It is proposed in the following article to give a brief
account of Greek and Roman funerals, and of the different rites and
ceremonies connected with death and burial. [p. 1.885]
tombs, their contents, and the monuments placed over them will be explained
in the article SEPULCRUM
The Greeks attached great importance to the burial of the dead. They
believed that souls could not enter the Elysian fields till their bodies
had been buried ; and accordingly we find the shade of Elpenor in the
), &c.) earnestly
imploring Ulysses to bury his body. Ulysses also, when in danger of
shipwreck, deplores that he had not fallen before Troy, as he should in
that case have obtained an honourable burial (Od. 5.311
). So strong was this feeling among the Greeks,
that it was considered a religious duty to throw earth upon a dead body
which a person might happen to find unburied (Ael. VH 5.14
); and among the Athenians, those children who
were released from all other obligations to unworthy parents were
nevertheless bound to bury them by one of Solon's laws. (Aesch.
§ 14.) The neglect of burying
one's relatives is frequently mentioned by the orators as a grave charge
against the moral character of a man ([Dem.] c. Aristog.
i. p. 787.54; Lys. c. Phil.
§ 21, c.
1.27), since the burial of the body by the relations
of the dead was considered a religious duty by the universal law of the
Greeks. Sophocles represents Antigone as disregarding all consequences
in order to bury the dead body of her brother Polyneices, which Creon,
the king of Thebes, had commanded to be left unburied. The common
expressions for the funeral rites, τὰ δίκαια,
show that the dead had, as it were, a legal and moral
claim to burial.
Lucian, in his treatise de Luctu,
connected account of the customs connected with Greek funerals; and
since this account does not differ materially from the information
derived from the notices scattered through earlier literature, we may
infer that no great change took place in the funeral customs of Greece
in historical times.
At the moment of death the eyes and mouth were closed by one of those
present (Hom. Od. 24.296
118). According to Lucian (de Luctu,
10, p. 926), the obol to serve as Charon's fare
was at once placed in the mouth of the corpse. This coin was also called
(Hesych. sub voce
). The custom is first mentioned by
Aristophanes (Aristoph. Frogs 139
and does not appear to have been in use at a very early date.
Confirmation of the practice is given by actual discoveries, for coins
are frequently found in Greek tombs, and in some between the teeth of
the skeleton. (Seyffert, de Nummis in ore defunctorum
Dresden, 1712; Pottier et Reinach, La
Nécropole de Myrina,
p. 106. Other references in
p. 367.) The
body was then washed (Plat. Phaed.
115 A; Eur. Phoen. 1319
), anointed with perfumes (Hom. Il. 18.350
), and clothed in rich
garments, generally white in colour (Paus.
; Artemidor. 2.3; Hom. Il. 18.353
). These were buried or
burnt with the body, but the number of them was limited by a law of
Solon (Plut. Sol. 21
). A wreath of
flowers was placed upon the head (Eur. Phoen.
; Ar. Eccl.
Golden wreaths, in imitation of laurel or other foliage, were sometimes
used, and have been found in graves. (La Nécropole de
p. 105; Stephani, Compte Rendu,
The corpse, thus prepared, was laid out (πρόθεσις,
) on a bed (κλίνη
), which appears to have been of the ordinary kind,
with a pillow (προσκεφάλαιον
supporting the head and back (Lys. c. Eratosth.
§ 18). By a law of Solon it was ordered that the πρόθεσις
should take place inside the house
(Lex ap. Dem. c. Macart.
p. 1071.62). As among the
Romans, the feet were turned towards the door (Hom. Il. 19.212
; Hesych. sub voce
διὲκ θυρῶν: τοὺς νεκροὺς οὕτω φασὶν
ἑδράζεσθαι, ἔξω τοὺς πόδας ἔχοντας πρὸς τὰς αὐλείους
). Vases of a special kind (λήκυθοι
), probably containing perfumes, were placed
beside the body (Ar. Eccl.
1032, 538; Schol. Plat.
368 C, λήκυθον δὲ
ἀγγεῖόν τί φασιν οἱ Ἀττικοὶ ἐν ᾧ τοῖς νεκροῖς ἔφερον
). Lekythi were also buried with the coffin, and
a large number of them have been found in graves in Attica. Their usual
shape is shown in the wood-cut under AMPULLA
Vol. I., p. 116 a.
A few of them are in the ordinary black-and red-figured
styles, but the greater number are of a special ware of great beauty,
manufactured for funeral purposes. In this ware the ground is white, and
scenes are painted upon it in bright colours, in a freer and less rigid
style than in the vases with red or black figures. The scene most
commonly represented is the bringing of offerings to the tomb; but in
other cases we have a picture of some part of the funeral ceremonies, or
of Charon preparing to ferry the shade across the Styx. The wood-cuts
accompanying this article which represent the πρόθεσις
and the offerings at the tomb are taken from,
vase-paintings of this class. (See E. Pottier, Étude
sur les Lécythes blancs Attiques, à
Benndorf, Griechische und Sicilische Vasenbilder,
1869, &c.; Jahn, Beschreibung der Vasensammlung K.
cxxxi. ff.) A honey-cake (μελιτοῦττα
), intended as a sop for Cerberus, was also
placed by the side of the corpse (Ar. Lys.
Schol. in loc.,
Ἡ μελιτοῦττα ἐδίδοτο τοῖς νεκροῖς ὡς εὶς
). Before the door a vessel of water was
), in order that
persons who had been in the house might purify themselves from the
pollution of death by sprinkling water on their persons (Ar.
1033 ; Poll. 8.65; Eur.
The near relations of the deceased assembled round the bed on which he
was laid, and uttered loud lamentations. Representations of such scenes
have been found. Although more violent signs of grief were forbidden by
Solon (Plut. Solon, c.
de Legg. 2.2. 3
, 59), we find that Lucian
12) mentions as
accompaniments of the πρόθεσις,
only groaning and wailing, but also beating of breasts, tearing of hair,
laceration of cheeks, rending of garments, and sprinkling of ashes upon
the head. It was perhaps with the object of limiting the time for these
excesses of grief that Solon ordained that the burial should take place
on the day after the πρόθεσις,
sunrise (Demosth. c. Macart.
