John A. North
Roman Funeral Rituals and the Significance of the Naenia
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Within the different phases of Roman funeral rituals, the final stages are characterised by the performance of a funeral dirge, called the naenia, by a group of hired female mourners. The status of the performers and of their female leader, probably hired from the professional undertaker associated with the Lucus Libitinae, is ambivalent and in contrast with the role of male (and noble) performers of laudatory speeches. Clearly, widely shared concepts of individual heroic status and the postmortem dissolution of individual identity into the community of the di Manes clash, a clash resolved in terms of chronological sequencing, gender and status differences. While there is no simple information to provide the researcher with firm knowledge about what actually happened in the ritual sequence, the entry in Festus' lexicon allows for a tentative reconstruction.