DEATH IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
The death of a loved one is an emotional and powerful occurrence that provokes a variety of human responses. In addition to writings describing their funerary practices, the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean region have left artistic representations of death and dying, built tombs, and objects associated with funerary rituals. The study of these texts, images, structures, and objects allows us to better understand ancient attitudes and reactions to death. This undergraduate lecture focuses on the visual and material evidence of funerary practices and beliefs in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman societies. The subject will be approached thematically. First, we will explore how archaeologists discover death-related artifacts and how scholars approach the study and reconstruction of ancient death rituals. Ancient practices and beliefs regarding the mummification, the funeral, commemorative strategies, visits to the grave, and the afterlife will be explored, and images found on specific media (vases, sculpture, built tombs, paintings) will be discussed in depth. The course will conclude with discussions of the roles that sensational topics, like fear of the undead (zombies, vampires, and ghosts) and spectacles of death (gladiatorial contests and public executions), played in ancient Mediterranean civilizations.