DEATH & BURIAL

        The Greeks viewed the burial of the dead as one of man's most sacred duties.  Furthermore, they believed that if a body went unburied, its soul could never find rest in the Underworld, wandering aimlessly in the land of the dead.  Any Greek who happened upon a dead body was, at the very least, obligated to throw a handful of dust over it.  This would be enough to pacify the spirit.  If a general neglected to provide for the burial of the slain (friend or enemy, Greek or barbarian), he was deemed guilty of a
capital offense. 
         It was the duty of women to tend to the dead bodies of family members.  The eyes of the body were closed and a coin was placed inside the mouth.  (This is the coin that all souls must pay the boatman Charon in the Underworld, so that he will ferry them across the River Styx.)  The body was washed, anointed with oil, and dressed in white for viewing.    
         Professional mourners were sometimes hired to sing
dirges for the departed, as family and friends paid their last respects.  Before sunrise on the day following the funeral, the body would be carried to the place of burial followed by a procession of family and friends.  The females of the family would cut their hair before the procession began to show they were in mourning. 
         Following the burial there was a meal, where the mourning family and friends remembered the virtues of the deceased and passed over their faults.  Speaking evil of the dead was a cultural
taboo.  For the next twelve days the family would visit the tomb and pour libations of honey, wine, oil, milk, or water over the grave.  Most families returned yearly on the anniversary of the person's birth or death to place garlands on the grave.

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Visitors Read an Inscription Upon a Tomb