: perhaps for the paand successivesage from ctherelizations of hunting to agrarian ctherelizations . Near the ancient historical ctherelizations, however, often the lion is symbol of divinity, in prevalence feminine.
Between the more knewn, near the Sumerians, the goddess Ereshkigal; the goddess Inanna, associated with the winged lion, or while subjugating the lion, having assumed on themself the wings; near the Hittites, Hebat, spouse of Teshub, represented like a matrona, up on her sacred animal, the lion; the lunar goddess Shaushka ( identified with Ishtar, IIIth dynasty of Ur, accadic period, approximately 2350 BC), as is represented, winged figure straight on a lion, in the relief of gods and goddesses of the main tribune of Yazilikaya; a sumerian-accadic image, presumibly of the goddess Lilith, represents the goddess straight on a lion; in an harp from the tomb of king Puabi, Ur, 2600 BC, a lion figure, straight in feet like offerer; Zababa, under whose image was represented a lion; Nergal, God of the war; in the minoic art, a carving with a goddess of mountains with lions; in Greece, Cybele, mother goddess of the Phryge, and punic goddess of the war, guides a chariot draged from lions, or is sitting on a throne with two lions squatting down to the feet; going back to the Neolithic, VIIth millennium BC, in Anatolia, at Catal Huyuk, a figurine of feminine divinity, sitting on a throne, with lionesses like arms, in clay; Artemis, goddess of the nature,"aspra agitatrice di belve", as Homer sings, often represented with some lions, that appear in the fronton of the temple to her dedicated, at Corfù (Greek art, 600 BC); between most numerous aegyptians divinities, Aker, double lion, with the solar disc, guardian of rising and sunset of the sun; Bast, represented with features of cat, beyond that of lion; Hathor, also under cow shape, beyond that of lion; Horus, with head of lion and solar disc; Mehit, goddess with lion head; Sekhmet , with head of lion surmonted from the solar disc, with the cobra; Tefnut, with head of cow beyond that of lion, surmonted from the disc of the sun; in Tibet, Senge Dong-but; in India, Simhavaktra like woman, Narasimha like incarnation of Visnù; the Roman Juno, represented on a chariot hauled from lions; Volcan, Roman God, were associated with the lion, whose roar reminded the rumble of the volcano; in East, Buddha, seated on a lion like on a throne, was said "the lion of Shakya "; Chiu-shou, Chinese dvinity, was a lion, than sometimes assumed human features; Durga , hindou goddess, destroyer of demons, is represented seated on a lion; Tare tibetan goddess (lioness); Sinha Kubera, hindou God, seated on the back of a lion; Nyavirezi, African goddess, were associated to the lion.
having premised it, having in mind the endurance of the tradition, we can think, in agreement with Gaietto, than the great sculpture of the lion of the Arma delle Manie is the representation of a mythical figure with sacred character .
Probably its image was central in the development of determined rituals, as well as its considerable dimensions did not make an object, like the art mobilier, easy to being carried with himself, but instead we can incline for the hypothesis, like for the great sculpture of El Juyo, of a cultual object, probably representation of a being tied to the sacred, destined to being placed stablily in a cult place.
It is very intersting that this sculpture has the characteristic of being hanging (presence of holes for hanging it to strong ropes). Such characteristic, in fact, could have connections with two diffuse customs. The first is relative to the cult of the died person, that in several areas, during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic, previewed the conservation of the single skull. The cult of the conservation of the skull presumably was associated to the idea of the defunct's power, being in its more noble part, represented exactly from the skull, which, in many ancient manners of enterment, was the previlegied part for the conservation and the cult.
To such purpose, for analogy, it will be opportune to remember the cult of the skull of the Cave Bear (Ursus speleus), conserved in appropriate sanctuaries. Such cult has been evidenced in 1917 by Theophil Nigg fromVättis in Switzerland, and by Emil Baechler, (1917-1923), in the Drachenloch, at 2445 m, in which have been found rests of the Cave bear.
The second observation is concerning the cultual custom of the human skulls , carried by the living relatives with himself.
From a religious point of view, therefore, it could be thought to an expression having to make with the animism, considered also that the sculpture of the Manie is work of the man of Neanderthal, that had two types of cult of the dead men: the conservation of the entire corpse in sleep position, and the conservation of the single skull.
The ritual is one of the more immediate and ancient shapes with which the man expresses the ineffable and puts in contact, also through the body, with the divinity, assuming and covering heself a sacred character in how much making part of a truth that does not change.
For ritual commonly we means any gesture or ceremony of symbolic character, with which the man manifests a concept or a feeling regarding the dtvinity. One the its primary scopes is that one to subtract the more important facts of the human life to the causality or however to the impossibility of control, in order to insert it in a cultural ordering controlled by the group, and therefore less alarming.
The ritual is a complex phenomenon, in how much expresses aspects of a unconscious conflict of derivatives of unconscious aggressive and sexual drivers and their defenses, often with presence of elements pertaining to the magical thought.
Therefore, it " presupposes behind itself very complicated mental processes... must... be considered medium of expression of the deep psychological impulses " (Reik, p 31).
In my opinion, the mousterian sculpture of the Arma delle Manie, just in how much expreand successivesion of a unconscious emotional movement connected to the drivers, could be associated to the ancient rituals of the initiation, like we can infer also from comparative etnographic studies.
