- Museum number
Marble epitaph plaque with a verse inscription for a dog called Margarita ('Pearl'), written from the perspective of the deceased dog.
- Production date
- 1stC AD-2ndC AD
Height: 50 centimetres
Width: 61 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Sir Hans Sloane’s ‘Miscellanea’ catalogue is a bound volume in Central Archives containing seven separate catalogues: ‘Miscellanies’, ‘Antiquities’, ‘Seals’, ‘Pictures’, ‘Mathematical Instruments’, ‘Agate Handles’ and ‘Agate Cups, Bottles, Spoons’. Each contains numbered entries that list and describe objects collected by Sloane between the 1680s and 1750s. Each catalogue begins with object number one.
Text from Sloane Miscellanea catalogue: Miscellanea Antiquities 1126 "1126. Gallia me genuit nomen mitis divitis undæ concha dedit formæ nominis aptus honos docta per incertas audax Discurren silvas collibus hirsutas atque agitare feras Non gravibus vinclis unquam consueta teneri Verbera nec nibeo corpore sæva pati Molli namque sinn Domini Dominæ que jacebam et noram in Strata cassa cuberetoro et plus quam licuit muto canis ore loquebar Nulli latratus pertimuere me or sed jam fata subil partu jactata sinistro Quam nune sub parve Marmose terra lecet Margarita Vid Antea."
Quite a few tombstones for pet dogs survive from the Roman period, but none as elaborate and detailed as this. The poem is written in verse and as if spoken by Margarita, ‘Pearl’, herself, a dog from Gaul, which in antiquity were especially prized as both hunting dogs and pets – both aspects that are covered in the poem. The poem shows the importance Margarita played in her owner’s life through its quality and intellectual content, as several lines were plays on phrases from the most famous and respected Roman authors: 'Gallia me genuit' reminded readers of Vergil’s funerary epitaph 'Mantua me genuit', while other lines evoked Ovid’s The Art of Love (line 8 – Ovid, AA 2, 370) and The Art of Beauty (line 12 – Ovid, Medic. 8), two books well placed as inspiration to describe Margarita’s qualities and the loss felt at her death.
Looking closely at the inscription, one can still make out the lines that were faintly carved to indicate the height of each row. We can also perceive vertical lines on the left hand side of the slab, up to about a third into it. While at first sight, these could have been laid out to indicate the horizontal spacing of each individual letter, it is quite clear that none of the letters actually respect them. It is more likely that the mason had started to lay out rows on a slab, realised the slab was not wide enough to contain the lines of the poem in an orderly manner, and thus decided to turn that slab 90 degrees.
There is a grammatical mistake at the very end; 'teget' instead of 'tegit'. The stone shows clear marks of trying to correct the mistake, possibly because the client spotted the mistake himself when inspecting the finished product. (Booms 2016: 92-93)
- Booms, D. (2016) Latin Inscriptions (London: British Museum Press) pp. 92-93
- Bücheler, F. (1897), Anthologia Latina II, 1175
- Courtney, E. (1995) Musa Lapidaria. A selection of Latin verse inscriptions. (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press), pp. 194-195, Nr. 202; p. 408
- Frings, I. (1998) 'Mantua me genuit – Vergils Grabepigramm auf Stein und Pergament' in: ZPE vol. 123, pp. 93-96
- Geist, H. (ed.) (1969) Römische Grabinschriften. Gesammelt und ins Deutsche, betreut von Gerhard Pfohl. (München: Heimeran), p. 151 Nr. 400
- G. Herrlinger, Antike Tier-Epikedien, Stuttgart, 47.
- Gordon, A.E. (1947) 'More rambles among Latin inscriptions' in The Classical Journal, vol. 42, p. 495
- Granino Cecere, M.G. (1994) 'Il sepolcro della catella Aeolis' in ZPE vol. 100, pp. 418, Anm. 39; Taf. XXIII b
- Purdie, A.B. (1935) Some Observations of Latin verse inscriptions (California: Christophers) p. 109
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: SLAntiq.1126
Sloane Miscellanea Catalogue number: 1126 (Antiquities)