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Through impurity: a few remarks on the role of the dog in purification rituals of the Greek world, in P. A. Johnston - A. Mastrocinque - S. Papaioannou (eds.), Animals in Greek and Roman Religion and Myth, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars

Through impurity: a few remarks on the role of the dog in purification rituals of the Greek world, in P. A. Johnston - A. Mastrocinque - S. Papaioannou (eds.), Animals in Greek and Roman Religion and Myth, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars
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   Animals in Greek and Roman Religion and Myth Proceedings of the Symposium Grumentinum Grumento Nova (Potenza) 5-7 June 2013 Edited by Patricia A. Johnston,  Attilio Mastrocinque and Sophia Papaioannou    C HAPTER E IGHTEEN  T HROUGH I MPURITY :   A   F EW R  EMARKS ON THE R  OLE OF THE D OG IN P URIFICATION R  ITUALS OF THE G REEK W ORLD  A LESSIO S ASSÙ   Continuo auditae voces vagitus et ingens infantumque animae flentes, in limine primo quos dulcis vitae exsortis et ab ubere raptos abstulit atra dies et funere mersit acerbo  Verg.  Aen. 6.426-9 The role of the dog in Greek religion has long remained far from the interest of historians of religion and archaeologists, probably because it was not a major part of the principal cults of the Greek cities. 1  Already after the first publication on dogs in Greek rituals, it was erroneously assumed that all aspects of this subject had been treated. These included the chthonic characterisation of dogs and its relationship with specific goddesses mentioned in literary sources. 2  More recently the study by C. Mainoldi has reasserted these themes through an analysis of the role of the dog in Greek myths and in religious practices, by making use of images displayed on pottery and funerary reliefs. 3  Mainoldi has acknowledged the 1  I would like to thank Professors Patricia A. Johnston, A. Mastrocinque, G. Casadio and S. Papaioannou for the invitation to present my research in the Grumento Nova conference and for their very helpful suggestions. I express my sincerest and warmest thanks to all those who shared their ideas, opinions, and views with me, particularly Prof. E. Lippolis, Prof. N. Parise, C. Franco, A. Visconti, R. Sassu, J. Cardone, M. F. Metastasio and G. Saltini Semerari. 2  Scholz   (1937). 3  The dog actually links man and death, for it takes part in three different rites of  passage: during a person’s transition to the Underworld, during his/her life there and during his/her return as Hecate’s fellow, see Mainoldi   (1981)   and (1984).    Chapter Eighteen 394 difficulty of reconciling two different visions: one relating to the terrible and monstrous aspects of the animal, the other to the faithful companion of men and the household. In general, for the Greeks the idea of the dog as a terrifying monster prevails and the animal is associated with mythological figures such as Cerberus, “the Dog of terrible Hades”, 4  who frightened the souls of the dead by preventing their escape from the Underworld, as well as Hecate, the goddess who watches over the confines and averts transition  between domains, especially that between life and death. 5  The dog’s relationship with the Underworld is well documented, for example, by the  semata that crowned funerary monuments in several cities, where this animal was used as a guardian not least on account of its apotropaic role. 6  Today, many researchers propose an interpretation of this animal that is too focused on its negative aspects. This interpretation is constructed a  posteriori  upon some controversial passages of Plutarch in Quaestiones  Romanae , despite the fact that more positive aspects of the dog are well documented. The starting point of some papers, however, reflects the assumption that, as an impure animal,   the dog can be normally employed in purification rites. The reality seems to be more complex, and different  possible interpretations must be considered. In the first section, I look at the relevant literary sources and I analyse all factors that have contributed to the image of the dog as an impure animal. Re-examination of the literary sources will show that the use of the dog in purification rites can be proven with certainty only in one  particular ritual, called “pupprification”. In the second section, I compare this data with material evidence from certain archaeological contexts (Athens, Messene, and Hephaestia, the ancient city of Lemnos), where dogs were recovered in single or multiple human burials inside wells, in order to prove that their presence was related to a number of ritual 4  See  Il. 8.368; Od. 11.623; Hes. Th. 769ff. 5  The most recent study about Hecate is Zografou   (2010); see also Johnston   (1990); Calcaterra   (2009);   Sarian   (1992). 6  For example, the dog sculpture preserved in the Glyptothek in Munich (which comes from an Attic funerary monument) and the so called “Mastiff of the Ceramic”, both date from the 4 th century BCE; see Mainoldi   (1981) 11-12 (nn. 21-2). According to Bernard, the Sirens in funerary contexts are seen as alternative to dogs: the Sires, figures that cause death, become protectors of the dead, and the same function is reserved for the dogs. In Homer the dogs are scavengers who mangle the warriors’ dead bodies and deprive them of funerary rites, but in sculpture they become protectors of the tomb; cf. Bernard   (2003) 278-81. On the relationship of the Sirens with death also see Mancini   (2005) 26-31.  