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Bill Thayer

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 p558  Funus

The Roman section only (pp558‑562)
of an unsigned article on pp554‑562 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.


[. . .]

2. Roman. When a Roman was at the point of death, his nearest relation present endeavoured to catch the last breath with his mouth (Virg. Aen. IV.684; Cic. Verr. V.45). The ring was taken off the finger of the dying person (Suet. Tib. 73); and as soon as he was dead his eyes and mouth were closed by the nearest relation (Virg. Aen. IX.487; Lucan, III.740, who called upon the deceased by name (inclamare, conclamare), exclaiming have or vale (Ovid, Trist. III.3.43, Met. X.62, Fast. IV.852; Catull. ci.10). The corpse was then washed, and anointed with oil and perfumes by slaves, called Pollinctores, who belonged to the Libitinarii, or undertakers, called by the Greeks νεκροθάπται (Dig. 14 tit. 3 s5 § 8). The Libitinarii appear to have been so called because they dwelt near the temple of Venus Libitina, where all things requisite for funerals were sold (Senec. de Benef. VI.38; Plut. Quaest. Rom. 23; Liv. XLI.21; Plut. Num. 12). Hence we find the expressions vitare Libitinam and evadere Libitinam used in the sense of escaping death (Hor. Carm. III.30.6; Juv. XII.122). At this temple an account (ratio, ephemeris) was kept of those who died, and a small sum was paid for the registration of their names (Suet. Ner. 39; Dionys. Ant. Rom. IV.15).

A small coin was then placed in the mouth of the corpse, in order to pay the ferryman in Hades (Juv. III.267), and the body was laid out on a couch in the vestibule of the house, with its feet towards the door, and dressed in the best robe which the deceased had worn when alive. Ordinary citizens were dressed in a white toga, and magistrates in their official robes (Juv. Sat. III.172; Liv. XXXIV.7; Suet. Ner. 50). If the deceased had received a crown while alive as a reward for his bravery, it was now placed on his head (Cic. de Leg. II.24) and the couch on which he was laid was sometimes covered with leaves and flowers. A branch of cypress was also usually placed at the door of the house, if he was a person of consequence (Lucan III.442; Hor. Carm. II.14.23).

Funerals were usually called funera justa or exsequiae; the latter term was generally applied to the funeral procession (pompa funebris). There were two kinds of funerals, public and private; of which the former was called funus publicum (Tacit. Ann. VI.11) or indictivum, because the people were invited to it by a herald (Festus, s.v.; Cic. de Leg. II.24); the latter funus tacitum (Ovid, Trist. I.3.22), translatitium (Suet. Ner. 33), or plebeium. A person appears to have usually left a certain sum of money in his will to pay the expenses of his funeral; but if he did not do so, nor appoint any one to bury him, this duty devolved upon the persons to whom the property was left, and if he died without a will, upon his relations according to their order of succession to the property (Dig. 11 tit. 7 s12). The expenses of the funeral were in such cases decided by an arbiter according to the property and rank of the deceased (Dig. l.c.), whence arbitria is used to signify the funeral expenses (Cic. pro Domo, 37, post Red. in Sen. 7, in Pis. 9). The following description of the mode in which a funeral was conducted applies strictly only to the funerals of the great; the same pomp and ceremony could not of course be observed in the case of persons in ordinary circumstances.

