It’s a common belief that rabbits were introduced to Greece during the medieval period. However, recent archaeological findings suggest that these adorable creatures may have existed in ancient Greece too.
The earliest depiction of a rabbit in Greek art dates back to the 5th century BCE. It’s a red-figure vase painting that portrays a hunter holding a hare while his dog looks on. The hare is very similar in appearance to modern-day rabbits, with long ears and a fluffy tail.
Another piece of evidence comes from Aristotle’s Historia Animalium, written in the 4th century BCE. In this work, Aristotle mentions “neontes” which translates to “young rabbits” or “leverets”. He also describes their physical features such as having long ears and short tails.
Despite this evidence, some scholars argue that the term “neontes” used by Aristotle could actually refer to hares rather than rabbits. Hares are larger than rabbits and have longer hind legs, making them better suited for running on open terrain.
However, other scholars point out that hares were already well-known in ancient Greece, so Aristotle would not have needed to specify their young as “neontes”. Additionally, other ancient Greek texts use terms like “kunomorpha” which translates to “dog-shaped”, to describe hares.
While there is still some debate over whether ancient Greeks had domesticated rabbits or not, it’s clear that they were familiar with the animal and had some level of knowledge about their physical characteristics and behavior.
Whether they were kept as pets or hunted for food remains unclear. But one thing is for sure – rabbits have been an important part of human history for centuries and continue to be beloved animals today.
The question of whether there were rabbits in ancient Greece may seem trivial at first, but it speaks to a larger issue of how we view history and the natural world. By exploring the evidence and engaging in debates, we can gain a deeper understanding of our past and the creatures that have shared this planet with us for millennia.
So next time you see a rabbit hopping around your backyard, take a moment to appreciate its long and fascinating history – from ancient Greece to modern-day suburbia.