The Roman Empire’s accomplishments have influenced the development of many facets of society, including art, philosophy, culture, architecture, language, religion, government — the list is almost endless.
The wondrous Roman culture flourished for more than 1,000 years, from 8 B.C. to its collapse during A.D. 5 (via Sightseeing Tours Italy). During that time, the Romans developed a fascination with wild animals; they liked watching them and marveled at the grace and physical prowess of native creatures such as wolves, bears, wild boars, deer, and goats. Ancient Romans also developed an appreciation for animals from the countries they conquered, such as elephants, leopards, lions, ostriches, and parrots.
While no zoos existed, the Roman Colosseum — known for its vigorous gladiator battles — pitted animals against opponents for spectator entertainment. Sometimes that meant a staged hunt where trained people stalked them. On other occasions, those condemned to die would be forced to face all manner of fierce creatures (via The Colosseum).
Elephants, considered a symbol of power, also marched in parades. One such occasion took place in 46 B.C. after Julius Caesar defeated Pompey in Greece and emerged victorious in wars in Egypt and Asia Minor, Explore Italian Culture reports.
But some animals achieved pet status after becoming popular for the services they provided to humans.
Ancient Rome's most popular pets
Ferrets, dogs, and monkeys top the list of most popular pets of the Roman Empire, according to Parade magazine. Much like today, dogs were tagged so people could find their animals if they went astray. These pets were not only cuddly but protected homes from thieves, History for Kids reports. Specifically, owners were known to chain their dogs to their houses or fences when journeying somewhere to keep their possessions intact. In addition, dogs were used for hunting and herding.
Cats weren’t popular in Ancient Rome, although they were sometimes used to keep the mice and rats away. Elsewhere, ferrets were used to hunt rabbits, Ferret Care reports. Their lean bodies and curious nature made them an obvious choice for “ferreting,” which is an actual term used to describe hunting with ferrets.
Monkeys, like elephants, were used ceremonially and dressed up like soldiers that would ride in chariots led by goats, according to Explore Roman Culture. Still, they were prized by their owners. In fact, some were buried in tombs with their skeletons arranged like they were sleeping (via Daily Mail). “We believe that the influential Romans … wanted to make their time pleasant with the company of various animals,” said Professor Marta Osypińska, a zooarchaeologist from the Polish Academy of Sciences.
It’s nice to know things haven’t changed over the years. Pets continue to grace our hearts … even in death.
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