top of page

Some Roman elegies honoring pets

The ancient Romans have the reputation of being well-trained soldiers, stoic philosophers, and power-hungry aristocrats. Often their dogs were used for hunting and as guardians for their homes.  But in their personal lives, the Romans were also human beings much like us, and they loved their pets as much  as we do now. We know this from their poems and inscriptions, some in books, some carved in marble on tombstones for their cherished companions. Here are  a pair of moving examples of actual Roman elegies for their pets (with my translations).

Bardo Museum, Tunisia

Tombstone for  Patrice “Lady”

Portavi lacrimis madidus te nostra catella,

quod feci lustris laetior ante tribus.

ergo mihi, Patrice, iam non dabis oscula mille

nec poteris collo grata cubare meo.

tristis marmorea posui te sede merentem

et iunxi semper manib(us) ipse meis,

morib(us) argutis hominem simulare paratam;

perdidimus quales, hei mihi, delicias.

tu dulcis, Patrice, nostras attingere mensas

consueras, gremio poscere blanda cibos,

lambere tu calicem lingua rapiente solebas

quem tibi saepe meae sustinuere manus,

accipere et lassum cauda gaudente frequenter.


My little dog, I have carried you here drenched in tears,

just as I carried you home fifteen years ago, in a happier spirit.

But now, Patrice, you will no longer give me a thousand kisses, 

no longer will you be able to lie snuggled on my neck.

Sadly, I have put you in the marble tomb you deserve,

and I have made you forever part of my own family line,

since you were just like a person with your wise ways.

Oh my, we have lost such a dear pet.

Patrice, sweet one, you were accustomed to come to my table,

to beg for food charmingly, sitting in my lap.

With your greedy tongue you used to lick the cup 

which my hands held out to you so often.

And often when I came home tired you welcomed me, wagging your joyful tail.

CIL X 659 = Inscr. It. I 1.228 = CLE 1176; Salernum/Salerno; transl. L. Hansen

Tombstone for a dog named Myia, "Midge"

Quam dulcis fuit ista quam benigna

quae cum viveret in sinu iacebat

somni conscia semper et cubilis

o factum male Myia quod peristi

latrares modo si quis adcubaret

rivalis dominae licentiosa

o factum male Myia quod peristi

altum iam tenet insciam sepulcrum

nec sevire potes nec insilire

nec blandis mihi morsib(us) renides.

CIL XIII 488 = CLE 1512; Eliumberrum/Ausci/Auch; translation L. Hansen

How sweet she was, how gentle!

While she lived she would lie resting in my lap

always alert even in her sleep.

Oh Myia, it is a sad thing to have lost you.

You would bark only if some naughty rival

tried to take your place by your mistress.

Oh Myia, it is a sad thing to have lost you.

Now the deep tomb holds you and you don’t know it,

and you can’t be on guard or jump up

or playfully give me gentle nips.


bottom of page