Friday, December 31, 2010


Mom has been watching these videos she bought, and the name of this bunch of videos is I, Claudius.  These videos tell the true story of some people who lived a long time ago in Ancient Rome, and they all wore strange clothes and had funny-sounding names.  Some of the really important men are named "Caesar," but none of the women are named "Caesar."

And there's this one woman named Livia who is very evil and mean, and she keeps poisoning people.  It doesn't matter who they are, even if they are her sons or grandsons or husband.  If she doesn't want them to be Caesar, she poisons them.  In fact, you can pretty much figure that if anybody important dies, it is because Livia poisoned them.

Well, I watched a few of these tapes, but I thought the story was all very confusing, and I kept wanting to bite Livia on the leg.  And also there were no dogs in the show, so I stopped watching.  Mom is still watching it, but she says that sometimes it is hard for her to remember who is who.

Anyway, I decided it would be more fun to learn about the dogs in Ancient Rome, because I was quite certain that the Romans were smart enough to have dogs.  And sure enough, it turns out that they had lots of dogs!  So now I will tell you all about the Roman dogs.

Back in those days, there were no cameras, so the Romans could not take pictures of their dogs.  But they did the next best thing, which is that they made mosaics of their dogs in the floor of their houses.  And sometimes they made a mosaic dog even if they didn't have a real dog, and they wrote CAVE CANEM in mosaic letters, which means BEWARE OF THE DOG.  People still put this kind of sign on their houses today, but usually if they put this sign out, they really do have a dog.  In Ancient Rome, the people sometimes just wanted intruders to think that there was a dog guarding the house, even if there wasn't one really there.  I guess, in the long run, it was cheaper to make a mosaic of a dog than to have a real dog that you had to keep feeding.

So anyway, we can learn from this that one thing Romans used dogs for was to guard their houses and also their sheep and other livestock.  The type of dog used most for this was called a Molossus.  These dogs were very scary and fierce-looking, which is why they made good guard dogs.  Sadly, they were also used as war dogs and in the arena to fight, which was not such a nice way to use them.  The descendants of these dogs are the breeds that we call Neopolitan Mastiffs and Cane Corsos today.

Another way the Romans used dogs was for hunting.  Most of the hunting dogs that are in mosaics or murals or statues look like greyhounds or other kinds of sighthounds.  These dogs were used to hunt boars and deer and rabbits and probably some other yummy stuff.

And then the Romans also liked small lap dogs, such as the Maltese.  This breed was a favorite with the Roman women.  The men probably thought it was too fru-fru for them.  But Roman men liked the Italian greyhound, because one thing these little dogs would do was go under the bed covers and keep their masters' feet warm at night.

So now you know all about the Ancient Roman dogs.  I don't know why they didn't put any of them in that show I, Claudius.  In my opinion, it would have made the show lots better and more interesting.  Next time somebody makes a show about Ancient Romans, I hope they will ask me first, because I can tell them how to do it right!

Dog preserved in Pompeii during Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79 A.D.


  1. HAPPY NEW YEAR to all in the Allen family!! It's 1:00am, and I'm still wide awake.

    I enjoyed today's blog. I have seen some mosaic pictures of dogs before - and I thought they looked liked greyhounds!

    I'm signing off, but thanks for the past year of "Follow the Piper." You've done a GREAT job, and thank your mom for helping with some of the research.

    Love, AP, Dodi and Di