Robert Garland's The Greek Way Of Death

Robert Garland opens The Greek Way of Death by noting to readers that the way humans today hold death rituals might one day be found and considered very odd. Garland then reminds us that our feelings about death largely remains the same. In drawing this tie between the two civilizations, readers are reminded that while these Greek practices might seem weird, they were very real and important to the Ancient Greeks. In The Greek Way of Death, Robert Garland discusses death starting with an individual’s sickness to visiting their gravesite years after they have passed; he highlights the importance of familial bonds and how Greeks honored those ties even after death.

In the first chapter, ‘The Power and Status of the Dead,’ Garland describes
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Irregular, monthly, and annual visits were almost as important as the funeral itself. During these visits, food was burned and drinks were poured to the underworld, tombs were decorated with ribbons and bows, flowers, and locks of hair, and other offerings were performed by the nearest relative. The dead could sense who was at the gravesite, so the visits consisted mainly of close friends and family. Another common practice was tending to a stêlê (or statue of a deceased person); the stêlês were oiled, perfumed, decorated and fed to show devotion and care for the dead. Animal sacrifices of mainly sheep and oxen could also take place at visits. The Greeks had larger, annual festivals to remember the dead such as Genesia or “an Athenian festival of mourning”. These frequent and elaborate visits show the importance of visiting one’s grave often.

Garland concludes the book by discussing how the Ancient Greek belief in afterlife was a way for people to be continuously reminded of their ties to their families and their undying bond. He continuously mentioned how important it was to honor the dead, and he continued to show this throughout the multiple rituals, ceremonies, and events he described. While the chapters were choppy and usually strayed from the topic, Garland’s knowledge on the afterlife is extensive and helps to answer even the smallest, nonessential

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