Rat catchers throughout history have gotten a bad rap. In this winter season when rodents battle to get into our warm homes, I’d like to celebrate this ancient and noble profession.
2640 BC, Egypt: One spring day, Pharaoh Khufu—who built the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World—watched in awe as his palace cat, “Khoofy II”, caught eight rats, one after another. Khufu was so impressed he bade his temple poet, Horus Sa, to compose a poem honoring cats:
The majestic cat, let us celebrate,
as the cursed rat we berate.
Oh, puss, your skills honor the gods,
as to your cuteness, well, we are awed.
The love of cats—Mother Nature’s most efficient Home Defenders—has persisted through the millennia and is alive and downloading videos on our own “Great Wonder”, the internet.
Khoofy II, we who catch rats salute you!
48 BC, Rome: Janus Antonius, a poor rat catcher in the neighborhoods near the Roman Forum, picked up curly metal shavings from a sword maker’s shop and wove them together, forming the world’s first steel wool. Alas, he had no use for it.
One day, seeing a rat run into a small hole in a barley granary wall, Janus realized that he could plug the hole with his steel wool. Without knowing it, Janus had invented the art of rodent-proofing. The rest is pest control history.
Julius Caesar was so dazzled he rewarded Janus with twenty bags of salt, a precious commodity. Janus immediately became the richest rat catcher in Rome.
However, tragedy soon struck the innovative exterminator. In 45 BC, Janus was executed in the Coliseum for making a drunken pass at a particularly voluptuous Vestal Virgin.
Now that’s a rat catcher worth his salt!