From ideal to reality. Married couples on Hellenistic inscribed grave epigrams 1
The conjugal life of every married couple comes to an inescapable end when either the husband or the wife dies. An epigram could be commissioned, which would then be inscribed on the grave marker. These inscriptions allude to some elements of the deceased's life, exalt their qualities, and highlight the grief of their family. The content of these documents is often considered by scholars as stereotypical and with little connection to reality. This chapter intends to show how to use inscribed grave epigrams as part of the study of couples’ experiences, by looking at several Hellenistic inscribed grave epigrams, commissioned by husbands for their deceased wives. Should we consider that affection and conjugal harmony, as presented in these inscriptions, are only part of the field of positive exaggeration and idealisation of the deceased? How to make sense of the co-existence of idealisation and lived reality that both members of the couple had experienced? This chapter will also consider a few Hellenistic oracular tablets from Dodona for comparison: questions about marriage and married life appear frequently in these documents, which were not meant to be literary or read publicly, contrary to funerary epigrams; yet these tablets about marital life were written by male individuals only, which offers a stimulating comparison to the choice of funerary epigrams presented in this chapter.
In: Centlivres-Challet, Claude-Emmanuelle (Ed.), Married Life in Greeco-Roman Antiquity. London: Routledge, 2021, pp. 42-58
Claude-Emmanuelle Centlivres Challet
Death – funeral rites – grieving