Sandra Kyewski

Non-native animals in Rome played a major role in the public life of the people since the time of the Republic. Their sometimes alien appearance alone astonished the Romans and lent a high degree of exclusivity to any public and private events. This raises the question of the relationship of the Romans to the foreign animals:"The 'natural' animal in itself does not exist (...), but it is always shaped by the habitat and the imagination of the people. Culture not only manufactures the animals it speaks of itself, it also depicts them."[1]It is precisely this depiction of animals that is the key to understanding the human-animal relation in antiquity. At the heart of this relation is the question of the fundamental divergence between humans and animals and the different views that the Romans held regarding the function and meaning of animals.

A work that makes these political, social, religious and symbolic ways of looking at non-native fauna in Roman art the subject of its investigation and examines their relevance for the Roman lifeworld can, moreover, be placed in the research direction of "(Human -) Animal Studies", which deals with the perception, function and meaning of animals and the human-animal relationship in an interdisciplinary way, and can provide new insights in this current context.

The aim of the dissertation is to undertake a close examination and analysis of the concepts of non-native fauna in the Roman Empire. Thereby the consideration and comparison of the different functions and meanings of exotic animals, but also the handling of them and their (valuation), are in the foreground. In order to make a complete elaboration of the different aspects, a detailed consideration of these elements in the different ancient sources is necessary. For this purpose, philological, iconographic and archaeological evidence will be processed with the help of diachronic approaches and linked in an overarching evaluation, so that a differentiated picture of the concepts of non-native fauna present in Roman consciousness emerges.

back <<

[1] L. Tori - A. Steinbrecher, Between Fiction and Reality. On animals and mythical creatures from antiquity to modern times, in L. Tori - A. Steinbrecher (eds.), Animali. Tiere und Fabelwesen von der Antike bis zur Neuzeit (Geneva 2012) 17.