4 December 2012
Life After Death In Ancient Civilizations
Death and afterlife had a big role in people’s life at the time of ancient civilizations. There are lots of tombs which come from ancient times but you cannot find other structures as much as tombs now because most of them disappeared by passage of time. It shows to us; death is a crucial topic for ancient times and people give importance to afterlife so they build strong and flamboyant tombs. There are two main civilizations which have highly developed views about afterlife, ancient Egyptians and Sumerians.
Ancient Egypt is a good sample for this. Religion is the main and most crucial factor for Egyptians. Their beliefs were based on their observation about life as a process which started on earth, but continued in the next world. Many of them organize their life to afterlife. They build magnificent structures such as Pyramids for their kings as tombs. Egyptians believe that the correct funeral only guarantees the dead to pass into the afterlife. Their belief is that in order for the soul to pass into the next life, the body must remain intact; therefore, to protect it, they build up the procedures of mummification, preserving bodies after death, usually by the use of chemical substances. The preservation was crucial to moving on to the next world. After that the conserved body would be placed in the pyramid which was considered a vessel that transported the dead into the next world “Egypt had an extremely developed view of the life after death with sophisticated rituals for preparing the body and soul for an endless life after death. Beliefs about the soul and afterlife focused greatly on preservation of the body, This was because they believed that the vitality or double, the Ka, was still associated with the body after death and it was necessary for the Ka to be reunited with the Ba, the spirit or soul, to support the Akh, hoped to ascend to the heavens and take its place among the stars. This meant that embalming and mummification were practiced, in order to preserve the individual’s identity in the afterlife.” According to Egyptians death was not only the end, but was just one of the transformations in life’s natural cycle. (Budge 109)
Sumerians also believed in afterlife like the Egyptians. They believed that when a person died, descended into a grim underworld from which there was no release. Sumerians believed that the afterlife was a depressing and gloomy existence. They do not have positive ideas about afterlife, which they see as a punishment. It was commonly called the House of Darkness and entitled an eternity in the ground. Sumerians were polytheistic and the Gods in which they believed in were said to be just like us. In fact, we were copies of divine models, made in the image of the Gods. They were petty and violent. If the Mesopotamian did not worship correctly the Gods would become angry and would punish them. “Sumerians believed that there was darkness in this hell, but it was not eternal darkness, for after setting on earth the sun traveled all night through the underworld until dawn; and because on earth he was the great judge of living men, he also judged the dead during his underworld sojourn, allotting punishment and rewards. These dead were not treated all alike; there were gradations and hierarchies, punishment for the wicked, while the virtuous soul needed not fear before that judge.” (Dylan)
Death in many cultures is not seen as an end, but a beginning of a new life in the otherworld. Elaborate rituals and special burial ceremonies are conducted to bid goodbye to the deceased. As Socrates remarked, “Look death in the face with joyful hope, and consider this a lasting truth: the righteous man has nothing to fear, neither in life, nor in death, and the gods will not forsake him.” The ancient cultures of Greece and Rome are the most popular for their elaborate death and burial...