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Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of the Remembrance of Benefits




There was a knight, who devoted much of his time to hunting. It happened one day, as he was pursuing this diversion, that he was met by a lame lion, who shewed him his foot. The knight dismounted, and drew from it a sharp thorn; and then applied an unguent to the wound, which speedily healed it. A while after this, the king of the country hunted in the same wood, and caught that lion and held him captive for many years. Now the knight having offended the king fled from his anger to the very forest in which he had been accustomed to hunt. There he betook himself to plunder, and spoiled and imprisoned a multitude of travellers. But the King's sufferance was exhausted; he sent out an army, captured, and condemned him to be delivered to a fasting lion. The knight was accordingly thrown into a pit every minute in expectation and dread of being devoured. But the lion, considering him attentively, and remembering his former friend, fawned upon him; and remained seven days with him destitute of food. When this reached the ears of the king, he was struck with wonder, and directed the knight to be taken from the pit. "Friend," said he, "by what means have you been able to render the lion harmless?" "As I once rode along the forest, my lord, I was met by a lame lion. I extracted from its foot a large thorn, and afterwards healed the wound. This lion I take to be the same, and therefore he has spared me." "Well," returned the king, "since the lion has spared you, I will for this time ratify your pardon. Study to amend your life." The knight gave thanks to the king, and ever afterwards conducted himself with all propriety. He lived to a good old age, and ended his days in peace. (12)


My beloved, the knight is the world; the lame lion is the human race; the thorn, original sin, drawn out by baptism. The pit represents penitence, whence safety is derived.



Note 12.Page 79.

"The learned reader must immediately recollect a similar story of one Androclus, who, being exposed to fight with wild beasts in the Roman amphitheatre, is recognised, and unattacked by a savage lion, whom he had formerly healed exactly in the same manner. But I believe the whole is nothing more than an oriental apologue on gratitude, written much earlier; and that it here exists in its original state. Androclus's story is related by Aulus Gellius, on the authority of a Greek writer, one Appion, called Plistonices, who flourished under Tiberius. The character of Appion, with which Gellius prefaces this tale, in some measure invalidates his credit; notwithstanding he pretends to have been an eye-witness of this extraordinary fact. 'Ejus libri,' says Gellius, 'non incelebres feruntur; quibus omnium ferme quæ mirifica in Ægypto visuntur audiunturque, historia comprehenditur. Sed in his quæ audivisse et legisse sese dicit, fortasse a vitio studioque ostentationis fit loquacior,' &c. [1] [2] Had our compiler of the Gesta taken this story from Gellius, it is probable he would have told it with some of the same circumstances; especially as Gellius is a writer whom he frequently follows, and even quotes; and to whom, on this occasion, he might have been obliged for a few more strokes of the marvellous. But the two writers agree only in the general subject. Our compiler's narrative has much more simplicity than that of Gellius; and contains marks of eastern manners and life. Let me add, that the oriental fabulists are fond of illustrating and enforcing the duty of gratitude, by feigning instances of the gratitude of beasts towards men. And of this the present compilation, which is strongly tinctured with orientalism, affords several other proofs."—Warton.

"Warton is clearly correct in his idea of the oriental origin of this apologue. It also occurs in Æsop's fables, but he has not noticed this.


  1. Noct. Attic. lib. y. cap. xiv
  2. His books are said to have had considerable reputation, in which almost every thing is to be found that is most extraordinary in the history of Ægypt. But in those things, which he affirms that he either heard or read himself, from a reprehensible desire of ostentation, he is is somewhat too talkative, . . . trans. 1795 William Beloe (Wikisource contributor note)