©Wellcome Library, London

In the top picture, a palatial funeral pyre is lit whilst the bottom picture shows soldiers staging a sword fight before a funeral pyre on which the body is laid out in state. Up to the 2nd century CE, cremation was the dominant Roman burial practice. Afterwards, inhumation became more common due partially to the spread of Christianity and a belief in the resurrection of the body. Of 1326 Roman burials recorded in London, 79% were inhumations. In contrast, the St Pancras cemetery at Chichester in Sussex, used until the 4th century, contained 260 burials, of which all but 9 were cremations. The body was carried on a litter to the cemetery where, if being cremated, it was burned on a pyre. The ashes were washed in wine and put into a funerary urn. Sacrifices were offered to the spirits and the mourners purified from contact with death, following which a wake was held. Often, the deceased was provided with a coin to pay Charon, the ferryman who carried the dead across the River Styx to Hades. It was illegal to bury the dead within a town (except for infants who were sometimes buried under the floor of a building). However, there was a strong desire not to be forgotten after death and main roads leading from the cities were lined with cemeteries so that passing travellers would notice the memorials.

Etching with engraving.