14.4.17

Early Christian Epitaphs From Athens, Greece

EPITAPH
An epitaph (from Greek ἐπιτάφιος epitaphios "a funeral oration" from ἐπί epi "at, over" and τάφος taphos "tomb") is a short text honouring a deceased person. Strictly speaking, it refers to text that is inscribed on a tombstone or plaque, but it may also be used in a figurative sense. Some epitaphs are specified by the person themselves before their death, while others are chosen by those responsible for the burial. An epitaph may be written in prose or in poem verse; poets have been known to compose their own epitaphs prior to their death, as did William Shakespeare.

Most epitaphs are brief records of the family, and perhaps the career, of the deceased, often with a common expression of love or respect—for example, "beloved father of ..."—but others are more ambitious. From the Renaissance to the 19th century in Western culture, epitaphs for notable people became increasingly lengthy and pompous descriptions of their family origins, career, virtues and immediate family, often in Latin. Notably, the Laudatio Turiae, the longest known Ancient Roman epitaph, exceeds almost all of these at 180 lines; it celebrates the virtues of an honored wife, probably of a consul.



Some are quotes from holy texts, or aphorisms. One approach of many epitaphs is to 'speak' to the reader and warn them about their own mortality. A wry trick of others is to request the reader to get off their resting place, inasmuch as the reader would have to be standing on the ground above the coffin to read the inscription. Some record achievements (e.g., past politicians note the years of their terms of office). Nearly all (excepting those where this is impossible by definition, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) note name, year or date of birth, and date of death. Many list family members and the relationship of the deceased to them (for example, "Father / Mother / Son / Daughter of")

EPITAPHIOS

The Epitaphios (Greek: Ἐπιτάφιος, epitáphios, or Ἐπιτάφιον, epitáphion; Slavonic: Плащаница, plashchanitsa; Arabic: نعش, naash) is a Christian religious icon, typically consisting of a large, embroidered and often richly adorned cloth. It is used during the liturgical services of Good Friday and Holy Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well as those Eastern Catholic Churches, which follow the Byzantine Rite. It also exists in painted or mosaic form, on wall or panel.

The Epitaphios is also a common short form of the Epitáphios Thrēnos, the "Lamentation upon the Grave" in Greek, which is the main part of the service of the Matins of Holy Saturday, served in Good Friday evening. Armenian Orthodox have also the tradition of the epitaphios. Their celebration on this day is called T'aghman Kark (Rite of the Burial).


EARLY CHRISTIAN EPITAPHS FROM ATHENS

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