1. c.), and that Plato
12.959 A) laid down that the πρόθεσις
should not last longer than was
necessary to show that death had really taken place. Solon also
commanded that no females under 60 years of [p. 1.886]
age except the nearest relations (έντὸς
) should be allowed to be present while the
corpse was in the house (Demosth. l.c.
appears that singers were hired to lead the mourning chant at the
(Hom. Il. 24.719
ff.; Lucian, de
The accompanying woodcut, representing the πρόθεσις,
is taken from Pottier, op.
The corpse lies upon a couch, and is covered with a rich garment. The
head alone is unveiled, and is surrounded with a fillet. Two female
figures stand beside the couch, with gestures of grief. One of them
carries a tray or basket, across which two taeniae are laid. Other
taeniae are placed across the couch. In the background is a mirror, or
fan, perhaps intended for the keeping away of flies (cf. D. C. 74.4
Cod. Just. 7.6
). A list of other illustrations of the πρόθεσις
is given by Pottier, p. 12, and Benndorf,
Gr. u. Sic. Vasenb.
p. 6. It is sufficient here to
mention the Archemoros vase, a large amphora found at Ruvo (Gerhard,
Archemoros u. die Hesperiden,
pl. i.; Baumeister,
p. 114). In this the corpse of
the boy Archemoros is laid upon a couch. One female places a wreath upon
his head, while another holds a parasol over him. The παιδαγωγὸς
stands at the foot of the couch,
and two of the attendants carry tables upon which are vases of various
kinds with taeniae attached. The centre group is alone given in the cut
The funeral (ἐκφορά, ἐκφέρειν
place legally, as has been already remarked, on the day following the
It might, however, be put
off several days to allow of the arrival of distant friends (Plut. Tim. 39
). The early morning was the
usual time (Plato, Legg.
12.960 A; Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 6
Heracl. Alleg. Hom.
δὲ παλαιὸν ἔθος τὰ σώματα τῶν καυνόντων ἐπειδὰν
ἀναπαύσηται τοῦ βίου, μήτε ϝύκτωρ ἐκκομίζειν μήθ̓ ὅταν
ύπὲρ γῆς τὸ
μεσημβρινὸν ἐπιτείνηται θάλπος: ἀλλὰ πρὸς
βαθὺν ὄρθρον ἀπύροις ἡλίου ἀκτῖσιν ἀνιόντος.
The ἐκφορά. (From a stamped
terracotta plaque found at the Piraeus.)
The body was carried on the couch on which it had been lying. In the
inscription from Keos (Köhler, Mittheil. d. Arch. Inst.
1876, 139 f., 1. 10; Dittenberger,
468) we find the direction that the corpse
should be covered and carried in silence (τὸν
θανόντα φέρειν κατακεκαλυμμένον σιωπῇ μέχρι τὸ
), but there is nothing to show that this was general.
The bier was borne either by hired bearers (ϝεκροφόροι,
Poll. 7.195), or, in cases where it was
decided to honour the dead, by specially selected citizens (e. g. in the
case of Timoleon, Plut. Tim. 39
). The men
walked before the corpse, and the women behind (Dem. l.c.
), and it appears that musicians were hired to play
mournful tunes on the flute and sing dirges (θρῆνοι
) at the ἐκφορὰ
as well as at the πρόθεσις
7.800 E; Hesych. sub
Poll. 4.75). Those who accompanied the funeral wore mourning garments of
a black or dark colour (Hom. Il. 24.93
Eur. Alc. 427
, 6; Plut.
). In an inscription from Gambreum in the
neighbourhood of Pergamum (C. I. G.
470) it is enjoined that the women should wear dark clothes (ἐσθὴς φαιά
), while men and boys have the
alternative of wearing white. The head was also shaved or the hair cut
as a sign of grief (Hom. Od. 4.197
; Bion. Idyll.
7; Plutarch, Consol. ad Ux.
and some of the passages cited above as to the colour of the dress).
Representations of the ἐκφορὰ
The foregoing woodcut represents a stamped terracotta plaque found at
the Piraeus (in the collection of M. Rayet, Convoi
No. 75). The corpse lies upon a couch.
The head is bare; the rest of the body covered. The couch is placed upon
a car drawn by two horses (more usually mules). Mourners accompany it
with gestures of grief. A female attendant carries upon her head a
vessel, probably to serve for libations. Another attendant plays upon
the double flute. (Other representations: Micali, Monumenti per
servire alla storia degli ant. popoli Italiani,
pl. 96, 1 ;
Monumenti d. Inst.
It was the custom, at Athens at any rate, to hold public funerals for
those who had fallen in war. Thucydides (2.34
) describes with some minuteness the proceedings usual on
such occasions. The πρόθεσις
bones took place on a platform (or perhaps in a booth or tent) erected
for the purpose in some public place (τὰ μὲν
ὀστᾶ προτίθενται πρότριτα σκηνὴν ποιήσαντες
). On the
day of the funeral, coffins of cypress wood, one for each tribe, were
carried upon waggons. Each coffin contained the bones of the members of
the tribe to which it was assigned. An empty couch, adorned as for a
funeral, was borne in the procession to represent those whose bodies had
not been found. The procession was accompanied by any citizens and
aliens who wished to attend, and by women who were related to those who
had fallen. In Greece, funeral orations were only pronounced at public
funerals of the kind described, not, as at Rome, over individuals, even
though they were specially distinguished (Dionys. A. R. 5.17
). This custom seems to have arisen about
the time of the Persian wars (Dionys. l.c.
the two best known occasions of its use are those on which Pericles was
the selected orator. The first of these was after the Samian war (B.C.
439), and the second at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian
war (Thuc. 2.34
ff.). In other respects the
procedure at a public funeral does not seem to have differed from that
in use at private burials.
