Ancient Rome Funeral
The ancient Rome funeral brings together many elements which were fundamental to the concept of being
a Roman citizen. The image below shows detail such as the musicians playing horns and the military parade. The eagle taking flight was linked to the emperor’s “apotheosis” – flying up to the heavens and becoming a divinity.
Ancient Rome funerals were solemn and steeped in tradition. This was particularly true for the funerals of the Patrician elite. They were accompanied by public processions and offerings to the gods. The most ancient tradition had gladiatorial fights as part of the blood offerings to the demons of the underworld.
The importance placed on funerals and the passage from life to death was accompanied with ideas of travel to an afterlife. For great leaders in particular it was also believed their spirit would rise to the heavens or deified. This was known as “apotheosis”.
There was the common expectation that the death of great leaders brought them divine status. This was particularly true towards the end of the Republic and into the period of the Empire. Emperor Nero was the first to actually declare his own divine status whilst still living, though that policy wasn’t followed by all subsequent Emperors.
There’s a famous quote by Emperor Vespasian as he died, possibly intended to be a witty remark: “I think I’m about to become a god”
Monuments of Ancient Rome funerals:
- Pantheon over the site of the apotheosis of Romulus
- Funeral mausoleum of Augustus and Julio-Claudian dynasty
- Mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian (Castel St. Angleo)
- Trajan’s column and Antoninus Pius column – both are funerary with the urn believed to have been held at the base.
More about funerals in Rome