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This webpage reproduces an article in
The Classical Journal
Vol. 44, No. 4 (Jan. 1949), 245‑252
and Vol. 44, No. 4 (Feb. 1949), 299‑307.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

"Animals are such agreeable friends — they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms . . ." — George Eliot

p245 Greek and Roman Household Pets
Francis D. Lazenby
(In two parts)

Black-and‑white images are from the 1949 article, and public domain; any color photos are copyright as indicated.

I

The ancient Greeks and Romans were more lavish than the modern world in their expressed affection for beasts. Theirs was a splendid opportunity to know animal life at first hand, not because there were more animals, but on account of the very close relationship effected by polytheistic principles and religious customs.1 Both literature and art attest that there were but few animals not dedicated to gods or goddesses; since religion penetrated ancient life so deeply, it is understandable that animals were freely admitted into the house, and gradually attempts were made to transform even the fiercer beasts into pets and companions.

Among the ancients, the dog was the greatest favorite.2 The Greeks and Romans by no means shared the Semitic abhorrence for the familiar animal.3 Writers of all classes celebrate the canine's attachment for man, and, from the most distant antiquity, the dog is the symbol of fidelity. Plato, in positing the necessary characteristics for the warrior class in his ideal republic, mentions the dog's courage and gentleness as admirable qualities.4 But Homeric descriptions of the dog already show him as the faithful watch-dog, sheep-dog (especially in similes), "well-skilled in the chase,"5 and, as household pets, the trapezēes kunes, dogs fed from the master's table and kept for show.6 Telemachus, on three separate occasions, goes forth to the public assembly with his two "swift hounds" hard at his heels.7 But the most noted dog of antiquity, "the only animal to receive a proper name in the Odyssey,"8 is Argus, the faithful old sporting hound who recognized his master on his return and then died. Hesiod, in describing the farmer's life in Boeotia, advises the farmer at threshing-time in July: "make much of your sharp-toothed dog; do not stint p246his food, lest the man who sleeps by day steal your possessions."9 On very early vase-paintings, as early as 600 B.C., the dog is represented in the house, especially under the tables.10 These are the trapezēes kunes; on other vases, the faithful creatures are seen accompanying their masters to the bath or to the palaestra.

The most favored lap-dog in antiquity was the small Melitaean which was imported to Malta (or Meleda?) from Carthaginian Africa.11 These animals were much admired by both men and women of Egypt, Greece, and Italy.12 Theophrastus, in characterizing the man of petty pride, says that, "should his Melitaean lap-dog die, he will make him a tomb and set up on it a stone to say, 'Branch of Melite.' "13 Aesop tells us that it was a custom for people travelling by sea to take along with them Melitaean puppies and apes to divert them during the journey.14 These little lap-dogs truly had all the privileges of modern pets; in fact they became a scourge. Juvenal says that women would gladly send their husbands to the grave to save the life of such catellae.15 Plutarch's word-picture16 of the widow nursing her ubiquitous lap-dog in her lap is still very timely; the trials of the suffering husband whose duty it is to take his wife's puppy for the customary airing are admirably foreshadowed by Lucian's description of the old philosopher Thesmopolis with the rich woman's pet, Myrrhina.17 The many vase-paintings of the Greeks prove conclusively that children were especially attached to their canine pets. No less favored were the dogs of Gallo-Roman society, which figure very prominently on the bas-reliefs found in France. In a grave discovered and excavated at Amiens in 1915, there were found the skeletons of nine dogs, one of which lay near his master's body, and two others, in a funerary urn.18

Among his list of apophoreta, Martial includes a catella Gallicana, a Gallic lap-dog.19 Who has not heard of Publius's little Issa — truly a canine lady — Issa est carior Indicis lapillis!20 Even the Emperor Claudius, according to Seneca, subalbam canem deliciis habere adsueverat.21

Tombs and Portraits

No care was spared these favorite animals: that death should not rob him altogether of Issa, Publius had her portrait painted.22 A rich man's dog was she, but no more beloved than was the humbler dog who guarded his master's raedae, but Numquam latravit inepte. His name is not mentioned.23 These pets, then, were represented on the stelae of people who had loved them in life, both rich and poor alike.24 Trimalchio commands that his dog be carved on his tomb at the feet of his statue, and, on his right, an effigy of his beloved Fortunata holding a dove in her hand and leading her pet catellam cingulo alligatam.25

There is a large series of both Greek and Roman reliefs showing men and women with their canine companions. Gallic reliefs especially show a remarkably human touch in scenes depicting this household favorite with its owners.26 In these we see charming pictures of healthy, happy childhood: a boy reclining on a couch and giving his pet dog his plate to lick clean;27 again, a small girl, Graccha, who, the inscription tells us, lived only 1 year and 4 months, holds in her left hand a p247a basket which contains — three puppies, the mother of which looks up at them with much concern.28 And in the museum at Beaune there is a terracotta cradle with a child strapped snugly in, and a little dog is curled up at his feet, asleep.29

Bowser also went to school: he figures, along with other pets, in a music-school scene on a hydria in the British Museum.30 Has the boy in Fig. 1 just rendered a selection for his pet's amusement?31 We meet quite often with the dog in sculpture and especially in scenes on the chous-shaped toy oinochoai:a in the Metropolitan Museum of New York32 there is a representation of children playing at comasts, while their pet dog jumps up at them, apparently as excited as they are. (We are at once reminded of Juvenal's lines: . . . rusticus infans/Cum matre et casulis et conlusore catello.)33

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Fig. 1
(Courtesy of the National Museum, Copenhagen)

Not only cats have curiosity, judging by a picture on an ancient cup: a tiny dog climbs up on his mistress' knee to watch her while she suckles her child.34 But very often it is more than curiosity on the part of the animals, for, in many instances, they are intent on getting at birds or hares which children, men, and women hold out to them.35

To conclude with reference to two scenes which, because of their unusual subjects, demand more than a passing remark: a Gallic relief36 depicts a dog (wearing a collar with a bell attached) watching a mule which is yoked to a grain-mill. This mule, by the way, is wearing very modern-looking blinders — nil novi sub sole! And, finally, we see that our Melitaean, on occasion, deserts his more common surroundings to become the pet of satyrs! He figures in a scene in the interior of a Faliscan cup37 wherein a butting contest takes place between a satyr and a goat. The dog, at his master's side, jumps up at the goat, much interested.

Mischievous Pets

The custom of keeping apes as pets was widespread in ancient times — perhaps more so than at the present. W. C. McDermott, in his The Ape in Antiquity,38 has treated the subject in every conceivable phase. He concludes that most of these ancient pets were Barbary apes and Ethiopian monkeys.39 We immediately think of pet apes when we read Pindar's words40 which describe this animal as "ever beautiful" to the eyes of children. Another early passage which mentions the ape is found in a fragment of Dinarchus, who speaks disparagingly of those in the habit of maintaining such pets in their homes.41 Cicero says that the kings of the Molossi in Epirus had apes in deliciis,42 and early Latin literature affords several references to these amusing animals. In Plautus' Miles Gloriosus, we encounter the pet ape five times.43 Laberius, in his mime Cretensis,44 tells us the story of a pharmacist who 'began to love an ape' — farmacopoles simium deamare coepit. Many years later Martial includes a well-trained ape among his list of apophoreta.45 Apparently an excessive cherishing of pets prompted Eubulus,46 in the fourth century B.C., to upbraid those persons who, though they had the means to raise children, seemingly preferred to rear "a splashing, quacking goose, or a sparrow, or a monkey, always plotting mischief!"47 We read that Massinissa reproached men who were so eager to secure pet apes by asking them if their wives bore no children,48 and Clement of Alexandria, in the third century A.D., excoriates a type of unrefined men and women with a charge similar to that of Eubulus.49 Saint Gregory of Nazianzus refers contemptuously to a pet ape wearing a gold collar.50

