There are two strong contenders as to which mythical lion is represented by the
The first is the Nemean lion which Hercules had to kill as
the first of his 12 Labours. This fearsome beast terrorised the land, killing
all who ventured near it. Not only was it more fierce, larger and stronger
than other lions, but it also had the added advantage of possessing a skin which
was impervious to metal, stone and wood. Since, for this reason, Hercules could
not kill the lion with any weapon, he wrestled it with his bare hands, and finally
managed to strangle the animal. Seeing at once the unique protective qualities
of the pelt, he removed it with one of the lion's own claws, and thereafter wore
it as a cloak.
The second contender is the lion featured in the poet Ovid's tale of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Both sets of parents of this young couple considered them too young to marry and stopped
them seeing each other. However, the pair made arrangements to meet secretly by a
mulberry tree with white berries. When Thisbe arrived at the appointed place, a lion
sprang out from some bushes and she ran away in fright. Unfortunately, her veil
fluttered to the ground as she ran and the lion, bloody from its latest kill, pounced
on it. A short time later Pyramus arrived, saw his beloved's bloody veil and
believed that she had been killed. Totally distraught, and unable to face life
without her, he threw himself on his sword. As he lay dying, Thisbe returned,
took his sword and killed herself. The blood of the tragic pair coloured the
berries of the mulberry tree red, and so they remain to this day. Some suggest
that Zeus placed Thisbe's veil in the heavens as Coma Berenices.