Ancient Greek Death Beliefs: “I’d rather be a day-laborer on earth working for a man of little property than lord of all the hosts of the dead.”

Achilles, in the Iliad

A shadow in a dream is man, but when God sheds brightness then shining light on earth and the life is sweet as honey

Ancient Greek Death

Ancient Greek Death: Pindar

Religion is regarded as one of the most primitive institutions of the world. Associated with the institution of religion are beliefs and rituals related to birth, death, afterlife, fate, gods and goddesses and so on. It is interesting to discuss the beliefs and rituals related to death in the ancient Greek society. According to the Odyssey by Homer, Ancient Greek Death is represented as an event caused by human error.

The Greeks believed that man obtained a higher degree of consciousness at the time of death. Although life was preferred over death, the Greeks indeed considered the possibilities of a better life after death.

Ancient Greek Death

Ancient Burial Rituals

The Greeks believed in the spirit of the dead which left the body as a little breath. The spirit did not stay back on earth or enter any other body but went to the hell or heaven.

The Greek believed that things like that food, jewelry, clothing, chariots, weaponry etc could be carried to the world of spirits.A necessity of a proper burial is emphasized by all ancient Greek literary pieces. The burial rituals were of customary nature and were conducted by the relatives of the deceased.

Mainly, three rituals constituted the burial ceremony of the Greek. The prosthesis or lying out of the body, the euphoria or the funeral procession and the funeral of the remains of the deceased were them.

Firstly, the eyes and the mouth of the body were closed. Then the body was washed with oil, dressed in an ankle-length shroud and placed on a high bed usually by the women. A coin was usually placed in the mouth as payment to Charon for ferrying the deceased across the Styx.
Ancient Greek Death

When the body was laid, relatives and friends mourned. Thereafter, the body of the deceased was taken to the cemetery in a procession. This took place just before dawn. It was carried either by horse-drawn hearse or by pall-bearers.The grave consisted of a few objects.

Family members especially the women often visited the grave with offerings. Rites were performed at the gravesite on the third, ninth and thirtieth days after death. Visits were then made monthly, annually, and on holidays.

Ancient Greek Death

During the Post-Classical Period, the concept of reward and punishment for deceased mortals was introduced. It was believed that the journey after death was to a land known as Hades, ruled by a god named Hades.

Men were awarded for the good deeds and punished for their bad deeds from the underworld. Cerberus guarded the gates of Hades. At this point, Tartaros became hell and Elysium became heaven. The river Styx ran around the perimeter of Hades seven times.