The ape is full of plaguy tricks, says Aristophanes,51 and ancient literature and art both testify to the ape's ability. They were taught to play musical instruments (Apuleius says that, in the spring fêtes of Isis, the forerunners of the Carnival, he saw a monkey with a straw hat and a Phrygian tunic52 [one can hardly keep from asking where the animal had placed the grind organ]). They could ride on the backs of goats and hurl spears. A boy in a Pompeian wall-painting is apparently forcing his pet ape to dance.53 McDermott has recorded a list of terracotta lamps representing jugglers with their trained apes and other animals.54

Luxorius, in his poem De simiis canum p248dorso inpositis,55 reminds us of the description of a painting by Philostratus: a hippodrome built especially for the amusement of a young prince. The little Melitaean dogs which were yoked to the chariots were driven by apes.56 And, finally, Galen describes pet apes which play together with young boys.57 Not only the catellus is mentioned as conlusor of ancient children!58

To mention a few representations of the pet ape in art: there is a fifth-century Attic toy oinochoe59 decorated with a picture of an ape reaching out for an apple held in the left hand of an ephebus. We meet an ape on a leash in a mosaic from Carthage: it is a garden scene, wherein a lady is shaded from the sun by a man holding a parasol over her while in his right hand he holds the leash which restrains the animal.60 The grave stone of C. Julius Saecularis61 shows the young boy surrounded by his pets, among which are a dog, a bird (perhaps a dove), and a small ape which pulls at its master's cloak. This is very similar to a Roman relief which shows an ape plucking at the corner of its master's garment.62

Snakes as Pets

The snake played an important rôle in ancient life, art, and religion. Throughout historical accounts we find references to tamed snakes dedicated to divinities;63 they are represented on tombs as a symbol of the heroization of the dead;64 and well-known are the stories of the tamed snakes kept in temples or dwellings as Genii loci.65

According to Philostratus,66 Ajax had a pet snake (five cubits in length) which drank with its master and followed him like a dog. In Macedonia, says Lucian, Alexander the false prophet and his quack friend saw "great serpents, quite tame and gentle, so that they were kept by women, slept with children, let themselves be stepped on, were not angry when they were stroked, and took milk from the breast just like babies. There are many such in the country, and that, probably, is what gave currency in former days to the story about Olympias; no doubt a serpent of that sort slept with her when she was carrying Alexander."67 Pausanias tells us of snakes among the Epidaurians that were "tame with men."68

Harmless snakes were kept in ancient households to destroy vermin and mice, whence the name muothēra, muraria.69 These reptiles seem to have been of the same kind as those of Epidaurus. In 290 B.C., during an epidemic, as Livy records, a delegation was sent to Epidaurus to bring back Aesculapian serpents.70 These tamed serpents were kept on the isle of the Tiber. In speaking of them, Pliny71 has this to say: anguis Aesculapius Epidauro Romam advectus est vulgoque pascitur et in domibus, ac nisi incendiis semina exurerentur, non esse fecunditati eorum resistere in orbe terrarum (!). This house-snake of the Romans was regarded as the guardian of the penus, which we can compare with the Agathos Daimon or the Zeus Ktesios of the Greek storeroom.72

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Rock relief on Tiber Island: Aesculapius and his Snake; hardly qualifying as a pet, though.
(For the scale of the carving, see elsewhere on site.)

© William P. Thayer 2004

Suetonius is our source for the story of Tiberius' pet snake.73 His account informs us that the emperor, on finding his pet dead and partly consumed by ants, was warned that he should beware of acts of violence. And Tacitus reports this interesting bit about Nero: vulgabaturque adfuisse infantiae eius dracones in modum custodum, fabulosa et externis miraculis adsimilata; nam ipse, haudquaquam sui detractor, unam omnino anguem in cubiculo visam narrare solitus est.74 Pet dracones gliding among "cups and bosoms" at banquets are mentioned by Seneca.75 Glaucilla, says Martial,76 twines a clammy snake around her neck (perhaps as a means of refreshment from the heat of Rome?). (It is interesting to compare with this reference a passage from John Smith's A True Relation: "Some of these men [Indians] weare in those holes [in their ears], a small greene and yellow coloured snake, nearly halfe a yard in length, which crawling and lapping her selfe about his neck often times familiarly would kiss his lips.")77 The mad Elagabalus is said to have kept at Rome both harmless and venomous snakes.78

Certain proverbs seem to indicate that many people never completely overcame their feelings of revulsion for these reptiles. Witness Cicero: etiamne in sinu atque in deliciis venenatam . . . viperam illam . . . habere potuerunt.79 p249Likewise Petronius: tu viperam sub ala nutricas80 (in an ominous sense).

In Berlin on an Athenian white lekythos81 is a scene where a youth, sitting on a stele, has a quail perched on his knee, and a snake raises its head from his lap. A life-size marble statue (Hellenistic period) presents a frightening moment in a young girl's life: she had been playing with her pet pigeon, when, suddenly, the tame house-snake appeared behind her. In fear of losing her bird, she holds it far from the snake.82

Domestic birds are a recurring motif in the whole history of lekythos painting. The numerous scenes of women's boudoirs wherein pet cranes, herons, and cocks strut proudly before their mistresses, indicate that 'winged denizens' were given a much freer range in the ancient household than in modern homes. These pets were more the familiars of women and children than of men, since women led a sequestered life at home. It is not surprising, therefore, to find a sudden influx of domestic scenes in fifth-century art.

On an Attic red-figured hydria (400 B.C.) a bird perches on his mistress' wool-basket;83 a Metropolitan Museum pyxis shows two pet quails watching six Nereids (representing housewives) performing the duties of everyday life.84 Again, while his mistress is busy making skeins of wool, a tame quail walks gingerly in front of her.85 Herons and cranes, or similar slender, long-legged birds are very often represented on gems of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Rossbach accounts for the popularity of the crane with gem-engravers as resulting from the ancient belief in it as a useful weather-prophet.86 But Beazley has perhaps the happiest solution: "The real reason for the appearance of the heron and similar birds is that they were domestic pets, cherished by the engraver's patrons, and admired and studied by the engraver."87

Not only herons and cranes are seen with the mistress of the ancient household: we find innumerable scenes with cocks, swans, ducks, and geese. These last two birds were almost as popular as the dog.88 The faithful Penelope had her pets: "twenty geese I have in the house, that come forth from the water and eat wheat, and my heart warms with joy as I watch them."89 Ducks are seen not only with milady and her servants at work,90 but also under banquet tables91 and at the prothesis of the dead.92 Geese look on very interestedly as their mistresses juggle balls or play at other games.93 The charming stele of Nikeso and Protarchos in the Piraeus Museum presents Nikeso seated with a goose in her lap. A little boy faces her and plays with the bird.94 The goose was a great favorite of the parvuli cives95 of the past (cf. Fig. 2). How charming the little boy who kisses his pet goose on the neck!96 Among coroplasts, this is a motif as common as Boethus' Boy with Goose.97

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Fig. 2
(Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)

The partridge (or quail?) has its share in banquet and boudoir scenes. Easily tamed and beautifully plumed, the bird was called the deliciae, athurma of Diana.98 (In fact, Delos, the island on which Diana and Apollo were born, was called Ortygia, from the word ortux, quail.)99 Aristippus paid fifty drachmae for such a pet.100 The philosopher Porphyry brought back with him from Carthage a partridge which he raised and which was so tame that it played with him, answered him, and kept quiet when he observed silence.101 An obliging pet, indeed! Fronto remembers p250his own boyhood when he speaks of his grandson's devotion to chickens, young pigeons, and sparrows. And he adds: Senex autem quanto perdicum studio tenear, nemo est qui me leviter noverit quin sciat.102

