From Publishers Weekly
It's well known that cats were revered as household gods in ancient Egypt, but what happened to them after that? According to this revelatory study of cats in the classical world by University of Arkansas history professor Engels, they fared surprisingly well. Using recent archeological, (feline) genetic, literary and artistic evidence, Engels makes the case that by the third century B.C., Felis catus was widely distributed across Europe, thanks to seafaring Greek merchants and colonizers who associated cats with the goddess Artemis and used them to protect their grain supplies. Drawing on Latin inscriptions, Roman mosaics, sculptures and other artifacts, Engels also shows that cats were far more popular among the dog-loving Romans than is commonly assumed. After millions of the creatures were slaughtered alongside the hundreds of thousands of pagans, heretics and Jews with whom they were associated during the Middle Ages, cats got their revenge. Noting that cats have long been instrumental in defending humankind from rodents and the diseases they carry, Engels suggests that the absence of cats in Europe probably contributed to the spread and the severity of the bubonic plague that devastated the continent in the 14th century. Some cat scholars may accuse Engels of a Eurocentric bias for speculating that Roman traders brought the domesticated cat to India, as there is good reason to believe that the cat was domesticated there at about the same time as in Egypt, or even possibly earlier. On balance, however, the book is well-written and researchedAand stunningly illustrated. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
'Well-written and researched - and stunningly illustrated.'
- Publishers Weekly'Deeply researched and profoundly enlightening. For anyone who loves cats, this book will come as a revelation ... a compelling read ... it is direct, devoid of sentiment and deeply moving. It left me with much to ponder upon.'
- Sir Roy Strong, Country Life'Donald Engels' book is a delight for all cat lovers, and an extremely well written and informative source for those who would dig deeper into 'cat lore' and their history in relation to Man.'
- Minerva'what a story, my favourite read this year. It has adjusted my attitude to the sacred, the classical.....everywhere'
- Victoria Ellis Darlington Times