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This essay concerns the funeral traditions of Ancient Greece, namely in the Greek epic poems, bodies were burned after death, oxen, sheep were sacrificed. The author focuses on the funeral for Hector and Patroclus described in the epic poem "Iliad"…
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During the twelve days that were given to mourning for Hector, games were played, at the end of which his body was burned, although the funeral rites were done in reverse for Patroclus. The difference is predicated by the appearance of the ghost of Patroclus who asks Achilles to bury him immediately. From a literary standpoint, however, one can see that as a contrast Hector embodies civilization while Achilles has embodied the brutality of the warrior, even in his honorable nature. During Hector’s funeral, his body, which was destroyed by Achilles and defiled by the treatment that it was given at his hands, lays waiting throughout the athletic events.
One of the most important aspects of the funerary process was the need of women to lay out the bodies, to touch the urns, and to provide an emotional context for the sorrow of the event. The women give the final public statements over the body of Hector. Women are the expressive side of the event, where men provide the physical expression of strength and honor through their games.
While in the Western culture a funeral is a ritual performed to give closure to the bereaved, the Greek culture saw this is a necessary act to ensure that the spirit of the departed had attained their new position in the realm of the dead. Even in the physical realm, death was considered impermanent if the person who had died transcended death through its glory and found heroic remembrance through literary recordings of his deeds. Death was a period of finding a sense of ‘individualism’.
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