From the moment when the man is appeared on the earth, and consequently had to face the vital problem of the physical survival, both as avoidance of the natural dangers, first the assault of the fairs, and as active search of the food, and, above all, when, with the invention and realization of the extra-body instrument, he has begun to hunt, and no more to eat carrions killed by fairs, then, the courage and all the other qualities for being a good warrior and hunter came taught to the more young generations .
Therefore, since the origins, we could think about propiziator-identificator rituals with powerful animals, between which first the lion.
Often the rituals are of cult, in how many referring to the cult of a powerful being, connected to a dtvinity or dvinity itself, who, in exchange, will lavish to the man favors and powers, like the ability in the defense and the hunting, with the associated qualities.
That was essential in a culture, as that of Homo Habilis, and more of Homo Ergaster , from little time entered in a new ecological niche, characterized by eating meat, beyond vegetables.
The ethnology has shown how in all the cultures of the primitives are also objects in order to evoke the spirits, through a process of abstraction, fetishes, amulets.
The head of lion of the Arma delle Manie, in how much representation of the most powerful and feared animal, could also be tied ideally, if not materially for the dimensions, to rituals centralized on fetishes. Only who has characteristics of lion can gain the lions for the terror that provokes: in historical times, we remember the Babylonian goddess Irra as an example, that appeared under aspect of lion.
The myth and its interlaces: lion and sun
The myths, present near all the cultures and in all the times, are narrations rich of allegories and hidden meanings, aimed to explain to the group which they addresses the origin and the nature of the world.
These stories, woven with much intense and beautiful mental images , express complex intrapsychic relations, with a deep dynamic character.
They are intimately tied to the real life of the culture in which they take shape, comprised the religious credences, and the expressions of creativity, closely interlaced with the social ordering; therefore, they become nearly conditions of life, transmitted by the old generations, and connected closely to the religion, of which they contain traces that disappear in the night of the times.
Following the traces of the lion in the mythography, we meet a particularity, already observed in the representative art, since the ancient times: the reference of much solar myths to this animal; so, before trying to trace the remotest origins of the myth of the lion, it could be useful to follow the traces of the myth with which the lion is interlaced: that of the Sun.
According to Pettazzoni, " the association of the sun with the lion goes back to an age in which the heliac rising of the constellation of the lion had to fall in the solstice of summer " (Pettazzoni, 1955, p 207), i.e. IVth millennium BC
It is highly probable that the power of the star, base of the life like light and heat, has immediately hit the imagination of the man, so he precociously has venerated it like supernatural being.
The Sun has been associated to the divinity in many religious cults of the historical age, however does not come numbered between the Supreme Beings, because it does not poand the peculiar characteristic, to be the increated creator.
We must make a distinction between supreme being and mythical being. The characteristics that connote the Supreme Being, not created, are the creatrive activity, to be all-seeing and the omniscience, the immortality and the sublime morality.
Instead, the mythical figure, that constitutes the personification of attributes and tasks of the supreme divinity, belongs to a lower aspect (see.Pettazzoni, 1955, p 3 and successives).
The Sun therefore is a representation of the primordial God, origin of all the things. It is light, creatrice energy, in contrast to the darkness, negation of the life.
The myth of the sun is present from always in all the cultures with a relief place, for the extreme pregnancy of all what it has to do with the phenomena correlated with the celestial vault: " They were the skies, in their revolutions, to give the key, while the events of this earth receded, until becoming insignificant. The attention came concentrated on the higher presences, far from the phenomenic chaos that encircles us " (De Santillana, p 86).
However, " the sun was the only absolute measure provided by the nature " (there, p 290).
In the course of the time, we have had several personifications about the sun, filling the myths of several people.
The more ancient cultures, nearly surely, borrowed the existence personified of Sun from civilization by now disappeared, of which not remains some trace, if not in posterior written sources, like as example near the Pelasgians, of which we have news about the coming in Greece from the Palestine in the 3500 BC.
Originally this people did not have names for the Gods, it called them, as remembered by Herodot, Gods.
However, between the seven planetary powers, they placed the Sun, that presided to the light.
After the consultation of the oracle of Dodona, the most ancient of the Hellade, they adopted the denominations of the Aegyptians. " later the Hellenics will receive it from the Pelasgians."(Herodot, History, II, 52).
According to the pelasgian myth of the creation, Eurynome, Goddess of all the Things, emerged from the Chaos, remained pregnant from the Ophion snake, under dove shape deposited the Universal Egg, from which the existing things exited all: the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, the earth with mounts, rivers, trees and grass and living creatures.
Therefore, near these ancient disappeared people, the sun, with several names, but with similar attributes, appears like primeval force at the origin of all.
Near the Babylonians, the sun represented the victory on the death, beyond to announce the divine right.
Hammurabi would have received from the God of the sun Shamash the basic laws of his Code (approximately 1950 BC). The king of Assyria and Babylon was connected to the lions for their force.
Near the Sumerians, Ningirsu, (kingdom of Gudea, 2144-2124), God of the rain and fertility, dazzling like the sun, was represented like a eagle with lion head, and it was taught that he had won the lion with the seven heads. Near this people, the lion represented the force to the life, the demon.
