When I was very small, I wanted to grow up to be a dinosaur.
That is not exactly true. When I was very small, I wanted to grow up to be a dinosaur stomach. So on some level, the nonhuman turn makes intuitive sense to me. I was small. Dinosaur stomachs were large. What else is growing up but slowly changing from one into the other?
There are no dinosaur stomachs now, and at some point my desire to become one also disappeared. The dinosaurs were unlucky. But there are many forms an animal ending can take and many possibilities for an animal future: I use the three essays in this forum to think in three ways about ancient animal endings and animal futures.
Ending 1. Pig Oracle
Beth Berkowitz: Levi’s unruly animal is a convenient fiction
Pausanias, in his description of his travels through second-century Greece, describes a sacred center outside the city of Thebes as follows: “Across the Asopus, about ten stades distant from the city, are the ruins of Potniae, in which is a grove of Demeter and [Kore]. The images at the river that flows past Potniae…they name the goddesses. At an appointed time they perform their accustomed ritual, one part of which is to let loose young pigs into what are called “the halls” [megara, or sacrificial pits]. At the same time next year these pigs appear, they say, in Dodona.” He adds: “This story others can believe if they wish.”Pausanias does not believe the story about the piglets in Dodona, but I enjoy the thought of him contemplating these small creatures, set once a year on a strange dark adventure, beginning in a sacrificial pit outside the ruins of Potniae and traveling underneath the world, ending in the oak groves of Dodona some 240 miles northwest. In the sacred grove of Zeus at Dodona, the god was said to speak in the movements of the oak leaves, and so human animals watched the leaves there to find out what the future might be. How long does it take for a band of piglets to travel through the underworld and come out at the oracle of Zeus? When they emerge, they have arrived at the future.
Pausanias was probably right to be skeptical about the piglets’ journey underground. The remains of sacrificial pits dedicated to Demeter, and full of pig bones and small pig figurines, have been uncovered elsewhere in Greece, and there is no reason to believe that the piglets of Thebes were more fortunate than their counterparts elsewhere. Yet this counterfactual moment in Pausanias gives us an image that is an alternative to what we may think of as the normal image of sacrifice; a small but vivid moment in which nonhumans face the prospect of mass death and instead slip out of reach. The human animals, the sacrificers, are at one edge of this image; at the center are piglets, underground caverns, and gods, moving in ways that human animals only partially see. At the opposite edge of this image are oak trees and a future indifferent to the human animals, the sacrificers, far away.
Elizabeth Kolbert, drawing on paleobiological research of the last few decades, has described human animals as a species with a tendency toward overkill: human animals trail the deaths of other species in our historical wake, and have done so for millennia. Pliny the Elder describes the quick disappearance of North African silphium, also called laserwort, “a remarkably important plant,” in Natural History 19.15: “It has not been found in that country [Cyrenaica] now for many years, because the tax-farmers who rent the pasturage strip it clean by grazing sheep on it, realizing that they make more profit in that way. Only a single stalk has been found there within our memory, which was sent to the Emperor Nero.” Pliny is moralizing about the excesses of the human animal, but if we look at this moralizing a little askew, we again see an alternative world, like the world of Pausanias’ underground piglets, in which nonhuman life is at the center, thriving, and human animals graze at the margins. “We find it stated in the most reliable authors of Greece,” Pliny says, “that this plant first sprang up in the vicinity of the Gardens of the Hesperides and the Greater Syrtis after the ground had been suddenly soaked by a shower of rain the color of pitch, seven years before the foundation of the town of Cyrenae…; that the effect of this rainfall extended over 500 miles of Africa; and that the laserwort plant grew widely in that country as an obstinate weed, and if cultivated, escaped into the desert.” That is one world, with nonhumans springing up from black earth, and human animals not yet settled. In the mirror image of this thriving, sprawling, nonhuman world, though—that is to say, in the world with humans at the center—human animals are good at killing things until they are gone. This killing, it turns out, is a way of seeing the future. It is a way of seeing the human animal’s future, too.
In the worlds that Pliny and Pausanias describe, we see the human animal looking for a future and wondering, what would it be like to escape?
Ending 2. Birdless
R.R. Neis: But what about eating them?
There are birds here,
so many birds here,
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
and buildings. No.