In spite of the statement of Lucian (de
21) that the Greeks burnt their dead and the Persians
buried them, it is certain, both from literary evidence and also from
the excavation of tombs, that burning and burying were both practised by
the Greeks. The word θάπτειν
is used of
the burial of the ashes after cremation, but κατορύττειν
refers only to the burial of an unburnt
body. Hence when in the Phaedo
Socrates speaks of his body as ἤ καιόμενον ἤ
it is clear that both methods were in
use. We hear of burial also among the Spartans (Plut. Lyc. 27
; Thuc. 1.134
Homer we have no mention of any burial without burning; but in graves at
Mycenae skeletons were found which showed no traces of fire. Evidence
both of burning and burying has been found in graves of a later date in
many parts of the Greek world (for references, see
p. 375). In
particular the cemetery of Myrina may be mentioned, where the careful
investigations of MM. Reinach and Pottier showed that burning and burial
had been in use simultaneously, and that burial had been far the
commoner way (La Nécropole de Myrina,
The pile of wood (πυρά
) upon which the
body was burnt, was sometimes erected over the grave in which the ashes
were to be buried. This is proved by the fact that at Myrina the sides
of some of the tombs showed traces of fire. We have a full description
of cremation in the Homeric period in Il.
ff., where Achilles celebrates the funeral of
Patroclus. The pyre is made a hundred feet in length and breadth, and
the bodies of sheep, oxen, horses, dogs, and twelve Trojan captives are
placed upon it. Honey and perfumes are also poured upon it before it is
lighted. From Lucian it appears that similar sacrifices were customary
at a much later time (πόσοι γὰρ καὶ ἵππους
καὶ παλλακίδας, οἱ δὲ καὶ οἰνοχόους ἐπικατέσφαξαν καὶ
ἐσθῆτα καὶ τὸν ἄλλον κόσμον συγκατέφλεξαν ἤ συγκατώρυξαν,
14). When the pyre was burnt down, the remains
of the fire were quenched with wine, and the relatives and friends
collected the bones or ashes (Il.
. Illustrated on vases: Gerhard, Ant. Bildw.
pl. 31 = Baumeister, Denkm.
p. 307, fig. 322; and
3.14 = Baumeister, Denkm.
p. 308, fig. 323). The remains thus collected were placed in a
receptacle sometimes of gold, but generally of a less precious material,
and buried. A description of these receptacles, of the other articles
placed in the tomb, and of the tomb itself, will be found in the article
When bodies were buried without previous cremation, they were generally
placed in coffins, which were called by various names, as σοροί, πύελοι, ληνοί, λάρνακες, δροῖται,
though some of these names were also applied to the urns in which the
bones were collected. The lowering of a coffin into the grave is
represented in a vase-painting. (Mon. Inst.
viii. pl. 4,
1 b; Baumeister, Denkm.
p. 306.) For further information
upon this point, see Stackelberg (Die Gräber der
pl. 7, 8) and art. SEPULCRUM
Immediately after the funeral was over, the relations partook of a feast
which was called περίδεπνον
24; Cic. de
Legg. 2.2. 5
, 63; Hegesipp. ap. Ath. 7.290
c). It was the custom that this feast should be
given at the house of the nearest relative (Dem. de
p. 321.355, δέον ποιεῖν
αὐτοὺς τὸ περίδειπνον ὡς παῤ οἰκειοτάτῳ τῶν
). A number of bas-reliefs have been found
representing a meal or banquet. These are known as
“banquet-reliefs” ; and it is often supposed that we
have in them a picture of the περίδειπνον.
This view, however, [p. 1.888]
cannot be considered as established. (See P. Gardner, A
Sepulchral Relief from, Tarentum,
J. H. S. v. p. 105 ;
Welcker, Alte Denkmäler,
2.242 ff.; Lebas,
Monum. d'Antiq. figur.
p. 89 ff.; Pervanoglu,
Das Familienmahl auf altgriech. Grabsteinen,
1872; Milchhöfer in Mitth.
4.161; P. Girard,
ff. Other references to literature on the subject:
385.) The annexed
cut, which represents
Funeral Banquet. (From a bas-relief.)
a relief of this class, is taken from the Marmora
i. tab. 52, No. 135.
Other ceremonies were performed on the third, the ninth, and the
thirtieth days after the funeral, and were called respectively τρίτα, ἔνατα,
(Pollux. 8.146. See also Schömann on Isaeus, p. 217.) Aristoph.
611, with Schol.) alludes to the τρίτα.
are sometimes mentioned in connexion with the
§ 36), sometimes separately (Id.
§ 39). The rites on the thirtieth day
and 1.66, 3.102; Lexx. s. v.
) included a repetition of
the funeral feast (Bekk. Anecd.
p. 268, 19, καθέδραι, ὑποδοχαὶ ἀνθρώπων: τῇ τριακοστῇ γὰρ
ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ ἀποθανόντος οἱ προσήκοντες ἅπαντες καὶ
ἀναγκαῖοι συνελθόντες κοινῇ ἐδείπνουν ἐπὶ τῷ
ἀποθανόντι, καὶ τοῦτο καθέδρα ἐκαλεῖτο
are forbidden in the
inscription from Keos (Mitth.
It was also the custom to bring offerings to the tomb on certain days in
each year (ἐναγίζειν καθ̓ ἕκαστον
4.717 E: τὰ
in the inscr. from Keos). Herodotus mentions that
these annual sacrifices to the dead were called γενέσια
(4.26), from which it is inferred that they were
offered on the birthday of the deceased (compare D. L. 10.18
). The name νεκύσια
was also used in the same sense (Hesychius, Γενέσια, ἑορτὴ πένθιμος Ἀθηναίοις : οἱ δὲ τὰ
νεκύσια. καὶ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, τῇ γῇ θύουσι
ceremonies which were performed at these stated intervals might be used
at any other time, if for some reason it was necessary to appease the
departed spirit. The word ἐναγίζειν
was used for the act of offering, ἐναγίσματα
for the things offered on these occasions. These
consisted of libations (χοαί
) of wine,
oil, milk, honey mixed with water or milk (Aesch. Pers. 609
ff.; Eur. Or.
which were poured upon the ground (γάποτοι,
Aesch. Pers. 621
97). Elaborate banquets were sometimes prepared,
burnt in honour of the dead, and buried in a trench (Lucian.
22). Wreaths were also placed upon the
grave-stones, and they were anointed with perfumes (ib.).
