the lion that ruled the world

September 2, 2009

“Alexander the Great was a lion”, my matric teacher told our class. For the average reader, with a general understanding of language and rhetoric, and who know enough about history that the name “Alexander the Great” is familiar, and who know what a lion is, this statement would be pretty easy to understand. But what if I were to meet someone who did not understand this type of saying?

“Alexander the Great was a lion, and he ruled the world”. The obvious question would then be: “How could a lion rule the world”? And lets say that over time the consensus in society would move to the point where no one would consider the fact that the saying “Alexander the Great was a lion” is a metaphor, some interesting ideas might ne the result. Maybe we would then start a myth to explain that there was a time when lions could talk, when they could mobilize armies, and where one of them, who happened to be born in Greece, became the ruler of the world.

If a historian might then discover a scroll saying that Alexander was a man, the child of a king, who fought many battles. This historian might over time realize that we have a metaphor that was literalized. In his reading of this man Alexander, he might after time decide that indeed, “Alexander was a lion”.

However, when he would try to explain to his friends what he discover, he would have to say that “Alexander the Great was not a lion”, since they have a literal understanding of the saying. Only in a community that understand metaphors, and the metaphorical language, and the history, that gave rize to the idea that “Alexander the Great was a lion” would the historian be able to proclaim tha amazing discovery he made when he read the stories of Alexander. In this community, while telling his friends about Alexander, he would be able to say: “Indeed, Alexander the Great was a lion”.

4 Responses to “the lion that ruled the world”


  1. Alexander the Great WAS a lion, in his heart and soul, it’s not just a metaphor

  2. Lourens Grobbelaar Says:

    So what is your application of this on the historical Jesus? I presume this is what lies behind this post.

  3. Cobus Says:

    the historical Jesus wasn’t the point really, but the application, on whatever you want to apply it, would probably be that metaphorical statements that was literilized would be denied only temporarily, and only in communities that don’t have room for metaphors. When metaphors is reappreciated, then original metaphorical formulations can be re-appreciated.

  4. tiaan Says:

    hahahaha nice point Cobus…


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