Ancient Dog Tombs: Greek/Roman Epitaphs, Funerals, & Quotes About Dead Pets

By | September 16, 2020

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Dogs have played an important role in human history. (Fine Art Photographic Library/CORBIS via Getty Images)

Dogs are man's best friend, but that isn't just a modern sentiment. The bond between humans and dogs goes back thousands of years. Archaeologists have unearthed numerous ancient dog tombs bearing grief-stricken epitaphs for the beloved dogs who crossed that rainbow bridge into the happy hunting grounds. Get the tissues ready!

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Hellenistic tomb paintings at Sidonian Burial Caves. (Ian Scott/Wikimedia Commons)

For The Love Of A Good Dog

The Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that it was essential to have a good dog. They pop up everywhere in Ancient Roman and Greek literature, art, and mythology. The gates to the underworld were guarded by a three-headed dog, Zeus himself was guarded as an infant by a faithful golden dog named Laelaps, and Homer's hero, Odysseus, wept tears of joy when his old dog, Argus, recognized him after many years away. Dogs were used as guards, hunting companions, and even in battle, but they were also part of the family. The epitaph on one dog grave that was discovered reads, "To Helena, foster child, soul without comparison and deserving of praise."

It may be hard to imagine a beefy gladiator with a prissy little purse dog, and for good reason. The people of ancient Greece and Rome preferred big dogs, specifically the Molossus, a large, muscular dog native to Greece that was similar to today's mastiffs, and the Laconian, a faster and slimmer hunting hound. That doesn't mean nobody had cute li'l lap dogs, though. The tomb of one Roman dog named Patricus read, "My eyes were wet with tears, our little dog, when I bore thee to the grave ... So, Patricus, never again shall thou give me a thousand kisses, Never canst thou be contentedly in my lap. In sadness have I buried thee, and thou deservist. In a resting place of marble, I have put thee for all time by the side of my shade. In thy qualities, sagacious thou wert like a human being. Ah, me! What a loved companion have we lost!"