The young bloods of ancient times apparently took great pleasure in the pleasant pastimes of cock-fighting, quail-fighting, and even crane-fighting.103 To all intents and purposes, these game birds were to the ancient grandee what falcons and hawks were to medieval lords. Although the Romans did not make a great practice of holding partridge fights, the Emperor Alexander indulged in the sport privately.104

Perhaps the best-known representation of fighting cocks is that showing two youths just on the point of releasing their birds, which eye each other quite ferociously.105 Grown-ups as well as children took great pride in their game cocks, and placed high bets on them.106 Very life-like is the relief on an altar in the Lateran showing a small, weeping Eros carrying his dead cock under his arm while the victorious opponent is fervently embraced by its proud owner.107 We read that an Athenian named Poliarch was so much attached to his pets that, if a pet dog or cock died, he held public funerals to which his friends were invited, and he had inscribed tombstones erected to them.108 Even girls had their pet cocks: a terracotta in the Antiquarium, Berlin, shows a maiden who carries her pet in her left hand,109 just as another girl, on a stele in the National Museum of Athens, carries her pet partridge or quail.110 Eriphyle, herself, although nursing the infant Alcmaeon, is more interested in a spirited pair of game-cocks in her boudoir.111

As for the female members of the gallinaceous tribe: Plautus includes the gallina in a series of pets112 and Joannes Zonaras, a Byzantine writer, tells us that the Emperor Honorius had a hen named Roma which he loved more than Rome itself.113

The quail's pleasing voice (ἀδύφωνος: Pratinas)114 and its colorful plumage made it quite desirable as a pet. Were these the qualities which made them the favorites of patrician boys? For, teste Plauto, patrician children had living jack-daws, ducks, and quails for amusement.115 Even the wild ones were caught and tamed for fighting purposes and for use as decoys.116 That cruel but very popular pastime, the game of quail-filliping,117 illustrates quite distinctly the difference between ancient and modern viewpoints toward the treatment of favorite animals. How strange, therefore, that, so far as may be judged, this game gained no foot-hold in blasé Rome. In quail-filliping the stake was sometimes the quail, sometimes money.118 Octavianus had game-cocks and quails which always won over those of Antony. (Plutarch119 hints that Antony became secretly displeased — and left Rome.) Evidently cock- and quail-fighting became too much of a popular Athenian passion for Socrates, who, on one occasion, proclaimed that he would rather have a good friend than the best cock or quail in the world!120 Even Athenaeus speaks disparagingly of quail-madness, ortugomania.121

p299 II

Some of the commoner birds were caught by the Romans and domesticated as household pets. All the world has heard of Lesbia's passer, the death of which prompted Catullus to write two of his most charming poems.122 We might compare with the simplicity and pathos of Catullus' poem the elaborate ode written by Ovid to Corinna's much cherished parrot.123 The poet invites the birds to come to the funeral of his mistress' pet and beat their breasts and scratch their cheeks! The very lovely scene on a vase in the style of Meidias, in Florence, tempts one to imagine that the artist has baked into pottery his portrait of the beauteous Lesbia playing with her pet. She holds a small bird on the index finger of her left hand, and is preparing to stroke its beak with her other hand.124 (But the maiden's name is Eurynoé, and the vase dates from near the end of the fifth century.)

Among the birds which were kept in confinement and trained to imitate high speech were nightingales, starlings, ravens, magpies, and parrots. The nightingale was so excessively popular as a "talking pet" in the third century A.D. that Clement of Alexandria reproached women for their folly.125 We are reminded of Seneca who mentions those "who spare no pains in raising pups and birds and other silly pets."126 Few people, probably, shared the Stoic's disdain of sentimental attachment to animals; in Petronius' Satyricon, a father bemoans the fact that his son is in aves morbosus;127 and Martial's Telesilla felt such affection for her nightingale that she erected a monument to it.128

This brings us to mention an interesting practice, a creation, so to speak, of the Hellenistic age — the animal epitaph. Only in Hellenistic times and during the Roman Empire do animal epitaphs occur in great numbers. Just as the change in the tastes of the times saw an increased interest in children and slaves, so was it fashionable to compose epitaphs for pampered pets. These epitaphs do not contain philosophical reflections; in many instances, they are full of exaggerated pathos. Sometimes the dead favorites are given human characteristics, in language which contains unmistakable imitations of passages from famous poets. Let us quote two small epitaphs. A stele from Syracuse contains the following lines in memory of a nightingale:

Ὤλε[το· πον]τόποροις θυμὸ[ν τέρ]ψασα δ᾽ ἀηδών

ἀθαν[ἀτη]ς κόλπωι Κύπρι[δος ἀ]ισομένη.129

And again, of a favorite dog:

Οὔνομα φιλοκύνηγος ἔμοί· τοῖος γὰρ ὑπάρχων

θηρσὶν ἐπὶ φοβεροῖς κραιπνὸν ἔθηκα πόδα.130

The green Indian parrot was the talking bird par excellence among the Romans.131 Before this bird was known, they attempted to train indigenous birds possessing the faculty of imitating the human voice. The green Indian parrot, says Pliny, imperatores salutat et quae accipit verba pronuntiat. It is, he continues, in vino praecipue lasciva.132 (!!) Statius, in his famous elegy on Melior's parrot, pays a tribute to the bird.133 Apuleius, in his Florida, says that a parrot can easily learn to curse. "Teach a parrot to curse and it will curse continually, making night and day hideous with p300its imprecations. . . . Should you desire to rid yourself of its bad language, you must either cut out its tongue or send it back as soon as possible to its native woods."134 (!!) The Greeks were also acquainted with the parrot: Ctesias, 100 years before Alexander, is the first Greek writer to make mention of the bird, calling it bittakos, and a curious animal of India.135 Among the many pets slaughtered by his grieving father on the funeral pyre of young Regulus, Pliny mentions canes maiores minoresque, . . . luscinias, psittacos, merulas — pets that accompanied their master to the grave.136 (It is interesting to note that the bones of a bird buried in a pyxis in a child's grave have been found in Athens.)137

In ancient literature, bird-names are often used as terms of endearment. In one of Marcus Aurelius' letters to Fronto, there occurs a very tender reference to the latter's daughter: quid autem passerculam nostram Gratiam minusculam?138 This is reminiscent of similar usages in plays of Plautus. The Greek and Roman poets used nēttarion139 and aneticula,140 which are exactly equivalent to our "ducky." (For a list of similar pet names for girls, see Asinaria 664 ff.)

The raven and the magpie complete the list of aves loquaces. Well-known is the story of the cobbler's pet raven, as recorded by Pliny.141 This raven greeted Tiberius and the two young Caesars, and became a great public favorite. It was buried with much pomp and ceremony by the Roman populace. Alciphron mentions a barber who kept tamed ravens for the entertainment of his customers.142 In Britain the bones of ravens, probably soldiers' pets, were among the commonest finds in a Roman camp.143 As for magpies, we find references to them in Persius,144 Pliny,145 and Statius.146 They were expressly trained to greet visitors. Trimalchio's pie hung in a golden cage suspended above the threshold.147

Pigeons, doves, and swans were all symbols of the goddess of love, and favorite playthings of her son. An Athenian pyxis shows a swan and two cocks in a lady's boudoir.148 Again, a small boy holds a swan by the leg while another boy offers the pet a bunch of grapes.149 A large series of terracotta figurines shows Erotes (or are they idealized children?) playing with or fondling the patient (?) birds.150 But without a doubt the swan figures in one of the most grotesque, but charming, scenes in ceramic art: Pasiphaë, seated, holds the young Minotaur on her lap. To the right is a pet swan preening its feathers (Fig. 3).151 Anacreon praises his pet dove in beautiful language: it ate from his hand and drank from his cup.152 The man of petty pride, says Theophrastus, will have doves that are Sicilian.153 Stella, poet and friend of Statius, wrote a poem on the death of a dove154 which, in Martial's opinion, far surpassed Catullus' poem on Lesbia's passer.155 Columba was an affectionate name for a girl.156 Doves and pigeons were used as messengers, just as we use carrier pigeons. Frontinus records that Hirtius sent messages to Brutus by means of pigeons.157 As for art, many are the representations of children holding doves or pigeons closely against their bodies. Perhaps the most frequently reproduced scene of a child with pet birds is the famous stele in New York, showing a young girl with two pigeons. She kisses the beak p301of the bird in her right hand.158 One of the rare ancient vases showing a cat depicts a lady holding out a pigeon or a dove to the bird's traditional enemy.159

