DID YOU KNOW?....
Did you know Macedonia is the only European country where there used to live lions such as recently as 2000 years ago?
We are talking about the Panthera Leo Persica (Asiatic Lions) and once ranged from Macedonia to India, covering most of West Asia where it was also known as the Persian Lion.
The ancient Macedonians were very fond of Lion hunting, in fact, Alexander the Great did it very often and was one of his favourite activities. Our best evidence for Alexander's fondness of lion hunts is found in Plutarch (Alex. 40-41). After his victories over Darius, Alexander noticed that his companions were becoming acquired to luxurious habits. To ensure that they would keep focussed on war - even in the long lulls between battles - Alexander actively promoted lion hunting. He tried to set an example by exposing himself to the hardship and danger of lion hunts.
There is even found a mosaic in the ancient Macedonian capital of Pella showing Alexander and Craterus fighting with a lion. In the mosaic you can see Alexander wearing the traditional Macedonian hat "kausia" (click on the pic above to see in big size).
The presence of the Asian Lion in Europe was also attested by Herodotus and Aristotle. Herodotus recorded how Xerxes' Persian invasion army of 480 BC was attacked by lions while bivouaking on the eastern fringes of Macedonia. This happened during the night and the lions restricted their attack solely to Xerxes' pack-camels. Herodotus claims that the habitat of lions in Europe was small and was confined by the Nestus and Achelous rivers (Herodotus VII, 124-126).
It is generally assumed that around 80-100 AD the Asian lion had become extinct in Macedonia. In Western-Asia they remained widespread for the time being. In the Holy Land lions disappeared during the Crusades. In Pakistan the Asian lion was exterminated in 1810, in Turkey in 1870. In Iraq the last lion died in 1918 and in Iran (Persia) the last Asian lion was spotted by railway workers in 1942.
Today the Asian lion remains only in Gir Forest, Gujarat, India. In 1900 the population of the Asian lion in Gir had dwindled to a meager 20 survivors. Thanks to protection the numbers in Gir have risen to today's standards of 202-290 animals. The Asian lion is slightly smaller than its well-known African cousin. A distinct feature is that the ears of Asian lions are always visible, while those of African male lions tend to be covered by the longer manes. (You can verify this by checking Alexander's lion mosaic.) Of African lions an approximate 30,000 still roam in the wild.
MD: The lion is still a very important Macedonian symbol, Macedonia is probably the only country which has the right to really have the lion as a symbol, because they actually lived here and Alexander the Great was often portrayed with a Lion on his head.