Roman funerary art changed throughout the course of the Republic and the Empire and comprised many different forms. There were two main burial practices used by the Romans throughout history, one being cremation, another inhumation. The vessels that resulted from these practices include sarcophagi, ash chests, urns, and altars. In addition to these, buildings such as mausoleums, stelae, and other monuments were also popular forms used to commemorate the dead. The method by which Romans were memorialized was determined by social class, religion, and other factors. While monuments to the dead were constructed within Roman cities, the remains themselves were interred outside the cities.

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  • Roman funerary art changed throughout the course of the Republic and the Empire and comprised many different forms. There were two main burial practices used by the Romans throughout history, one being cremation, another inhumation. The vessels that resulted from these practices include sarcophagi, ash chests, urns, and altars. In addition to these, buildings such as mausoleums, stelae, and other monuments were also popular forms used to commemorate the dead. The method by which Romans were memorialized was determined by social class, religion, and other factors. While monuments to the dead were constructed within Roman cities, the remains themselves were interred outside the cities. After the end of Etruscan rule, Roman lawmakers became very strict regarding the ethics of laying the dead to rest. A prime issue was the legality and morality of interring the dead within the city limits. It was nearly unanimous at first to move the dead outside of the pomerium to ensure the separation of their souls from the living, and many politicians remained assertive in enforcing the idea well into the Empire. Cicero reminds his readers of the Law of the Twelve Tables: "A dead man shall not be buried or burned inside the city" (De Legibus, 2, 23:58). Three centuries later, Paulus writes in his Sententiae, "You are not allowed to bring a corpse into the city in case the sacred places in the city are polluted. Whoever acts against these restrictions is punished with unusual severity. You are not allowed to cremate a body within the walls of the city" (1, 21:2-3). Many Roman towns and provinces had similar rules, often in their charters, such as the Lex Ursonensis. Particularly at the very end of the Republic, exceptions to this principle became more frequent, albeit only for the most powerful leaders. The means used to commemorate the dead served to acknowledge the gods, but also served as means of social expression depicting Roman values and history. Early Christians continued this custom until Late Antiquity, but liked to be buried close to the graves of martyrs; the catacombs and great churches that grew up around the fringes of Rome were then outside the walls. (en)
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  • Tombstone of the cavalry veteran Nertus, son of Dumnotalis (en)
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  • *Roman funerary practices *Funerary art *mausolea *altars *sarcophagi *catacombs *tombstones (en)
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  • Funerary Practices (en)
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  • Roman Funerary Art (en)
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  • Roman funerary art changed throughout the course of the Republic and the Empire and comprised many different forms. There were two main burial practices used by the Romans throughout history, one being cremation, another inhumation. The vessels that resulted from these practices include sarcophagi, ash chests, urns, and altars. In addition to these, buildings such as mausoleums, stelae, and other monuments were also popular forms used to commemorate the dead. The method by which Romans were memorialized was determined by social class, religion, and other factors. While monuments to the dead were constructed within Roman cities, the remains themselves were interred outside the cities. (en)
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  • Roman funerary art (en)
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