Ancient Greek and Roman graves

This video is about ancient Greek pottery.

Today, there was a tour with Dr Ruurd Halbertsma in the antiquities museum, specially on graves of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

We started at a big funeral vase of about 740 BCE, from the region around Athens. Originally, Greeks put vases on their graves; tombstones came later.

The vase has no bottom. There used to be theory that was to pour libations of wine for the deceased into the grave.

However, it was really to prevent rain from accumulating into the vase, allowing it to seep away into the ground.

The decoration of the vase was in the geometrical style of that period, with depictions of the curves of the Meander river, and of snakes, associated with the underworld.

About three hundred years later in Athens, much had changed. Tombstones had replaced pots. There were conflicts between aristocratic rich families and democratic politicians about how big the biggest funeral monuments were allowed to be.

Many tombstones depicted a handshake, symbolizing continuing links after death.

One of these stones had originally been a woman’s tombstone. However, later when there was apparently no longer a family interested in it, it was sold to a non Athenian citizen, an immigrant probably with not enough money for a new tombstone of his own.

A sculptor then remade the woman’s tombstone into a man’s tombstone, however without destroying all traces of its original purpose.

This stone used to be property of famous Flemish painter Rubens. Apart from being a painter and a diplomat, he was also an antiquities trader. He resold most antiquities which he bought, sometimes after using them in this paintings, keeping only a few items permanently.

Rubens used to own a Roman sarcophagus as well.

Opposite Rubens’ Greek tombstone, the big monument of the young woman Archestrate, from Sounion, South East of Athens.

The museum bought it in 1820.

Over a hundred years later, in the Hellenistic period, in Asia Minor, styles changed again. The deceased was depicted now much bigger than other figures, differently from the earlier more realist style.

Borderlines between gods and humans became fuzzier through the concept of heroic demigods. Heroic depictions of the deceased helped originate the idea, first in the east, then in the west, of the Roman empire that emperors became gods after, later even before their deaths.

Also in the depiction of a Germanic soldier in the Roman army, found in the Netherlands, the deceased looks much bigger than a servant.

A unique funeral monument in this museum is the Simpelveld sarcophagus, from the Roman age in the Netherlands.

Unlike tombstones, it is underground.

And unlike other sarcophaguses, the decoration is on the inside, not the outside, of the coffin.

Greek Bronze Age ended 100 years earlier than thought, new evidence suggests: here.

5 thoughts on “Ancient Greek and Roman graves

  1. First evidence from Romes legendary second king Numa Pompilius era unearthed

    Italian archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a 2,700 year old sanctuary, which they say provides the first physical evidence of Rome at the time of Numa Pompilius, Romes legendary second king, in the 8th century BC.

    London, Oct 9 : Italian archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a 2,700 year old sanctuary, which they say provides the first physical evidence of Rome at the time of Numa Pompilius, Rome’s legendary second king, in the 8th century BC.

    Numa Pompilius, a member of the Sabine tribe, was elected at the age of 40 to succeed Romulus, the co-founder of Rome.

    Pompilius reigned from 715-673 BC, and is said to have been a reluctant monarch who ushered in a 40-year period of peace and stability.

    According to Plutarch, he was celebrated for his wisdom, personal austerity and piety.

    Archaeologist Clementina Panella from Rome’s Sapienza University, leader of the excavation team said, the temple or sanctuary her team had uncovered, lay between the Palatine and Velian hills, close to the Colosseum, the Arch of Titus and Via Sacra, and had probably been dedicated to the Goddess of Fortune.

    She said the wall of the temple was found seven metres below the surface, together with a street and pavement and two wells, one round and one rectangular.

    “Both wells were full of thousands of votive offerings and cult objects, including the bones of birds and animals and ceramic bowls and cups,” she said.

    Dr Panella said there was no doubt that the objects dated from the period of Numa Pompilius despite the fact there were no statues or figures.

    “That’s because Numa forbade images of the gods in his temples, arguing that it was impious to represent things Divine by what is perishable,” the Times quoted Dr Panella, as saying.

    Numa Pompilius was known to have established religious practices and observance in the emergent city state, instituting the office of priest or pontifex and founding the cult of the Vestal Virgins.

    He is also credited with dividing Rome into administrative districts, and according to Plutarch organised the city’s first occupational guilds, “forming companies of musicians, goldsmiths, carpenters, dyers, shoemakers, skinners, braziers, and potters”.



  2. Pingback: Plaster copies of Greek and Roman sculpture | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Ancient Mycenean jewelry discovery in Greece | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Sculpture, other discoveries of ancient Greek shipwreck | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.