Classical Cats: The rise and fall of the sacred cat

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9780415212519: Classical Cats: The rise and fall of the sacred cat

This is the definitive book on classical cats. The cat has played a significant role in history from the earliest times. Well known is its role in the religion and art of ancient Egypt, no less than its association with witchcraft in the Middle Ages. But when did the cat become a domestic companion and worker as well?
There has been much debate about the position of the cat in ancient Greece and Rome. Artistic representations are sometimes ambiguous, and its role as a mouse-catcher seems often to have been carried out by weasels. Yet other evidence clearly suggests that the cat was as important to Greeks and Romans as it is to many modern people.
This book is the first comprehensive survey of the evidence for cats in Greece and Rome, and of their functions and representations in art. Donald Engels draws on authors from Aesop to Aristotle; on vase-painting, inscriptions and the plastic arts; and on a thorough knowledge of zoology of the cat. He also sets the ancient evidence in the wider context of the Egyptian period that preceded it, as well as the views of the Church fathers who ushered antiquity into the Middle Ages.

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About the Author:

Donald Engels is Associate Professor of History at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (1978) and Roman Corinth: An Alternative Model for the Classical City (1990).

From Publishers Weekly:

It's well known that cats were revered as household gods in ancient Egypt, but what happened to them after that? According to this revelatory study of cats in the classical world by University of Arkansas history professor Engels, they fared surprisingly well. Using recent archeological, (feline) genetic, literary and artistic evidence, Engels makes the case that by the third century B.C., Felis catus was widely distributed across Europe, thanks to seafaring Greek merchants and colonizers who associated cats with the goddess Artemis and used them to protect their grain supplies. Drawing on Latin inscriptions, Roman mosaics, sculptures and other artifacts, Engels also shows that cats were far more popular among the dog-loving Romans than is commonly assumed. After millions of the creatures were slaughtered alongside the hundreds of thousands of pagans, heretics and Jews with whom they were associated during the Middle Ages, cats got their revenge. Noting that cats have long been instrumental in defending humankind from rodents and the diseases they carry, Engels suggests that the absence of cats in Europe probably contributed to the spread and the severity of the bubonic plague that devastated the continent in the 14th century. Some cat scholars may accuse Engels of a Eurocentric bias for speculating that Roman traders brought the domesticated cat to India, as there is good reason to believe that the cat was domesticated there at about the same time as in Egypt, or even possibly earlier. On balance, however, the book is well-written and researchedAand stunningly illustrated. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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