On this roundel, a man clad only in a tunic turns in his saddle to deliver a deadly spear thrust. With his spear, he kills a lion, who has reared up and buried its jaws in the rump of the man’s horse. At the same time, the man grips the lion’s thick mane with his left hand, and a lean hunting dog races beneath the horse’s belly. The man’s ring of curls, short tunic, bare feet, and lack of stirrups suggest that this scene is based on ancient or late antique iconography, possibly at one or more removes from a classical source.
Like the inclusion of the Old Testament figure Samson, the presence of this figure widens the chronological scope of the combat tile series. It encourages us to relate the recent past, that of Richard the Lionheart, to the distant past, and to draw whatever connections we find compelling. While some medieval (or modern) viewers might be tempted to associate this figure with such classical horse-riding heroes as Alexander the Great, the image does not dictate that we understand it as a specific individual. Rather, it offers us a marker in space, in the classical era, in a place where there were lions (Greece? Syria? Asia Minor? India?), and prompts us to ask: Who might this be? How might we compare him to Richard, to Samson? How can we understand all of these fighting men, through biblical and classical and contemporary times, as being in dialogue with one another?