Many scholars believed that the lions depicted in ancient Greek art, as, for example, when showing Hercules throttling one, were using as models lions perhaps seen but imported from other lands and projected backwards into myth.

However, the discovery of lion bones in Greek Bronze Age strata shows that Bronze Age people in Europe did indeed co-exist with lions.

See:
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/...europe/621201/

Thanks to Lazaridis for the heads up.