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Roman funerals and burial: Wikis


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In Ancient Rome, important people of the time had elaborate funerals. The funerals themselves were part of a tradition from the early Roman Republic, whereby the achievements of the dead man were celebrated alongside those of his ancestors. Hired mourners were at the front of the procession. These mourners would wear the masks (imagines) of the dead's descendants who had served as magistrates. The emphasis of the funeral therefore, was put on the achievements of the dead. The body of the dead person was behind the mourners. A eulogy (praise for the dead person) was read during the procession. After the funeral, the body was buried or cremated (burnt). If the body was cremated, the ashes were put in a container and the container was buried. If a family did not have enough money to afford a proper funeral, they simply put the corpse in a casket and threw it in a creek where other poor dead people had been thrown. The Egyptian goddess Isis promised the Romans life after death, but this was a much later addition to the Roman belief system, and was not present during the Republican period.

During the first and second centuries AD, cremation was the most common burial practice in the Roman Empire. Ultimately, inhumation would replace cremation; a variety of factors, including the rise of Christianity among Romans and changes in attitudes to the afterlife, would contribute to this marked shift in popular burial practices.

Also, coins would be placed in the mouth to ensure a safe journey to the underworld. This was, so we are informed by several ancient sources, most notably Virgil in Aeneid Book 6, to pay the boatman Charon, to take them across the river Styx into the underworld itself. There would be food and drink offerings to the dead, for it was thought that the dead could affect the living. Festivals would be held for important members of the family.

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