Classical Cats: The Rise and Fall of the Sacred Cat

Classical Cats: The Rise and Fall of the Sacred Cat


By (author) Donald W. Engels

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Paperback $34.82
  • Publisher: ROUTLEDGE
  • Format: Hardback | 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 234mm x 22mm | 581g
  • Publication date: 1 December 1999
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0415212510
  • ISBN 13: 9780415212519
  • Illustrations note: 10 line drawings, 25 b&w photos

Product description

This is the definitive book on classical cats. The cat has played a significant role in history from the earliest times. Well known is its role in the religion and art of ancient Egypt, no less than its association with witchcraft in the Middle Ages. But when did the cat become a domestic companion and worker as well? There has been much debate about the position of the cat in ancient Greece and Rome. Artistic representations are sometimes ambiguous, and its role as a mouse-catcher seems often to have been carried out by weasels. Yet other evidence clearly suggests that the cat was as important to Greeks and Romans as it is to many modern people. This book is the first comprehensive survey of the evidence for cats in Greece and Rome, and of their functions and representations in art. Donald Engels draws on authors from Aesop to Aristotle; on vase-painting, inscriptions and the plastic arts; and on a thorough knowledge of zoology of the cat. He also sets the ancient evidence in the wider context of the Egyptian period that preceded it, as well as the views of the Church fathers who ushered antiquity into the Middle Ages.

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Review quote

"A domestic animal, the cat has always been an essential part of modern society and culture. The author of this great book offers a completely comprehensive background - religious and mythical - of the feline's importance in Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman times. With few illustrations, this is a book that is most interesting for its content and most useful for its extensive research and information. "Frankie's Bibliography of Ancient Egypt."January 2001 "Well-written and researched--and stunningly illustrated."-"Publisher's Weekly, November 15, 1999 ..."I like this book: it is informative and makes a good read."-Religious Studies Review

Editorial reviews

The cat has played a highly significant role in almost all of recorded history. It has been a sacred animal in many religions and held a symbolic place in much folklore. In addition, the cat has always been an important weapon against disease-carrying vermin, as well as a valued domestic pet. On the other hand, many societies have periodically massacred cats for religious, hygienic or ritualistic purposes. Engels surveys the evidence from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and well as the civilizations in western Europe, the Byzantine east and the Muslim world during the early middle ages. Interestingly, the cat has long been associated with women: the Egyptians worshipped the cat-goddess Bastet and the cat was an important icon for the Greek goddess Artemis as for Diana among the Romans. (Kirkus UK)