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William Davis, A Day in Old Athens

 

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Page 7

Honors to the memory of the Dead

 

    Religion seems to have very little place in the Athenian funeral: there are no priests present, no prayers, no religious hymns. But the dead man is now conceived as being, in a very humble and intangible way, a deity himself: his good will is worth propitiating; his memory is not to be forgotten. On the third, ninth, and thirtieth days after the funeral there are simple religious ceremonies with offerings of garlands, fruits, libations and the like, at the new tomb; and later at certain times in the year these will be repeated. The more enlightened will of course consider these merely graceful remembrances of a former friend; but there is a good deal of primitive ancestor worship even in civilized Athens.

    Burning is the usual method for the Greeks to dispose of their dead, but the burial of unburned bodies is not unknown to them. Probably, however, the rocky soil and the limited land space around Athens make regular cemeteries less convenient than elsewhere: still it would have been nothing exceptional if Lycophron had ordered in his will that he be put in a handsome pottery coffin to be placed in a burial ground pertaining to his family.

 

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