« PreviousContinue »
reign of Julian, we find that the king of Chaonia(3) burnt the body of his son, and interred the ashes in a silver urn.
The same practice extended also far west,(6) and besides Heruleans, Getes, and Thracians, was in use with most of the Celta, Sarmatians, Germans, Gauls, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians; not to omit some use thereof among Carthaginians and Americans of greater antiquity among the Romans For than most opinion, or Pliny seems to allow. (beside the old table laws of burning(7) or burying within the city, of making the funeral fire with plain wood, or quenching the fire with wine) Manlius, the consul, burnt the body of his son. Numa, by special clause of his will, was not burnt, but buried; and Remus was solemnly buried, according to the description of Ovid.(®)
Cornelius Sylla was not the first whose body was burned in Rome, but of the Cornelian family, which being indifferently, not frequently used before, from that time spread, and became the prevalent practice. Not totally pursued in the highest run of cren remation; for when even crows were funereally burnt, Poppæea, the wife of Nero, found a
(*) Ammianus Marcellinus, 18. Gumbrates, king of Chaonia, a country near Persia.
(6) Arnoldis Montanis, not. in Cæs. Commentar. L. G. Gyral
(7) 12 Tabul. part. 1. de jure sacro. Hominem mortuum in urbe ne sepelito, neve urito. Tit. 15. Rogum ascià ne polito. Tit. 16. Item vigeneri Annotat. in Livium et Alex. cum Tiraquello. Roscinus cum Dempstero.
(6) Ultima plorato subdita flamma rogo. Ovid Fast. lib. iv. 856. cum Car. Neapol. anaptyxi.
peculiar grave interment. Now as all customs were founded upon some bottom of reason, so there wanted not grounds for this; according to several apprehensions of the most rational dissolution. Some being of the opinion of Thales, that water was the original of all things, thought it most equal to submit unto the principle of putrefaction, and conclude in a moist relentment. Others conceived it most natural to end in fire, as due unto the master principle in the composition, according to the doctrine of Heraclitus; and therefore heaped up large piles, more actively to waft them toward that element, whereby they also declined a visible degeneration into worms, and left a lasting parcel of their composition. (9)
Some apprehended a purifying virtue in fire, refining the grosser commixture, and firing out the æthereal particles so deeply immersed in it. And such as by tradition or rational conjecture held any hint of the final pyre of all things, or that this ele
(9) Whether Browne here assigns the proper reason or not, certain it is that the practice of burning prevailed from very remote antiquity in Greece. The Athenians, indeed, made use of both modes of sepulture. But the Scholiast on Thucydides, II. 34. T TаTρi vóμy xpwμevoi,—states very positively, that by law the bodies of the dead were to be burned. t. v. p. 381. Bipont. Dr. Arnold, in his very excellent edition, inserts a note of Hudson, referring to Petit. Legg. Att. p 500. f. But in fact the whole titulus VIII. of lib. vi. p. 494. ff. relates to funerals and the laws that regulated them. Kirchmann. De Funeribus Romanorum, I. 1. and in other parts of his very learned and interesting work, has touched on the funeral ceremonies of the Greeks; and from him Browne evidently borrowed most of his facts and authorities.-ED.
ment at last must be too hard for all the rest, might conceive most naturally of the fiery dissolution. Others pretending no natural grounds, politically declined the malice of enemies upon their buried bodies. Which consideration led Sylla unto this practice; who having thus served the body of Marius, could not but fear a retaliation upon his own; entertained after in the civil wars, and revengeful contentions of Rome.
But as many nations embraced, and many left it indifferent, so others too much affected or strictly declined this practice. The Indian Brahmins seemed too great friends unto fire, who burnt themselves alive, and thought it the noblest way to end their days in fire, according to the expression of the Indian burning himself at Athens,('°) in his last words upon the pyre, unto the amazed spectators, "Thus I make myself immortal."
But the Chaldeans, the great idolators of fire, abhored the burning of their carcases as a pollution of that deity. The Persian Magi (") declined it
(10) And therefore the inscription of his tomb was made accordingly. Nic. Damasc.