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Fig. 3
(After Gaz. Arch. 1879, pll. 3‑5)

Certain passages in ancient literature indicate that the peacock was sometimes cherished more as a household pet than as the inhabitant of an aviary. Strattis, in his Pausanias, attests that tame peacocks were kept in houses.160 In a fragment of Anaxandrides' Melilotus, we read: "Isn't it crazy to keep peacocks in the house when for all that money you can buy two statues!"161 And Clement of Alexandria rebukes those people who keep parrots, apes, and peacocks to amuse them at dinner, instead of providing for the poor.162 The large series of terracottas found at Myrina, depicting Erotes playing with peacocks, may very well be offerings to the memory of dead children who had such birds as pets during their lifetime.163

The hare in art figures not only in scenes with children but with men and women as well. It was a very common love-gift from men to youths and from men to women. Sometimes, especially in vase-scenes, the animal is held in a very cruel manner, with seemingly little regard for the feelings of the pet-to‑be of the favored one.164 A Pentelic marble grave lekythos, in the National Museum at Athens, shows a youth who holds in his right hand a small hare grasped by its ears.165 As usual, choes furnish us very charming childhood scenes: a boy, with a white fillet in his hair, draws a small wagon on which his pet hare is sitting;166 again, a boy, wearing a band of amulets around his body, holds out his arms to a hare which is standing on its hind feet (Fig. 4).167 On the lid of the sarcophagus of the emperor Balbinus one of the figures is that of a boy holding a hare in his arms.168 There are not many references to pet hares in ancient literature. The most famous pet leveret is the one described by Meleager in the Anthologia Palatina: sweet Phanion fed her pet too many dainties and it died. It was buried with due solemnities near her couch.169 Caesar tells us that the Britanni did not eat hare, goose, or chicken: they raised these animals for their pleasure.170

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Fig. 4
(Courtesy of National Museum, Copenhagen)

Many of us do not realize that our domesticated cat, so hypocritical and civilized, has a history and a folklore all her own. Well-established is her history in the land of the Nile, where she was an animal sure of her privileges, since she could rely on her goddess prototype: indeed, for a millennium or more she remained exclusively Egyptian, jealously guarded and revered by a populace which demanded death as the only punishment for the voluntary or involuntary slaughter of a cat.171 Teste Herodoto, when an Egyptian cat died in a house, the people shaved their eyebrows.172 Dead cats were embalmed, buried in the sacred city of Bast, or Pasht, the divine cat.173 And Diodorus Siculus tells us that a Roman soldier who had accidentally killed a cat while he was in Egypt (under the reign of Ptolemy XI), was punished at once by the angry mob.174 The Egyptians called the cat Maou, onomatopoeia at its best.175 But alas! when we come to puss's history in the p302western world, we cannot move on such certain ground. For the Greeks and the Romans are for the most part strangely silent about our feline friend.

It is not my intention to describe at any great length the many conjectures put forward concerning the meaning of ailouros, galē, feles, all words accepted by some as denoting housecat, by others, wildcat, weasel, etc. Neither time nor space will allow me to do so. I shall, instead, attempt to summarize as briefly as I can the splendid article written by Otto Keller, Zur Geschichte der Katze im Alterthum.176

According to Keller,177 the ancestor of our domestic cat is the felis maniculata, or the cream-colored Nubian cat. This cat was apparently first tamed by the Ethiopians, and introduced by them into Egypt ca. 2000 B.C.178 Up to this time, the lions had been the symbol of the goddess Bast, and the difficulty of maintaining sacred lions must have been the basic reason for the substitution of "the little lion" for the larger one.179 We have literary evidence that certain Greek authors in the fifth century refer to the Egyptian cat, but more copious is the archaeological evidence which proves that around 400 B.C. there was an attempt in Magna Graecia to domesticate the animal. Cicero180 and Ovid181 both refer to the Egyptian holy cat, evidence that the Romans were acquainted with it from about 100 B.C. on. During the first century A.D. the housecat was occasionally found in Italy, according to passages in Seneca182 and Pliny.183 We know that both the Greeks and the Romans kept snakes and weasels in their houses as protection against mice,184 but these were gradually supplanted by the domestic cat, in the second to the fifth century A.D. The cat is much cleaner than the weasel; furthermore, the latter animal emits an unpleasant odor which does not make it a suitable house-companion. It is true that the fabulists, writers of epigrams, and artists all treat of the cat's evil designs on pet birds, but the weasel is no better in this respect. Indeed, the cat can be broken of this habit much more readily than the weasel. For this reason the cat supplanted the weasel and the house snake in the fight against mice and vermin.

Herodotus first uses the word aielouros to designate the holy Egyptian housecat which he no doubt knew from his trip on the Nile.185 The Boeotian peddler who uses the word in the Acharnians186 seems to refer to the skin of a wildcat, but this is not certain, for the Greek comic writer Anaxandrides, in his play Poleis, makes a Greek say to an Egyptian: "If you see a cat in trouble, you weep, while I am very glad to kill and skin(!) it."187 Does Aristotle speak of the wild cat or the tame cat?188 When Theophrastus describes the superstitious man, he has this to say: "if a galē cross his path, he will not proceed on his way till someone else be gone by, or he have cast three stones across the street."189 Now some translate galē 'weasel'; others, 'cat.' In any event, we have here a bit of superstition which is still with us, in one form or another. And what of the galē mentioned by Theocritus190 when he makes the voluble Praxinoe say to her maid, "Eunoe, pick up your work, and take care, lazy girl, how you leave it lying about again; hai galeai like to lie soft." Cats or weasels? Opinion is divided. This is certainly like the housecat we know.b And yet this galē (if a cat) may not be Greek at all, inasmuch as the poet was Syracusan, and had passed several years of his life in Alexandria.

Cats Uncommon

At the end of the first century A.D., Plutarch191 mentions the cat and the weasel side by side as house animals. His contemporary, Pliny, says that mice can be driven away by the use of the ashes of weasels or cats.192 He gives us a list of characteristics which tally remarkably with those of the domestic cat.193 Why, asks Seneca,194 should young chickens fear the cat and not the dog? It would seem, then, that the cat was kept in Italy as a simple house-animal, but it was apparently a practice of only sporadic occurrence. In the second century the word aelurus is used by Juvenal,195 Hyginus,196 and Aulus Gellius197 to mean 'cat.' The agricultural writer Palladius (ca. 350 A.D.) uses the word cattus, the first time that it occurs in Roman literature.198 He recommends the cat for a new rôle: catching p303moles in artichoke beds! Rufinus (345‑410 A.D.) employs catta for the Egyptian holy cat.199 Several late physicians200 use the forms gatta and cattus. Evagrius (ca. 593 A.D.) records that St. Simeon Stylites, when a boy, had a tame panther which he led around on a rope, like a tame housecat.201 The poets of the decadent period regarded the cat primarily as a beast of prey. Agathias (527‑565 A.D.) versified two epigrams against a "house-born" cat which had eaten his tame partridge.202 In the second poem, the poet prepares to sacrifice the culprit to the Manes of the bird. One of Agathias' pupils, Damocharis by name, composed another epigram to console his master.203 This cat, he says, thinks of nothing by partridges, while the mice dance and rejoice! At least, we have a bit of definite information to prove that cats were then kept to destroy mice. Of Gregory the Great it is said: nihil in mundo habebat praeter unam gattam, quam blandiens crebro quasi cohabitatricem in suis gremiis refovebat.204

Perhaps the earliest artistic representation of the cat among the Greeks is the famous "cat-and‑dog fight" statue-base in Athens.205 The work is date ca. 510‑500 B.C. I do not think, however, that the physical appearance of the animal entirely agrees with that of the domestic cat, but that, of course, may be the result of the artist's style.206

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Judge for yourselves (and see the much enlarged detail).
Photo supplied by kind courtesy of Jona Lendering.

