Cave Canem

From love to slaugh­ter, an­i­mals meant some­thing to ev­ery­one in An­cient Rome

All About History - - REVIEWS -

Au­thor Iain Ferris Pub­lisher Am­ber­ley Pub­lish­ing Price £20 Re­leased Out now

You might think that a book specif­i­cally on an­i­mals in An­cient Rome might be a bit niche but at some point you’ve prob­a­bly won­dered how the Ro­mans named their dogs or what pets they might have had. Well, Iain Ferris has all the an­swers in his new book, Cave Canem: An­i­mals and Ro­man So­ci­ety. And just in case you’re won­der­ing what that Latin phrase means, it’s ‘be­ware of the dog’.

From dol­phins to birds to pan­thers, Ferris ex­plores the use of an­i­mals through­out the Ro­man Em­pire as pets, re­li­gious sym­bols and in en­ter­tain­ment – af­ter all, wild cats were used in the Colos­seum. What’s espe­cially great is that you don’t need a great deal of knowl­edge about An­tiq­uity to get along with the in­for­ma­tion; as long as you’ve got the basics down, fol­low­ing Ferris’ en­thu­si­as­tic writ­ing should be easy.

You know you’re in good hands when the au­thor pulls from trusted sources and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence like sculp­tures, coins and mo­saics, and there’s a long bib­li­og­ra­phy for fur­ther read­ing. There are also 98 plates in the mid­dle of the book pro­vid­ing some im­agery but he could per­haps have gone with fewer of these and more de­scrip­tion as each is only ac­com­pa­nied by the arte­fact’s ti­tle and cur­rent lo­ca­tion. Along­side that, the only other thing that lets this book down is pos­si­bly its edit­ing. While the sub­ject knowl­edge is all there along­side some well­crafted ti­tles and sub­head­ings, miss­ing full stops and com­mas can, at times, make the read a bit jar­ring.

Nev­er­the­less, as one of the first com­pre­hen­sive books on this sub­ject mat­ter, it’s cer­tainly a must-have for any fans of An­cient Rome who are look­ing for some lighter read­ing about a civil­i­sa­tion that’s per­haps best known for its darker side.

“You don’t need a great deal of knowl­edge about An­tiq­uity”

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