All funerals in ancient times were performed at night (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. XI.143; Isidor. XI.2, XX.10), but afterwards the poor only were buried at night, because they could not afford to have any funeral procession (Festus, s.v. Vespae; Suet. Dom. 17; Dionys. IV.40). The corpse was usually carried out of the house (efferebatur) on the eighth day after death (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. V.64). The order of the funeral procession was regulated by a person called Designator or Dominus Funeris, who was attended by lictors dressed in black (Donat. ad Ter. Adelph. I.2.7; Cic. de Leg. II.24; Hor. Ep. I.7.6). It was headed by musicians of various kinds (cornicines, siticines), who played mournful strains (Cic. Ibid. II.23; Gell. XX.2), and next came mourning women, called Praeficae (Festus, s.v.), who were hired to lament and sing  p559 the funeral song (naenia or lessus) in praise of the deceased. These were sometimes followed by players and buffoons (scurrae, histriones), of whom one, called Archimimus, represented the character of the deceased, and imitated his words and actions (Suet. Vesp. 19). Then came the slaves whom the deceased had liberated, wearing the cap of liberty (pileati); the number of whom was occasionally very great, since a master sometimes liberated all his slaves, in his will, in order to add to the pomp of his funeral (Dionys. IV.24; compare Liv. XXXVIII.55). Before the corpse persons walked wearing waxen masks [Imago], representing the ancestors of the deceased, and clothed in the official dresses of those whom they represented (Polyb. VI.53; Plin. H. N. XXXV.2); and there were also carried before the corpse the crowns or military rewards which the deceased had gained (Cic. de Leg. II.24).

The corpse was carried on a couch (lectica), to which the name of Feretrum (Varro, de Ling. Lat. V.166) or Capulus (Festus, s.v.) was usually given; but the bodies of poor citizens and of slaves were carried on a common kind of bier or coffin, called Sandapila (Mart. II.81, VIII.75.14; Juv. VIII.175; vilis arca, Hor. Sat. I.8.9). The Sandapila was carried by bearers, called Vespae or Vespillones (Suet. Dom. 17; Mart. I.31.48), because, according to Festus (s.v.), they carried out the corpses in the evening (vespertino tempore). The couches on which the corpses of the rich were carried were sometimes made of ivory, and covered with gold and purple (Suet. Jul. 84). They were often carried on the shoulders of the nearest relations of the deceased (Valer. Max. VII.1 §1; Hor. Sat. II.8.), and sometimes on those of his freedmen (Pers. III.106). Julius Caesar was carried by the magistrates (Suet. Jul. 84), and Augustus by the senators (Id. Aug. 100; Tacit. Ann. I.8).

The relations of the deceased walked behind the corpse in mourning; his sons with their heads veiled, and his daughters with their heads bare and their hair dishevelled, contrary to the usual practice of both (Plut. Quaest. Rom. 14). They often uttered loud lamentations, and the women beat their breasts and tore their cheeks, though this was forbidden by the Twelve Tables (Mulieres genas ne radunto, Cic. de Leg. II.23). If the deceased was of illustrious rank, the funeral procession went through the forum (Dionys. IV.40), and stopped before the rostra, where a funeral oration (laudatio) in praise of the deceased was delivered (Dionys. V.17; Cic. pro Mil. 13, de Orat. II.84; Suet. Jul. 84, Suet. Aug. 100). This practice was of great antiquity among the Romans, and is said by some writers to have been first introduced by Publicola, who pronounced a funeral oration in honour of his colleague Brutus (Plut. Public. 9; Dionys. V.17). Women also were honoured by funeral orations (Cic. de Orat. II.11; Suet. Jul. 26, Suet. Cal. 10). From the forum the corpse was carried to the place of burning or burial, which, according to a law of the Twelve Tables, was obliged to be outside the city (Cic. de Leg. II.23).

