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Funerale ‘omerico’ e lamento funebre in tragedia

Riccardo Palmisciano    Università degli Studi di Napoli «L’Orientale»    



The practice of burying a dead person’s ashes inside a bronze cauldron has been a form of funerary ritual belonging to a narrow social élite since the Geometric period. These and other forms of funerary rites for members of the aristocratic class were opposed starting with Solon’s legislation. Later, in the middle of the 5th century B.C., the Athenian polis annually celebrated the collective funeral of those who had fallen in battle for their homeland, transferring an event that traditionally belonged to the family sphere into a completely public sphere. Against this urge on the part of political institutions to annul the individual dimension of the mournful event, we witness a revival in the 5th century B.C. of the custom of using a bronze cauldron as an ossuary, within burials that were very often family ones. Although even in this case this ritual practice must be considered an absolute minority, it can nevertheless be interpreted as a form of resistance on the part of certain aristocratic families to the affirmation of egalitarian funerary practices promoted by the polis. Into this dialectical tension comes tragedy, which actively supports the ideology of the polis by representing on the stage heroines of the Trojan myth engaged in funerary lamentation as if they were ordinary women mourning their loved ones in everyday life. This representation, anti-heroic and distant from the epic model, involves the same iconic object of the ‘Homeric’ type of burial: the lebete-cinerary that appears concretely three times in tragedy (Aesch. Ag. 444, Ch. 686; Soph. El. 1401), in contexts that take on new meaning in the light of the analysis made here.

21 Dicembre 2023
30 Luglio 2023
04 Luglio 2023

Keywords: Tragedy and polisAristocratic ideologyFuneral ideologyFuneral riteFuneral lament

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