© Marco Prins

A late-archaic to fifth-century B.C. ring, in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, shows a cat lifting a paw towards a cock.207 Of a little later date is the well-known hydria (Campanian ware) in the British Museum which depicts a cat present at a music-lesson.208 On a gravestone of the second half of the fifth century B.C., enough remains of a headless animal shown reclining on the top of a pilaster to demonstrate that it is a cat.209 I cannot agree with Keller and Hülsen who both would see in the animal a cat-like figure or sphinx crowning a grave stele.210 On a Boeotian toy oinochoe of the same period there is a fine tableau of a boy playing the lyre for the amusement of his cat who sits on a small stool and listens most attentively. This cat is admirably drawn (cf. Fig. 5).211 Several late-fifth-century coins of Tarentum and Rhegium show a youth, Demos personified, playing with an animal unmistakably like a cat in size and form.212 Its apparent pleasure in playing with a ball and thread, and its attempt to get at a small bird held out by the youth, readily suggest the familiar feline, and not the panther, as some numismatists have suggested. Besides, the animal is not tied to a leash.

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Fig. 5
(From the Berlin Museum)

Lenormant has said213 that the domestic cat is not encountered "in any work of Hellenic art . . . apart from those of Tarentine origin." Now judging from the objets d'art discussed above, this is an exaggeration. It is true that Apulian vases of the fourth century attest further the presence of the cat in Magna Graecia: on two vases at Ruvo214 are to be seen cats running on the out-stretched arms of young women. A beautiful aryballoid lekythos, first published in 1936,215 depicts two charming love scenes, in one of which p304there is shown a young man holding out a cat on the back of his hand. It is said that no skeletons of cats have been unearthed at Pompeii.216 The well-known cat-mosaic found there217 may have been the opus of an Alexandrian artist; we know that Pompeii was much frequented by Graeco-Egyptians; in many respects, the city was more Alexandrian than Italian.

Introduction of Cats

On a Roman tombstone of the early Empire (first half of the first century A.D.), there is a well-delineated house-cat. According to the inscription, the name of the deceased was Calpurnia Felicla ('pussy').218 A relief of the same period, in the Capitoline Museum at Rome, shows a woman training a cat to dance to the strains of a lyre. A brace of birds is suspended above the animal to encourage it to stand on its hind legs.219 The cat appears several times on Gallo-Roman reliefs: in the Musée des Antiques at Bordeaux we see a little girl holding a kitten with both hands, while a cock stands by her and pecks at the kitten's tail;220 and in the museum at Auxerre, there is a fragment of a stone statuette which represents a cat wearing a collar.221

It would seem, then, that the introduction of the cat into Greece and southern Italy took place towards the fifth century B.C. This period was exactly the time when Egypt was opened definitely to Hellenic commerce.222 China and Egypt were the two centers of domestication of the cat in antiquity,223 and we are led to conclude that Egypt was the source of the cats which passed over into classic lands,224 perhaps through the agency of traders from Cyrene. They did not, however, attain the immediate popularity which we might expect; it seems that they remained rare and exotic animals until the second century A.D., and the period of their real popularity seems to have come even later — perhaps not until the Christian epoch when Greek monks came into Europe, bringing with them "purring sphinxes" to share the solitude of their cells. Curiously enough, it was the Asiatic Huns who made the cat a really indispensable animal, since they brought with them the rat that has ever since plagued Europe.

As Reinach225 and Jennison226 have pointed out, it must be remembered that the cat was so sacred in Egypt that there were not exported. Even missions were periodically dispatched to ransom those which had been smuggled out of Egypt. It seems that when Christianity spread over the land of the Nile, these barriers were let down: we may well be thankful to Christianity for the presence of our feline friend within our homes.

This by no means completes the list of pets which appealed to the more eclectic tastes of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is obvious, however, that time and space will not allow me to discuss all of them in detail. Suffice it, then, to make note of the following:

Pet goats were yoked to children's carts, as seen in vase-paintings and reliefs.227 Even women cherished them, according to a Pompeian wall-painting: milady, in her boudoir, offers a branch to a goat.228

Eleven epigrams refer to cicadas kept as pets.229 The idyllic Greeks loved these chirping insects and considered them equal to singing birds. Cages of reed and osier were woven to house these cheerful pets.230

The pet white fawn of Sertorius is mentioned by Pliny,231 Plutarch,232 Aulus Gellius,233 Appian,234 and Frontinus.235 There are scenes on Attic vases depicting ladies playing with deer,236 and children riding in carts to which deer have been yoked.237

Horace has a passage which mentions, among other childish games, that of aedificare casas, plostello adiungere mures.238 In Dresden there is a terracotta representing a boy or youth seated, with a bowl in his lap. On the edge of the bowl rests a mouse.239

Martial, lamenting the death of a home-bred slave, says that, compared with her, inamabilis sciurus (squirrel) et frequens phoenix.240

Fig. 6, apparently a fragment of a chous, shows a small girl with her two hands placed on the back of a turtle, as she crawls toward a boy.241 According to Radermacher, the turtle is still prized as a pet by the modern Greeks.242

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Fig. 6
(Courtesy of National Museum, Copenhagen)

Rare animals belonging to Roman emperors: p305Domitian's pet lion, immortalized by Statius;243 Caracalla's constant companion, the lion Acinaces, which ate at the same table with him, and slept with him;244 Antoninus Heliogabalus, says Lampridius, habuit leones et leopardos exarmatos in deliciis.245 Valentinian kept two fierce she-bears, named Goldflake and Innocence, in cages near his bedroom.246

Tamed panthers appear in scenes on Attic vases.247

Seneca (De Ira, 2.31.6): aspice . . . et intra domum ursorum leonumque ora placida tractantibus adulantisque dominum feras. A terracotta figurine, found in Al Mina, Sueidia, shows a small fat boy caressing an animal which very much resembles a baby bear.248

Among his famous list of apophoreta, Martial includes the dorcas, a gazelle.249 He also speaks of an ichneumon which belonged to a certain Marius,250 and a lagalopex (long-eared lynx? fennec?)c which delighted Flaccus.251

Plutarch tells of a Spartan boy who stole a young fox and concealed it under his garments. The animal bit the boy who, in fear of being discovered, quietly endured the pain and died.252

Stories of Q. Hortensius and M. Crassus weeping over pet muraenae have often been quoted.253 Cicero speaks disparagingly of the rich, conservative set who "think themselves in the seventh heaven, if they have bearded mullet in their fishponds that will feed from their hand."254 Martial mentions the delicata muraena which natat ad magistrum.255 Not only Antonia Minor adorned her pet muraenae with ear-rings and inaures.º256 Athenaeus records the following: "For I myself have seen in Arethusa, near Chalcis — and perhaps most of you have also — mullets which were quite tame, and eels wearing silver and gold ear-rings, receiving food from those who offered it, bits of entrails from sacrificial victims, and pieces of green cheese."257

In the Carmina tria de mensibus are found the following lines:

Captivam filo gaudens religasse lacertam,

Quae suspensa manu mobile ludit opus.258

This brings us to observe that children's games are much the same in every age and country. The Scholiast on Aristophanes259 tells us that boys used to catch the Χρυσομηλολόνθιον, a thing like a golden-beetle, and tie it by the foot and then let it go the length of its tether. On a red-figured oinochoe, we see a boy preparing to tie a string to the insect's foot.260 Children still relish this pastime at the expense of the "May" or "June" bug.


The Author's Notes:

The indispensable work for the study of animals in the ancient world is Otto Keller's Die antike Tierwelt, in two volumes, Leipzig, 1909‑13. I refer to it as A. T. Jennison's Animals for Show and Pleasure in Ancient Rome, Manchester University Press, 1937, is referred to as Jennison. Miss Lawler's article, "Zoologically Speaking," CJ 25 (1929‑30) 671‑682, is good reading.

1 Cf. Galletier, Étude sur la poésie funéraire romaine (Paris, 1922) 329.

2 See especially Orth, Der Hund im Altertum (Prog. Schleusingen, 1910), 17‑8.

3 There is no allusion to hunting dogs in Scripture and, as a friend of man, this animal had no place in Hebrew life. Cf. A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Hastings (5 volumes, New York, 1902‑07) I, s.v. Dog.

4 De Rep., 2.275‑6. Cf. T. A. Sinclair, CR 62 (1948) 61‑2.

5 Il., 10.360.

6 Od., 17.309‑10. Cf. Il., 22.69; 23.173. On dogs in Homer, see Classical Weekly, 41 (1948) 226‑8.

7 Od., 2.11; 17.62; 20.145.

8 Seymour, Life in the Homeric Age (New York, 1908) 358.

9 Burn, The World of Hesiod, (London, 1936) 42, on Hesiod, Works and Days, 604‑5. Cf. N. W. DeWitt's description of "The Primitive Roman Household," CJ 15 (1919‑20) 219.

10 Cf. Classical Weekly, 12 (1919) 213.

11 Keller, A. T., I, 94. Cf. Jebb, The Characters of Theophrastus, (ed. Sandys, London, 1909) 67, note 36, wherein he quotes Pliny N. H., 3.26 and Strabo, 6.2; p251Mentz, "Die klassischen Hundenamen," Philologus, 88 (1933) 191.

12 Cf. Paroemiographi Graeci (ed. Gaisford, 1836) 151, no. 369; Jennison, 127.

13 Characteres, trans. Edmonds, Loeb. ed., 93. (See also the Index, 129‑30, s.v. Melitè.)

14 Fab., 306 (Chambry). The skeleton of a small dog, the size of a terrier, was found in Caesar's camp near Folkestone: Archaeologia, 47 (1883) 456, table 10.

15 Sat., 6.653‑4.

16 De Tranquillitate Animi, 472C.

Thayer's Note: And see the notes and reference cited there.

17 De merc. cond., 34.

18 See Capitan, "Les chiens et le vin à l'époque gallo-romaine," C. rendus Ac. Inscr. et B.‑L., (1916) 68.

19 14.198.

20 1.109.

21 Apocolocyntosis, 13.

22 Martial, 1.109.17‑23.

23 CIL, IX. Cf. Purdie, Some Observations on Latin Verse Inscriptions (London, 1935) 109.

24 Cf. e.g., CIL VI.2.11864; VI.3.20189; X.4235.

25 Petronius, Satyricon, 71.

26 Cf. Jullian, L'Histoire de la Gaule (8 volumes, Paris, 1909‑26), VI, 277: "on lui assignait dans la vie de la famille une dignité presque humaine."

27 Musée de Lyon. Espérandieu, Recueil général des bas-reliefs de la Gaule Romaine (12 volumes, Paris, 1907‑47) III, no. 1778. (Hereafter Espérandieu.)

28 Ibid., no. 2051.

29 Ibid., II, no. 1490. Cf. Propertius 4.3.55‑6.

30 CVA British Museum 5 (Great Britain 7) III I c, pl. 75, 3; 76, 2.

31 Copenhagen. Courtesy of the National Museum.

32 Richter, Red-figured Athenian Vases (New Haven, 1936) no. 164, pls. 161, 177. Cf. Langlotz, Griechische Vasen in Würzburg (Munich, 1932) Taf. 209, no. 602.

33 Sat., 9.61.

34 From Myrina. Cf. B. C. H., 9 (1885), 176, fig. 1.

35 Cf. Conze, Die attischen Reliefs (Berlin, 1893‑1922) CLXII, no. 828; CLVII, no. 830; CLXI, no. 827. Cf. J. H. S., 12 (1891) 49.

36 Espérandieu, IX, no. 6903.

37 Cf. Beazley, Etruscan Vase-Painting (Oxford, 1947) 110 and Pl. XXII, 2.

38 Johns Hopkins University Studies in Archaeology, ed. D. M. Robinson, no. 27 (Baltimore, 1938).

39 Ibid., 131.

40 Pyth., 2.72‑3.

41 Fragm., 17 (Oratores Attici, ed. Müller [Paris, 1858] II, 455).

42 De Divinatione, 1.34.76.

43 162, 179, 261, 284, 505.

44 40‑41 (Ribbeck, Scaenicae Romanorum Poesis Fragmenta,3 II [Leipzig, 1898] 346).

45 14.202.

46 Charites, 115, ap. Athenaeus, Deipn., 12, 519A.

47 Ap. Athenaeus, loc. cit. (trans. Gulick, Loeb ed., 5.337).

48 Ptolemy VII, Fragm., 8 (Müller, Fragmenta historicorum Graecorum, III, 188) ap. Athenaeus, op. cit., 12.518 f.

49 Paedagogus, 3.4.30.

50 Ap. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, XXXVII, col. 1518.

51 Acharnians, 907.

52 Met., 11.8.1.

53 For a good reproduction, cf. Ullman and Henry, Latin for Americans, I, 392.

54 Op. cit., 305‑8, nos. 514‑536.

55 Anthologia Latina, ed. Riese (Leipzig, 1894) I, 12, no. 330.

56 Imagines, 2.17.13.

57 De usu partium, 3.16 (ed. Helmreich, I, 194).

58 See footnote 33, supra.

59 Louvre, Paris. Cf. McDermott, op. cit., 227, no. 319.

60 Carthage. From Oued Atmenia. McDermott, op. cit., 292, no. 492.

61 Rome, Villa Borghese. Cf. Altman, Die römischen Grabaltäre der Kaiserzeit (Berlin, 1905) 218, no. 284, fig. 179.

62 Cf. Keller, A. T., I, 4.

63 Cf. Küster, "Die Schlange in der griechischen Kunst und Religion," Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten 13 (1913), heft 2, 1‑172.

64 Cf. Gardner, J. H. S., 5 (1884) 105‑142.

65 Vergil, Aen., 5.95; Cassius Dio, 45.2; Suet. Aug. 94, et al. Cf. Jayne, Healing Gods of Ancient Civilization (New Haven, 1925) 411‑2.

66 Heroicus, 9.1.

67 Lucian (transl. Harmon, Loeb ed.) 4.185. For Olympias, cf. Plutarch, Alexander, 2 and Justinus, 12.16.2.

68 2.28.1.

69 Glossary on Codex Vaticanus 6925 (David, Hermeneumata Vaticana, § 15, in Commentationes Philologae Ienenses, 5 [Leipzig, 1894] 220, col. 1).

70 10.47; Lib. XI Periocha.

71 N. H., 29.22.

72 Cf. Harrison, Themis (Cambridge, 1927) 300‑1.

73 Tiberius, 72.

74 Annales, 11.11.

75 De Ira, 2.31.

Thayer's Note: A needlessly baroque translation of Seneca's Latin; sinus is the fold of a toga, often used to carry small objects.

76 7.87.7.

77 Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606‑1625, ed. Tyler (New York, 1907), 100.

