Death & Burial

Roman funerary practices shifted between burning the bodies of the dead (cremation) and burying them intact (inhumation). Graves varied from simple tile-lined holes in the ground to extravagant above-ground monuments rising several storeys high.

Marble bust of a middle aged man.
Limestone Loculus Cover from Palmyra, Syria, 2nd Century AD
The bust of a woman of high status, perhaps a priestess, is adorned with an elaborate headdress and jewelry. Palyra's inhabitants spoke Aramaic and Greek in the 2nd century AD, when this cover was carved. The "Aramaic" epitaph here is false, however, It was added in modern times in an attempt to increase its market value.
Object #B8904

For health reasons and out of fear of the spirits of the dead, Romans usually set their cemeteries along the roads outside the city limits. These were carefully landscaped and sometimes even provided with gardens. The great underground Jewish and Christian catacombs, created in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD on the outskirts of Roman cities, evolved into virtual multi-leveled cities of the dead.

the Roman cult of the dead called for a highly elaborate set of rituals. These began with a funeral, which lasted from the moment of death until the final burial ceremony. IN the years following the burial, additional rites were carried out either at the grave site or nearby to honor the memory of the deceased.