Sunday, 20 January 2008

Greek and Roman "restless" dead

Anyone interested in ancient Greek and Roman source material concerning revenants and apparitions should consider getting hold of Daniel Ogden's Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebook published by Oxford Univ. Press in 2002.


It's a pretty comprehensive compilation of source material translated into English, including a chapter on Ghosts. Here the "restless" dead are divided into four overlapping categories which will more or less be familiar from the folklore of revenants from later eras:

Aoroi (from αωροσ, untimely). Ogden: "Those cheated of their full stint of life bitterly stayed back to haunt the land of the living of which they had been deprived. In theory anyone who died of anything other than of natural causes in old age could generate a ghost restless quo aoros, although as a class aoroi tended to be conceptualized primarily as the ghosts of children or babies."

Bi(ai)othanatoi (from βιαιος and θανατος, violent and death). Ogden: "These included the battle-dead and executed criminals, although murder victims and suicides provided the bitterest ghosts in this class."

Agamoi (from αγαμος, unmarried). Ogden: "Both male and female ghosts could be assigned this category, although the female ones were regarded as particularly bitter, insofar as marriage and the motherhood consequent upon it were a woman's defining rights in antiquity."

Ataphoi (from αταφος, unburied). Ogden: "Whatever the circumstances of death, a ghost could not achieve rest without the due funeral rights. These were importantly distinct from the mere insertion of the corpse into a hole in the ground, and indeed the concealment of a dead body in precisely this way is often presented as the chief obstacle to the peace of its soul."

1 comment:

Leon said...

Thanks for the tip!!!

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