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Roman Funeral Rites

Whenever one of their illustrious men dies, in the
Laudations at funerals.
course of his funeral, the body with all its paraphernalia is carried into the forum to the Rostra, as a raised platform there is called, and sometimes is propped upright upon it so as to be conspicuous, or, more rarely, is laid upon it. Then with all the people standing round, his son, if he has left one of full age and he is there, or, failing him, one of his relations, mounts the Rostra and delivers a speech concerning the virtues of the deceased, and the successful exploits performed by him in his lifetime.
By these means the people are reminded of what has been done, and made to see it with their own eyes,—not only such as were engaged in the actual transactions but those also who were not;— and their sympathies are so deeply moved, that the loss appears not to be confined to the actual mourners, but to be a public one affecting the whole people. After the burial and all the usual ceremonies have been performed, they place the likeness of the deceased in the most conspicuous spot in his house, surmounted by a wooden canopy or shrine. This likeness consists of a mask made to represent the deceased with extraordinary fidelity both in shape and colour. These likenesses they display at public sacrifices adorned with much care. And when any illustrious member of the family dies, they carry these masks to the funeral, putting them on men whom they thought as like the originals as possible in height and other personal peculiarities. And these substitutes assume clothes according to the rank of the person represented: if he was a consul or praetor, a toga with purple stripes; if a censor, whole purple1 if he had also celebrated a triumph or performed any exploit of that kind, a toga embroidered with gold.
Toga praetexta, purpurea, picta.
These representatives also ride themselves in chariots, while the fasces and axes, and all the other customary insignia of the particular offices, lead the way, according to the dignity of the rank in the state enjoyed by the deceased in his lifetime; and on arriving at the Rostra they all take their seats on ivory chairs in their order.
Sellae curules.
There could not easily be a more inspiring spectacle than this for a young man of noble ambitions and virtuous aspirations. For can we conceive any one to be unmoved at the sight of all the likenesses collected together of the men who have earned glory, all as it were living and breathing? Or what could be a more glorious spectacle?

1 This seems to be the only authority for assigning to the censors the toga purpurea instead of the toga praetexta: and, indeed, Athenaeus speaks of them as wearing the toga praetexta (περιπόρφυρος), 14, 69. In Livy, 40, 45, they occupy sellae curules.

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hide References (6 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 33-34, commentary, 34.7
  • Cross-references to this page (4):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CENSOR
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), FUNUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), IMAGO
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), NO´BILES
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 45
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