Friday, September 15, 2006


More on Burial of Parents

Thanks to Professor David Whitehead, here are some more passages on the Athenian law requiring children to perform funeral rites for parents.

Aeschines 1.13-14 (tr. Charles Darwin Adams):
At any rate the law says explicitly: if any boy is let out for hire as a prostitute, whether it be by father or brother or uncle or guardian, or by any one else who has control of him, prosecution is not to he against the boy himself, but against the man who let him out for hire and the man who hired him; against the one because he let him out for hire, and against the other, it says, because he hired him. And the law has made the penalties for both offenders the same. Moreover the law frees a son, when he has become a man, from all obligation to support or to furnish a home to a father by whom he has been hired out for prostitution; but when the father is dead, the son is to bury him and perform the other customary rites.

See, gentlemen, how admirably this legislation fits the case; so long as the father is alive he is deprived of all the benefits of fatherhood, precisely as he deprived his son of a citizen's right to speak; but when he is dead, and unconscious of the service that is being rendered him, and when it is the law and religion that receive the honor, then at last the lawgiver commands the son to bury him and perform the other customary rites.
Lysias 31.21 (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
She demurred to committing herself to his care after her death, but as she had confidence in Antiphanes, who was no connection of hers, she gave him three minae of silver for her burial, ignoring this man, who was her own son. Obviously, of course, she was convinced that he would not perform the last duties even on the ground of his relationship.
Demosthenes 57.70 (tr. Norman W. DeWitt):
Furthermore, men of the jury, when you question the nine archons, you ask whether they act dutifully toward their parents. I for my part am left without a father, but for my mother's sake I beg and beseech you so to settle this trial as to restore to me the right to bury her in our ancestral tomb. Do not deny me this; do not make me a man without a country; do not cut me off from such a host of relatives, and bring me to utter ruin. Rather than abandon them, if it prove impossible for them to save me, I will kill myself, that at least I may be buried by them in my country.
Lycurgus 1.147 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
He is guilty too of injuring his forbears, for he effaced their memorials and deprived them of their rites, and guilty of desertion and refusal to serve, since he did not submit his person to the leaders for enrollment.
Dinarchus 2.8 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
You must all have often heard that, when Aristogiton's father Cydimachus was condemned to death and fled from the city, this admirable son allowed his own father to lack the bare necessities of life, while he survived, and do without a proper burial when he died: a fact for which evidence was often brought against him.
Dinarchus 2.18 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
Aristogiton could not claim one of these qualifications for himself. So far from treating his parents well this man has ill-treated his own father. When you were all serving in the army he was in prison; and, far from being able to point to any memorial of his father, Athenians, he did not give him a proper funeral even in Eretria where he died.

J.O. Burtt, in his note on Dinarchus 2.18, also cites Demosthenes 25.54 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Not content with abandoning his father in prison when he quitted Eretria, as you have heard from Phaedrus, this unnatural ruffian refused to bury him when he died, and would not refund the expenses to those who did bury him, but actually brought a law-suit against them.

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