Nulla est gloria praeterire asellos. Wizerunek osła w kulturze i literaturze starożytnej Grecji i Rzymu

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Wydawnictwo Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk

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Nulla est gloria praeterire asellos. The representations of donkey in culture and literature of ancient Greek and Rome


The article aims to examine the representation of donkey in the ancient Greek and Roman culture and literature. It is investigated, on the example of selected texts, how developed the popular, negative stereotypes about stupid, lazy and even greedy and lustful donkeys, that seems to have their origins in Greek-Roman mentality and literature. The article contains a part of symbolic meanings and idioms connected with donkeys, especially these, that derive from antiquity.


In the European culture donkeys are often perceived as stupid, naive, lazy, greedy and lustful animals, though they are in fact very diligent and not very demanding. That negative stereotypes about donkeys and their low status have their origins in Greek-Roman mentality and literature, that are one of the most important foundations of the European culture. It is worth to mention that in the ancient Egypt, Assyria and also in the Bible donkeys were respected. In the Bible only an onager (wild ass) appears as a negative symbol of destruction. Gradually however also in Egypt or Jerusalem the meaning of donkey was decreasing, what was connected with the arising position of horses, that were pulling, as believed, the chariot of the sun. The stereotypic representations of donkeys appeared in different literary genres in Greek-Roman literature, but especially fables are responsible for popularization of negative representations of these animals. It is also interesting, that negative stereotypes about donkeys, that appears in Greek-Roman literature, are divided into two, exactly opposite groups. Once donkey is lazy, ungrateful or grumpy and another time it seems to be a naive, hardworking victim. The second group of mentioned stereotypes exposes and ridicule in fact not the donkey but the mentality of people, that consider slyness to be a sign of wisdom in contrast to hard, honest work, submission and patience. Among Christians donkey functioned as a positive symbol. The symbolic and idiomatic connected with donkey is rich and most of them have origins in the culture of ancient Greece.



Donkey, Onager, Horse, Literature, Culture, Symbol, Stereotype


Symbolae Philologorum Posnaniensium, 2011, nr XXI/2, s. 95-108




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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego