Sunday 14 June 2009

Delta the dog of (Pompeii or) Herculaneum

Can anyone help with this query we have received from a researcher in the USA. We have found a reference to it in a book of 1822 but there is no source information quoted to prove this as myth or fact. There are references to the dog being found in Herculaneum and the the collar, with a Greek inscription, being (then) in the Gallery of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. (Other versions elsewhere refer simply to the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum).

The query is

"I stumbled upon a story that might be urban myth, even though it's all over the Internet. I can't seem to find documentation for the story about this heroic dog.

It's not about the dog that was chained up. It's about the dog who was protecting a child that day in 79 AD. I read that a dogs skeleton was found laying over the body of a child about the age of ten or twelve. The dog had a silver collar that was engraved with his name "Delta" and it also recounted how he had saved his master, Severinus (Severino) from death on three occasions. Some accounts say the child was Severinus, and some say he was the son of Severinus."

Can anyone help prove it myth or fact?

Jackie and Bob at pompeiiinpictures


Sarah said...

Although I don't know about the dog referred to in the 1822 book, there was a dog found during the excavations on Herculaneum's ancient shoreline (1980s) which was found near to the body of a baby/child.

Jo Berry said...

I think your dog is too late, Sarah! I have been mulling this over and am very frustrated not to have found out anything of substance. However, I had have a couple of thoughts.
1) If this dog collar exists, it may be in Florence! The Grand-duke of Tuscany's collection, I believe, became part of the Uffizi. The Uffizi silver collection has since been sent to another Florence museum, but possibly there is an on-line catalogue or details of someone you can contact.
2) Is this real? The only references I have found about Delta are fictional accounts. Is it possible that this is one of those nice stories that people began to think was true (like the sentry who died at his post). I have had a quick look in the recent exhibition catalogue for the 'Silver' exhibition at the Naples Museum, and also in De Carolis' book on Vesuvius (which collects tales about the bodies and which has stories of other dogs), but no joy ... A quick search for 'Delta' in the on-line PAH also came up with nothing, which surprises me. The only thing that makes me think that this collar might be real is the reference to the Grand-duke of Tuscany. But which Grand-duke? The house of the Grand-duke of Tuscany in Pompeii was not excavated until the 1830s, which is too late (it was not uncommon for important visitors to be given objects they saw being excavated). I don't know if an earlier grand-duke visited the excavations ...
I hope someone else can shed some light on this!

Ramiro said...

I just translated this story to my Spanish audience, so should I get any feedback from them, I will let you know

You can read it at:


Eugene Dwyer said...

Also in the country, and far from a good library, I can't put my hands on: Carlo Giordano and Gaetano V. Pelagalli, "Cani e canili nella antica Pompei," AttiAccPontaniana N.S. 7 (1957-58) Napoli 1959, pp. 165-201, 4 tavv. (separated from text) -- thanks to Lorenzino Garcia y Garcia (No. 6120). Perhaps someone can see if "Delta" made it into this work! (I'm a cat person myself, but I'm fond of Pompeii's dogs.)

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