--from Jamaal May, “There Are Birds Here”
Human animals may sometimes be thinking of ourselves when we look at our nonhuman kin, but that is partly because we cannot always see the difference between our kind of animal and another. The next moment that Pausanias describes outside of Thebes is an animal substitution: “Here there is also a temple of Dionysus the Goat-Shooter. For once, when they were sacrificing to the god, they grew so violent with wine that they actually killed the priest of Dionysus. Immediately after the murder they were visited by a pestilence, and the Delphic oracle said that to cure it they must sacrifice a boy in the bloom of youth. A few years afterwards, so they say, the god substituted a goat as a victim in place of their boy.” Exactly when the thing that dies is a human animal, and when it is a goat, changes; it takes a few years for a human to change completely into a goat. And then, a goat is perhaps a metaphor for a human but only as far as a human is perhaps also a metaphor for a goat. From a bright divine plane above them, the human animal and the goat animal are the same. And the goats, in this story, were already dying.
Animals do turn into other kinds of animals in the classical world, and not only in myth or explanatory legend. Pliny tells us that hawks and cuckoos are the same birds, varying seasonally: “The cuckoo seems to be made by changing its shape out of a hawk at a certain season of the year, as the rest of the hawks do not appear then, except on a very few days, and the cuckoo itself also after being seen for a moderate period of the summer is not observed afterwards. […] Moreover a hawk will eat a cuckoo, if ever both have appeared at the same time: the cuckoo is the only one of all the birds that is killed by its own kind.” These birds are living masses that change into, and sometimes eat, each other. Likewise the human animal and the goat, one metaphor killing and eating another, or perhaps no metaphor at all, but the same kind. Dionysus the Goat-Shooter kills human animals before goats, but goats too, and human animals kill boys and goats and priests as well. At the point of killing and dying it is hard to tell the difference. As Brian Massumi notes, “the human body is an animal body, and animality is immanent to human life (and vice versa). The farther down one goes into the composition of the animal body, the more levels of unhumanness one finds.”Again, exactly when the thing that dies is a human animal, and when it is a goat, changes.
Gods are not the only things that cannot tell the difference between goats and human animals. “Our current global crisis is indeed one of suicide,” Claire Colebrook writes, “so entranced have we been by our own autonomy that we have forgotten that we become who we are through a world and a life not our own. Our self-maintenance and mastery is destroying the milieu in which we live and, in turn, the species that we are.” The human animal destroys itself through confusion over its animality, but it destroys other animals in that confusion too. The cuckoo is the only one of all the birds that is killed by its own kind, because the hawk has forgotten that it is the same bird that it now kills. Dionysus the Goat-Shooter, in turn, kills human animals indiscriminately without looking for the difference between human animals and goats. All of it is alive flesh; all of it is a target.
Like the hawk and the human animal, animate flesh does true harm in its killing and eating. But like the piglet, the boy, and the goat, it also suffers harm. Or it escapes. To be alive flesh, to be animal at all, is temporarily to escape; it is to be a target that has not yet been hit. Pausanias continues: “On the way from Potniae to Thebes there is on the right side of the road a small enclosure with pillars in it. Here they think the earth opened to receive Amphiaraüs, and they add further that neither do birds sit upon these pillars, nor will a beast, tame or wild, graze on the grass that grows there.” Birds avoid entrances to the underworld, when they can; and so when Virgil takes his hero Aeneas to ask the dead what the future will be, he explains that the cave Aeneas must enter is above a lake called from ancient times Avernus, or a-ornos: birdless. Birds, tame or wild, leave certain landscapes alone, flying away from them above; and when they come too close, sinking beneath them below. At openings to the future, goats, birds, and heroes alike wonder what it might be to escape.
Ending 3. The Future Above Our Heads
Janet Spittler: …the wild ass is a very willing envoy
To be animal is to escape for a little while, but never completely. There are always other beings to whom one’s flesh may be useful, if they turn their attention to it, or for whom it may be an incidental casualty, if they do not.
So birds may escape harm, but birds are also omens, the feathered speaking of gods, yes or no. Flights of birds could confirm kingship or campaigns, so birds were part of the state and part of the divine working of the world. Even those who believed in other gods allowed that sometimes one could see the future in the animal: the early Christian Origen is at pains to explain that birds do not know the future rationally, or, he remarks with a shade of cruelty, “had they known their own future they would have taken care not to fly into a place where men had set traps and nets for them.” Instead, he writes, in cases where the future is successfully shown in birds it is because they are possessed by other beings who enter and move the bodies of birds for their own ends. Gods and angels can make animals go mad, or prophesy. Pausanias tells us, “In Potniae is also shown a well. The mares of this country are said on drinking this water to become mad.” Bodied life is porous, attached to life outside it, drinking it in, and then used as a voice to speak with, tangled in another life’s nets. Human animals are sacrificed and go mad and are used to prophesy, too.
