‘Mulion’, the beloved dog accompanies the young Paulus in his funerary monument

The funerary monument of Paulus was found in secondary use in the northern wall of Dion but probably originates from the northern cemetery of the city. It consists of an intact white marble altar and dates from the second half of the 2nd century AD. The façade of the monument bears a seven-line inscription, the letters of which were painted in purple. The text reads as follows:


‘Dometia (has set up this memorial) for her own son Paulos for the sake of remembrance; Mulion’

The text indicates that the monument was erected by Dometia in memory of her son Paulus. The persons mentioned in the inscription are otherwise unknown. Although they both bear Roman names, their use is solely due to Roman influence, but they are not Roman citizens (cives Romani). The mother bears the personal name Dometia, derived from the Roman gentilicium Domitius/Δομίτιος, while the son bears the Roman surname (cognomen) Παῦλος (= Paulus). The fact that the monument was erected on the initiative of the mother of the deceased makes it likely that Paulus was a child or a young man. The social status of the persons (free or slave) cannot be determined, and the reasons for the lack of mentioning the father of the deceased are not clear.

The depiction that adorns the lower part of the monument’s façade is particularly interesting. It shows the figure of a dog, also painted in purple, wearing a collar, and sitting on its hind legs looking to the right. Depictions of animals – including dogs – are often found on graves, especially those of young children. Such depictions of animals are not only symbolic, but also inspired by scenes from daily life. Indeed, there are many inscribed animal monuments that reflect the special emotional value they had for their owners. This emotional bond between the animal and its owner is also displayed on the depiction of the dog on Paulus’ altar. It is a representation of the deceased’s beloved dog, and its name was also worth remembering: Mulion.
The name of the dog – which is also attested as a personal name – derives from the Latin occupational name mulio (‘mule-driver”; cf. the Greek word ἡμιονηγός). The muliones, who used a cart pulled by mules, were responsible for transporting goods and merchandise – at least over short distances. It is impossible to say whether the choice of the dog’s name refers to a corresponding occupational activity of the Paulus’ family or to certain characteristics of the animal itself. In any case, the inscription adds another dog name to those already known in Greek and Roman antiquity.

P. Papageorgiou, Die Grabaltäre Pierias in der Kaiserzeit, Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani: Griechenland Bd. III.2, Αθήνα 2019, 89-91 αρ. 6 (with the previous bibliography).