Numismatic and History Discussions > History and Archeology

Dogs in Antiquity

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Virgil H:
We have discussed domestic dogs on coins in the past. I specifically look for them and have acquired a couple. The image is Roman Republic, C. Antestius, I provide as a visual for this non-coin post. I thought the following might be of interest, that the ancients (in this case Greeks and Romans) loved their dogs as much as modern people do. There are a number of great dog stories from the past, from Alexander the Great naming a city after his dog, to the body of Lysimachos kept from carrion for a day or two on the battlefield by his faithful dog before his body was found and recovered, to the saddest (to me) part of The Odyssey, Odysseus meeting his dog Argos when the old dog recognized him and Odysseus could not acknowledge his old friend.

Below are a collection of dog epitaphs from Greek and Roman times, mostly found in roadside tombs built by the humans who loved them. It reminds me of the roadside crosses we often see in the South for people killed in car accidents. Until recently, I had no idea that some dogs were memorialized this way in ancient times. Pretty cool, I think. There is also a lot of ancient art, in addition to coins, with dogs. They have evolved with humans longer than any other species.

“I am in tears, while carrying you to your last resting place as much as I rejoiced when bringing you home in my own hands fifteen years ago.”

“This is the tomb of the dog, Stephanos, who perished, Whom Rhodope shed tears for and buried like a human. I am the dog Stephanos, and Rhodope set up a tomb for me.”

"You who pass on this path, if you happen to see this monument, laugh not, I pray, though it is a dog's grave. Tears fell for me, and the dust was heaped above me by a master's hand."

“My eyes were wet with tears, our little dog, when I bore thee (to the grave)… So, Patricus, never again shall thou give me a thousand kisses. Never canst thou be contentedly in my lap. In sadness have I buried thee, and thou deservist. In a resting place of marble, I have put thee for all time by the side of my shade. In thy qualities, sagacious thou wert like a human being. Ah, me! What a loved companion have we lost!”

"Myia never barked without reason, but now, he is silent."

"To Helena, foster child, soul without comparison and deserving of praise."
Note: confirmed this was a dog’s tomb and that the dog was seen as a family member, ie., foster child

"Here the stone says it holds the white dog from Melita, the most faithful guardian of Eumelus. Bull, they called him when he was yet alive, but now, his voice is prisoned in the silent pathways of night."

"Issa's more pert than Lesbia's sparrow love, Purer than kisses of a turtle-dove, More sweet than a hundred maidens rolled in one, Rarer than wealthy India's precious stone. She is pet of Publius, Issa dear, She whines, a human voice you seem to hear."

And my favorite perhaps, although the one for Stephanos’ ranks right up there.

"Surely, even as you lie dead in this tomb, I deem the wild beasts yet fear your white bones, huntress Lycas; and your valor great Pelion knows, and splendid Ossa and the lonely peaks of Cithaeron."


Woof.  I give this thread five stars. :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

Joe Sermarini:
I have not had a dog since childhood, but my daughter married an Italian, moved to Bologna, and left us her dog. What a joy he is!  I can understand the feelings behind these inscriptions. Dogs truly are man's best friend.

Adding an often-overlooked dog, standing between the Lares praestites.  The guardians of the city, have, in a way, their own guardian.  Cr 298/1;Caesia 1

Virgil H:
That is a nice one. I bid on a Dog series, Rome, 206-195 BC. AR Victoriatus, recently, and got blown out of the water. LOL. That one seems to also have the dog as guardian. My holy grail is the C. Mamilius Limetanus, Rome, 82 BC, AR Serrate Denarius with Odysseus and Argos. Mainly because my favorite book is The Odessey and that is the most poignant part of the entire book. I always wonder why Odysseus didn't take Argos with him, I would have taken my dog if it were possible. Although Argos probably lived a lot longer back home in Ithaca. That one is more affordable, but I want one with a decent quality dog and I keep getting outbid. I will get one at some point.



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