Ministerio de Educación Cultura y Deporte

Museo de Arte Romano

Ground floor

Funeral rites. Room VI

(Room VI) The burial of the body was the first funereal formula attested to in Rome. Later on cremation acquired major importance until the former custom imposed itself at the end of the second century A.D. This was either because of the influence of Christianity or because of the belief in the everlasting condition of the personality. Both funeral rites motivated a varied typology of burials, which are displayed in the room.

On the left of the central nave, the monument to the legionnaire Zosimo, member of the VII Gemina Legion, presides over a number of tombstones that inform us about the condition and circumstances of the life of the deceased.

On the right of the central nave we find a broad representation of stelae, altars, cippus, etc. marking different burials. The tombstones show names well known in the colony, some of which pertained to the Papiria tribe, since the population of Mérida was assigned to this tribe. In the inscriptions there are always common elements, such as the consecration to the infernal gods - D.M.S. (Diis Manibus Sacrum) - the name of the deceased, his age, the name and family relation of the person who wrote the inscription as well as the traditional final formula H.S.E.S.T.T.L., abbreviation for Hic situs est. Sit tibi terra levis. (Translation: Here he lies. May the earth be easy on you.) It was very typical in Mérida, although not a custom found only here, that those who could afford it would adorn the funeral stelae with representations of their effigies, as can be seen in the stele displayed representing a married couple.

The sepulchre in the shape of a vat or barrel (cuppa) corresponds to a cremation burial. It was a very frequent practice in Mérida. Up to the present around 2.500 cases have been attested to here, particularly in the Alcazaba, in whose construction the majority of these vats, which came from an important burial ground nearby, were used.

There is also a libation sepulchre. The libation was poured through an upper tube together with offerings proceeding from the funeral banquet. The dowry and ashes inside an urn occupied the inner space. As for the unadorned marble sarcophagi, their considerable length is explained by the placement next to the corpse of the funeral dowry.