Funerary Practices Essay

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Funerary practices have always been a part of the human history. The undeniable inevitability of death has forced societies for centuries to learn how to cope with its eventuality and role in life. Therefore, many cultures ways of dealing with death and their rituals and beliefs surrounding it, vary widely across the world. Through often being the product of religious beliefs, these funerary practices give us an insight into a culture’s way of life life. A prime example of this can be seen through the analysis of the Ancient Greeks, a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity 600 AD. Immediately following this period was the beginning …show more content…
The deceased was then prepared for burial according to the time-honored rituals. Ancient literary sources emphasize the necessity of a proper burial and refer to the omission of burial rites as an insult to human dignity (Iliad, 23.71). Relatives of the deceased, primarily women, conducted the elaborate burial rituals that were customarily of three parts: First came the ‘laying out’ of the corpse, or prothesis, during which the women would wash the body, anoint it, dress it by wrapping it in cloth, and lay it on a bier for the family to perform the traditional lament and pay their last respects (Kurtz and Boardman 1971:144; Garland 2001:23–31). Once coinage became widespread, in the sixth century and later, a coin was placed in the mouth or hand of the deceased to symbolize payment for Charon, the mythological ferryman who rowed the dead across the river Styx, the final boundary between the living and the dead. After the prothesis, which lasted one day, the body would then be transferred at night to its burial site in a formal but quiet procession, the ekphora or ‘carrying out’ of the body, accompanied by mourners and torches. At the cremation or burial site the family would make offerings of food, wine, olive oil, and various household possessions – such as weapons for the men or jewelry for the women – burning or burying them with the body, the idea being that the dead person might have use for these items in the afterlife. The funeral would end with a family banquet in honor of the dead, the perideipnon, or ‘‘feast around,’’ though the banquet was held not at the gravesite but back at the family home. The funeral feast usually involved animal sacrifices. This sequence of ceremonies had its origins at least as far back as the Bronze Age, and as far as literary and archaeological evidence admits, the rituals changed little over the

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