Lumea de dincolo în Funeraria din Dacia Romană

The Afterlife in the Funeraria of Roman Dacia (I)

Autor: Dănuţ Munteanu


This paper is part of an ampler study on funerary monuments in Roman Dacia, whose principal theme is the reflection of ideas related to the afterlife on funerary inscriptions and monuments from this province.

First of all, I analysed the Romans’ conceptions regarding after-death survival. Stress was laid mostly upon the dual conception body-soul developed by Greco-Roman philosophy, but also upon the idea of direct survival, through the body, coming from the archaic Roman mentality. Although, in part, the Latin philosophers are sceptical about the afterlife, funerary practices show clearly that those who practised them, namely ordinary men, are true believers in post-existence. Collective mentality even conserves some archaic rituals like the feast named Lemuria.

As for the Roman funerary inscriptions from Dacia, I observe that in general the afterlife is suggested by some additional elements. Firstly, the introductory address, which, as a rule, is an excellent source, undergoes some changes by the addition of several attributes, in the sense that it underlines the connection between the cult of the Manes and the afterlife. The closing formula is also, in some cases, a testimony of the reminiscences of archaic beliefs regarding the survival of the body.

Some other inscriptions address the spectator directly (or the traveller, if the tombstones were placed along the entrance way of the city, as it was usual) with the aim of attracting him to read the inscriptions, and, in the same time, mentioning the name of the dead buried beneath, which was considered a reason to rejoice for him.

Yet, there is a number of inscriptions where the address to the Manes is missing. Without negating afterlife in this way, these inscriptions are dedicated to the memory of the dead and follow the idea, which became almost a leit-motif, that the soul cannot take with it in the afterlife anything but the fame acquired in his lifetime.

Similarly, an important inscription of Stoic character reveals a close knowledge of this philosophical doctrine which also circulated among the people of the North Danube province.

Finally, we draw attention to the destruction and reusing of funerary monuments after the Aurelian retreat, with the explanations offered by history and the idea of a clear break between the two historical periods.

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