The Romans in the most ancient times buried their dead (Plin. H. N. VII.55), though they also early adopted, to some extent, the custom of burning, which is mentioned in the Twelve Tables (Cic. l.c.). Burning, however, does not appear to have become general till the later times of the republic; Marius was buried, and Sulla was the first of the Cornelian gens whose body was burned (Cic. ib. II.22). Under the empire burning was almost universally practised, but was gradually discontinued as Christianity spread (Minuc. Felix, p327, ed. Ouzel. 1672), so that it had fallen into disuse in the fourth century (Macrob. VII.7). Persons struck by lightning were not burnt, but buried on the spot, which was called Bidental, and was considered sacred [Bidental.] Children also, who had not cut their teeth, were not burnt, but buried in a place called Suggrundarium (Plin. H. N. VII.; Juv. XV.140; Fulgent. de prisc. Serm. 7). Those who were buried were placed in a coffin (arca or loculus), which was frequently made of stone (Valer. Max. I.1 §12; Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Ill. 42), and sometimes of the Assian stone, which came from Assos in Troas, and which consumed all the body, with the exception of the teeth, in 40 days (Plin. H. N. II.98, XXXVI.27), whence it was called Sarcophagus. This name was in course of time applied to any kind of coffin or tomb (Juv. X.172; Dig. 34 tit. 1 s18 § 5; Orelli, Inscr. No. 194, 4432, 4554).

The corpse was burnt on a pile of wood (pyra or rogus). Servius (ad Virg. Aen. XI.185) thus defines the difference between pyra and rogus, "Pyra est lignorum congeries; rogus, cum jam ardere coeperit, dicitur." This pile was built in the form of an altar, with four equal sides, whence we find it called ara sepulcri (Virg. Aen. VI.177) and funeris ara (Ovid, Trist. III.13.21). The sides of the pile were, according to the Twelve Tables, to be left rough and unpolished (Cic. de Leg. II.23); but were frequently covered with dark leaves (Virg. Aen. VI.215). Cypress trees were sometimes placed before the pile (Virg., Ovid, l.c.; Sil. Ital. X.535). On the top of the pile the corpse was placed, with the couch on which it had been carried (Tibull. I.1.61), and the nearest relation then set fire to the pile with his face turned away [Fax.] When the flames began to rise, various perfumes were thrown into the fire (called by Cicero (l.c.) sumptuosa respersio), though this practice was forbidden by the Twelve Tables; cups of oil, ornaments, clothes, dishes of food, and other things, which were supposed to be agreeable to the deceased, were also thrown upon the flames (Virg. Aen. VI.225; Stat. Theb. VI.126; Lucan, IX.175).

The place where a person was burnt was called Bustum, if he was afterwards buried on the same spot, and Ustrina or Ustrinum if he was buried at a different place (Festus, s.v. bustum).​a Persons of property frequently set apart a space, surrounded by a wall, near their sepulchres, for the purpose of burning the dead; but those who could not afford the space appear to have sometimes placed the funeral pyres against the monuments of others, which was frequently forbidden in inscriptions on monuments (Huic monumento ustrinum applicari non licet, Gruter, 755.4, 656.3; Orelli, 4384, 4385).

If the deceased was an emperor, or an illustrious general, the soldiers marched (decurrebant) three times around the pile (Virg. Aen. XI.188; Tacit. Ann. II.7), which custom was observed annually at a monument built by the soldiers in honour of Drusus (Suet. Claud. 1). Sometimes animals were slaughtered at the pile, and in ancient times captives and slaves, since the Manes were supposed to be fond of blood; but afterwards gladiators,  p560 called Bustuarii, were hired to fight round the burning pile (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. X.519; comp. Hor. Sat. I.3.85).

When the pile was burnt down, the embers were soaked with wine, and the bones and ashes of the deceased were gathered by the nearest relatives (Virg. Aen. VI.226‑228; Tibull. I.3.6, III.2.10; Suet. Aug. 100), who sprinkled them with perfumes, and placed them in a vessel called urna (Ovid, Ann. III.9.39; feralis urna, Tacit. Ann. III.1), which was made of various materials, according to the circumstances of individuals. Most of the funeral urns in the British Museum are made of marble, alabaster, or baked clay. They are of various shapes, but most commonly square or round; and upon them there is usually an inscription or epitaph (titulus or epitaphium), beginning with the letters D. M. S. or only D. M., that is, Dis Manibus Sacrum, followed by the name of the deceased, with the length of his life, &c., and also by the name of the person who had the urn made.​b The following examples, taken from urns in the British Museum, will give a general knowledge of such inscriptions. The first is to Serullia Zosimenes, who lived 26 years, and is dedicated by her son Prosdecius;​c