The best idea of the rites performed at the grave is given by the
numerous representations of them on Lekythi of the class already
described. About 600 of these Lekythi have been found, and of these
five-sixths bear representations of the bringing of offerings to the
tomb. There is little variation in the scene. In the centre is the tomb,
generally marked by a stele,
sometimes by a
mound. The stele
is adorned with taeniae,
by which sometimes Lekythi are
suspended. Several persons on either side of the stele
bring offerings of wreaths, taeniae,
vases, birds, fruits, libations, and so forth. These
persons are generally standing, but sometimes one is sitting on the
pedestal on which the stele
stands, or on a seat
placed beside it. The following cut, which represents one of these
scenes, is taken from Millin, Peint. de Vases,
pl. 27. The tomb is in the form of a ἡρῷον,
and upon it is a representation of the deceased.
References to works in which vases of this class have been published are
given by Pottier, Étude sur les Lécythes
blancs Attiques à representations
p. 51. Much importance was attached to
the due performance of these annual rites (Isaeus, de Men.
§ 46; de Apoll. Her.
de Philoct. Her.
§ 51). In an inscription
from Thera (C. I. G.
2448) we have a case in which
Offerings presented at the tomb. (From a Greek vase.)
a woman Epikteta left by will a sum of money for the purpose
of celebrating annual sacrifices at her tomb.
The period of mourning varied in length at different places. At Athens
seems to have ended it, on
the thirtieth day after the funeral (Lysias, de caede
§ 14). At Sparta it only lasted eleven days
(Plut. Lyc. 27
). In the inscription
from Gambreum near Pergamum, it is ordered that men are to lay aside
mourning in the fourth month, women in the fifth (C. L.
3562; Dittenberger, 470, 1. 10, ἐπιτελεῖν δὲ τὰ ϝόμιμα τοῖς ἀποιχομένοις ἔσχατον ἐν
τρισὶ μησίν, τῷ δὲ τετάρτῳ λύειν τὰ πένθη τοὺς ἄνδρας,
τὰς δὲ γυναῖκας τῷ πέμπτῳ
Certain special rites were used in particular cases. A spear was carried
in front of the body of any person who had died a violent death, as a
symbol of the revenge which was to follow the murderer ([Dem.] in
Euerg. et Mnes,
p. 1160.87; Eur. Troad.
Lexx. s. v. ἐπενεγκεῖν δόρυ
). In the
case of those who had committed suicide, the hand which had done the
deed was cut off and buried separately. (Aeschin. in
§ 244, καὶ ἐάν τις
αὑτὸν διαχρήσηται τὴν χεῖρα τὴν τοῦτο πράξασαν χωρὶς τοῦ
). Certain criminals, who were put to
death by the state, were also deprived of burial, which was considered
to be an additional punishment (Plut. Them.
; Thuc. 1.134
). The bodies of
those persons who had been struck by lightning were regarded as sacred
); they were not
buried with others (Eur. Suppl.
935), but usually on the
spot where they had been struck (Artemid. Oneirocr.
p. 146). [BIDENTAL
It has been already mentioned that in public funerals of those killed in
war, an empty couch was carried in the procession to represent those
whose bodies had not been found. In other cases, where a person was
supposed to be dead, though his body was not found, funeral rites were
performed for him (Eur. Hel. 1241
Charit. 4.1). If such a person was afterwards found to be alive, he was
considered impure, and was not allowed to enter temples till certain
rites had been performed. These rites consisted in an imitation of birth
and the ceremonies connected with it. The δευτερόποτμος
(these were the names which were given to
δ δεύτερον διὰ γυναικείου κόλπου διαδύς,
Hesych. sub voce
) was washed, wrapped in
swaddling clothes, and fed with milk. Having been thus born again into
life, he was freed from his impurity (Plut. Q. R.
[Much of the literature bearing on special points has been referred to in
the course of this article. For a general account of the subject, the
most important books are J. Meursius, de
Stackelberg, Die Graber der Hellenen;
4th English edition, pp.
383-402=Becker-Göll, 3.114-167 ; Wachsmuth, Das alte
Griechenland im neuen,
pp. 105-125--the ancient customs
compared with the modern--and especially Hermann-Blümner,
p. 361 ff., where further references
to literature on the subject will be found.]
Among the Romans also the burial of the dead was a most solemn duty. It
was incumbent upon anyone who found an unburied body at least to cast
earth upon it three times (Hor. Od. 1.28
5, 6; Petron. 114). If no funeral rites
had been performed, the soul of the dead man could not be received among
the shades, and wandered homeless upon the earth (Tertull. de An.
56, “Creditum est insepultos non
ante ad inferos redigi, quam justa perceperint;” Plaut.
499 ; Serv. ad
A near relation of the dying person caught the last breath in his mouth
(Verg. A. 4.684
; Cic. Ver. 5.45, 118
, and perhaps Ov. Tr. 4.3
). As soon as he was dead his eyes
were closed by one of those present (claudere
ix, 187; condere,
Ov. Tr. 3.3
; tegere, ib.
4.3, 44; operire,
Plin. Nat. 11.150
). This is shown on
a relief on a sepulchral urn from Volterra (Arch. Ztg.
1846, plate 47; Baumeister's Denkm.
p. 309). Then
followed the conclamatio,
explained as (1) a cry in articulo mortis,
which seems probable from Propert. 5.7, 23 ; Ov.
: (2) the recall of
the dead by uttering his or her name three times, in order to ascertain
the fact of death if there was no answer, a custom still in use at the
death-bed of a pope: (3) as commonly understood, the lamentation for the
dead when there was no longer any possibility of doubt; thus Marquardt
The Conclamatio, or lamentation
for the dead. (From a Roman relief.)
mourners called repeatedly the name of the deceased, with loud
cries, and exclamations such as vale
2.22; Catull. ci.; Ov. Met. 10.62
4.852). We may infer from a Roman relief (Baumeister,
p. 309, after Clarac, Mus. de
pl. 154) which seems to represent the conclamatio,
that horns were blown at the same time.
The body was then washed with warm water (Verg.
) and anointed with perfumes and spices (Persius,
3.103; Ov. Fast. 4.853
). That this took
place after the conclamatio
we learn from
Amm. Marc. 30.10
: “Post conclamata
imperatoris suprema, corpusque curatum ad sepulturam.” The
corpse was then clothed either in the toga (Juv.
