Regarded as the most fearsome predator since humanity’s early history, lions are the subjects of the earliest known Palaeolithic cave paintings. In Ancient Egypt the goddess Sekhmet took the form of a lioness. She was a fearless hunter and a protector of pharaohs in warfare. Bastet, another Ancient Egyptian deity who eventually took form as a woman with a cat head or as a full cat, was also depicted as a lioness at first and she was also regarded as a goddess of war, later taking onto a gentler nature. The Nemean Lion, defeated and killed by Hercules, was regarded as a ferocious and untameable creature, and represent the first task of his twelve labours. Mythological creatures such as this one can be regarded as an archetype of humans’ fear towards the uncontrollable power of nature upon then. In Ancient Rome, lions were used as a capital punishment, Damnatio ad bestias, where a condemned individual would be killed and devoured by these beasts. Usually these punishments took place as a spectacular event, during the public games named Bestiarii.

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