D. M.
Servlliae Zosimeni
Qvae vixit ann XXVI.
Bene meren. fecit
Prosdecivs Filivs

The next is an inscription to Licinius Successus, who lived 13 years one month and 19 days, by his most unhappy parents, Comicus and Auriola; —

Dis. Man.
Comicvs. et
Avriola. Parentes
Licinio Svccesso.
v. a. XIII. m. I. d. XIX.

The following woodcut is a representation of a sepulchral urn in the British Museum. It is of an upright rectangular form, richly ornamented with foliage, and supported at the sides by pilasters. It is erected to the memory of Cossutia Prima. Its height is twenty-one inches, and its width, at the base, fourteen six-eighths. Below the inscription an infant genius is represented driving a car drawn by four horses.

[image ALT: An inscribed Roman funerary altar.]
Transcribed and expanded:



Dis Manibus


To the Shades of the Dead
in memory of Cossutia
his mother
most beloved
who well deserved [such a monument]
[her child, unnamed] made [this].

If you are interested in Roman tombstones, there are good photographs of several onsite, with transcriptions, translations, commentary, etc.: here.

After the bones and ashes of the deceased had been placed in the urn, the persons present were thrice sprinkled by a priest with pure water from a branch of olive or laurel for the purpose of purification (Virg. Aen. VI.229; Serv. ad loc.); after which they were dismissed by the praefica, or some other person, by the solemn word Ilicet, that is, ire licet (Serv. l.c.). At their departure they were accustomed to bid farewell to the deceased by pronouncing the word Vale (Serv. l.c.).

The urns were placed in sepulchres, which, as already stated, were outside the city, though in a few cases we read of the dead being buried within the city. Thus Valerius, Publicola, Tubertus, and Fabricius were buried in the city; which right their descendants also possessed, but did not use (Cic. de Leg. II.23). The vestal virgins and the emperors were buried in the city, according to Servius (ad Virg. Aen. XI.205), because they were not bound by the laws. By a rescript of Hadrian, those who buried a person in the city were liable to a penalty of 40 aurei, which was to be paid to the fiscus; and the spot where the burial had taken place was confiscated (Dig. 47 tit. 12 s3 § 5). The practice was also forbidden by Antoninus Pius (Capitol. Anton. Pius, 12), and Theodosius II (Cod. Theod. 9 tit. 17 s6).

The verb sepelire, like the Greek θάπτειν, was applied to every mode of disposing of the dead (Plin. H. N. VII.55); and sepulcrum signified any kind of tomb in which the body or bones of a man were placed (Sepulcrum est, ubi corpus ossave hominis condita sunt, Dig. 11 tit. 7 s2 § 5; compare 47 tit. 12 s3 § 2). The term humare was originally used for burial in the earth (Plin. l.c.), but was afterwards applied like sepelire to any mode of disposing of the dead; since it appears to have been the custom, after the body was burnt, to throw some earth upon the bones (Cic. de Leg. II.23).

The places for burial were either public or private. The public places of burial were of two kinds; one for illustrious citizens, who were buried at the public expense, and the other for poor citizens, who could not afford to purchase ground for the purpose. The former was in the Campus Martius, which was ornamented with the tombs of the illustrious dead, and in the Campus Esquilinus (Cic. Phil. IX.7); the latter was also in the Campus Esquilinus, and consisted of small pits or caverns, called puticuli or puticulae (Varr. de Ling. Lat. V.25 ed. Müller; Festus, s.v.; Hor. Sat. I.8.10); but as this place rendered the neighbourhood unhealthy, it was given to Maecenas, who converted it into gardens, and built a magnificent house upon it. Private places for burial were usually by the sides of the roads leading to Rome; and on some of these roads, such as the Via Appia, the tombs formed an almost uninterrupted street for many miles from the gates of the city. They were frequently built by individuals during their life-time (Senec. de Brev. Vit. 20); thus Augustus, in his sixth consul­ship, built the Mausoleum for his sepulchre between the Via  p561 Flaminia and the Tiber, and planted round it woods and walks for public use (Suet. Aug. 100). The heirs were often ordered by the will of the deceased to build a tomb for him (Hor. Sat. II.3.84; Plin. Ep. VI.10); and they sometimes did it at their own expense (de suo), which is not unfrequently recorded in the inscription on funeral monuments,​d as in the following example taken from an urn in the British Museum:—

