Category:Classical Studies

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Classical Studies : INTRODUCTION

When it comes to Animal Studies, Classical Studies is, characteristically, both very early and very late to the party. If we take into account the evidence of primary texts and material culture, we can trace interest in and curiosity about non-human animals to the earliest period of Greco-Roman culture. But, perhaps, Aristotle should be credited with demonstrating the first serious interest in animal life - for better and for worse. Scholars in the modern period as well as philosophers constructing arguments in favor of animal rights have had to contend with the legacy of Aristotle for centuries. He is, to me, the ghost that haunts the field. But, aside from Aristotle (taking his “scientific” approach to animals), or Plutarch, Porphyry, and Iamblicus (writers concerned with the rights and wrongs of eating animals), or Cato, Varro, and Columella (Roman writers on agricultural practices, including the raising and use of farm animals), as well and many others, modern scholars of animals in Greco-Roman culture have also demonstrated interest in the study of animals both earlier and later than other fields [anyone interested in Greek and Roman writings on a variety of animal-related topics might want to check out Stephen Newmyer’s sourcebook of texts in translation: Animals in Greek and Roman Thought: A Sourcebook (New York: Routledge, 2010)]. In the early 20th c., for example, Otto Keller wrote an extremely detailed work in German on the ancient animal kingdom (Die antike Tierwelt, 1909, 1913). However, scholars in Classics have been slower, I believe, to embrace and utilize the more theoretically inclined works so important to the development of the field of Animal Studies over the last three decades and more. Nonetheless, we are catching up! - and scholars of ancient cultures from all regions of the globe have many contributions yet to make to Animal Studies. Now may be our time! Susan A. Curry