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Ancient Greek funeral and burial practices

The lying in state of a body (prothesis) attended by family members, with the wo men ritually tearing their hair, depicted on a terracotta pinax by the Gela Pain ter, latter 6th century BC Funerary and burial practices in ancient Greece are attested widely in ancient G reek literature, the archaeological record of ancient Greece, and in Greek art. Finds associated with burials are an important source for ancient Greek culture, though Greek funerals are not as well documented as those of the ancient Romans .[1] Contents [hide] 1 Mycenaean period 2 Archaic and Classical Greece 2.1 Funeral rites 2.2 Scenes from funerary steles 3 Commemoration and afterlife 4 See also 5 References Mycenaean period[edit source | editbeta] During the Mycenaean period (1400 1200 BC), burial practices for the aristocrats o f the community were highly ritualized; less is known about how ordinary people buried their dead.[2] The body of the deceased was prepared to lie in state, fol lowed by a procession to the resting place, either a single grave or a family to mb. Processions and ritual laments are depicted on burial chests (larnakes) from Tanagra. Grave goods such as jewelry, weapons, and vessels were arranged around the body on the floor of the tomb. Graveside rituals probably included libation s and a meal, since food and broken cups are also found at tombs. A tomb at Mara thon contained the remains of horses that may have been sacrificed at the site a fter drawing the funeral cart there. The Mycenaeans seems to have practiced seco ndary burial, when the deceased and associated grave goods were rearranged in th e tomb to make room for new burials. Until about 1100 BC, group burials in chamb er tombs predominated among Bronze Age Greeks.[3] Mycenaean cemeteries were located near population centers, with single graves fo r people of modest means and chamber tombs for elite families. The tholos is cha racteristic of Mycenaean elite tomb construction. The royal burials uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1874 remain the most famous of the Mycenaean tombs. WIth grave goods indicating they were in use from about 1550 to 1500 BC, these were enclosed by walls almost two and a half centuries later an indication that these a ncestral dead continued to be honored. An exemplary stele depicting a man drivin g a chariot suggests the esteem in which physical prowess was held in this cultu re. Later Greeks thought of the Mycenaean period as an age of heroes, as represented in the Homeric epics. Greek hero cult centered on tombs. Archaic and Classical Greece[edit source | editbeta]

Funeral monuments from the Kerameikos cemetery at Athens After 1100 BC, Greeks began to bury their dead in individual graves rather than group tombs. Athens, however, was a major exception; the Athenians normally crem ated their dead and placed their ashes in an urn.[4] During the early Archaic pe riod, Greek cemeteries became larger, but grave goods decreased. This greater si mplicity in burial coincided with the rise of democracy and the egalitarian mili tary of the hoplite phalanx, and became pronounced during the early Classical pe riod (5th century BC).[4] During the 4th century, the decline of democracy and t he return of aristocratic dominance was accompanied by more magnificent tombs th at announced the occupants' status most notably, the vaulted tombs of the Macedoni

ans, with painted walls and rich grave goods, the best example of which is the t omb at Vergina thought to belong to Philip II of Macedon.[4] Woman tending a tomb memorial (lekythos, 420 410 BC) Funeral rites[edit source | editbeta] The Hirschfeld Krater, mid-8th century BC, from the late Geometric period of Gre ek pottery, depicting ekphora. National Archaeological Museum, Athens. A dying person might prepare by arranging future care for the children, praying, and assembling family members for a farewell.[5] Many funerary steles show the deceased, usually sitting or sometimes standing, clasping the hand of a standing survivor, often the spouse. When a third onlooker is present, the figure may be their adult child. Women played a major role in funeral rites. They were in charge of preparing the body, which was washed, anointed and adorned with a wreath. The mouth was somet imes sealed with a token or talisman, referred to as "Charon's obol" if a coin w as used, and explained as payment for the ferryman of the dead to convey the sou l from the world of the living to the world of the dead.[6] Initiates into myste ry religions might be furnished with a gold tablet, sometimes placed on the lips or otherwise positioned with the body, that offered instructions for navigating the afterlife and addressing the rulers of the underworld, Plouton and Persepho ne; the German term Totenpass, "passport for the dead," is sometimes used in mod ern scholarship for these. After the body was prepared, it was laid out for viewing on the second day. Kins women, wrapped in dark robes, stood round the bier, the chief mourner, either mo ther or wife, was at the head, and others behind. [7]This part of the funeral ri tes was called the prothesis. Women led the mourning by chanting dirges, tearing at their hair and clothing, and striking their torso, particularly their breast s.[6] This excessive grief was but a species of empty pageantry that must be reg arded as a necessary form than as a genuine expression of woe.[8] The Prthesis ma y have previously been an outdoor ceremony, but a law later passed by Solon decr eed that the ceremony take place outdoors.[9] Before dawn on the third day, the funeral procession (ekphora) formed to carry the body to its resting place.[10] At the time of the funeral, offerings were made to the deceased by only a relati ve. The choai, or libation, and the haimacouria, or blood propitiation were two types of offerings. The mourner first dedicated a lock of hair, along with choai , which were libations of honey, milk, water, wine, perfumes, and oils mixed in varying amounts. A prayer then followed these libations. Then came the enagismat a, which were offerings to the dead that included milk, honey, water, wine, cele ry, pelanon (a mixture of meal, honey, and oil) and kollyba (the first fruits of the crops and dried fresh fruits). [11] Once the burial was complete, the house and household objects were thoroughly cleansed with seawater and hyssop, and th e women most closely related to the dead took part in the ritual washing in clea n water. Afterwards, there was a funeral feast called the perideipnom. The dead man was the host, and this feast was a sign of gratitude towards those who took part in burying him. Scenes from funerary steles[edit source | editbeta] Athenian shoemaker (430 420 BC)

Mother handing infant into a nurse's care (425 400 BC)

With horse (370s BC)

Farewell handshake (350 325 BC)

Military theme (late 4th century BC)

Child holding doll and bird, with goose (310 BC)

Presentation of wreaths (Bithynian, 150 100 BC) Commemoration and afterlife[edit source | editbeta]

Inscribed gold tablet addressing Mnemosyne ("Memory"), from a necropolis in Hipp onion (4th century BC) Although the Greeks developed an elaborate mythology of the underworld, its topo graphy and inhabitants, they and the Romans were unusual in lacking myths that e xplained how death and rituals for the dead came to exist. The ruler of the unde rworld was not the embodiment of death, and the personification of death, Thanat os, was a relatively minor figure.[12] Performing the correct rituals for the dead was essential, however, for assuring their successful passage into the afterlife, and unhappy revenants could be pro voked by failures of the living to attend properly to either the rite of passage or continued maintenance through graveside libations and offerings, including h air clippings from the closest survivors. The dead were commemorated at certain times of the year, such as Genesia.[13] Exceptional individuals might continue t o receive cult maintenance in perpetuity as heroes, but most individuals faded a fter a few generations into the collective dead, in some areas of Greece referre d to as "thrice-ancestors" (tritopatores), who also had annual festivals devoted to them.[13] See also[edit source | editbeta] Funeral oration (ancient Greece) Greek underworld Kerameikos, site of an extensive cemetery at Athens Lekythos, a type of vessel holding oils or liquids often used in connection with death rites Roman funerals and burial References