[SydPhil] Of interest—Classics Research Seminar USYD June 4

Ben Brown benjamin.brown at sydney.edu.au
Mon May 25 17:23:03 AEST 2020

Dear Friends,

The following will be of interest to those who work in the area of the post-human, human-animal relationships and the history of animals in the Ancient World.

Please join us for our final CCANESA/Classics and Ancient History online research seminar for Semester One! Our schedule of fortnightly seminars will conclude on Thursday the 4th of June at 4 for 4:15pm with a paper from Ms. Alyce Cannon (University of Sydney). Alyce will be presenting a most interesting talk on her current PhD research, titled:

‘Transitional Friends: Dogs, Choes, and the Iconography of Attachment.’

Please find the paper’s abstract and a select bibliography below.

If you have not yet done so, please register your interest for the talk here:


Registered attendees will receive Zoom event details and any pre-circulating materials by email 24 hours prior to the event – please be sure to register by this time.

We very much look forward to seeing you as we bring our research community together in this online space! For any further information or questions, please contact us at ccanesa.general at sydney.edu.au<mailto:ccanesa.general at sydney.edu.au>


Contemporary perspectives on dogs in Greek thought have generally concentrated on their negative symbolic meaning. This is because kuon and cognates are occasionally used pejoratively in Homeric epic (see Franco 2014). This paper offers a different facet of the history of the human-dog relationship. I argue that the ways Greeks represented their relationships with dogs suggests something more nuanced and intimate: an interwoven partnership and shared history. More than just irrational animals, bloodthirsty scavengers, or less-than-human, dogs were rather so important and ubiquitous in daily life that they played a key role in how wider relationships were generally articulated. This paper sets out to show that dogs actively influenced Greek thinking about society and the articulation of wider human/human and human/animal relationships.

To this end, I will offer an iconographic survey of encounters between small and fluffy Melitan dogs and Athenian boys on Athenian miniature red-figure wine-jugs (choes) manufactured between 425-375 BCE for the Anthesteria festivities. Inspired by Donna Haraway’s notion that, “dogs and people figure a universe” (Haraway 2003: 21), I ask what it was about this breed that made it an especially popular and beloved household dog and explore how interactions between boys and Melitans play out on the historically-specific choes. In particular, I will direct the focus to the body language and gesture of the dogs to show that they were rendered in nuanced and expressive ways. I propose that the iconography positions the dog not just as a symbol but as a cherished friend in a mutually constitutive relationship. Through this case study, I hope to start a conversation about how dogs played important but often overlooked roles in the social and personal lives of Athenians, and influenced the ways they navigated and expressed their close and complex relationships with animals.

Selected Bibliography

Beaumont, L. 2015. Childhood in Ancient Athens. Iconography and Social History. London and New York.

Busuttil, J. 1969. ‘The Maltese Dog’, Greece & Rome 16: 205-208.

Golden, M. 2015. Children and Childhood in Classical Athens. 2nd ed. Baltimore.

Ham, G. 1999. ‘The Choes and Anthesteria Reconsidered: Male Maturation Rites and the Peloponnesian Wars’, in M. W. Padilla (ed.) Rites of Passage in Ancient Greece: Literature, Religion, Society. London and Toronto: 201-219.

Haraway, D. 2003. The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago.

Haraway, D. 2007. When Species Meet. Minnesota.

Kitchell, K. 2020. ‘Seeing the Dog: Naturalistic Canine Representations from Greek Art’, Arts 9.4; doi:10.3390/arts9010014


A Note on Zoom and Protocols for Participation

Our seminars will begin promptly at 4.15pm. We please ask you to enter the meeting from 4pm onward to assist with managing the virtual space and to ensure timely commencement of the paper.

Please note that by participating in this seminar, you agree to abide by the University of Sydney’s ICT policy. You can view the policy here: https://www.sydney.edu.au/policies/showdoc.aspx?recnum=PDOC2011/140&RendNum=0

An extra note on recording of seminars

As part of a School initiative to preserve our online content for potential future use, we intend to record our seminars. If you would not like to be inadvertently recorded, please turn off your video and microphone after joining the meeting.

All very best, Ben

Classics and Ancient History
School Undergraduate Curriculum Coordinator (SOPHI)
Research Seminar Coordinator (CAH)
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI)
Ph.: 9351 8983; Office: Main Quad J6.07
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