, and Mayor's note; Mart.
; Paulus, Dig.
15.3, 19; Artemidor. Oneirocr.
2.3), or in the state
robes of any office which had been held by the deceased (Liv. 34.7
). The garments in which the corpse was clothed were
sometimes splendid and costly (vestes purpureae,
Verg. A. 6.221
V. Max. 5.5
. For gold stuffs found in tombs, see Raoul-Rochette, [p. 1.890]Troisième Mém.
sur les Ant. chrét. des Catacombes, Mém. de
13.1838, pp. 641-650, 735, 736). Precious
ornaments were often added. Rings, for example, are often found in
graves, and we learn from Prop. 4.7
( “et solitam digito beryllon adederat
ignis” ), that they were sometimes burnt with the body. If
the deceased had, when alive, received a crown as a reward for bravery
or for success in the games of the circus, it was placed upon his head
(Cic. de Legg.
. 2.24, 60; Plin. Nat. 21.7
; Serv. ad Aen.
). Gold wreaths have in several cases been found with
skeletons (Bull. dell' Inst.
Raoul--Rochette, p. 653). Flowers were also used for the adornment of
the couch on which the corpse was laid ; and a censer (acerra
) was placed beside it (Fest.
p. 18). The annexed cut from a Roman relief in the
Lateran Museum (Baumeister, p. 239, after Mon. Inst.
tav. 6) represents the lectus funebris,
which the corpse of a female lies dressed. Two female mourners (praeficae
) stand behind, and by their side a man
in the act of putting a garland on the head of the corpse. On each side
of the lectus funebris
is a torch. On the
left side is a female blowing
The Lectus Funebris. (From a Roman relief.)
the flute, and above another with folded hands; on the right
side sit three females, wearing the pilleus (probably manumitted
slaves): below is the family of the deceased. Among the Romans, as among
the Greeks, it was customary to place a small coin in the mouth of the
deceased, for the purpose of paying Charon's passage-money. This is
alluded to by Juvenal (3.267) and Propertius (4.11
), but not by earlier writers.
Coins, however, have been found in graves of an earlier date than the
Second Punic War (C. I. L.
i. p. 27); and in graves at
Praeneste, dating from the third century B.C.,
coins were actually found in the mouths of the skeletons (Annali,
1835, p. 76; C. I. L.
p. 28). In the imperial times the practice was common and widely
The preparations necessary for the due laying out of the body were
performed by the Pollinctores
5.2, 60; Poen.
63). Two derivations of this word are given by the
ancients, both equally improbable, but giving an indication of the
functions of the pollinctor:
“Dicti autem pollinctores quasi pollutorum unctores”
(Fulgentius, de Serm. Ant.
3); “a polline, quo
mortuis os oblinebant ne livor appareret extincti” (Serv. ad Aen. 9.483
). It is probable
also that the pollinctor
took the mould of
the dead man's face, from which the wax imago
was made, to be kept in the atrium
of the house by his descendants, and used in funeral
processions in a way shortly to be described. The pollinctor
was furnished by the Libitinarius
or undertaker, who entered into a contract
for conducting the whole funeral. The latter got his name from the fact
that he exercised his business at the temple or grove of Libitina, the
goddess of corpses and funerals: ἐπίσκοπον τῶν
περὶ τοὺς θνήσκοντας δσίων θεὸν οὖσαν
(Plut. Num. 12.1
; Quaest. Rom.
23; Liv. 40.19
; Mayor's note on Juv. 12.121
). Deaths were also registered at
this temple (Suet. Nero 39
; Dion. Halic.
4.15); and the offering called lucar
was made [LUCAR
]. Undertakers are said exercere
(V. Max. 5.2
), and the expressions vitare Libitinam, evadere Libitinam
are used in the sense
of escaping death (Hor. Carm. 3.30.6
: cf. Sat.
2.6, 19; Juv. 12.121
When the body had been thus prepared and adorned, it was laid upon a
couch of state, generally in the atrium
the house, with the feet towards the door (Plin. Nat. 7.146
; Pers. 3.105). Outside the door of the
house were placed branches of cypress or pine (Plin. Nat. 16
. § § 40 and 139; Serv. ad Aen. 3.64
), for the purpose
of warning those who might be polluted by entering a house in which was
a corpse (Servius, l.c.
). The cypress was
apparently only used by those of good position (
“et non plebeios luctus testata cupressus,
). We are told by Servius (Serv. ad
) that the corpse lay in state for seven days before
burial. This can only have been the case in exceptional circumstances,
when some form of embalming was used.
Funerals were conducted by the family of the deceased (funus privatum
) except in cases where a public funeral
) was voted, either by
the senate (Cic. Phil. 9.7
) or in
provincial towns by the decuriones,
mark of honour or respect to the deceased. (The formula “Hinc
decuriones funus publicum . . . locum sepulturae decreverunt”
occurs in inscriptions: Mommsen, I. N.
5250; C. I.
3.3055, 3128, 3137: see Wilmanns, 296 ff., and variations
of the formulae given there.) We find this honour paid in the case of
foreign kings who died in Italy, as Syphax and Perseus (V. Max. 5.1
and men who had fallen in the service of their country, as Hirtius and
Paus. (V. Max. 5.2
). In imperial times it became commoner. Sometimes, though
a funus publicum
was not voted, a
subscription was raised to meet the funeral expenses, as in the cases of
Menenius Agrippa (Liv. 2.33
), Valerius Publicola (Liv. 3.18
), and Q. Fabius
Maximus (V. Max. 5.2
). A particular kind of funeral was appropriate to each
grade of the magistracy; the highest being the censorium funus
A public invitation was given to all important [p. 1.891]
portant funerals by a herald (praeco
Hence the phrases funus indicere, funus
84; Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 4
Varro, L. L.
5.160, 7.42; Festus, p. 334 b, 27, and
p. 106, s. v.). The formula of invitation has
been preserved: “Ollus Quiris leto datus. Exsequias, quibus est
commodum, ire jam tempus est. Ollus ex aedibus effertur.”
