The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

September 30, 2012

September 30, 1876

From the Academy: A Weekly Review of Literature, Science, and Art, we notice an article titled "The Cat in Ancient Greece," which was part of a 19th century discussion about when the cat was domesticated in Greece. The argument then (and still, now) is that the evidence is ambiguous since what historians have called cats in the classical period of Greece, might have actually been a different species, that of martens. Assessing the evidence is one Thomas J. Arnold, who in a letter dated September 30, 1876, provides some fresh evidence on the side of the domestic cat having been known to the Greeks in their homeland. He writes:

... there is one piece of apparently positive evidence, which would show that the cat was known as a domestic animal to the Greeks. On a coin of Tarentum there is represented a seated figure holding out a bird at which some feline animal is jumping. The coin is, I believe, extremely rare.... There is a specimen in the British Museum, but the lower part of the animal is off the coin, and the authorities there call it "a panther's cub," ....Of course, if it really is meant for a panther's cub the coin proves nothing.  It would be classed among the numerous representations of mythical panthers which occur so frequently in ancient monuments, especially in the treatment of Bacchic subjects. But on a very fine specimen of the coin in the possession of Mr. Bunbury, where the animal is perfect, it appears to be an unmistakeable cat.
T. J. Arnold.

And we have some information about the author of this note to The Academy periodical. It would be anachronistic to call T. J. Arnold a member of an intellectual elite, but since his grandfather was Henry James Pye, a poet laureate of England, we can understand the social and intellectual currents which nourished him. The following article is from

Modern English Biography: A-H
Volume 1 of Modern English Biography: Containing Many Thousand Concise Memoirs of Persons who Have Died Since the Year 1850. With an Index of the Most Interesting Matter,

by Frederic Boase (1892).

ARNOLD, Thomas James ... b. Downing St. Westminster 1803 ed. at St. Paul's school and univ. of Gottingen barrister L.I. 24 Nov. 1829; commissioner of bankruptcy at Liverpool; stipendiary magistrate at Worship St. police court 27 Jan 1847 and at Westminster police court Aug 1851 to death; member of Numismatic Society 1862; F.S.A. 1869; author of A treatise of the law relating to municipal corporations 1852... ed. 1883; Anacreon in English 1869; Faust a tragedy translated in the original metres 1877 d. 1 Greville place, Kilburn priory 20 May 1877....

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