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Ancient death customs in Europe

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Ancient Greece

The first rite was the toilet of the death. In the Iliad, Patroclus is firstly washed by his friend Achilles. Then came the exposure of the deceased on a bed. The body was oiling, and covered with a sheet. The mourners, professional lamentation, is scratched face before him, pulled the hair crying. Finally took place the funeral procession and the body was buried or cremated. Thus, we find in the text of the Iliad:

“Thus spake noble Achilles, and bade his comrades set a great tripod on the fire, that with all speed they might wash from Patroklos the bloody gore. So they set a tripod of ablution on the burning fire, and poured therein water and took wood and kindled it beneath; and the fire wrapped the belly of the tripod, and the water grew hot. And when the water boiled in the bright bronze, then washed they him and anointed with olive oil, and filled his wounds with fresh ointment, and laid him on a bier and covered him with soft cloth from head to foot, and thereover a white robe. Then all night around Achilles fleet of foot the Myrmidons made lament and moan for Patroklos.”

The unburied dead did not allow the deceased down to the Underworld, and he had to wander in Erebus. At that time, the death is considered a deliverance, an honor, if the rites are performed correctly. For example, it may be recalled sacrilege of the general Athenian victors in the battle of Arginusae punishable by death, executed for having failed to collect the dead and the survivors of the battle because of a storm – so some were not buried.

Ancient Rome

Diptych_Areobindus_Louvre_OA9525(An imago clipeata a diptych of Areobindus, consul in 506, the Louvre Museum.)

In ancient Rome, belonging to social class influences the auspicious rites. The rich are normally incinerated, the poorest, as the slaves, are buried in mass graves without ceremony. The rites have also changed with the abandonment of the Roman religion in favor of Oriental religions like Christianity. It is common for some men, whose emperors in worship Imperial are the subject of a cult after death.

Celts, Germans and Scandinavians

In Celtic Normandy and Gallo-Roman use was common to bury a person with a terracotta statuette of a mother goddess. Archaeologists have found dozens of these objects. The cult of the tree is particularly present during funerals. They bury their dead in the fetal position for the body to reparte inheaven in good condition.

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