In the richest and articulated Aegyptian religion, as already we have remembered, the sun was associated, or it was overlapped, to the lion, therefore considered like an other symbol of the same sun, beside these more knewn of the donkey and the Taurus.
Let see some examples.
In the 1800 BC, bloomed the cult of the God Sun Ra (towards the 1350 BC will become cult monotheist). Ra was the father of all the Gods, God of Thebe and then of Egypt, God of the sun, later associated to Amun (" the unknowable " God, in how much supreme), Atum or Aten, whose name evokes the totality, creator of the universe, the one who is all) and Horus (whose two eyes were respectively the sun and the moon), was creator of the Universe and protecting the state and the justice. The Sun was the boat, with which every day it goes through the sky. Often it was represented like a lion, like the daughter Sekhmet , implacable destroyer of hers enemies.
Amenemhet IV built at Abido a temple to Hosiris.
In ancient Egypt, existed a representation of the winged solar disc, Behdeti-Horus (Horus of the western Delta), captain of the army of Ra, such perhaps for the aerial analogy between the bird and the star; notice that the lion was considered phenomenic shape of the God Sun.
The Sun, transmits the Greek Hesiod (IXth or VIIth century BC), was son of Theia (daughter of Gaia and Uranus, pertaining to the lineage of Titans) and Hyperion: " Theia the great Sun... generated, lying with Hyperion in love " (Hesiod, Theogony, vv 371-374).
The Greeks called Helios the God of the sun, which every day covered the sky on his golden chariot.
In the Prologue to the Fabulae, Iginus (probably the librarian of the emperor Augusto, Ith BC/AD Ith), says that the sun is son of Hiperion and Etra (daughter of Pitteus, king of Trezene). Helios " the indefatigable " was brother of Eos and Selene, the Moon goddess, and son of a brother of Cronos, Hyperion, therefore a Titanid.
Although all-seeing and omniscient, however he did not use his enormous power completely for personal advantage, but he remained above the parts. He was in Greece the first of the Gods, like remembers Sofocles, who calls him parent and father of all the Gods. The origin of the cult is surely oriental. The island of Rhodes belonged to him. Several sources, of the same time and posterior, transmit news of one of the seven wonders of the world: the Colossus of Rhodes, work of the sculptor Cares, placed at the mouth of the port of the little isle ( 290 BC, destroyed in the 225 probably from an earthquake).
According to the tradition image of the God Helios, the Colossus could have had the features of Alexander the Great, the new man of the new era, compared to a hero, if not to a God.
In fact, " that religious unification of the peoples that Amenophis IV (Akhnaton) in Egypt, and Elagabalus and Aurelianus in Rome, the Incas in Perou tried in the name of the Sun... Alexander thought about perform through the religion of the monarch, which is religion of the man." (Pettazzoni, 1954, p 268).
On the coins of the age, Alexander often was portrayed covered from the skin of a lion, the head covered from the head of the feline, as the mythical Heracles.
Also Helios, on the coins, has on the head the arrogant mane of a lion.
Homer in the Iliad, and the figurative decorations of the black and red Greeks ceramics, show us the helmeths of the heroes, beginning from that one of Hector, which, just for this characteristic, terrifies his little Astyanax, as sung in the stroaring goodbye of the hero destined to the death, crests enriched by arrogant manes, aimed to inspire terror in the enemy, emblem of the rich mane of the lion.
Here therefore interlaced, in Hellenistic age, the cult of the sun and the symbol of the lion.
An interesting trace comes to us from the study of the Mysteries, initiatic cults of oldest tradition, only stopped with the advent of the Christianity, meaningfully similar near various and far cultures.
Notice that the holders of these mysteries were Gods that appeared and disappeared, like the sun, to alternate of day and night and the seasons.
The main Schools of Aegyptians Mysteries were centralized on Thot, nocturnal aspect of Ra, the Sun.
Helios was associated with Mithra ( see the reliefs of the Mithraic temple of S.Prisco, Rome), in whose mysteric cult is also present the figure of the lion.
Near the Iranian peoples, towards the 150 BC, in the città' of Khurba-Tila, bloomed the cult of a divinity of the sun, Nhakhkhunte.
They followed other gods of the solar cycle, Apollo, Elah-Gabal, in the Hellenicsstic cities and then at Rome, until Christ, whose figure has covered both the aspects of the sun, and those of the lion. Christ, " lion of the tribe of Juda ", shining like the sun in the power of his splendour, with the candid garments " like the light " (Mattheus, 17.2), is" a sun that rises from the high " (Luca, 1.78), for lighten which are in the darkness and win the death: following him, also the just ones " will shine like the sun " (Mattheus, 13.43), and also the Virgin Mary will appear like " dressed of sun " (Apocalypse, 12,1). At the death of Christ, the sun growed dark. But just like the sun that revives after the sunset, thus Christ is revived after the death: the sun is thereforsymbol of resurrection. For that reason, the first Christians prayed turned over the sun, and for that the churches were built up turned to East.
Is intersting to find that the day same of the birth of Christ, conventionally but symbolically, has been fixed December,25, day of the solsticium of winter: according some historians, it would have happened willing place above the pagan festivity of the Sol invictus.