Yet the attachments and openings of enfleshed life to other life, within the system of the world, should not come as a surprise. For the world is itself an alive animal in which human animals and others reside, jointly animated by the same force that maintains the world’s life. Plotinus, drawing on Platonic and Stoic ideas of the world-soul, explains: “If the soul in me is a unity, why need that in the universe be otherwise…? And if that, too, is one soul, and yours and mine belong to it, then yours and mine must be one: and if, again, the soul of the universe and mine depend from one soul, once more all must be one.”He continues, “Many things that happen even in one same body escape the notice of the entire being, especially when the bulk is large: thus in huge sea-beasts, it is said, the animal as a whole will be quite unaffected by some membral accident too slight to traverse the organism.” The universe is an enormous beast. Little lives and deaths of its parts happen in and around it all the time, which it does not, as a whole being, feel. Human animals and others are tiny parts of this organism’s living; its large and merciless care. The boundaries between small animals are porous because they are all infinitesimal parts of one larger living animal.
Communication from one part of this animal to another can happen at a great distance, because all of its parts are, bodily and in soul, drawn toward others, for care or for harm. “Again,” Plotinus says, “if spells and other forms of magic are efficient even at a distance to attract us into sympathetic relations, the agency can be no other than the one soul.” This slow pull and alien-but-interior presence is part of communication across many planes, not just in the divinely or demonically manipulated birds, but in all parts of the large animal’s movements. The stars, furthest away, also move, and are alive, and give hard-to-read signs of the future. They are true celestial animals, but no less part of the huge universal beast. Other celestial animals, Origen says, read their flight the way human animals read the flights of birds: “It is indeed possible that the writings of the heavens, which angels and divine powers can read well, contain some things to be read by the angels and ministers of God in order that they may rejoice in their knowledge.” Astrology is communication from a distance, from animals to animals across the body of an animal. The movements of star animals are not necessarily directed towards us, but they are part of the animal in which we all live.
Within this giant world-beast, the future comes to its smaller members in obscure ways and from far away. It can come from stars or birds, traveling through wind or oak trees or caverns underground. It can come simply from things that move fast: the early Christian monk Antony once explained to his followers that some of what appears to be telling the future is just the result of spirit beings seeing events in one place and moving quickly to report those events in another place.  The future is sometimes just something that is happening very far away: on the other side of the animal.
But in this universe, the human animal, along with its other animal kin, is also going far away. The animals in this world are fitfully or faintly pulled in the direction of the stars, or they are let slip into pits underground; they are sacrificed or transformed or eaten; sold, blamed, ridden, lost, found. They are inside other animals; they are other animals.
The places where these animals go are the future.
I would like to thank many friends whose words, minds, and work helped this essay come into being, especially Irene SanPietro, R.R. Neis, and C.B. Goodman.
 Description of Greece 9.8.1-2, tr. W. H. S. Jones in Pausanias, Description of Greece Volume IV: Books 8.22-10 (Arcadia, Boeotia, Phocis and Ozolian Locri), Loeb Classical Library 297 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1935): 206-207.
 The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (New York: Picador, Henry Holt and Company, 2014), 230-35.
 Natural History 19.15, tr. H. Rackham in Pliny, Natural History, Volume V: Books 17-19, Loeb Classical Library 371 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1950): 444-45; see also Ken Parejko, “Pliny the Elder’s Silphium: The First Recorded Species Extinction,” Conservation Biology 17.3 (2003): 925-27.
 Natural History 19.15, LCL 371: 446-47.
 In Jamaal May, The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Farmington, ME: Alice James Books, 2016), 2.
 Description of Greece 9.8.2, LCL 297: 206-207.
 Natural History 10.11, tr. H. Rackham in Pliny, Natural History, Volume II: Books 8-11, Loeb Classical Library 353 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1940): 308-309.
 Brian Massumi, What Animals Teach Us About Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 93.
 “Suicide for Animals,” in The Animal Catalyst: Towards Ahuman Theory, ed. Patricia MacCormack (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 141.
 Description of Greece 9.8.3, LCL 297: 206-207.
 Aeneid 6.242.
 Against Celsus 4.90, tr. Henry Chadwick, Contra Celsum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), 256.
 Against Celsus 4.92.
 Description of Greece 9.8.2, LCL 297: 206-207.
 Enneads 4.9.1, tr. Stephen MacKenna in Plotinus, The Enneads (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications Classic Reprint Series, 1992), 418.
 Enneads 4.9.2, tr. MacKenna.
 Enneads 4.9.3, tr. MacKenna.
 Philocalia 23.20, fragment from the Commentary on Genesis, tr. George Lewis, The Philocalia of Origen (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1911), 173.
 Life of Antony 31.2-3; see the excellent discussion in Gregory A. Smith, “How Thin is a Demon?” Journal of Early Christian Studies 16.4 (2008): 503-507.
C.M. Chin is a writer and historian currently based in California and Michigan. He teaches in Classics at the University of California at Davis.