Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Katherine M.D. Dunbabin




As individuals who fell outside the prevailing norms of society, dwarfs were often regarded as prodigies in antiquity: living amulets as well as instruments of private and public entertainment. The roles assumed by dwarfs in Hellenistic and Roman society are explored through evaluation of literary and archaeological evidence. Most literary citations point to dwarfs as entertainers for wealthy households and their guests and also for public audiences. A catalogue of bronze and terracotta figures represents musicians, dancers, combatants and athletes. An INTRODUCTION and CHAPTER ONE explain the aims of the thesis; describe limitations posed by the nature of surviving material; and review the modern literature. CHAPTER TWO summarises ancient literary testimony (Greek and Latin terms, and functions and perceptions of dwarfs) as well as relevant archaeological material not included in the catalogue. CHAPTERS THREE, FOUR and FIVE focus on iconography, i.e. details of costumes and associated objects. Further considerations include clinical features of dwarfism (CHAPTER SIX); function and significance (CHAPTER SEVEN); and provenience and dating (CHAPTER EIGHT). Following the CONCLUSION, a CATALOGUE lists and describes 185 objects, each with museum and inventory number, bibliography, and proveniences. The archaeological record, although lacking many monuments of secure provenience and date, indicates the widespread popularity of dwarf representations in Egypt, the Mediterranean and continental Europe. They share some similarities. in style, function and subject matter, with those of classical Greece and pre-Ptolemaic Egypt, but at the same time, living dwarfs must survive in a climate of societal rejection which worsens in Hellenistic and Roman times.

McMaster University Library

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