STRANGE! Romans Still Feed Their Dead Food & Wine Throughout The Year

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Feeding the dead is a tradition of Romans where they pour honey, wine, and food into the grave of the dead through a pipe. 

The ancient Romans took the practice of pouring out libations to a new level, though. In fact, the very word libation comes from the Latin word libare, which means “to taste, sip, pour out, or make libation.”

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They believed that through their bones or ashes, the dead “consumed” whatever food or drink the living offered.

So they built “libation tubes” into graves that directly connected living relatives to their ancestors below.

The idea was that the liquid didn’t have to seep through the ground to get to their remains, and could instead flow directly to them.

Typically, the Romans crafted terracotta, lead, wood, or imbrices (curved tiles used on the roofs of houses) into tubes of varying diameters.

During their burial, the deceased would be placed in a pit lined with tile. More tile would cover the body in a tent-like fashion, with the libation tube held in place by soil.

These tube vessels then easily allowed the living to offer up wine and foods to the deceased on holidays throughout the year.

Origin

Historians believe that the Egyptians were the first to offer libations to their dead. Yet it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the practice began since liquids poured directly on the ground would have disappeared thousands of years ago.

The first evidence of libations dates back to when the pyramids were built. Back then, Egyptians poured a little beer on their loved one’s grave, drank the rest, and broke the pots they brought it in, leaving the shards behind.

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Other Mediterranean cultures soon adopted the practice of pouring liquid on the graves of deceased family members.

The 3,000-year-old tomb of Phoenician King Ahiram bears a curse referencing libation tubes, and Greek graves have been discovered with them.

Emulating the Greeks, Romans incorporated libation tubes into their funerary rituals.

Many graves did have the tubes whether the deceased was poor, rich, rich, or old.

It’s known that families offered the first libation at the ‘cena novemdialis’, a feast marking the end of the nine-day mourning period following the loved one’s death.

They would gather at the grave, prepare a meal onsite, and share that meal with the deceased through the libation tube.

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If they could afford a mausoleum, family members would gather inside to share a meal, which might have included pork, chicken, and bread, while others would eat near the grave.

In either case, part of the meal would be given to the dead through the libation tube.

“The main point was to maintain an ongoing relationship with the dead, so the family would sit and have a meal at the gravesite and share that meal with the deceased,” Prowse explains in his book.

“Romans believed that they had to keep the spirits of their ancestors content, otherwise they might become vengeful. Offering proper rituals and libations was a way to keep them happy.”

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Christians eventually put an end to libations—they considered the practice pagan—but not immediately.

In “Drinking with the Dead? Glasses from Roman and Christian Burial Areas at Leptiminus (Lamta, Tunisia),” a 2017 article for the Journal of Glass Studies, archaeologist and associate professor Dr. Allison E. Sterrett-Krause noted that glassware associated with ritual libations was found in the Roman cemetery’s Christian section.

This discovery suggests that drinking and feasting with the dead still happened there as late as the fifth and sixth centuries. 

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During a 1990s excavation on the grounds of Lichfield Cathedral in England, archaeologists found a libation tube that led to the buried remains of an 11th-century priest, as well.

Today’s graves may not have libation tubes, but that hasn’t stopped people from honoring their loved ones with drinks. In parts of Russia and neighboring countries, mourners still pour vodka on graves.

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