(1) There is reason from this, and other passages, to believe the Druids did not burn their dead.-LOUGLAS. That is, supposing the religion of the Druids to have been an offshoot from the Magi. But we have no proof that this was the case. Indeed, several circumstances recorded of the manners of the Gauls, sprung from the same stock with the Britons, would seem to prove that burning was practised by the Druids. For the Gauls not only burned their dead-in which they were wise-but on many occasions burned along with them the living also. Their funerals were conducted with great pomp. Whatever in life had been dear to the departed, whether slaves, or mistresses, or wives, they united to the dead on the funeral pile; conceiving that the
upon the like scruple, and being only solicitous about their bones, exposed their flesh to the prey of birds and dogs. And the Parsees, now in India, which expose their bodies unto vultures, and endure not so much as feretra, or biers of wood, the proper fuel of fire, are led on with such niceties; but whether the ancient Germans, who burned their dead, held any such fear to pollute their deity of Herthus, or the earth, we have no authentic conjecture.
The Egyptians were afraid of fire, not as a deity but a devouring element, mercilessly consuming their bodies and leaving too little of them; and therefore, by precious embalments, depositure in dry earths, or handsome inclosure in glasses, contrived the notablest ways of integral conservavation. (12) And from such Egyptian scruples, imbibed by Pythagoras, it may be conjectured that Numa and the Pythagorical sect first waved the fiery solution.
The Scythians, who swore by wind and sword, terrible sacrifice would prove grateful to his manes. Cæs. de Bell. Gall. VI.-ED.
(12) Though Egyptian mummies, preserved in cases, and exhibited about as shows, have rendered this practice familiar to the public, still nothing can be more strange or impressive than the depositories of those preserved bodies in the Libyan or Arabian mountains. I have lodged for a time in one of these tombs, with the remains of an Egyptian lady by my bedside. The dust of the dead settled on everything around. But there was no horror in their skeletons. They decayed in balms and spices, wrapped in fine linen, in gilded coffins, inhabiting, as it were, magnificent palaces, spacious, richly adorned, and lasting as the world. There was always a sense of the sublime impressed deeply upon the mind, which perhaps constituted the principal pleasure of my sojourn in that extraordinary country.— ED.
that is, by life and death, were so far from burning their bodies, that they declined all interment, and made their graves in the air. (13) And the Ichthyophagi, or fish-eating nations about Egypt, affected the sea for their grave; thereby declining visible corruption, and restoring the debt of their bodies. Whereas the old heroes in Homer, dreaded nothing more than water or drowning, probably upon the old opinion of the fiery substance of the soul only extinguishable by that element; and therefore the poet emphatically implieth the total destruction in this kind of death, which happened to Ajax Oileus. (1)
The old Balearians had a peculiar mode, for they used great urns and much wood, but no fire in
(13) Not the Scythians generally, but a particular tribe. The more common custom among those barbarians was, for persons to commit suicide on the death of those they loved, that they might share their graves. D. Hieron. ad Jovin. 1. ii. Theod. Serm. de Legg. Upon their conversion to Christianity this practice, savage but affectionate, was of necessity laid aside. Among the Heruli, a Scythian tribe, women hung themselves at the tombs of their husbands, not always, however, from love, but because it was the fashion, and people would have cut them had they dared to live. Procop. de Bell. Gothic. 1. ii. In other parts of Scythia a practice prevailed exactly similar to that described in the story of the Pearl Merchant, in the "Tales of the Ramadhan.” That is, people showed their affection to the dead by eating them. Lucian in Toxar. It was the Colchians, who, as Browne expresses it, "made their graves in the air." "The Colchi," says Nicolaus, "do not bury their dead, but suspend them on trees." Stob. Serm. 120. That curious sophist, Ælian, is somewhat more explicit, for he informs us, that they were first sewn up in skins, otherwise the birds of prey would have quickly cleared the branches of them. Var. Hist. IV. 1.—ED.—
(14) Which Magius reads ¿¿añóλwλe.