Episode 92: The Lion Kings

During the Middle Ages, lions were adopted as symbols of European royalty. Many monarchs also acquired nicknames related to lions. That included Richard the Lionheart. In this episode, we explore the origin of that nickname, and we examine the popular perception of exotic animals from Africa and Asia.


12 thoughts on “Episode 92: The Lion Kings

  1. Great episode as usual, Kevin! Have been enjoying the podcast since the beginning. Thank you for your passion and effort, and your generosity in sharing it with everyone!

    With heraldry discussed in this episode, I wonder if the complex language of blazon might be an interesting topic as a bonus episode? Or perhaps a bonus episode that discusses the symbolism of the UK’s Royal Arms?

    • Thanks for the suggestions. I don’t any specific plans to discuss blazon terms and grammar, but it is a good idea. I will keep those suggestions in mind.

  2. Hi Kevin,
    I have listened to every episode and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
    I’ve never commented before but I need to question your explanation of big cat names – I don’t think that leopard and panther are different species. I think panther is simply the name often used for a very dark leopard. If people used the words panther and leopard interchangeably, they were quite right to do so.
    Keep up the good work, and thank you for all the episodes past and future.

    • Hi Phil. Based on some further research, it appears that the modern word “panther” is a loose term that can be used to describe a variety of cats, including leopards. So a panther can indeed be a leopard. But the Oxford English Dictionary specifically notes that the word “panther” originally referred to a cat that was believed to be distinct from a leopard. So it appears that the meaning of “panther” has evolved and expanded over time to include leopards.

  3. I finally caught up! I found this series a bit backwards (and belatedly). I started with Beowulf then moved on to the History of the Alphabet. Then I discovered this wonderful podcast and have been listening to it on my long daily commutes ever since. I absolutely love the work you do. I’ve been fascinated with history since I was a boy but I never truly appreciated how much of our history can be traced through the evolution of language.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Hi Kevin, I loved this episode especially your explanation of the confusion between the names of exotic animals. While you were tracing back the origin of “Elephant”, I thought you will be landing on the modern Arabic word for this animal “Al-Fil”. But I was wrong. Though the resemblance is uncanny and could be a modern back-borrowing from IE to Semitic, or derived directly from the Phoenician word for Ox. Do you have any thoughts on that?

    • Hi Habib. I didn’t actually have the Arabic word for ‘elephant’ in my notes, but I did trace the likely origin back to the Phoenicians. Assuming the word has a Phoenician origin, then it probably shares the same Semitic root as the modern Arabic word. I think the ultimate etymology is somewhat uncertain.

  5. A few years ago I made it to 92, that was almost caught up at the time. What a great episode for a leo to reboot with! Didn’t Churchill have a catchy line about ending a sentence with, with? You are amazing Kevin! ? Congrats.

  6. A fascinating episode. The three lions on the English banner are mainly nowadays connected with sports. Various England national teams use the symbol and are often referred to as the “Three Lions” – especially the football and rugby teams.

    • Football, yes, but not rugby. The symbol of England’s rugby team is a red rose, another piece of heraldry from the later Medieval period.

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