Burial Practices of Ancient Greece

Annmarie Vincenzo


Original Play Written By Sophocles

Here's A Quick Summary of Antigone

Antigone takes place in the city of Thebes. The former king, King Oedipus, was exiled because he had committed incest and patricide. His younger brother, Eteocles became the next king, and exiled his other brother, Polyneices. This angered Polyneices, so him and his army seiged Thebes, killing both him and his brother. The next king that took Eteocles' place was Creon. He declared that Eteocles' death would be honored, while Polyneices were to rot away. This angered one of their sisters, Antigone. Antigone attempted to change Creon's mind, but Creon did not like the disrespect he was receiving from this woman, and ordered her and her younger sister, Ismene, to be executed. Haemon, Creon's son, tried to convince Creon to not execute her, but he ended up leaving Thebes angrily because he was only being mocked by Creon. Antigone continues with the struggles of Antigone and Haemon, focusing on the role of a ruler in a city.
Antigone in 3 Minutes and 47 Seconds

So, What Rituals Did the Ancient Greek Perform to Bury the Deceased?

  • At the moment of death, the psyche, or spirit of the dead, left the body as a little breath or puff of wind.
  • The dead would be prepared for burying rituals. They took these rituals very seriously, as they believed that the way they were buried reflected their human dignity.
  • Relatives of the deceased, mainly women, prepared the burying rituals.
  • The burying ritual included three parts. The first part was the prothesis, or the laying out of the body. During this time, family and friends came to mourn and pay their condolences. Following the prothesis was the exphora, or the funeral procession. This usually took place before dawn. After this was when the body was placed in a tomb. Their tomb was marked so that they would not be forgotten.

Why Is This So Important To History?

Burial rituals are an important part to every society. They distinguished various societies back in the day. Burial rituals shape a society and culture.

How Does This Connect to Antigone?

In Antigone, the burials of Eteocles and Polyneices were such an influential factor. Antigone expected both of her brothers to be honored in the same way, despite their differences. In Ancient Greece, the burial directly reflected how the deceased person acted and was perceived. It is a difficult topic that we still deal with today. How do we honor the deceased? How do we keep their memory alive?

Works Cited

  • Period, Time. "Death, Burial, and the Afterlife in Ancient Greece | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dbag/hd_dbag.htm>.
  • "Antigone in 3 Minutes and 47 Seconds - YouTube." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adhKa1g6cQY>.
  • "FREE Antigone Plot Summary | BookRags.com." BookRags.com | Homework Help, Book Summaries, Study Guides, Essays, Lesson Plans, & Educational Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.bookrags.com/notes/ant/>.