In Biblical ambit, the sun appears like symbol of the divinity, of the divine love, and his anger, and justice (" For you instead, fellows of my name, will rise with beneficent rays the sun of justice ", Malachia, 3.20); moreover, it symbolizes the Logos, in how much his rays are always ready to shine.
The sun as metaphor of the divine splendor appears in Isaiah (60.20): " Your sun will decline no more... because your Lord will be for you eternal light ".
The lion, instead, is meant also like symbol of the devil: it goes around threatening like the lion; of the Infera, that in the death swallow, as the lion with the opened wide fauces (" Save me from the mouth of the lion ", Psaumes, 22.22, in how much, to be thrown in meal the lions, after the torture of Daniel in the ditch of the lions, assumes the meant of being in front of the death).
However, the lion symbolizes also God and is powerful justice, the twelve Jewish tribes (twelve lions guarding the six steps of the throne of king Salomon, King, 10, 18-21) [ this recalls the apotropaic use of the lions guardian of the gates of the cities, of the temples and the thrones of the king ], and the kings of Assyre and Babylon, which gives the hunting to the people of Israel as the lions hunt the lost sheep (Geremia, 50.17), as also the Resurrection (see.Lurker, 1990)
Macrobius in the Saturnalia places next to the sun a figure with three heads in one body, wrapped from a snake; one of these, that one of middle, is a lion, symbolizes the present, that it has more force, in relation to the past. The iconography remembers the God Aion - Kronos, of the Crypta Balbi , Rome.
Also the Thracian Knight often represented with more head, representing the all-seeing, is sure representation of the Sun.
Many solar myths belong to the late latinity.
The Latin phylologist Servius (AD 380-410), reaching from the book of the poet Optaziano Porfirio, Sol, (AD 305-327) emphasizes that Apollo has the arrows, the powerful rays of the sun, that penetrate the earth until its dark depth, and evoke vehement and purifier ardors.
Macrobius asserts that in Assyria the sun and Zeus were the same thing; moreover, he describes an Assyrian simulacrum of Apollo (Macrobius, Saturnalia, 1, 18), which in its many details (armor, hamper on the head, beard, pole, flower) alludes to the property of the sun, " heart of the sky and intelligence of the world ".
As it is evidenced from comparative ehnographic studies, the myth of the sun is present near many current cultures in several continents.
In such myths the symbology of the sun associated with the origin and the end of all the things persists, therefore personification of the Supreme Being.
Between the mythologic personifications of the current primitives, as exhaustively pointed by Pettazzoni (1922), I want remember some here.
In Australia, near the tribes of the coast around Adelaide, there is the belief in a being, Monaincherloo, called also Teendo yerle, that is " sun-father ", personification of the sun, but conceived like woman (typical of Australian mythologies), which exercises malignant infuence, so it appears improbable that it reflects the nature of Monaincherloo like celestial supreme being.
In Australia, people believes that the supreme being is dwelling in the sky, and has like modality of expression all the phenomena of the sky and the time, between which rising and sunset of the sun (Nurelle).
In India the supreme being has many solar characteristics. Sing-Bonga is the sun in the central part of the country: it is a divinity that, also being beneficial, is taken care little of the human things.
Other personification of the sun isThakur, which, being too much good for entry in the human things, is maintained neutral.
From the archipelago of the Tonga islands, in the Pacific, Polynesia, W.W.Gill (1876) hands down on the myth of Vatea and Tongaiti, both supposed fathers of first-born of the cliff Papa, that resolved the dilemma salomonically, dividing the child in two: Vatea had the lower part, the sun; the other constituted the moon.
In Africa the solar divinities are frequent. In several languages bantu of the Uganda, the term used in order to indicate God means sun: this solar God is often apathetic man, however not always benevolent, often it is malignant.
Also other people bantu of the East Africa introduce solar elements in their supreme beings: near the Gagga of the Kilimangiaro, the supreme being calls Ruwa, that means in bantu sun.
In North America, the Tlingit have like main figure of their mythology the Crow, Yehl, hero and primeval demiurge, the one who has molded and organized the elements, between which the sun; but according to other myths, heself would be the solar being, but not the celestial being (even if, according to Pettazzoni, one of the prerogatives of the celestial being is that one of resolving himself in solar sense).
The Bellachula of the North have a sun-divinity, distinguished from the celestial being, by them feminine, named Sench, lord of the inferior sky, named also " our father ", Taata.
The Salish (Sioux) have the God Aielen, the sun. Near the Sioux the sun is the first of the Wakan, that is it has powerful and latent energy.
Near the Natchez the more adored divinity was the sky-sun.
Near the Tunica, celestial and solar divinity was a one.
The Algonkini believes in a celestial spirit localized in the sun.
Near the Pueblos of New Mexico and Arizona, the sun is the most adored of the divine beings.
Near the Hopi there is Cotokinunwu, " heart of the sky ", God of the sun, that gives the light; but an other tradition places Tawa like God of the sun, spouse of the Earth, or fuses the two divinities, of which the Earth is spouse.
Near the Zuni, characteristics of the father-sun, great and sage, sometimes are covered by the celestial being Awonawilona. Creator and the caretaker of the Universe, at the beginning " made himself person and assumed the features of the Sun, that we consider our father; in this way it appeared and began to exist " (Fiabe e leggende di tutto il mondo, p 9).