78 Lampridius, Antoninus, 28.3.

79 De Haruspicum responsis, 24.50.

80 Satyricon, 77.1.

81 Fairbanks, Athenian White Lekythoi (New York, 1914) Univ. of Michigan, Humanistic Series, vol. VII, 63, No. 18; pl. X.2.

82 Bulle, Der schöne Mensch im Altertum2 (Munich, 1912), Taf. 192.

83 Furtwängler, Beschreibung der Vasensammlung im Antiquarium (Berlin, 1885) II, 655, no. 2385.

84 A. J. A., 44 (1940) 429, figs. 1 and 2, and 430.

85 Richter, Red-figured Athenian Vases (New York, 1936) no. 34, pls. 33, 175.

86 Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, s.v. Gemmen, col. 1074.

87 The Lewes House Collection of Ancient Gems (Oxford, 1920) 60.

88 Keller, Thiere des classischen Alterthums (Innsbruck, 1887) 296.

89 Od., 19.536‑7 (trans. Murray, Loeb ed.).

90 Archäologischer Anzeiger (1925) col. 124, abb. 22.

91 CVS British Museum, fasc. 7 (Great Britain, fasc. 10) IV.B.a, pl. 11, 2.

92 Heydemann, Griechische Vasenbilder (Berlin, 1870) Taf. XII, 11.

93 CVS British Museum, fasc. 5 (Great Britain, fasc. 7) III.I.C, pl. 67, 1a.

94 Conze, op. cit., Taf. XXVII.

95 Pliny, Panegyricus, 26.7. cf. Art and Archaeology, 33 (1932) 143.

96 Naples, Museo Nazionale. Winter, Typen, II, 276, fig. 12.

97 For a series of this type, cf. J. H. S., 6 (1885) 1‑15.

98 Aelian, N. A., 10.35.

99 Hyginus, Fab., 53. Cf. Ovid, Met. 1.694; Fasti, 5.692.

100 Diogenes Laërtius, 2.8.3.

101 De Abstinentia, 3.4.

102 Ad Amicos, 1.12.

103 Cassius Dio, 66.25.

104 Lampridius, Alexander Severus, 41.

105 Die Antike, 6 (1930), Taf. 19, b.

106 Columella, R. R., 8.2.

107 Cf. Altmann, op. cit., 264.

108 Aelian, V. H., 8.4.

Thayer's Note: An excellent sample follows, found at Termessos and exhibited in the museum at Antalya (Turkey). The text accompanying the photograph is a close adaptation of the informational panel provided there.


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Photo supplied by kind courtesy of Jona Lendering.

This is a dog's sarcophagus made of limestone. It was discovered during a surface survey at Termessos in 1998 and was brought to the museum. The lid of the sarcophagus is in the form of a roof with a triangular pediment at either end; the uppermost and corner acroteria are stylised palmettes.

On one of the narrow faces of the sarcophagus, seen here on our left, there is an ancient Greek verse inscription of six dactylic hexameters (although written out in eleven lines); its decipherment, made arduous and protracted by the weathering and erosion that damaged the inscribed surface, is a triumph of the team of Turkish epigraphers that undertook it:

ΛΑΣ...Δ..Ο.........ΑΙ | ..ΤΩ.... Ῥοδό[πης εὐδ]αιμονία | ΒΑΥΛ.ΟΝ

Κ..Τ.ΟΝ εὐχάριτον Στέ- | φανον παίζοντες ἐφώνουν, |

Ἐξαπίνης θανάτῳ μεμαρμένον | ἐνθάδε κεῦθ[ει]|

Ἐστὶ κύνος τὸδε σῆμα καταφθιμέ- | νου Στεφανοῖο,

Τὸν Ῥοδόπη δά- | κρυσε καὶ ὡς ἄνθρωπον ἐθαψεν, |

Εἰμὶ κύων Στέφανος, Ῥοδόπη δὲ μ[οὶ] | ἐκτίσε τύμβον.

. . . Rhodope's happiness . . .

Those playing with it called it lovely Stephanos.

(This grave) keeps inside one taken away suddenly by death:

It is the grave of the dog Stephanos who went away and vanished;

Rhodope wept for it and buried it like a human.

I am the dog Stephanos, and Rhodope had this tomb made for me.

Photo © Jona Lendering

109 Winter, op. cit., II, 76, fig. 6.

110 Conze, op. cit., CLVIII, no. 821.

111 Picard, La Vie privée dans la Grèce classiqueº (Paris, 1930) pl. LVII, 3.

112 Asinaria, 3.3.666.

113 Epitome Historiarum, 13.21.15‑6.

114 Fragm., 1 (Nauck, 562).

115 Captivi, 5.4.1002‑4.

116 Scholiast ad Aristophanes, Lysistrata, 485; Dionysios Periegetes, 3.9.

117 Pollux 9, Segm. 102, 108, 109. Cf. Aristophanes, Pax, 788.

Thayer's Note: Quail filliping (ὀρτυγοκοπιία) seems much less cruel than cock-fighting, mentioned earlier by our author with something like approval even though it kills and maims birds.

"The quail was placed on a board, round which a ring was drawn. Then the professional filliper struck the quail on the head with his forefinger. If the bird stood its ground, its owner won; but if it flinched and backed out of the ring, the filliper won." — from "Pets in Classical Times", Greece and Rome, Vol. 4, No. 11 (Feb. 1935), p111. I would like to put this 5‑page article onsite, but I'm prevented from doing so by uncertainty as to its copyright status, which depends on the year in which W. F. Gosling, its author, may have died. If you have information, please drop me a line.

118 Pollux 95, Segm. 107.

119 Antonius, 33.

120 Plato, Lysis, 211. Cf. Xenophon, Memorabilia, 1.6.14.

121 Op. cit., 11.464.

122 Carmina, 2; 3.

123 Amores, 2.6.

124 Cf. Weege, Dionysischer Reigen (Halle, 1926) 114.

125 Loc. cit.

126 De consolatione ad Marciam, 12.2.

127 46.5.

128 Martial, 7.87.8.

129 I. G. XIV.56 (Sicilia), suppl. Spuches.

130 C. I. G. 3559.

131 Warmington, The Commerce between the Roman Empire and India (Cambridge, 1928) 152.

132 N. H., 10.42 (58), 117. For parrots as sailors' pets, cf. Warmington, op. cit., 154.

133 Silvae, 2.4.29‑31.

134 12. (trans. Butler, The Apologia and Florida of Apuleius of Madaura [Oxford, 1909] 179‑80).

p306 135 Ap. Photius, Bibliotheca, ed. Bekker, I, 45, 67 H.

136 Ep., 4.2.3.

137 Ath. Mitt., 18 (1893) 175.

138 Ep. 4.6.

139 Aristophanes, Plutus, 1011.

140 Asinaria, 3.3.103.

141 N. H., 10.43 (60) 121‑123.

142 3.30.1.

143 Cf. Jennison, 120.

144 Prologus, 8‑14.

145 N. H., 10.42 (59), 118‑119.

146 Op. cit., 2.4.19.

147 Satyricon, 28.9.

148 J. H. S., 14 (1894), pl. III, 2.

149 Die Antike, 6 (1930) Taf. 18, b.

150 Cf. Pottier and Reinach, La Nécropole de Myrina (Paris, 1887) 1 (Texte) passim.

151 Paris, Cabinet des Médailles, 1066. After Gaz. arch. 1879, pll. 77.3‑5.

152 Ode 9.

153 Op. cit., 21.15.

154 Statius, op. cit., 1.2.102.

155 1.7.

