The Deaths of Dogs and the Lives of Dedicated Ritual Spaces

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.

The Deaths of Dogs and the Lives of Dedicated Ritual Spaces


Dogs were not only good to think with in the Roman period or to deploy when meditating on, performing, or normalizing Roman society’s stark inequalities.  They were also central participants in acts undertaken to mediate between the everyday and the uncanny.  In this lecture we explore their roles in engaging with the divine at temples, shrines, and in cemeteries.