Friday 8 April 2016

Cremation in Homer and elsewhere

The hymn 15 in Rigveda X (one of the youngest parts of the collection) refers, in verse or stanza 14 to the emerging rite of cremation: ancestors "both cremated (agnidagdhá-) and uncremated (án-agnidagdha-) sic".

Here is the verse or stanza in question from MacDonell's Vedic Reader for Students, p. 185:
agni- is the stem of agn-i-s 'fire', as in igni-s, -dagdha- is the p(ast) p(articiple) of the root dah (Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 488 and perh. p. 163 143.6, p. 181 156.α, and p. 184 160.2 [62, 69 c] with pp. 182-183 158.a.a). án- is the alpha-privative familiar from Greek (Latin in-, English un-).Cf. agní-ṣvāttá in X.15.11.

Cremation is the only post-mortem rite in Homer, for fools and kings, in contrast to Mycenaean shaft graves, tholos tombs, and (in part) the Dipylon cemetery.

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