Real Dogs Under Rome

Dogsbodies and Dogs’ Bodies: A Social and Cultural History of Roman Britain’s Dogs and People

Professor Robin Fleming

(Professor of Early Medieval History, Boston College)

These lectures explore the social, cultural, and ritual histories of Roman-Britain’s people through an investigation of their entanglements with dogs.  In the highly anthrozootic world of Roman Britain, dogs and humans together shaped mutual ecologies and life-ways.  Dogs also served as metaphorical and ritual agents, and they were central in the production of both social difference and lived religion under Rome.  By following the trail left by dogs, we can recover something of the lifeways and experience of the people with whom they shared the world, and we can identify and characterize some of the mechanisms through which a Roman provincial society was created.

Real Dogs Under Rome


Dogs’ bodies and dogs’ lives were dramatically transformed after the Roman conquest, and this, in turn, altered the lives of humans.  New-style tiny dogs and monstrous brutes provided people in Britain with novel opportunities to reconceptualize canines and their duties and to use them to make statements about themselves.  At the same time, large populations of uncontrolled, self-feeding dogs were established, and their presence changed the texture and  feel of daily life in Britain.