Sunday 8 August 2021

Romans unleashed starving lions on captives in Leicester, UK around 200 A.D.

A bronze key handle unearthed in Leicester, not far from where the remains of Richard III were found in a car park, has provided the first evidence that Roman Britain imported lions from Rome to execute captives in public places in Leicester, UK.

Romans unleashed starving lions on captives in Leicester, UK around 200 A.D.
Romans unleashed starving lions on captives in Leicester, UK around 200 A.D. This is the bronze key handle providing the evidence. Photo: The Times.

The journey from Rome for the lions must have been highly arduous and it is believed that two thirds would have died. The odds were heavily stacked against them surviving. Dr. John Pearce, senior lecturer in archaeology at Kings College London mapped out how he thought the lions were transported from "those imperial parks around Rome, used for the Coliseum."

He imagined the journey by sea. He thought that they probably transported the lions to the "mouth of the River Rhône, with the lion caged on board ship, up river to Lyons then probably a wagon journey to the river Rhine, down river and across the North Sea to London or the mouth of the Humber."

The artefact depicts an unarmed barbarian grappling with a lion. Four naked young man cower in fear according to the report in The Sunday Times newspaper of August 8, 2021. The artefact is 120 mm long (4.5 inches) and weighs just over 300 g.

Dr. Pearce was quite surprised because the experts were unsure whether lions were used in Britain to execute captives and barbarians as happened in the Coliseum in Rome. A large number of lions were imported to Rome from Mesopotamia and North Africa.

The moral decay of the Roman Empire is thought to be evidenced by the cruel execution of captives in public spectacles. That culture was brought to Britain around 200 A.D. The Roman rule of Britain ended in 410 A.D.

It is believed that some prisoners would attempt to commit suicide to avoid their agonising death by a starved lion.

Dr. John Pearce worked with Dr. Gavin Speed and Nicholas Cooper, both archaeologists from Leicester University. Their findings will be published on Monday in the academic journal Britannia.

The Barbarian depicted in the key handle resembles other portrayals in Roman Britain. The handle would have been a working part of the building. The Coliseum in Leicester would have been considerably smaller than the one in Rome.

Researchers are trying to identify the first Briton to be killed by a lion. They are analysing the remains of a gladiator found in a cemetery to the south-west of York. There are puncture wounds and they want to find out the cause.

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