GREEK BURIAL PROCEDURES
In Ancient Greece, there were several preparations for imminent death which were viewed as extremely important. The first was the ritual bath, which, if the dying person could not perform it himself, was performed by close female relatives of the deceased, such as a wife or mother. The second was the commitment of one's children to the safe care of others. The third was the settling of one's affairs, the fourth was the prayer to Hestia, Goddess of the hearth, the fifth was the prayer for safe passage to Hades, and lastly the farewell to family and friends. These steps were only taken when the person was aware that death was inevitable, and were followed by the normal burial procedure. Often, death was sudden and unplanned, in which case these preparations did not take place.
The three stages of Greek burial were the prothesis, the ekphora, and the interment. The prothesis was the preparing of the body for burial. Women played an extremely important role in this process and we will examine it more closely on its own page. The ekphora was the transporting of the body from the house to the place of burial, which took place on the third day after death. Men lead the procession and women followed behind. Solon implemented laws restricting the procession to side streets in the early morning and banning the performance of laments during it. We will examine possible motives for his laws on a different page. After the body was interred, a simple ceremony was performed over the grave to sow the earth with the fruits of its bounty, assuring the dead a peaceful rest and returning the land to the use of the living. After the burial a ceremonial meal called the perideipnon was held. The preparations for this meal gave women a chance to mourn and socialize together. While historians once believed that the meal took place at the grave site due to remains of bones and shards of cups found there, it is now believed that they are remains of food offerings and the meal itself occurred at the home.
It was considered essential that the dead receive proper burial. In fact, a son could be held legally responsible if he failed to properly bury his parents. Just as important as burial, however, was receiving it from the proper hands. The responsibility fell on the immediate family, and under normal circumstances it was considered highly improper for one to be buried by someone to whom he was not related. However, if the deceased had no family or they could not pay for the expenses, the responsibility fell to a close friend or the demarch.