Near the Lenape (" the People ", Delaware, Indiana tribe of the North America, linguistic group of the Algonquian, portion of the nation of the Cherokee), the " Large House ", metaphor of the conception of the Universe, has the two gates, oriented to east and the west; it alludes to the beginning and the end of all, with rising and sunset of the sun.
In the southern America, near the Bakairi of the Caribbeanses, Kame is the God sun.
On all these Gods, the several cultures have constructed their myths.
Near some people of Mexico, Tarascos, Tarahumara, Tepehuana, Huicol, Cora, the supreme being is incarnated by the sun.
The lion in the fable and in the iconology
When disappears the social-cultural ordering that has given life to it, the myth begins to vanish, is detached from the rituals, loses its secret and magical character and enters to make part of the fable, common and public patrimony of the people.
It conserves however still traces of the ancient sacrality, for its educational function against the most young generations, most powerful vehicle of transmission of belongings and culture, employing images derived directly from the unconscious.
Bettelheim, who has studied the fables from the psychoanalitic point of view, remembers that " the greater part of the fables had the origin in periods in which the religion was the most important component of the life, and therefore say, directly or deductively, about religious topics " " (Bettelheim, p 19).
From the myth to the fable, is present the figure of the lion, especially in classical period .
The gradual disappearance of the feline from the fables could be due to its progressive physical rarefaction in the Mediterranean areas, in which, in classical age, lived until the Mesoptamia.
In the fable of Aesop, The kingdom of the lion, concisely is characterized a positive role of the royal force. It is narrated in fact about a lion elected king: neither choleric, neither violent, neither cruel, but mild and just " like a man ". Convened the assembly, the timid young hare said: " How much I have sighed of seing to rise this day, in which the weak people would have made fear to the strongs! ". The moral of Aesop recites: " When in a state kingdoms the justice, and the judges respect it, also the calm weak people can live peaceful ".
In The three oxes and the lion, is emphasized the ferocious craftiness of the lion: in fact it is spoken about three axes that a lion did not succeed in devouring for their concord, since they grazed always together. Then it separated alienating them between eachother with sly chatters, and therefore he could devour them one by one.
In The infuriated lion and the red deer, a red deer, seeing the infuriated lion, asks what will happen, now that he is infuriated, since he is therefore terrible when is not. Aesop comments: " Stay far from the violent and malignant men, when they get hold of the power and boss on the others ".
Aesop, in his Fables (in Greek also said "myths"), that are descriptions of roles, deprived of emotionality; but aimed to teach useful virtues to the life of every day, asserts that the force of the lion is in the heart (The red deer at the source and the lion), but shows also craftiness (The three axes and the lion), the mildness and the justice (The kingdom of the lion), the force and the astuteness (The aged lion and the fox). But the lion is also sad (The lion's share), Aesop teaches, but also remembering of the benefits receipts (The lion that remembers), conscious not to have to pretend of being what it is not (The style of the lion).
A fable of the Huave, Mexico, explains as a young hunter of ferocious beasts succeeded to capture a ferocious jaguar, after having identified himself with sly and skillful cat. In the narration The hunter who knows the prayer of the cat narrates: " He had much fear and for this he learned the prayer of the cat. The man, reciting the prayer of the cat, obtained the power and the ability of the cat. Strongly of that, he went in the scrub without having more fear " (Bamonte, p 167). Adopting the tactics of the cat, that is considered to have much power, it succeeded to kill the ferocious jaguar.
From the point of view of the dynamic psycology, we are in presence of a type of internalization, in how much, at intrapsychic level, is happened an incorporation, with introjection and identification of the external object.
It is therefore obvious that, like myths, thus also the fables are an enormous tank of the contents of the unconscious.
Italo Calvino, in the introduction to his collection of the Fiabe Italiane, observes that the fables are "... a general explanation of the life, been born in remote times and preserved... until us... the unitary substance of all, men beasts plants things, the infinite possibility of metamorphosis of what exists " (Calvino, p XV).
We are debtors to Propp of the observation that, in fables, the animal personifies the qualities of the man, who, in the forest, can tranform himself in the animal, filiation probably of a very more ancient hero-animal.
This ensemble of qualities, associated with the figure of the lion, is transmitted through the times; traces of it remain in the iconology, actively practiced still in XVIth century by the artists, in order to create allegorical figurations.
The Memory grate of the benefits receipts is represented like a child between lion and aigle, in how many such animals, also lacking in reason, are grateful of the receipt benefits, like as an example testified from the fable of Fedro, The lion that remembers, in which is narrated about a lion that , walking, came freed of a thorn nailed in a leg; to a peasant, from which he came, imploring help: " it raised the leg, and placed it in his womb. The shepher taked away the thorn from the leg and the lion returned to the forest ". Later on the man, condemned unjustly to being devored from the wild animals during a spectacle, was recognized from that lion, which " again raised the leg and placed it in his womb", and therefore the king, known the thing, pardoned him " because the powerful men are remembered of the good actions of the past ".
Therefore, the Reason is a young woman armed holding with a bit a lion, meaning the untamed ferocity subjugated; similarly, the armed of armor woman representing the reason of state, holds a hand on the head of the lion, to show that, in order to conserve a manner to be, it is necessary a vigilant guard, even if we are superior to the others.
