Lokesh & Hee Jun Roman Funerals

Hee Jun: The first step of a Roman Funeral was the procession. This was marked by the movement of bodies, and the crowd of people following the said body. The wealthy would have many musicians and mimes playing for them, while the poor would only have a few flutes or stringed instruments playing music. The Romans were very dramatic. They would often hire professional mourners to participate in the procession. These mourners (often women) would wail loudly, rip out their hair, and claw their own faces. The more mourners at the funeral, the wealthier the family of the deceased individual was.

Lokesh: Actors with imagines (ancestral masks) formed the next part of procession. The actors would dress up as the deceased’s ancestors and attempt to mimic their characteristics. The Romans were huge on ancestral worship because they held a strong belief about afterlife following death. This was essentially to “help” the deceased have a good time in the afterlife. Once the procession is over, it is followed by either Cremation or Burial. For a cremation, the body would be taken to the necropolis and put on a funeral pyre. It was then burned, and the ashes were put into a funerary urn.  It was believed that until the body was burned, its spirit wouldn’t have crossed the River Styx yet (river that takes one from the world of the live to that of the dead). Thus, there was a sense that the psychic impression of the deceased still lingered around friends and family, and the spirit would become angered if anything negative was said about it. Following Cremation/Burial, there is a Eulogy.

Hee Jun: If the person who died ever did something to benefit his/her family or made a change in Rome, the family would offer a Eulogy at the funeral. Following the Eulogy, there would always be a feast. This was the final stage of the funeral. Past this, the dead would be “free to move onto the underworld” and the family would be able to move along. Once the body was buried or cremated, the deceased still had to be remembered. The Romans set apart certain days each year to remember loved ones, including the Parentalia (held from February 13 to 21) to honor the family’s ancestors. Individual families had personal days for commemorating the deceased, as well.

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