Through Impurity: The Role of the Dog in Purification Rituals 395  purposes in addition to rites of purification. 7  In fact it is likely that in  particular circumstances the Greeks commonly sacrificed dogs as a specific offering, in accordance with the customary Greek religious  practice. I. The literary evidence I.1. The Greeks’ perception of the dog and its impure nature The starting-point of this analysis is the status of the animal. Is the dog really an unclean animal as it is still portrayed in many publications? A closer examination of the written sources reveals a far more nuanced  picture of the Greeks’ perception of this animal. In her comprehensive examination of the role of the dog in Greek society, C. Franco has recently  pointed out that the negative reputation of the animal srcinates from a distorted image in the Homeric poems, where the dog is seen as scavenger or has negative attributes commonly used in a pejorative sense. 8   Notwithstanding some references in the  Iliad   and the Odyssey , there is no actual reason to believe that there already existed two different concepts of the dog in Homeric society, i.e. a monstrous dog and a domestic dog. In her analysis Franco has pointed out that different behavioural models coexist in the nature of this animal. For example, in the first meeting between Eumaeus and Odysseus, dogs are said to be called ‘similar to beasts’ ( κύνες   θήρεσσιν   ἐοικότες ), 9  while in other parts of the Odyssey  the poet emphasises their domestic character; there, the dogs are considered members of the household. In Odyssey  16 the dogs even celebrate the arrival of Telemachus from Pylos, showing loyalty to him and proving their kindly nature. 10  Moreover, they are admired for their  beauty, and their presence within the social space of the dining table is mentioned. 11  Nevertheless, in the same poem we find some references to dogs that are thrown out of social spaces or are dreaded for their 7  The paper will not focus not on the relationship between dog burials and human tombs. This subject is treated in Day   (1984). For a general overview of the different uses of the dog (rites of foundation, purification, and passage) in the Greek and Roman worlds see Mazzorin   (2008). For a comparative perspective see Lacam   (2008). 8  See Franco   (2003) 19-33 and 116-22 (especially n. 17). 9   Od. 14.21-35. 10   Od. 16.4ff. Cf. also the famous episode of Odysseus’ faithful dog Argos, Od. 17.291ff. 11   Od. 16.4-10.  Chapter Eighteen 396 dangerous behaviour, i.e. when the animal is struck by some sort of madness ( lyssa ). 12  Some myths show a change from the docile behaviour of the dog into an animal that is an agent of death. The first and most famous is the story of Actaeon, who was killed by his dogs because, having been transformed into a stag, he was unrecognizable to them. 13  The second is the story of Linos, son of Apollo and the mortal Psamathe, who was torn to pieces by dogs in early childhood. 14  Another myth similar to the previous one is that of Thasos, son of Anius, the priest of Apollo at Delos; Thasos was likewise killed by dogs. 15  Therefore, since in the Homeric poems the dog was portrayed in many different ways, its ferocity and monstrosity cannot be the sole aspects evoked. Dogs appear as ambiguous animals, characterised by different kinds of behaviour and by a double nature. 16  They are the master’s loyal attendants, a child’s playing companions, but they can become aggressive when they are called upon to be the guardians of the household, or become monstrous when they are associated with Hecate’s frightening escort. 17  Some scholars, however, have regarded the dog as a scavenger; an impure animal connected to death. 18  For example, Mainoldi wrote: 19   12  Similar to dogs, human beings can also be struck by lyssa (‘canine madness’), for example Hecuba, depicted as vengeful mother in  Il  . 24.209-14. On Hecuba’s transformation into a furious woman as it appears in the homonymous Euripidean tragedy see Franco   (2003) 207-22. 13  Hes. fr. 217; Stesich. fr. 236 Page; Akusilaos  FGrH   2 F 33; Apollod. 3.31. 14    FGrH   26 F 1.19 (Conon); Paus. 1.43.7-8; Call. frr. 26-31 Pfeiffer; Ath. 3.29e; Stat. Theb.  1.571-672. For this reason, during a particular festival in Argos it was the custom to kill all the dogs that could be found in order to expiate the death of Linos. 15  Ov.  Ib. 477 Schol. ( Sacerdos Apollinis Delii Anius fuit, ad quem cum venisset  per noctem Thasus, a canibus laniatus est, unde nullo canis Delon accedit auctore Callimacho , ‘Anius was the priest of Apollo at Delos; when Thasos reached him in the night, he was torn to pieces by dogs; according to Callimachus, it is for this reason that dogs are not allowed on Delos’); Hyg.  Fab.  247: “Qui a canibus consumpti sunt”:  Actaeon Aristaei filius Thasius Delo, Ani sacerdotis Apollinis  filius ;  ex eo Delo nullus canis est  , ‘“Those who were consumed by dogs”: Actaeon, the son of Aristaeus; and at Delos, Thasius, the son of Anius, priest of Apollo; for this reason there aren’t any dogs on Delos’. 16  Dogs were perceived by Greeks in different ways according to their several qualities: see Trantalidou   (2006). 17  Mainoldi   (1981) 23. Cf. Apoll. Rhod.  Arg 3.1216ff.; Luc.  Philops. 22.24. 18  Most scholars agree with this interpretation, see especially Rudhardt   (1958) 166; De   Grossi   Mazzorin   (2008) 72-3. 19  Mainoldi   (1981) 28-9. Cf. also Scholz   (1937) 7-8.
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