The Fright was represented like a man of most ugly aspect, placed side by side with a lion with the opened wide mouth and the unsheathed claws; just like the Aegyptians, in order to represent a terrible man, able to frighten the others with a look, represented him just with the lion.
The very beautiful Generosity puts down the left on the head of the lion, in how much symbol of greatness and generosity of mind.
The myth of Heracles and the Nemean lion
In Greek mythology, Thipheus and Echidna are monstrous primeval beings, with mixed human and animal features. Their sons represent forces of the infera and the storms, which oppose themselves to the good and the beautiful. One of them is the most ferocious and strongest Nemean lion.
Several mythical traditions regarding the Nemean lion exist.
The Roman Claudius Eliano of Preneste (the Sophista), writer of Greek language lived between the AD Ith and IIth century, in Variae Historiae libri XIII quotes some lines of the poet Epimenides of Cnossus, regarding the ferocious lion: " and in fact I am lineage of hairy Selene, which shaked of back the wild Nemean lion , horribly vibrating and carried it away for wanting of Era sublime".
In the Vitae parallelae, Plutarcus (Theseus, 26-27) describes the Nemean lion like fallen in the Peloponnesus from the moon.
Hesiod (Teogonia, 327-332) calls it " punishment for the men ", and remembers that " pulled it down it the vigor of Heracles ".
About the invulnerability of the lion of Nemea speaks Iginus in his Fabulae (fabula 30).
Pindarus, in his turn, remembers it in a Hymn (VI, 47).
Also Diodoro Siculo of Agira (Historical Library, IV, 16, 4) speaks about it.
These episodes are very famous in the Greek and Roman mythology and are at the base of the inspiration of multiple literary sources.
We remember the writings of Homer (Iliad, VIII), Hesiod (Shield of Heracles), Pisander of Rhodes (Heracleia), Pindarus (I Nemea), Apollodorus (I Bibliotheca), Bacchilides and Stesicorus (Carmina and Res Gestae), Paniasis of Alicarnassus (Heracleia), Sofocles (Trachiniae), Euripides<A href="exist"> (Heracles)</A>, Prodigo (Heracles to the cross-roads), Teocritus (Idillia: Heracles child), Plautus (Anfitrion), Ovid (Metamorphosis, IX), Horatius (Carmina, III/III, Epodi, II/I), Seneca (Heracles furens), Virgilius (Eneide, YOU), Statius (Thebais, V, VIII, XI), Apuleius (Metamorphosis, III).
The myth of Heracles constitutes also a test of the tie between the solar myth and that one of the lion: in fact the demigod, heroic representation of the solar divinity, dramatises the fight between the solar positive side and that one of the dark forces. So can to be believed to the myth of the sun-lion like to an original initiatic myth.
Heracles, image of the sun-lion, in Greek mythology, like is knewn, is the author of the twelve fatigues, of which one exactly regards the killing of the invincible Lion of Nemea; the hero, after having killed it and then skinned, with the powerful claws of the same lion, covers himself with the skin, the lion's head on his head, having put into effect the victory on the blind violence, and symbolically wearing heself this duplicity.
In fact Heracles can be considered in some sense bi-faced (like the same sun, with its twofold symbology of birth and sunset), rich of virtue but also able of bad impulsivity.
In the image of the lion, and in the myths that regard it, therefore, in my opinion, is expressed a strongest emotionality, having rapport with the dominion of the drivers and the possibility of theyr free expression, under the aegis of a sphere of I free from conflicts.
Heracles, through the twelve fatigues, covers this lenght road, that will see him, finally, free from the slavery of the passions, and able of express them free, in way not compelled, but constructive for himself and the others.
The emotionality and the Paleolithic man
I think that the sculpture on stone of the Paleolithic man could be the way that helps to discover his emotionality.
The paleolithic anthropo/zoomorphic representations in sculpture came until us, in fact, testify, in my opinion, of a consciousness by the man about the potential of the nature, understood like outside from himself, but also like equally rich inside and with powerful push to express himself.
The sculptures carry until us this boiling world of forces through the only testimony remained, that was also the first expressive language.
We know that, behind the intuitions, there are the emotions.
Some scolar has spoken about a reverential fear against the dead men and the prosecution of the life and the soul possessed from all the things, describing it like " clearly religious emotion " (Murphy, p 85), and supporting that " it has been the development of the imaginative capability that has made possible this art so remarkable"(ibidem).
However, already Giambattista Vico thought that the human mind was at its beginnings deeply sensitive, and that in it operated "a poetical logic " inspiring divine fables.
To such opinion currently is contrary a scholar of the sacred, Blanc (who also admits that the human psyche have been complex since the origins); Blanc thinks it little probable, since, following a diffuse opinion, for million of years the man has manufactured always equal tools, demonstrating therefore to have very little fantasy.
Personally, I do not agree with this opinion, thinking instead possible the hypothesis, just according to the technique and conceptualization of the artistic works, that, already at his beginnings, the man had a valid apparatus in order to think the thoughts. Such apparatus surely structured in order to face the instinctual tensions, in great part disabled to an immediate discharge.
