Although embalming is traditionally considered an Egyptian custom, ancient sources suggest that in imperial Rome the practice was not employed by Egyptians or Egyptianized Romans alone. The mos Romanorum in funerary ritual encompassed both cremation and inhumation, yet embalming appears in Rome as early as the first century AD and evidence points to its limited use during the first three centuries AD. Within the social structure of Rome's dead these preserved corpses certainly occupied a distinct place. Yet who were they and why were they embalmed? It is argued here that various factors allowed for the occasional use of embalming by Romans: (1) an apparent shift in attitudes towards Egypt, (2) the manipulation of death ritual for social distinction, and (3) the flexibility of the traditional Roman funeral, which was able to incorporate deviations in methods of body disposal. Although embalming has been largely ignored as a significant aspect of Roman funerary history, its patrons come from the classes of highest status, including even the imperial household. This fact alone makes it worthwhile to examine this small corpus of evidence. For example, the emperor Nero embalmed his wife Poppaea; such a deviation from standard disposal methods reflects imperial fashion, but also requires us to re-evaluate Nero's reign and, especially, the societal constructs of Neronian Rome. This study attempts to contextualize embalming within Roman society and offer some likely causes and effects of its use.

[Footnotes]

[Footnotes]
3
H. Furneaux, The Annals of Tacitus2 (Oxford, 1965) 435, n. 9.
5
Cicero (Leg. 2.22.56)
Pliny (HN 7.187)
I. Morris, Death-Ritual and Social Structure in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge, 1992) 31-69
7
Herodotus 3.38
Lucretius 3.888-93
Lucian, On Funerals 21
8
Hellenism in Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome (Ithaca, 1992) 52-83
J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Romans and Aliens (Chapel Hill, 1979) 63
9
Pliny HN 22.50.108-10, mellis quidem ipsius natura talis est ut putrescere corpora non sinat
11
F. Millar, A Study of Cassius Dio (Oxford, 1964) 34-38; 78-102
13
Dio 50.3
Millar, supra, n. 11, 185
14
Aug. 31
Aug. 34
P. Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Ann Arbor, 1988) 57-65
15
Dio 51.11, 15, trans. E. Cary, Loeb ed
16
R. Mayer, "What Caused Poppaea's Death?" Historia 31 (1982) 248-49.
17
Polybius 6.53
18
L. Richardson, Jr., A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Baltimore, 1992) 402
21
Seneca Ad Marciam 3.2
Vergil Aen. 4.684-85.
22
Scriptores Historiae Augustae Antoninus Pius 5.1
D. E. Strong, Roman Imperial Sculpture (London, 1961) pl. 66
Aen. 6.218
23
Line 212. Statius
24
supra, n. 18
C. Robert, Die Antiken Sarkophagrelief II (Rome: La Libreria dello Stato) 35, no. 25
Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità (1911) 66-67; (1920) 109; (1921) 191-92.
25
Ugo Scamuzzi, "Studio Sulla Mummia Di Bambina," in Rivista Di Studi Classici XII (1964) 264
26
Ibid. 269-74
27
R. Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome (Cambridge, 1892) 296.
28
Ibid. 295
Varro, Pliny (supra, n. 9)
Lucretius (supra, n. 7)
29
Morris (supra, n. 5) 56-61
A. D. Nock, "Cremation and Burial in the Roman Empire," Harvard Theological Review 25 (1932) 323-24
R. F. J. Jones, "Cremation and Inhumation— Change in the Third Century," in A. King and M. Henig, eds., The Roman West in the Third Century, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1981) 15-19.
30
Morris (supra, n. 5) 18.
31
Morris (supra, n. 5) notes, "embalming was not a Jewish custom" (32)
Balsdon (supra, n. 8) 256
Death and Burial in the Roman World (Ithaca, 1971) 42
32
M. Reinhold, "Roman Attitudes Toward Egyptians," Ancient World 3 (1980) 98.
34
W. Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults (Cambridge, 1987) 6
S. A. Tákics' published dissertation, Roman Politics and the Cult of Isis and Sarapis (Ann Arbor, 1992) passim
Takács, 194-97
Pliny HN 33.41
AD 23/24-79
35
R. Ling, Roman Painting (Cambridge, 1991) 38-39, 142-43
36
ca. 12 BC
E. Nash, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome2 (London, 1968) 321-23
A. Roullette, The Egyptian and Egyptianizing Monuments of Imperial Rome (Leiden, 1972) 43-45
J. S. Curl, Egyptomania (Cambridge, 1994) 1-36
37
HN 12.83
38
Suet. Nero 21-23; 31.
39
D. Kleiner, Roman Sculpture (New Haven, 1992) 6.
40
U. Hiesinger, "The Portraits of Nero," AJA 79 (1975) 113-24
M. Bergmann and P. Zanker, "'Damnatio memoriae.' Umgear- beitete Nero- und Domitiansporträts: Zur Ikonographie der Flavischen Kaiser und des Nerva," Jdl 96 (1981) 321-32.
41
Suet. Nero 19, 35.
42
Dio 63.27.
43
Suet. Nero 47: ac niflexisset animos, vel Aegypti praefecturam concedi sibi oraret.
44
Suet. Nero 20.
45
Tac. Ann. 14.14
Alex. 4
46
Suet. Nero 19.
47
Suet. Nero 40
Dio 63.27
48
Suet. Nero 19.
49
C. Edwards, "Beware of Imitations: Theater and the Subversion of Imperial Identity,"
J. Elsner and J. Masters, eds., Reflections of Nero (Chapel Hill, 1994) 83-97.
50
Ibid. 87.
51
Ibid.
52
S. Alcock, in "Nero at Play? The Emperor's Grecian Odyssey,"
J. Elsner and J. Masters, eds., Reflections of Nero (Chapel Hill, 1994) 106.
53
A. A. Saxe, Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practices (Diss. U. Michigan, 1970)
L. R. Binford, "Mortuary practices: their study and potential,"
J. A. Brown, ed., Approaches to the Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practices, Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology 25 (New York, 1971) 6-25
J. A. Tainter, "Mortuary practices and the study of prehistoric social systems,"
M. B. Schiffer, ed., Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, No. (New York, 1978)
J. O'Shea, "Social configurations and the archaeological study of mortuary practices: a case study,"
R. Chapman, I. Kinnes and K. Randsborg, eds., The Archaeology of Death (Cambridge, 1981) 39-52
L. Goldstein, "One-dimensional archaeology and multi-dimensional people: spatial organisation and mortuary analysis," in Chapman 53-69
Morris (supra, n. 5).
54
Nock (supra, n. 29) 321-59
Morris (supra, n. 5) 42-69
55
Ann. 16.6.
56
supra, n. 37
57
5.1.226 eximius coniunx.
58
J. Oliver, "Domitian's Freedman Antiochus," Hesperia 32 (1963)
59
Tainter's "effort-expenditure principle" (supra, n. 53)
Tainter proposes, in The Archaeological Study of Social Change: Woodland Systems in West-Central Illinois (Diss. Northwestern, 1975) 125
60
Diodorus Siculus (1.91)
61
D. P. Braun, "Illinois Hopewell Burial Practices and Social Organization: A Reexamination of the Klunk-Gibson Mound Group,"
D. S. Brose and N'omi Greber, eds., Hopewell Archaeology: The Chillicothe Conference (Kent, 1979) 68
P. Wason, The Archaeology of Rank (Cambridge, 1994)
status (81)
62
A. Tuck, "The Etruscan Seated Banquet: Villanovan Ritual and Etruscan Iconography," AJA 98 (1994) 620-21
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