Diis Manibus
L. Lepidi Epaphrae
Patris Optimi
L. Lepidivs
Maximvs F.
De Svo.

Sepulchres were originally called custa (Festus, s.v. Sepulchrum), but this word was afterwards employed in the manner mentioned above (p559, b). Sepulchres were also frequently called Monumenta (Cic. ad Fam. IV.12 §3; Ovid, Met. XIII.524), but this term was also applied to a monument erected to the memory of a person in a different place from where he was buried (Festus, s.v.; Cic. pro Sext. 67; comp. Dig. 11 tit. 8). Conditoria or conditiva were sepulchres under ground, in which dead bodies were placed entire, in contradistinction to those sepulchres which contained the bones and ashes only. They answered to the Greek ὑπόγειον or ὑπόγαιον.

The tombs of the rich were commonly built of marble, and the ground enclosed with an iron railing or wall, and planted round with trees (Cic. ad Fam. IV.12 §3; Tibull. III.2.22; Suet. Ner. 33, 50; Martial, I.89). The extent of the burying ground was marked by Cippi [Cippus]. The name of Mausoleum, which was originally the name of the magnificent sepulchre erected by Artemisia to the memory of Mausolus king of Caria (Plin. H. N. XXXVI.4 §9, XXXV.49; Gell. X.18), was sometimes given to any splendid tomb (Suet. Aug. 100; Paus. VIII.16 §3). The open space before a sepulchre was called forum [Forum], and neither this space nor the sepulchre itself could become the property of a person by usucapion (Cic. de Leg. II.24).

Private tombs were either built by an individual for himself and the members of his family (sepulcra familiaria), or for himself and his heirs (sepulcra hereditaria, Dig. 11 tit. 7 s5). A tomb, which was fitted up with niches to receive the funeral urns, was called columbarium, on account of the resemblance of these niches to the holes of a pigeon-house. In these tombs the ashes of the freedmen and slaves of the great families were frequently placed in vessels made of baked clay, called ollae, which were let into the thickness of the wall within these niches, the lids only being seen, and the inscriptions placed in front. Several of these columbaria are still to be seen at Rome.​e One of the most perfect of them, which was discovered in the year 1822, at the villa Rufini, about two miles beyond the Porta Pia, is represented in the annexed woodcut.

[image ALT: An engraving of a rectangular space, open to the sky and partly overgrown by trees. It is walled on three sides, and the walls are carved with dozens of semi-circular niches: it is a Roman columbarium in the northern suburbs of Rome.]

Tombs were of various sizes and forms, according to the wealth and taste of the owner. The following woodcut, which represents part of the street of tombs at Pompeii, is taken from Mazois, Pompeiana, part I. pl. 18.

[image ALT: An engraving of a street of Roman tombs at Pompeii.]

