Post Eagle Newspaper


May 23, 2024

45°F, few clouds
New Jersey

Time Now


Post Mortem – After Death


The great events of an ancient Roman’s life were not politics and war, but anxious births, festal marriages, and somber deaths. Old age was not then the abandoned desolation that so often darkens it in an individualistic age.

The young never questioned their duty to care for the old; the old remained to the end the first consideration and the last authority; and after their death their graves were honored as long as a male descendant survived.

Funerals were as elaborate as weddings. The procession was led by a hired band of wailing women, whose organized hysteria was cramped by a law of the Twelve Tables forbidding them to tear out their hair. Then came the flute players, limited by a like Solonic law to ten; then some dancers one of whom impersonated the dead. Then followed in strange parade some actors wearing the death masks, or waxen images, of those ancestors of the corpse who had held some magistracy. The deceased came next, in splendor, rivaling a triumph, clothed in the full regalia of the highest office he held, comfortable in a bier overspread with purple and gold embroidered coverlets, and surrounded by the weapons and armor of the enemies he had slain. Behind him came the dead man’s sons, dressed and veiled in black, his daughters unveiled, his relatives, clansmen, friends, clients, and freedmen. In the forum the procession stopped, and a son or kinsman pronounced a eulogy.

Life was worth living, if only for such a funeral.

(taken from vol 3, Caesar & Christ, by Will Durant).
The second part of ‘POST MORTEM’ will be next week.