It is however probable that at the beginnings the man found himself in a psychical condition of confusion, discovering himself like only species became different (for variance or mutation, as supports Broglio) from the part mentally less evolued of other animal branches ( ir "bushes"), deprived of experience and with a lot of problems to face and to resolve for the first time.
We can try to imagine as it could be this inner situation, making reference to the mahlerian model of the phase of separation-individuation of the child, or dreaming with Imre Hermann about the catastrophic frustration of the grasping instinct.
We can think that this trauma deepest can have conditioned for a long period the functioning of the human mind.
To still made more complex his intrapsychic situation (see the concept of Homo Schizo by Alfred de Grazia and that one of primeval splitting (see Filingeri, 1984, Psychodynamic considerations at margin of Presculpture and Prehistorical sculpture interpretation), it is opportune to consider other traumatic circumstances, as the stress of the associative manners of life, from the acquisition of the language to the life in group and its organization, i.e. the problems relative to the socialization and its regulation, and, not last, the new relationship with the " animal brother ", actively hunted.
A paranoid phase could be taken in consideration according to the continuous state of great anguish in the first organization of the life in the savanes, without shelters of trees, in a situation completely new: full of anguish as it would be for a baby; no self- supporting; having to face the world without possibility of grasping also physically to the mother; and having to resolve a lot of problems and absolutely new situations, lacking in whichever previous experience.
This prolonged and articulate sum of trauma, in my opinion, has made so that, initially, the possibility of expression of the emotionality was hardened and blocked through an only way of expression.
The circumstance could contribute to explain the minimal variations in the working tools and sculptures (if we accept a chronological computing of the time so protracted, as currently, with the possibilities of dating to our disposition, is made by nearly all the scholars, except the theorists of the Quantavolution, between which Alfred de Grazia).
At an undetermined moment, a quid ( more favorable conditions of life, for increase and improvement of the associative life, greater availability and improvement of the extrabodily tool, increase of the capability of communication?) must have upgraded or created a neutralizing energy and introduced a new criterion of reality, unblocking a inner dynamic hardened situation and allowing a more free and therefore faceted flow of the emotionality.
I incline to see, as expression of a first inner situation of discomfort, the emerging of the ritual/representation of the single head (see Filingeri, (1984), Psychodynamic aspects in the evolution of the sculpted figures in the Lower Paleolithic compared to funerary practices , of which we find traces in the presculptures and sculptures in stone, the engravings on bone ( see "pendantif" in bone of the Raymonden cave at Chancelade, Dordogne, France, with scenes of sacrifice and a head of bison), in the cult and conservation of the humans and animals skulls (particularly, as it has been looked at, the bear).
If this behavior is viewed in the kleinian model of the schizo-paranoid phase, it is perhaps possible to understand the more deep motivations.
The lion of the Arma delle Manie
The hanging zoomorphic sculpture of the Arma delle Manie (Finale Ligure, Liguria, Italy), comes from a cave ("arma") at 250 m on the sea level.
Arma delle Manie, on which the Sopraintendenza to the antiquities of the Liguria is working from 1964, and whose materials are exhibited in the Museo del Finale, Finalborgo (Liguria, Italy), is giving in the time a large amount of mousterian lithic industry.
The cave is located not far from the Caverna delle Fate, famous for the discovery of neanderthalian human rests.
At the age in which the great hanging head of lion of the Arma delle Manie was sculpted, the climate was a lot more warm, the vegetation more luxuriant and there lived animals as the lion, Panthera leo spelaea , the leopard, the hyena, the elephas antiquus, the hippopotamus and the rhinoceros, today totally diseappared from Italy from at least 30,000 years.
The lithic sculpture of the Manie is in red travertine, height 30 cm, lenght 37 cm and has a width from ear to ear of 30 cm; the deep snout is from 6 to 12 cm.(Fig.9)
Fig.9 Head of lion
Hanging mousterian sculpture (semifrontal view)
Coming from from the Arma delle Manie (Finale Ligure, Savona, Italy)
In rapport with the measures, is meaningful the concordance with the length of a skull of cave lion found on the gravel bed of the Po river near Piacenza (Italy), and going back to approximately 60,000 years ago (360 millimeters of length).
The cultural attribution by Gaietto is the Mousterian.
The sculpture has been interpreted by its discoverer like the representation of a lion (Gaietto, 1982; see Primeval Sculpture, 1984, I, 1).(Fig.10 and Fig.11)
Fig.10 Head of lion
Hanging mousterian sculpture
Fig.11 Head of lion
Hanging mousterian sculpture
(in the photo, L.Filingeri)
The sculpture of the Manie is a powerful expression of the great emotion that surprises the man in front of the lion.
This sculpture is not, like however all the paleolithic sculpture in stone, and not even great part of the magdalenian cave painting, a realistic work, but highly symbolic, in how much makes the invisibile visible, and, just through it, attests the capability of perception, reflection and abstraction by the Paleolithic man.
Therefore it does not astonish, indeed it fills up us of admiration for the forming the idea and the expressive freedom of our ancestors, to see that the same action of the roaring is represented by the Paleolithic artist "in sequence", like if we visually were following it from two various points of view.
The sculpture therefore evidences an elevated capability of conceptualization of the man of the Mousterian that imagined and performed it.