All these tombs were raised on a platform of masonry above the level of the footway. The first building on the right hand is a funeral triclinium, which presents to the street a plain front about twenty feet in length. The next is the family tomb of Naevoleia Tyche; it consists of a square building, containing a small chamber, and from the level of the outer wall steps rise, which support a marble cippus richly ornamented. The burial-ground of Nestacidius follows next, which is surrounded by a low wall; next to which comes a monument erected to the memory of C. Calventius Quietus. The building is solid, and was not therefore a place of burial, but only an honorary tomb. The wall in front is scarcely four feet high, from which three steps lead up to a cippus. The back rises into a pediment; and the extreme height of the whole from the footway is about seventeen feet. An unoccupied space intervenes between this tomb and the next, which bears no inscription. The last building on the left is the tomb of Scaurus, which is ornamented with bas-reliefs representing gladiatorial combats and the hunting of wild beasts.

The tombs of the Romans were ornamented in various ways, but they seldom represented death in a direct manner (Müller, Archäol. der Kunst, § 431; Lessing, Wie die Alten den Tod gebildet haben?) A horse's head was one of the most common representations of death, as it signified departure; but we rarely meet with skeletons upon tombs. The following woodcut, however, which is taken from a bas-relief upon one of the tombs of Pompeii, represents the skeleton of a child lying on a heap of stones. The dress of the female, who is stooping over it, is remarkable, and is still preserved, according to Mazois, in the country around Sora (Mazois, Pomp. I. pl. 29).  p562 

[image ALT: A woman bending over a skeleton of a child on a pile of rocks. She is holding a strip of cloth in her hands. This mysterious piece of iconography is from a Roman funerary relief.]

A sepulchre, or any place in which a person was buried, was religiosus; all things which were left or belonged to the Dii Manes were religiosae; those consecrated to the Dii Superi were called Sacrae (Gaius, II.4).º Even the space in which a slave was buried was considered religiosus (Dig. 11 tit. 7 s2). Whoever violated a sepulchre was subject to an action termed sepulcri violati actio (Dig. 47 12; compare Cic. Tusc. I.12, de Leg. II.22). Those who removed the bodies or bones from the sepulchre were punished by death or deportatio in insulam, according to their rank; if the sepulchre was violated in any other way, they were punished by deportatio, or condemnation to the mines Dig. 47 tit. 12 s11). The title in the Digest (11 7), "De Religiosis et Sumtibus Funerum," &c., also contains much curious information on the subject, and is well worth perusal.

After the bones had been placed in the urn at the funeral, the friends returned home. They then underwent a further purification called suffitio, which consisted in being sprinkled with water and stepping over a fire (Festus, s.v.Aqua et igni). The house itself was also swept with a certain kind of broom; which sweeping or purification was called exverrae, and the person who did it everriator (Festus, s.v.). The Denicales Feriae were also days set apart for the purification of the family (Festus, s.v.; Cic. de Leg. II.22). The mourning and solemnities connected with the dead lasted for nine days after the funeral, at the end of which time a sacrifice was performed, called Novendiale (Porphyr. ad Horat. Epod. XVII.48).

A feast was given in honour of the dead, but it is uncertain on what day; it sometimes appears to have been given at the time of the funeral, sometimes on the Novendiale, and sometimes later. The name of Silicernium was given to this feast (Festus, s.v.); of which the etymology is unknown. Among the tombs at Pompeii there is a funeral triclinium for the celebration of these feasts, which is represented in the annexed woodcut (Mazois, Pomp. I. pl. XX). It is open to the sky, and the walls are ornamented by paintings of animals in the centre of compartments, which have borders of flowers. The triclinium is made of stone, with a pedestal in the centre to receive the table.

[image ALT: An engraving of a Roman dining-room: it is a funerary triclinium in Pompeii]

After the funeral of great men, there was, in addition to the feast for the friends of the deceased, a distribution of raw meat to the people, called Visceratio (Liv. VIII.22), and sometimes a public banquet (Suet. Jul. 26). Combats of gladiators and other games were also frequently exhibited in honour of the deceased. Thus at the funeral of P. Licinius Crassus, who had been Pontifex Maximus, raw meat was distributed to the people, a hundred and twenty gladiators fought, and funeral games were celebrated for three days; at the end of which a public banquet was given in the forum (Liv. XXXIX.46). Public feasts and funeral games were sometimes given on the anniversary of funerals. Faustus, the son of Sulla, exhibited in honour of his father a show of gladiators several years after his death, and gave a feast to the people, according to his father's testament (Dion Cass. XXXVII.51; Cic. pro Sull. 19). At all banquets in honour of the dead, the guests were dressed in white (Cic. c. Vatin. 13).

