Location

Sydnor Auditorium

Access Type

Campus Access Only

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Start Date

April 2022

Department

Anthropology

Abstract

Though the early Romans traditionally inhumed their dead, cremations emerged during the era of the Republic (ca. 509 - 27 BCE) (Graham et al. 241). According to Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedic work, Naturalis Historia (7.187), this burial practice was an unintended consequence of territorial expansions as soldiers who died aboard were buried on foreign soil (241). When reports of conquered peoples desecrating these provisional graves reached Rome, the rites of disposal were modified to reduce opportunities for vandalism (241). While traditional burials and cremations were observed concurrently throughout the eighth and sixth centuries BCE, the latter became the dominant funerary rite during the middle to late Republic (241). While various authors of the classical era have contributed to our understanding of the Roman funeral and its implications for the living, few scholarly works investigate how poets related to these processes. In poem 101, Catullus commemorates his dead brother with an elegy that takes place during the final internment of his ashes and gifts. This poem not only provides evidence which supports knowledge of Roman funerary rites, but the importance of this process for the preservation of the personhood and memory of the deceased to verify the identities of the living and dead.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Elza Tiner

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Apr 6th, 9:45 AM

Hail and Farewell: Catullus 101 and Roman Funerary Rites

Sydnor Auditorium

Though the early Romans traditionally inhumed their dead, cremations emerged during the era of the Republic (ca. 509 - 27 BCE) (Graham et al. 241). According to Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedic work, Naturalis Historia (7.187), this burial practice was an unintended consequence of territorial expansions as soldiers who died aboard were buried on foreign soil (241). When reports of conquered peoples desecrating these provisional graves reached Rome, the rites of disposal were modified to reduce opportunities for vandalism (241). While traditional burials and cremations were observed concurrently throughout the eighth and sixth centuries BCE, the latter became the dominant funerary rite during the middle to late Republic (241). While various authors of the classical era have contributed to our understanding of the Roman funeral and its implications for the living, few scholarly works investigate how poets related to these processes. In poem 101, Catullus commemorates his dead brother with an elegy that takes place during the final internment of his ashes and gifts. This poem not only provides evidence which supports knowledge of Roman funerary rites, but the importance of this process for the preservation of the personhood and memory of the deceased to verify the identities of the living and dead.