It is undeniable that the mind of the Paleolithic artist, leaving from the sensitive experience, and deducing from it the data, has been able to operate an abstraction: " also the technological activity reveals in the man a symbolic capability and not only projectual" (Facchini, 2000, p 20).
Broglio, evidencing, during the Lower Paleolithic, two most important human acquisitions relatives to the working of the stone, i.e. the invention of the bi-faced and the levalloisian technique of working, observes: " the learning of such complexes procedures, that imply always the predetermination of the shape of the products, could sure happen only through the transmission of knowledge. Is allowed to suppose that such didactic activity has come true by means of the formulation and the transmission of abstract concepts " (Broglio, p 95).
The capability of abstraction, in my mind, demonstrates a owned capability to structure a priori concepts, those that Jung will individuate like archetypes.
As Aristotle has taught to us, is in the logical-metaphysical phase that rise again the characters or the essential qualities of a thing, beyond those accidental ones, and the thing is considered for itself.
To me it seems that it can be applied already to the tool idea, and to that of sculpture, splitted from the stone same, i.e. shape separated from the matter:
Still reflecting on this sculpture of the lion of the Manie, it seems to me that it can be said that this work is testimony of a most important cognitive passage from a concept (" the class of the lions ") to that more general (" the leoninity "), with generalization. In fact, there is transfer of preponderant quality (" leoninity ") to a more great class of objects (" a sculpture and the man who ago, venerates and uses it in the rituals of propiziation "), prescinding from the " sensitive accidents ".
The man who has sculpted the lion, sure had the capability of symbolization, planning and forecast of the action, implicit already in the action to flaking the stone, having in mind the " plan-tool ": therefore a clear, projectual and intentional purpose of the action.
From it also achieves the notion of causality (" I make this, and from it follows this other "), with consciousness of the capability of mastering the forces of nature; therefore consciousness of himself as agent and influential .
Following the theory of Piaget , we can deduce moreover that, as tools-maker, Homo Habilis was in possession of the preoperating representation. He was therefore able of activity different regarding the simple physical action on the objects. By means of mental images, he was capable to prescind from the contingency, thinking and planning with a sure simultaneousness, therefore using the symbolic function of the imagination in order to anticipate in the thought sets in action, not in that moment in act.
And since it is certain that all this happened in not isolated life condition, but of group, it follows that also the language had to turn from an " egocentric " phase to an other more complex, socialized, in order to be understood by all, and to promote communication, social exchange and explanation.
Currently, by the archaeologist Sileshi Semaw ( Journal of Archaeological Science ), the capability of conceptualization has been moved in the time to approximately 2,600,000 years ago, following the recent findings of tools in trachyte in Ethiopia, Gona. The tools, says the archaeologist, were employed in order to cut carcasses of animals for meat nutrition, that, with the increased contribution of animal proteins, would have accelerated the hominisation
During the recent Human Genome Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, (April 2001), it has been confirmed that the difference between the chimpanzee and the man is all in the mind, in the difference of the activity of the gene in our brain.
This ability to conceptualization, in my opinion, induces to presuppose, like already pointed out, also the existence of a language (that makes use of the abstraction, as Piaget has shown). In fact, there is a representation, in how much the image is not truth, but a sign of the truth, real, so to speak, or imaginary.
It, in the choice operated by the artist, privileges some aspects functional to the message and to the representation, which, in the case of the art work, is also fiction, creation of a truth other from the same reality.
On a more metaphysical plan, then, must above all estimate that, in the representation, the artist expresses his relationship with the world, therefore his conceptualizations but, as already said, his emotionality.
In the specific case, it is expressed also the relationship with the sacred, as the use of cult of such sculpture is very probable (like that of the head of El Juyo), certificated, as we have looked at, from other representations of cultual type of the lion, since the prehistoric age.
The rituals,in consideration of the qualities from always attributed symbolically to the lion, near all the people and in every time, i.e. force, courage, power, royalty, but also bad astuteneness, ferocity, pure pulsionality, could probably be connected electively to the hunting, and therefore to the survival, both as food search and victory on enemies who threaten the same existence.
Like such, the rituals would be addressed above all to the young generations, just under shape of rituals of initiation, joining to the group of the everlasting rituals of transiction , own of the puberal age.
The lion could have been venerated like sacred being, to propitiate before the hunting or whichever enterprise of war, but also with which identificate himself, interiorizing the image, in the purpose of appropriating of the its qualities.
With reference to the sense of the sacrality, it seems to me interesting, in closing, to cite an observation of Facchini, who pointed out that the " absence of behaviors directly attesting a religious dimension does not represent a argument in order to contest the possibility of the religious sense in the most ancient human shapes " (Facchini F., (2000), " Alle origini del simbolo e del sacro", p 22, in Miti e Riti, cit.).
Facchini supports that, already at the origins of the humanity, the first hunters have had a religious sense, expressed sometimes like cosmic religiosity: "Where emerges conscience of himself, there is already an attitude to the transcendent, to set to himself questions about own being and about the surrounding reality.
And since the notion of the sacrality presupposes the consciousness, personally I think that it exists good evidence that the man had since the primeval times a notion of the sacrality.
Therefore, from immense temporal distances, it reaches until us the presence of a man in all and for all similar to us.
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