The Romans, like the Greeks, were accustomed to visit the tombs of their relatives at certain periods, and to offer them sacrifices and various gifts, which were called Inferiae and Parentalia. The Romans appear to have regarded the Manes or departed souls of their ancestors as gods; whence arose the practice of presenting to them oblations, which consisted of victims, wine, milk, garlands of flowers, and other things (Virg. Aen. V.77, Virg. Aen. IX.215, Virg. Aen. X.519; Tacit. Hist. II.95; Suet. Cal. 15; Suet. Ner. 57; Cic. Phil. I.16). The tombs were sometimes illuminated on these occasions with lamps (Dig. 40 tit. 4 s44). In the latter end of the month of February there was a festival, called Feralia, in which the Romans were accustomed to carry food to the sepulchres for the use of the dead (Festus, s.v.; Varro, de Ling. Lat. VI.13; Ovid, Fast. II.565‑570; Cic. ad Att. VIII.14).

The Romans, like ourselves, were accustomed to wear mourning for their deceased friends, which appears to have been black or dark-blue (atra) under the republic for both sexes (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. XI.287). Under the empire the men continued to wear black in mourning (Juv. X.245), but the women wore white (Herodian, IV.2). They laid aside all kinds of ornaments (Herodian, l.c.; Terent. Heaut. II.3.47), and did not cut either their hair or beard (Suet. Jul. 67, Aug. 23, Cal. 24). Men appear to have usually worn their mourning for only a few days (Dion Cass. LVI.43), but women for a year when they lost a husband or parent (Ovid, Fast. III.134; Senec. Epist. 63, Consol. ad Helv. 16).

In a public mourning on account of some signal calamity, as for instance the loss of a battle or the death of an emperor, there was a total cessation from business, called Justitium [Justitium]. In a public mourning the senators did not wear the latus clavus and their rings (Liv. IX.7), nor the magistrates their badges of office (Tacit. Ann. III.4).

(Meursius, de Funere; Stackelberg, Die Gräber der Hellenen, Berlin, 1837; Kirchmann, de Funeribus Romanis; Becker, Charikles, vol. II pp166‑210, Gallus, vol. II pp271‑301.)

Thayer's Notes:

a See also Isidore, Orig. XX.10.9.

b This website includes a number of good photos of Roman epitaphs, with readable inscriptions, translations, and explanations. If you're interested, they're here.

c At the time of his mother's death, Prosdecius must have been no more than ten or eleven years old. Either his name was signed for him on the monument ordered by his guardian, or when he grew up and made a better fortune for himself, he remembered his mother. Smith has missed a story here. . . .

d The most famous instance is the Pyramid of Cestius (q.v.) on the Via Ostiensis in Rome.

e columbaria are still to be seen in many other places as well. Columbaria were after all probably commoner in the first place, plus have tended to survive better than individual tombs since they are usually large structures, and once any facing has been stripped, there remains a brick core not worth stealing for reuse. Here is a typical example from Ostia Antica:

[image ALT: A ruined roofless brick building, about the size of a living-room, with many small semicircular niches in the walls. It is a Roman columbarium tomb in Ostia Antica, the port of ancient Rome.]

For further details about columbaria, see this section of Chapter 6 of Pagan and Christian Rome by Rodolfo Lanciani.

For a photo of an altogether different kind of columbarium, Etruscan and carved out of live rock, for now see my diary: eventually I'm sure I'll get around to turning that into a formal webpage.

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Page updated: 19 May 20