Abstract: “Tail” of Two Cities: Animals in Cultural Life in Ancient Athens and Pompeii

No one can deny how important animals are to us today.  They serve a variety of roles – from pets, to providers of meat, milk, leather, and other goods, to working beasts, pulling carts and plows in some areas. Animals were even more instrumental in the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans. This lecture synthesizes and interconnects data about animals from textual, artistic, and archaeological sources to reconstruct their role in daily life in two important cities of antiquity – Athens and Pompeii. Topics presented include the contribution of animals and animal products to ancient diets and dining practices within these cities; the use of meat and animals as status and identity markers across time and space; changes in animal husbandry practices consequent with shifting cultural attitudes and environmental practices; the role of animals in ancient Greek and Roman cult and ritual; and the keeping of a variety of pets in antiquity. A range of evidence from current excavations in both cities is used in reconstructions.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Jashemski, W. F. and F.G. Meyer (eds.) (2002), The Natural History of Pompeii. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Kalof, L. (ed.) (2009), A Cultural History of Animals in Antiquity (vol.1: Antiquity to the Dark Ages). Oxford: Berg.

MacKinnon, M. (2007), ‘State of the Discipline: Osteological Research in Classical Archaeology.’ American Journal of Archaeology 111: 473-504.

MacKinnon, M. (2006), ‘Supplying Exotic Animals for the Roman Amphitheatre Games: New Reconstructions Combining Archaeological, Ancient Textual, Historical and Ethnographic Data.’ Mouseion 6: 137-161.     

MacKinnon, M. (2004), Production and Consumption of Animals in Roman Italy: Integrating the Zooarchaeological and Textual Evidence. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 54.

Toynbee, J. M. C. (1973), Animals in Roman Life and Art. London: Thames and Hudson.

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