2009-12-30

Dog resurrection

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by Neil Godfrey

My previous post cited a first century mockery of the resurrection theme found in Plutarch’s Moralia. The section is from The Cleverness of Animals, 973-974. The full text is online here.

Still, I believe that I should not pass over one example at least of a dog’s learning, of which I myself was a spectator at Rome.

The dog appeared in a pantomime with a dramatic plot and many characters and conformed in its acting at all points with the acts and reactions required by the text.

In particular, they experimented on it with a drug that was really soporific, but supposed in the story to be deadly. The dog took the bread that was supposedly drugged, swallowed it, and a little later appeared to shiver and stagger and nod until it finally sprawled out and lay there like a corpse, letting itself be dragged and hauled about, as the plot of the play prescribed.

But when it recognized from the words and action that the time had come, at first it began to stir slightly, as though recovering from a profound sleep, and lifted its head and looked about.

Then to the amazement of the spectators it got up and proceeded to the right person and fawned on him with joy and pleasure so that everyone, and even Caesar himself (for the aged Vespasian ^ was present in the Theatre of Marcellus), was much moved.

The same text offers a footnote for the date of this pantomime:

^ Vespasian became emperor in a.d. 69 when he was 60 years old and died ten years later, so that this incident can be dated only within the decade.

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(and i seem to recall some scholars seriously claiming that the very idea of a bodily resurrection was utterly unthinkable among these ancients)

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