Bringing the war dead home for public burial was one of the most distinctive customs in ancient Athens, famously enshrined by Thucydides in his account of the Peloponnesian War. If a man died fighting for the polis, his body was to be recovered, identified and brought home, regardless of geographical distance, his social standing or military skill. The custom stood at the heart of Classical Athenian democracy and has since been used as an archetypal paradigm for modern military forces. While the public burial of the war dead in Classical Athens (c. 480–323 BC) has been much discussed by scholars, far less attention has been devoted to how the Athenians buried and commemorated their dead in the preceding Archaic era (c. 800–480 BC). In this talk, Cezary will redress this imbalance by providing an overview of his latest book, "The Treatment of the War Dead in Archaic Athens: An Ancestral Custom" (Bloomsbury Academic 2020). Exploring a variety of ancient sources, including the Homeric poems, depictions of combat on vases, and funerary monuments for fallen warriors, Cezary will discuss the unique significance of the war dead in the cultural imagination of the Athenians, explaining why ancient modes of war commemoration remain relevant to modern discussions about how we remember and commemorate military conflict.
(Photo: Pottery: In the manner of Exekias Photograph: George E. Koronaios - edited by Kathleen Vail, CC BY-SA 4.0; via Wikimedia Commons)
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