(Varro, ll. cc.;
Festus, p. 254 d, 34: cf. Ov. Am. 2.6
Sil. Ital. 15.395
5.9, 37.) Translaticium
is used for an unceremonious burial (Suet. Nero 33
In ancient times all funerals took place by night (Serv. ad Aen. 11.143
Romanos moris fuit ut noctu efferrentur ad funalia” ); in
later times only those of children (acerba
“moris Romani erat ut impuberes noctu efferrentur ad
faces;” Sen. de brev. Vit.
20, 5; de Tranq.
2.7), and poor people whose means did not admit of
sufficient display for the day-time (Fest. Epit.
). The Emperor Julian issued
an edict ordering that all funerals should take place at night, in order
that the ordinary business of the day and the worship of the gods might
not be interrupted. That funerals in the day-time were a serious
obstruction we learn from Hor. Ep. 1.6
. The torches with which funerals
were always accompanied were probably a relic of burial by night, though
no doubt they also served for lighting the pyre. (Verg. A. 11.142
; Tac. Ann. 3.4
, at the
funeral of Germanicus, “conlucentes per Campum Martis
faces;” Pers. 3.102; Mart. 8.43
, “Viximus insignes inter utramque facem.” )
An opportunity for the display of splendour was given by the funeral
procession, and was so largely used by families of wealth and position,
that we find sumptuary laws to regulate such expenses among the Tables
of the Decemviri (Cic. de Legg.
, 59) and the enactments of Sulla (Plut. Sull. 35
). The order of the funeral
procession was regulated by the designator
whose attendants were
dressed in black. Their being called “lictors” by Horace
appears to be only a joke (Ep.
1.7, 5, where Acron says,
“Designatores dicuntur qui ad Lucum Libitinae funeri
praestanti conducuntur ut defuncti cum honore efferantur” ).
The order in which the various parts of the procession came is
uncertain, but it is generally supposed that at the head of it were the
Ateius Capito ap.
), who made use of tubae
2.6, 6), tibiae
(Stat. Theb. 6.121
; Suet. Jul. 84
; Ov. Fast. 6.653
), and cornua
1.6, 44). The number of tibicines
was by the Twelve Tables limited to
ten (Cic. de Legg. 2.2.
, 59). Then followed (at any rate in earlier times) the mourning
women, called Praeficae
(Non. p. 66:
“Praeficae dicebantur apud veteres quae adhiberi solent funeri
mercede conductae ut et flerent et fortia facta laudarent,”
Hor. A. P.
431; Varr. L. L.
sang the naenia
a mournful song in praise of the dead man (Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 4
Varr. de Vita P. R.
lib. iv.). These Praeficae
are probably represented (before the funeral
procession, while the body is still lying in state) in an Etruscan
relief (Abeken, Mittelitalien,
pl. viii.), which is
reproduced in the woodcut below.
Then followed in some cases dancers and mimes (Dionys. A. R. 7.72
, εἶδον δὲ καὶ ἐν ἀνδρῶν ἐπισήμων ταφαῖς ἅμα
ταῖς ἄλλαις πομπαῖς προηγουμένους τῆς κλίνης τοὺς
χοροὺς κινουμένους τὴν σικίννην ὄρχησιν,
μάλιστα δ᾽ ἐν τοῖς τῶν εὐδαιμόνων κήδεσιν:
Suet. Jul. 84
The Praeficae. (From an Etruscan relief.)
), who were allowed, as in a
triumph, free licence of jesting. We learn from Suetonius
19) that it was the custom for the archimimus
to wear a mask in the likeness of the
deceased, to imitate his speech and manners, and even to make jests at
The most striking part of the procession was probably formed by the
We are told by Polybius
) that the imagines,
or wax masks representing distinguished
ancestors of the deceased, were brought out from their resting-place in
and each was worn by a man
chosen to resemble as nearly as possible the person whom he was supposed
to represent, and clothed in the dress of the office which the prototype
of the mask had held. Each rode upon a chariot, and was accompanied with
due pomp of lictors and other insignia of his office. Thus all the
distinguished ancestors of the dead man were present in effigy at his
funeral ( “semper defuncto aliquo totus aderat familiae ejus qui
unquam fuerat populus,”
Plin. Nat. 35.6
). If he was of good
birth, many families to which he was related were represented by their
), and the
actual number was sometimes very great. At the funeral of Marcellus
there are said to have been 600 (Serv. ad Acn.
Sometimes as a special honour spoils, crowns, and other records of
victories and triumphs were carried before the bier. This was done in
the case of Augustus (Tac. Ann. 1.8
D. C. 56.34
) and Coriolanus (Dionys. A. R. 8.59
). The procession
was also swelled by the slaves who were liberated by the will of the
deceased, all with shorn heads, wearing the pilleus
App. Mith. 2
; Cod. Just. 7
: “Sed et qui domini funus pileati antecedunt vel in ipso
lectulo stantes cadaver ventilare videntur, si hoc ex voluntate fiat
vel testatoris vel heredis, fiant ilico cives Romani” ). The
bier itself was sometimes carried by these liberated slaves (Pers.
The body was placed uncovered on a bier or couch (feretrum, torus
), which in great funerals was elaborately
decorated (Suet. Jul. 84
). In some cases,
probably when decay had begun to disfigure the features, the body was
placed in a coffin (capulus
), and a waxen
) was exposed to
view instead (Tac. Ann.
3.5; Sil. Ital.
; Appian, App. BC
; D. C. 56.34
4.2, 2). The bier was carried, as mentioned above, by liberated slaves,
by near relations (Velleius, 1.11; Plin.
, 85; V. Max.
; Hor. Sat.
2.5, 86), or, in the case of emperors, by
magistrates and senators (Suet. Jul. 84
100; Tac. Ann.
In the burial of the poor and of slaves of course all this pomp was
absent. Hired bearers (vespillones
) or four (ib. 8.75, 9) in number, carried the body in a
simple wooden coffin or bier, which was not buried with the body
Suet. Dom. 17
; orciniana sponda,
The relations of the deceased followed behind the bier, dressed in
mourning. The sons of the deceased had their heads veiled, while the
daughters went uncovered and with dishevelled hair (Plut. Quaest. Rom.
