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