One cannot say the Romans enjoyed death, that is a phrasing which gives a strange impression, but it is not that far away from the truth. Violence and death for entertainment was big business – much more real than nowadays – and funerals were a serious affair in more than one respect.
Dying in Rome
Funerals and burials
Violence and death
Dying in Rome
For the Romans dying was a serious business surrounded by many dos and don’ts. To die was an accepted part of life (death is always unavoidable, but in many cultures, like our own modern it is very hushed up and ignored). It is of course also hard to say that there was only one way for the Romans to take care of their dead. The Roman Empire was a big thing, involving many different cultures, people and systems of belief. But in general, if one look to the central parts of the empire and the Roman citizens it was very much the same.
When a Roman person died there were a whole lot of things to do for the family left behind. The whole family should get together to mourn, call out the passed away persons name and wail, but all this within limits – for example, women were forbidden to scratch their faces till it bled. To mark the event – and the fact that the house was ritually unclean, funesta – they decked the front door with branches of cypress. Meanwhile the body was washed and often mummified. Not because most Romans worshiped Isis or any other Egyptian god – because they didn’t – but due to the fact that Rome and most parts of the empire could get rather hot for a good part of the year and the body was kept at home for a week.
After these preparations the dead was dressed in his or her best clothes and put in the atrium, if the house was big enough to contain one (most people, after all, lived in rather crowded apartments there this would have been very inconvenient). The feet were pointing towards the door and candles, flowers and ribbons surrounded the body. Relatives and friends sat by the body, the women sang hymns and the men burnt incense and candles.