11). Mourning was shown by very
much the same signs as in modern times, viz. by the absence of adornment
and the wearing of black garments (Juv.
; Prop. 5.7
; Tac. Ann.
). Under the Emperors white seems
to have been substituted for black as the mourning colour for women
(Plut. Quaest. Rom.
26; Herodian, 4.2, 3;
Stat. Silv. 3.3
). The women were also in the habit of
crying aloud, tearing their hair and lacerating their cheeks in the
funeral procession itself (Prop. 3.13
; Serv. ad Aen.
, “Varro dicit mulieres in exsequiis et luctu ideo
solitas ora lacerare, ut sanguine ostenso inferis
In this order the funeral train proceeded to the forum. There it halted
before the rostra, the wearers of the imagines
took their seats upon curule chairs, and the
generally by a close relation of the deceased (Plb.
; Dionys. A. R.
; Plut. Luc. 43
; Hor. Sat.
1.6, 43); though in the case of a funus publicum
this function might be assigned by a senatusconsultum
to one of the magistrates
3.7, 2). Dionysius (l.c.
) expressly tells us that the laudatio
was entirely different from the ἔπαινος,
which in Greece was pronounced
over the grave of soldiers who had been killed in war; for the laudatio
was used in the case of all
distinguished men, whether soldiers or statesmen, and without regard to
the way in which they had died. The custom at Rome was very ancient. The
earliest instance recorded is the panegyric delivered by Publicola over
his colleague Brutus (B.C. 509); from that time onwards it is frequently
mentioned both in republican and imperial times, and there are traces of
it even after the introduction of Christianity. These funeral orations
were preserved (Cic. Brut. 16
) and sometimes published (Plut. Fab. 24
; Plin. Nat. 7.139
; Suet. Jul.
), but Cicero and Livy both point out that they were
untrustworthy as records of fact (Cic. Brut.
laudationibus historia rerum nostrarum est facta mendosior;”
“Vitiatam memoriam funebribus laudibus reor” ).
The honour of the laudatio
seems to have
been given by special decree or permission in each case, and not by any
defined qualification (Dionys. A. R.
; Tac. Ann. 3.76
). Women were
not excluded from it; though there was some uncertainty, even among the
ancients, as to the date at which the usage was first extended to them
8; Liv. 5.50
de Or. 2.1. 1
From the forum the procession moved on to the place of burning or burial,
which, according to a law of the Twelve Tables, was obliged to be
outside the city, though special exceptions were sometimes made (Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 3
burning and burial were in use among the Romans. Cicero (de
2.22, 56) and Pliny (Plin. Nat.
) both hold the view that burial was the more ancient
custom. Pliny further says that burning was introduced because it was
found that the bodies of those killed in distant countries and buried
there were dug up and scattered by the enemy. We may conjecture,
however, that the change was partly brought about by motives of health
and convenience. In certain families the practice of burial was kept up,
after burning had become general. Sulla was the first of the Cornelii to
be burnt. The reason, according to Cicero and Pliny, of the departure
from the custom of his family was, that he feared lest his own bones
should receive the same treatment as he had given to those of Marius. In
later times burning became far more common than burial, though the
latter was always used in the case of children who died before they had
cut their teeth ( “Hominem priusquam genito dente cremari mos
gentium non est,”
Plin. Nat. 7.72
; Juv. 15.140
), and in the case of those who had been struck
by lightning. [BIDENTAL
It seems also that persons of the poorest classes were always buried.
After the introduction of Christianity, and probably through its
influence, burial again came into use instead of burning. Sarcophagi,
which are rare in the first century
at Rome, become common in the third and fourth, and Macrobius (at the
end of the fourth cent.) says that burning was no longer in use in his
time ( “licet urendi corpora defunctorum usus nostro saeculo
nullus sit” ).
The view that burial was older than cremation is confirmed by some Roman
customs. According to Pontifical law, the essential part of the funeral
ceremony was the casting of earth upon the face of the corpse (Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 2
“priusquam in os injecta gleba est, locus ille ubi crematum
est corpus nihil habet religionis” ). Again, when a body was
to be burnt, it was the custom to cut off some portion of it, called
which was subsequently
buried (Fest. Epit.
p. 148, “Membrum abscidi mortuo
dicebatur, quum digitus ejus decidebatur, ad quod servatum justa
fierent, reliquo corpore combusto;”
Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 2
57; Varr. L. L.
5.23; Plut. Q. B.
79; Reinach and Pottier, La Nécropole de
p. 75). By this means the newer and more convenient
method was adopted, while the ancient regulation which prescribed burial
was still carried out.
The remaining, rites varied, according as the body was to be buried or
burnt. In the case of burial the body was placed in the grave either on
the bier on which it had been carried, or in a sarcophagus. Numerous
objects were also placed in the grave. (For an account of them [p. 1.893]
and of the different kinds of graves, see SEPULCRUM
) The ceremonies
which followed had the double object of making the grave a locus religiosus,
and of purifying the family
and house which had been defiled by the presence of a corpse. Earth was
thrown upon the face of the dead (Cic.
de Legg. 2.2. 2
, 57), a pig was sacrificed
(ib.), and an offering was made to the Lares (ib. 22, 55). The day on
which these sacrifices took place was called feriae
p. 70). A funeral
feast called silicernium
was also held,
apparently on the day of the funeral, and by the grave (Varr. ap. Non.
p. 48, 8). The period of mourning lasted nine days (novendiale
), though it is uncertain whether this period
was reckoned from the day of death or the day of burial (Serv. ad Aen. 5.64
; Porphyr. ad
17, 48; Apuleius,
9.30, 31). At the end of this period a sacrificium novendiale
was offered to the dead
), and a cena
was held (Tac. Ann.
The burning of a body sometimes took place at the spot where the ashes
were to be interred. In this case the funeral pile (rogus, pyra
) was erected over the trench which was
subsequently to be the grave (bustum
body, however, was often burnt at a place near the monument, specially
destined for this purpose, ustrinum,
p. 32). The pyre was built
of wood, in the form of an altar (Verg. A.
, and Servius in loc.
). A law of
the Twelve Tables ordered that it should not be smoothed with an axe (
“rogum ascia ne polito,”
Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 3
59). They were sometimes painted (Plin. Nat.
