Death in Greece
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The Greek religion is a social one; its character gives a ritualistic space and legitimacy to the different social strata and different worlds. As for death, including funeral rites can establish a clear boundary between the worlds of the dead men and that of the living. Drawing a line between these two worlds necessarily implies to attribute to each a little bit of Hellenic culture itself. In this distinction of worlds and social strata, religion and politics meet. It is important to note that in Hellas, politics and religion are inseparable, they sometimes overlap, one always acting on the other and vice versa. This idea is accentuated in the rites of passage that mark the different stages of life, which, as noted by Louise Zaidman "are underlined by rituals, and without ever having the force of law, reflect on the symbolic changes in the status of the individual.?
In many cities, laws, like that of Julis, on the island of Ceos, dating from the fifth century BC, the result of the" decision of the Board and the people "(t.2, L.20) or that attributed to Solon in Athens, reported by Demosthenes (v.385-322, Athenian orator and politician, representative par excellence of Athenian patriotism remained renowned for his resistance to Philip of Macedonia) in his Against Macartatos, confirm this by legislating the funeral, and regulating "the conditions of burial of the deceased" (t.2, l.1). These sources provide details on the relationship of politics and religion, and finally, the willingness of political and religious separation of worlds and social groups.
With these examples. it is interesting to observe to what extent a law with political and religious significance managed to separate the world of the dead from the living, while working in the separate worlds of family and civic life. Indeed, this is a feature of the Hellenic culture, the religious-political struggle that is played between the private space, represented by the family, and the public space of the city. In developing this idea, we will see how death reveals these antagonisms. The first point will be devoted to the religious act itself, in order to highlight in the second part, the object of regulation, i.e., the confirmation of divisions that separate the different worlds, while asserting the primacy of the city on the family and, by extension, the man on the woman.
Death is the final rite of passage that Greeks must comply with, after birth, adulthood and marriage, as such the body of the individual must be prepared. So the first step is the toilet of the deceased, he is anointed with perfumed essence. Women dress the corpse in white garments, and then place it on a bed. However, "we do not conceal the body entirely in linen" (l.4), this accuracy is top notch, it indicates the preservation of the identity of the dead. The scent has a double value, it reflects a certain richness, a symbol of a good life and a symbol of purity that is mirrored by white cloth.
Tags: Greek cremation, Hellenic culture, Against Macartatos