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by Archaeology Newsroom

Funeral epigrams for animals

Animals competing in the field, animals as warriors, hunters, and as true and loyal companions and servants of man, deserve a grave as humans do. Certain funeral epigrams of the Anthologia Palatina refer not only to the death of the horse and dog, the best companions of man, but also to the death of other animals (kid, rooster, partridge, dolphin) and even insects (cicada, cricket) that either wander free in nature or have become “part” of a home. Since the way leading to Hades is followed equally by humans and animals, animals also have the right to be buried in order to reach the Underworld. If man fails or neglects to bury an animal, then the sorrow for the lost life becomes stronger. The expression of love and mourning for the death of an animal is only a fraction of the much dealt with subject of the relation between man and animal in the ancient Greek world. Archaeological excavations may never bring to light the minute tomb of a cicada or a cricket since its life starts and ends in the verses of some epigrams of the Anthologia Palatina. Through these verses, however, the anguish and sorrow of the living for the loss of the “other” is fully manifested, even if this “other “ is an animal. Man’s concern for the burial of the dead animal reflects in a way man’s own fear at the sight of a corpse that did not for some reason deserve to have a proper burial, a fear with which ancient Greek thought is imbued.