156 Plautus, Asinaria, 3.3.103 (693).

157 Strategematon, 3.13.8.

158 Buschor, Grab eines attischen Mädchens2 (Munich, 1941) 19, 11.

159 C. V. A., British Museum, fasc. 2 (Great Britain, fasc. 2), IV E A, pl. 11, 18a.

160 Ap. Athenaeus, op. cit., 14.654.

161 Ibid. (trans. Gulick, Loeb ed., 7.13).

162 Loc. cit.

163 Winter, op. cit., 2.287, nos. 4‑6, et passim.

164 Cf. Langlotz, op. cit., Taf. 152, no. 482.

165 J. H. S., 26 (1906) pl. XIV.

166 Watzinger, Griechische Vasen in Tübingen (Reutlingen, 1924) Taf. 33, E 129.

167 Courtesy of National Museum, Copenhagen. Inv. nr. CVIII 344.

168 Arch. Anzeiger (1937) cols. 483‑484, abb. 1.

169 7.207.

170 B. G., 5.12.

171 Diodorus Siculus, 1.83. Cf. Cicero, Tusc., 5.78, and Langton, N. and B., The Cat in Ancient Egypt (Cambridge, 1940) 1‑4.

172 Herodotus, 2.66.

173 Ibid., 2.67.

174 Loc. cit.

175 Enciclopedia Italiana, s.v. Gatto, 453.

Thayer's Note: Confirmed, and actually corrected and improved, as follows. Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar gives


[image ALT: A sequence of four Egyptian hieroglyphic signs. From left to right, a tall teardrop with a ball hanging from it, a feather, a standing bird like a sparrow, and an animal pelt — a more or less square hide with a long thin tail hanging from the bottom and curving to the right. The hieroglyphics are transliterated and translated in the text of this paragraph.]

for cat; in which — disregarding the last character, representing a cow's hide, a determinant for mammals, — the others are the syllabic MR (which Gardiner then tells us was in fact pronounced MI), the semivowel Y, and the semivowel W: thus MIYW or, very likely, supplying the unwritten vowel, MIYaW: in plain English, meow (e in italiano, miau).

176 Römische Mitteilungen, 23 (1908) 40‑70.

177 Ibid., 59‑60.

178 Enciclopedia Italiana, loc. cit.

179 Cf. Longman's Magazine, 11 (1887‑88) 572.

180 Loc. cit.

181 Met., 5.330.

182 Ep., 121.

183 N. H., 10.73 (94); 11.37 (55); 11.37 (65).

184 Palladius, Agricultura, 4.9.4.

185 Loc. cit.

186 879.

187 Kock, 2.150.

188 N. A.5.2; 6.25. Cf. 9.6; ed. Dittmeyer.

189 Op. cit., 16.º

190 15.28.

191 Moralia, 959F.

192 N. H., 18.17 (45). Cf. Notes and Queries, 4.10 (1872), 56.

The cited page of Notes and Queries is online here, if only accessible to part of humanity; but there is nothing on it about cats, weasels, ashes, or Pliny, or any other relevant topic.

193 See note 183.

194 Loc. cit.

195 Sat., 15.7.

196 Astr., 2.28. Cf. Ovid, loc. cit.

197 20.8.

198 Loc. cit.

199 Ps. Clemens Romanus, Recognitiones, 5.20, ap. Migne, Patrologia Greco-Latina, 1, col. 1339.

200 See Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, s.v. cattus.

201 Historia Ecclesiastica, 6.23.

202 Anthologia Palatina, 7.204, 205.

203 Ibid., 206.

204 Joannes Diaconus, S. Gregorii Papae vita, 2.60, ap. Migne, Patrologia Latina, 75, col. 124.

205 Richter, Animals in Greek Sculpture (New York, 1930) 34, regards the animal definitely as a cat.

206 Cf. Fraser, "A New Athenian Discovery," The Art Bulletin, 4 (1922) 142.

207 Richter, loc. cit.

208 CVA British Museum, fasc. 5 (Great Britain, fasc. 7), III I c, pl. 75, 3; 76, 2.

209 Conze, op. cit., Taf. CCIV, no. 1032.

210 Keller, Zur Geschichte, 53, note 3.

211 Berlin. K. Museen. Reproduced from Aus dem Berliner Museum, Reinhard Kekulé von Stradonitz . . dargebracht. (Berlin, 1909?) [4], vignette.

212 Richter, op. cit., figs. 176‑177.

213 La Grande-Grèce (Paris, 1881), 1.98.

214 Engelmann, JdI, 14 (1899), 136, fig. 1; 137, fig. 2.

215 Revue Archéologique, 8 (1936), 148, fig. 2.

216 Keller, A. T., 1, 79.

217 Pfuhl, Malerei und Zeichnung der Griechen (Munich, 1923) 3, 312, no. 702.

218 CIL, 6.2.14223; CIL, 8.1. Sup. 14823.

219 Keller, Zur Geschichte, 65, fig. 11.

220 Espérandieu, 2 (Paris, 1908), no. 1193 = CIL 13.787.

221 Espérandieu, 4 (Paris, 1911) 88, no. 2906.

222 Rostovtzeff, Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World (Oxford, 1941) 1, 104.

223 Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, s.v. Katze, col. 53.

224 Ibid. Cf. Glover, The Challenge of the Greek (Cambridge, 1942) 1.

225 Orpheus (New York, 1930) 32.

226 Jennison, 129.

227 Cf. Revue Archéologique, 25 (1927), 114, note 4; pl. IV, 11, 12.

228 Reinach, Répertoire de peintures grecques et romaines (Paris, 1922) 407, fig. 1.

229 Anthologia Palatina, 7.189, 190, 192‑198, 200, 201. Cf. 213, 364.

230 Theocritus, 1.52; Longus, Pastoralia, 1.10.

231 N. H., 8.32 (50).

232 Sertorius, 11.

233 15.22.

234 Bellum Civile, 1.13.110.

p307 235 Op. cit., 1.11.13.

236 CVA Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fasc. 2 (France, fasc. 10) III H f, pl. 81, 3‑5.

237 Watzinger, op. cit., Taf. 33, E 122.

238 Sat., 2.3.247.

239 Cf. Klein, Child Life in Greek Art (New York, 1932) pl. XIV, A, C.

240 5.37.13.

241 Courtesy of National Museum, Copenhagen. Provenance unknown.

242 Der Homerische Hermeshymnus (Wien und Leipzig, 1931) 65.

243 Op. cit., 2.5.

244 Cassius Dio, 79.7.2‑3.

245 Antoninus Heliogabalus, 21.1.

246 Ammianus Marcellinus, 29.3.9.

247 Cf. Beazley, op. cit., 143, 18; Langlotz, op. cit., Taf. 237, no. 819.

248 J. H. S., 58 (1938) 164, MNN, 116; pl. XI.

249 13.99.

250 7.87.5.

251 7.87.1.

252 Lycurgus, 18.

253 Pliny, N. H., 9.55 (81), 172; Porphyry, op. cit., 3.5.17.

254 Ad Attic., 2.1.7 (trans. Winstedt, Loeb ed., 1, 109).

255 10.30.22‑24.

256 Pliny, loc. cit.

257 Op. cit. 8.331 (trans. Gulick, Loeb ed., 4, 7).

258 35.6 (Poetae Latini Minores, Baehrens, I, 209).

259 Ad Vi Vespae, 1341.

260 Heydemann, op. cit., Taf. 12, 1. Cf. Hilfstafel no. 9; Heubach, Das Kind in der griechischen Kunst (Wiesbaden, 1903), 38; Archäologische Zeitung, 25 (1867) col. 126.


Thayer's Notes:

achous is a type of pitcher; and an oinochoe (curious-looking plural: oinochoai) is a pitcher for oinos, wine: the Greeks on occasion drank straight from the jug, as people sometimes do elsewhere. See the article Chous in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

b Cats and weasels are inextricably confused in Graeco-Roman sources. See also "Ancient Names of the Cat" (Notes & Queries 196:261‑263).

c Etymologically, a "rabbit-fox".


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