Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library

Shameless: The Canine and the Feminine in Ancient Greece

Cristiana Franco
Translated by Matthew Fox
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The figure of the dog is a paradox. As in so many cultures, past and present, the dog in ancient Greece was seen as the animal closest to humans, even as it elicited from them the most negative representations. Still a loaded term today, the wordbitchnot only signified shamelessness and a lack of self-control but was also exclusively figured as female. Woman and dogs in the Greek imagination were intimately intertwined, and in this careful, engaging analysis, Cristiana Franco explores the ancients' complex relationship with both. By analyzing the relationship between humans and dogs as depicted in a vast array of myths, proverbs, spontaneous metaphors, and comic jokes, Franco in particular shows how the symbolic overlap between dog and woman provided the conceptual tools to maintain feminine subordination.Intended for general readers as well as scholars,Shamelessextends the boundaries of classics and anthropology, forming a model of the sensitive work that can be done to illuminate how deeply animals are imbricated in human history. The English translation has been revised and expanded from the original Italian edition, and it includes a new methodological appendix by the author that points the way toward future work in the emerging field of human-animal studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95742-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-6)

    There was a time, says Hesiod, when human beings lived happily, in complete harmony with nature and the gods. Human life was without sadness or toil, food came spontaneously from the untilled earth, and neither sickness nor old age existed. Everything was so perfect that even the more pleasant disturbances, such as desire and hope, were unknown to those blessed ancestors. But one day this happiness, complete and without blemish, suddenly fell to pieces: through a mistake of Prometheus, humans and gods came into conflict, and the human condition was condemned to the discomfort of uncertainty, to that ambiguous mixture...

  5. 1 Offensive Epithets
    (pp. 7-16)

    The Greeks’ habit of speaking ill of women is notorious. Perhaps less notorious is that they were also strangely accustomed to speaking ill of dogs. As the prologue notes,kyon(the vocative form ofkyōn)¹ was an insult, one that could apply to a person who was greedy, cowardly, treacherous, irritating, or vulgar. In ancient comedy, many sarcastic remarks leveled at impudent women and greedy demagogues play on the figure of the dog. In Aesop’s fables, the dog strikes no better figure, being implicated in stories about unworthy behavior and symbolizing opportunism, greed, or cowardice. Does this mean the dog...

  6. 2 The Dog in Greece
    (pp. 17-53)

    We will begin to track the salient traits of the Greek representation of dogs with Homer, not because theIliadand theOdysseyare somehow privileged sources for our argument but rather because this will allow us to dispel the notion that one finds in these poems a “Homeric” dog, one different from the animal of later centuries. In chapter 1 I noted the view, common in many studies on this topic, that the epics provide evidence that in protohistorical Greece the dog was not yet fully domesticated, that it was perceived as a still partly wild animal and, for...

  7. 3 Food for Dogs
    (pp. 54-74)

    After all that’s been said about the preeminence of the theme of nourishing—“upbringing”—in Greek cultural representations of man-dog relations, there are good reasons to hypothesize that the canine trait of attraction to carrion and corpses triggers a series of reactions in the symbolic imagination that other animals, however fervent their scavenging, would not set off. But before we analyze passages about the dog’s necrophagy and propose an interpretation, a glance at how the question has been addressed so far will help bring the argument into sharper focus.

    We have already noted that historical studies have often assumed necrophagy...

  8. 4 Sad Fates, Low Morals, and Heinous Behaviors
    (pp. 75-120)

    After reconstructing the salient traits of the human-dog relationship and the dog’s cultural physiognomy, after analyzing the rationale behind representations of canine necrophagy, we can now turn to the initial question of insults and place the problem on a more solid footing. We need to test whether and how the dog’s unique metonymic position—its being perceived as a member of the human community, with the ambiguity this entails—might explain the fact that dog (kyōn) and its derivatives were used as terms of insult in Greek. In other words, can we affirm that the dog was chosen for insults...

  9. 5 Return to Pandora
    (pp. 121-154)

    By a long route of analysis we have traced out the probable reasons why the category “dog” has been used to insult. We can now advance and at last address the problem first posed, examining the causes that may have produced the marked feminine character of the negative elaborations on the dog theme in Greece. Indeed, scanning the pages dedicated to the masks of doggishness, one will notice that in the sources discussed, the epithetkyōnand its derivatives are frequently directed at female figures, and the disturbing characters with canine traits in myth—Erinyes, bacchantes, Hecuba—are all feminine....

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 155-160)

    The account has come full circle, and this foray into the Greek imagination, begun with Pandora, has returned in the end to woman and her “doggish” character—hopefully, with some increased understanding of the problem that initiated this research and, more generally, of the figure of the dog in ancient culture. All that remains is to retrace our path briefly and give a short, comprehensive view of the themes touched upon along the way.

    The problem first posed can be summarized as follows: how did the dog, “man’s best friend” in our contemporary culture—indeed, known as Fido (Trusty, Faithful)...

  11. Appendix: Reflections on Theory and Method in Studying Animals in the Ancient World
    (pp. 161-184)
    (pp. 185-186)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 187-252)
    (pp. 253-278)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 279-294)