European Lion is an extinct lion subspecies that used to reside in southern parts of Europe up until the first century. Believed to be a descendant of the huge Cave Lion of prehistoric times, the European Lion was the last lion subspecies to be wiped out of Europe. It is classified in scientific terms as Panthera Leo Europaea or Panthera Leo Tartarica.
Very little is understood about the appearance, behavior and lifestyle of European Lions. They are thought to have preyed upon bison, cattle, deer and other herbivores found in those times in Europe. Their geographic range included areas that are part of modern-day France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the Balkans. Owing to their distribution, these lions are generally agreed upon as the link between North African Barbary Lions in the west and the Asiatic Lions in the east.
As with the other lion subspecies of those times, the ascendancy of Roman Empire was linked to the downfall of European Lions. Since these big cats were native to Europe, they were the first to be inducted into Roman coliseums and put into fights against willing and unwilling opponents. One of the forms of capital punishment in Roman times was to place the condemned, usually naked and unarmed, in an arena with lions, leopards or tigers. Then there were men who voluntarily fought the beasts for money or glory. The animals often inflicted fatal wounds on multiple people before succumbing themselves. There is an account of a lion having singly killed two hundred human beings.
The barbaric rituals of Romans, excessive hunting and competition with expanding feral dog colonies are the main factors thought to be responsible for the eventual extinction of European Lions. By the beginning of the first century, lions had already disappeared from Western Europe. As the century drew to a close, the great cats vanished from Eastern Europe as well - making the official year of the extinction of these noble animals 100 AD. The Romans didn't stop by the way. After the extinction of European Lions, they started importing lions from other parts of the world. By the time of their eventual downfall, the Romans had inflicted irreversible damage to the populations of Barbary, Cape and Asiatic Lions as well, alongside many other top predators.