), the sides might be covered with dark leaves (Verg. A. 6.216
), and cypress-trees were
placed in front (Verg. l.c.;
Ov. Tr. 3.13
; Sil. Ital. 10.535
the top of the pile the corpse was placed, with the couch on which it
had been carried (Tib. 1.1
). Many things were placed on the pyre by the
relations and mourners, such as clothes, arms (Lucan 9.175
), ornaments, hunting nets and apparatus (see a
will preserved in an inscription, Wilmanns, 315), horses, dogs, birds
(Plin. Ep. 4.2
). It was also
sprinkled with perfumes, gums, and spices (Stat. Silv. 2.1
; Mart. 10.97
; Lucan 8.729
), though sumptuosa
was forbidden by the Twelve Tables (Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 4
The pyre was lighted by one of the relations, with face turned away
(Verg. A. 6.224
). When it was burnt
down, the glowing ashes were extinguished with water or wine (Verg. A. 6.226
; Stat. Silv. 2.6
; Plin. Nat. 14.12
). Those who had taken
part in the funeral uttered a last farewell (Verg. A. 2.644
, and Servius' notes) and departed, while the nearest
relations remained to collect the bones and ashes when they were dry.
This was probably done as a rule on the day of the funeral. The case of
Augustus (D. C. 56.42
) seems to have been
exceptional. The bones were sprinkled with wine (though it is not
certain that this sprinkling is to be separated from that mentioned
above), dried with a linen cloth, and placed in an urn or box with
perfumes and spices (for a description of the various kinds of
receptacle used, see SEPULCRUM
). Tibullus describes minutely this part of the funeral
(3.2, 19 ff. See also Or. Trist.
3.561). The urn was then placed
in the sepulchre [SEPULCRUM
It has already been mentioned that if the body was burnt, the os resectum
was buried separately. The
ceremonies of the feriae denicales
used, as in the case of the burial, including the throwing of earth upon
the remains of the dead (Cic. de
Legg. 2.2. 2
, 57). It does not appear at what moment
this was done; but the object of it was to consecrate the place of
burial, to make it a locus religiosus.
After the bones and ashes of the deceased had been placed in the urn,
the persons present were thrice sprinkled by a priest with pure water
from a branch of olive or laurel, for the purpose of purification (Verg. A. 6.229
; Serv. in loc.
); after which they were dismissed by the praefica
or some other person, by the solemn
that is, ire licet
). In the
case of burning the practices connected with the silicernium
and the novendiale
seem to have been the same as in the case of
burial (see above). When those who had accompanied the funeral returned
home, they underwent a purification called suffitio,
which consisted in being sprinkled with water and
stepping over a fire (Festus, p. 3, s. v. Aqua et
). It was then also perhaps that the house was swept
with a special kind of broom. ( “Nam exverrae sunt, purgatio
quaedam domus, ex qua mortuus ad sepulturam ferendus est, quae fit
per everriationem certo genere scoparum adhibito, ab extra verrendo
dictarum,” Festus, p. 58, s. v. Everriator.
In the case of important funerals, scenic or gladiatorial exhibitions
were often given. Gladiatorial combats were originally specially
appropriated to funerals, and the word munus
is used in a special sense for these exhibitions, as a
service due to the dead (Tertull. Spect.
in connexion with funerals are
frequently mentioned by Livy (Liv. Epit.
; 31.50; 39.46; 41.28)
and others Suet. Jul. 26
; Plin. Nat. 33.53
; Cic. pro Sest.
58, 124, &c.). Provision was
sometimes made for these shows in the will (C. I. L.
1.1190 = Wilmanns, 2037; Cic. in
, 37; pro
19, 54; Hor. Sat.
84). Scenic exhibitions were less common; but the Didascalia to the
of Terence tells us that that
play was performed at the ludi funebres
Aemilius Paullus (B.C. 160), and we are informed by Livy that ludi scenici
as well as gladiatorial combats
were exhibited at the death of T. Flamininus (B.C. 174). We also hear of
distributions of food (visceratio,
) and public banquets (Suet. Jul. 26
It remains to give some account of the annual rites performed at the
tombs in honour of the manes.
in February (13th-21st) were set apart as dies
The last of these days was specially known as feralia
(Ov. Fast. 2.569
Cic. Att. 8
). The ceremonies performed at this time are described by
Ovid (Ov. Fast. 2.533
to the Manes (inferiae
) were brought to the
tomb. These consisted of wine and milk (Verg. A.
), honey and oil (Wilmanns, 883=Orelli, 642), the
blood of victims, especially of black sheep, pigs and cattle (Verg. A. 3.67
; [p. 1.894]
Arnob. 7.20), various fruits,
bread, salt (Ovid, l.c.;
Plutarch, Plut. Crass. 19
), and eggs (Juv. 5.84
). The tomb was also adorned with
wreaths and flowers, especially roses and violets (Ov. l.c.;
Suet. Nero 57
; Verg. A. 5.79
; Tib. 2.6
&c.). A meal was also eaten at the grave (Cic. pro Flacco,
38, 95). A triclinium funebre,
intended apparently for this purpose,
was found at Pompeii and is represented
Funeral Triclinium at Pompeii.
in the accompanying woodcut. During the dies parentales
temples were shut and marriages forbidden
(Ov. Fast. 2.557
ff.), and the
magistrates laid aside the insignia of their office (Lydus, de Mens.
4.24). The terms parentare, parentatio,
were also applied to similar rites
performed on other days of the year, such as the day of birth, death, or
burial of the person to be honoured. Special days were also appropriated
to roses and violets (rosatio, rosaria, rosalia;
Plin. Nat. 21.11
, and frequently in
inscriptions: Wilmanns, Index,
p. 695; C. I.
2046, 2072, 2090, 2176, 2135, &c.; 6.9626, 10239,
(Kirchmann, De funeribus Romanorum,
4th English edit., pp.
505-523 = Becker-Göll, 3.481-547; Raoul-Rochette,
Troisième Mémoire sur les
Antiquités chrétiennes des Catacombes,
in Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions,
xiii., 1838, pp. 529-788; and especially Marquardt,
pp. 340-385.) [SEPULCRUM