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Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners

Posted May 23, 2011 to photo album "Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners"

In Beginners, the dog Arthur and the human Oliver create an emotional bond that echoes back all the way to Homer.

Arthur + Oliver
Argos + Odysseus
Peritas + Alexander the Great
Gelert + Llywelyn
Guinefort + his Knight
Donnchadh + Robert the Bruce
Urian + Cardinal Wolsey
Pompey + William the Silent
Luath + Robert Burns
Boatswain + Lord Byron
Fortune + Josephine
Lauro + Napoleon
Seaman + Meriwether Lewis
Flush + Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Greyfriars Bobby + John Gray
Balto + Gunnar Kaasen
Hachiko + Hidesaburo Ueno
Peritas + Alexander the Great

Peritas + Alexander the Great

Detail on Alexander Sarcophagus shows Alexander and Peritas

In 345 B.C., 11-year old Alexander was given Peritas. Nine years later Alexander would become King of Macedon, upon the assassination of his father Phillip II, and soon go on to conquer the ancient world, with Peritas at his side. (Peritas was a Molossian, a breed of ancient Greece, now extinct, that is thought to be the the ancestor of the Mastiff.) Virgil wrote, “Never, with [Molossians] on guard, need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back.” A dissenting view of Molossian dogs holds that this is "mastiff malarkey" and the dog was really a coursing dog, closer to a greyhound than a mastiff. In either case, Peritas showed up in a number of questionable stories throughout history. In one tall tale, Peritas supposedly protected Alexander from an elephant by biting its lip during the Battle of Gaugamela. In India, Peritas defended a wounded Alexander from attacking Mallians, holding them off long enough for Alexander’s troops to arrive. In that battle Peritas was mortally wounded, and it is said, used his last bit of strength to put his head on Alexander’s lap. Alexander named the city of Peritas, India, in his dog’s honor. In “The Life of Alexander,” Plutarch, the only ancient source to actually reference Peritas, writes: “It is said, too, that when he lost a dog also, named Peritas, which had been reared by him and was loved by him, he founded a city and gave it the dog's name."