Monday, February 4, 2013

Romans used local tigers

The Romans didn't need to leave their empire to get tigers, as I once thought. The tigers they were familiar with will have been the Caspian tiger, a now extinct sub-species, which used to live from southeast Russia, all the way down to Iraq and the Black Sea.

I was astonished by an ancient tiger mosaic in Rome, wrongly supposing that to obtain tigers for slaughter in the Colosseum, the Romans would have had to go all the way to India.   But recently Chad Benjamin informed me that this animal actually roamed within the Roman borders

A captive Caspian Tiger (or Persian Tiger) in Berlin Zoo, 1899. Once found in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Mongolia, and the Central Asiatic area of Russia, see red area on map, the extreme western stretch of which was at one time within the Roman Empire. This sub species of tiger, the smallest in size, became extinct in the late 1960's. (Wikipedia)

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