The Ancient Library

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On this page: Burial (continued)



on their own gronnd, apart from the com­mon cemeteries. The body was generally buried with the feet turned towards the road. Monuments took the form of mounds, pilasters, columns, and flat grave-stones. We often find buildings in the style of temples, with very costly adornments, sculptures, and inscriptions in verse and prose. These inscriptions often give more than the name of the deceased, and con­tain notices of his life, sometimes with proverbs, sometimes with curses directed against any one violating the tomb and disturbing the rest of its occupants. The violation of a tomb, which was regarded with reverence as a consecrated spot, was a serious offence. One of the most aggra­vated forms of it was the intrusion into the family sepulchre of a body which had no right to be there.

(2) Roman. The worship of the dead among the Romans had, characteristically enough, a legal tinge, and formed a part of the pontifical law, which regulated the place and manner of the interment. The theory of the Romans, like that of the Greeks, was that there was an obligation to bury every dead body, except those of felons, suicides, and persons struck by light­ning. Any one finding a corpse was ex­pected at least to throw some earth upon it as a symbol of burial. The first duty of a man's survivors was to bury his body; if he died in a foreign country, the act had to be performed symbolically. If this duty was neglected, the offender incurred a taint of guilt from which he had to purify himself by an annually repeated atonement. After death the eyes and mouth were closed, the body bathed in hot water and then anointed, fully dressed, and adorned with the fitting insignia in case of the deceased having held high office. The corpse was then laid <Mit on a state-bed in the atrium, the feet turned towards the door. Near the bed were pans with burning odours, while in the vestlbulum branches of pine and cypress were put up as signs of mourning. The custom of putting a coin in the mouth is not mentioned in literature before the im­perial period; but the relics found in tombs show that it is much older. It was, how­ever, only under the Empire that it became general.

In ancient times funerals took place after nightfall and by torchlight; and this was always the case with second burials, and if the deceased was a child, or a person of slender means. Hence the use of torches j

was never discontinued, even when the ceremony took place by day. It was held indispensable at every funeral, and became, in fact, the symbol of burial. The usual time at which funerals took place among the upper classes was the forenoon of the eighth day after death. In the laws of the Twelve Tables an attempt was made to check excess in funeral expenses, but with as little success as attended later enactments. If the funeral was one of unusual ceremony, the citizens were publicly invited by a herald to attend it. The arrangements were entrusted to a special functionary, who was assisted by lictors. The proces­sion was headed by a band of wind instru­ments, the number of which was limited by the Twelve Tables to ten. In ancient times, and at least down to the Punic wars, thesemusicians were followed by professional female singers, chanting the praises of the dead (see nenia). Then came a company of dancers and actors to amuse the specta­tors with their antics. Supposing the family was honorata, in other words, had it had one or more members who had held curule offices, and the consequent right of setting up masked statues of its forefathers in its house, the central point of the cere­mony was the procession of ancestors. This consisted of persons dressed to represent the ancestors in their wax masks, their official robes, and other insignia. The in­direct lines of relationship were represented as well as the direct, Each figure was mounted on a high carriage and preceded by lictors. The train included memorials of the deeds done by the deceased, torch-bearers, and lictors with lowered fasces.

The body followed, uncovered, on an ele­vated couch; sometimes in a coffin inside the bier. A wooden figure, clothed, and wear­ing the wax mask representing the dead, sat upright beside it in the attitude of life. The bearers were usually the sons, relations and friends of the deceased; in the case of emperors, they were senators and high officials. Behind the bier came the other mourners, men and women, the freedmen in mourning and without any ornaments. Ar­rived at the Forum, the bier was set down before the rostrum. The representatives of the ancestors sat down on wooden chairs ; the rest arranged themselves in a circle round, while a son or kinsman ascended the rostrum and delivered a panegyric upon the dead. If the funeral was a public one, the orator was appointed by the senate. In the case of deceased ladies such speeches were

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