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Roman death masks

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman death mask
Roman death mask

Aristocratic families kept in the atrium, in their homes, death masks of their ancestors. Such masks were worn during funerals. In 78 BCE during Sulla’s funeral, apparently, about six thousand such masks took part in the march and funeral ceremony. Similarly, it was to be during the funeral of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, in 23 BCE.

The death masks of the Romans (imagines maiorum) were made of beeswax – a very expensive substance at that time. Wax could not survive to our times, hence we do not have any copies. Scientists, however, managed to create their own images using the same method used by the Romans.

Death masks were worn by actors, professional mourners or family members who were in a funeral procession. Then the masks were kept and kept in a cupboard in the atrium, next to the house altars. This custom occurred in patrician families wanting to emphasize in this way the importance of their family and preserve the memory of great ancestors. Wax masks were often later immortalized in marble so that they would not be destroyed. The collection of masks testified to the antiquity of the family.

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