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What do Mohammed, Yoritomo, David and Robert the Bruce have in common?

Spiders changed their lives ... and they went on to change the course of history! Spiders have featured in the rituals, beliefs, art, entertainment and literature of people from all over the world, from ancient times.

Spider - Araneae
Spider. Image: Andrew Howells
© Australian Museum


Approximately 3060 years ago David was being pursued by King Saul when he hid in a cave near Jerusalem. A spider made its web across the opening. When Saul saw the web, he called his men away, saying that it was useless to search the cave because the web showed that no one could have entered. So David's life was saved and he lived on to become King of Israel.


Eight hundred years ago Yoritomo, a warrior from Japanese mythology, was running from his enemies after a defeat in battle when he hid inside a large hollow tree. While he was hiding, a spider built a web across the opening. When his enemies found the hollow tree, they were convinced that Yoritomo was not inside because of the web. Yoritomo escaped to become a shogun (an important military leader).

Robert the Bruce

In 1306, Robert the Bruce and his army had been fighting against King Edward I of England for control of Scotland. Robert was lying exhausted in a barn when he noticed a spider try to fix its web to a beam six times. On its seventh attempt, the spider succeeded. Robert was inspired, saying,

if at first you don't suceed, try try again

He then gathered together some more followers and they won the next battle. After a successful campaign they eventually defeated Edward's army in 1319.


Fourteen hundred years ago the prophet Mohammed was being chased by his enemies near Mecca when he hid in a cave. Miraculously, an acacia tree sprang up out of the ground in front of the cave. A wood-pigeon nested in the tree and a spider made its web between the cave entrance and the tree. As a result his enemies overlooked the cave and Mohammed escaped to become the Prophet of Islam.