Romans Death Religion

Decent Essays

During the Republican period and Empire, Rome was a city that was constantly evolving and growing in size. As a result of the growing population came the problem of pollution. Pollution led the Roman Empire to establish rules and guidelines in handling the deceased in terms of the type of burial being used.1 This also led to changes in beliefs about the afterlife that could have been influenced by different cultural factors. Several scholars have argued that the Romans experienced a transition from cremation to inhumation, a change that has been linked to the rise of Christianity.2 However, I will argue that this transition was in fact due to philosophical-religious aspects dependent on social, political and economic factors. In this paper, …show more content…

The Romans' everyday routines explain how funerary customs played a central role in society from the late Republic to early Empire. More importantly, examining the rituals will illustrate if there was a connection to the increasing popularity of inhumation at that time. There was a blurred line between life and death that made it appear as if there was a paradoxical attitude towards death. The observation can be made that death was an end to a person's physical life on earth but it did not stop the deceased from being a part of the Roman society.7 Keeping the memory of the deceased alive was vital in family homes. For this to occur the dead could not be cremated; the funerary rites to follow would not allow it because the physical body was necessary. The idea of honoring the recently deceased as an ancestor was stressed in society.8 The funerals of Roman aristocrats were quite extravagant and the deceased aristocrats were treated as if they were still a part of the living. This wouldn't be possible with a cremated body, so another option was to properly clean the body for the display in the atrium of the family household before the final disposal of the …show more content…

The funerary procession began with the deceased’s body held in an upright position and the body should never be reclined at any point.10 It was also a necessary step for the deceased to play a role in his or her own funeral; a way to achieve this was through the use of masks, mimes and actors.11 This can be seen when Diodorus Siculus describes the lavish funeral of Lucius Aemilius Paullus in 160 BC, and how he was a participant in his own ceremony.12 This was achieved by using professional actors into the funeral. By doing so, Romans were able to bring the deceased back to life for a moment to commemorate the success they achieved in their lifetime. An aspect that was never overlooked to ensure this was the physical similarity between the actor and the deceased. This is demonstrated when Suentonis describes the funeral of emperor Vespasian; in his ceremony the hired actor not only shared physical similarities with the emperor but he was even able to imitate the supposedly stinginess the Emperor had.13 The use of hired actors in funerals did not have a direct effect on the change of burials but the tradition still held

Get Access
Get Access