Funeral Orations and Lekythoi

Funeral Orations and Lekythoi

Lekythoi is a common funeral vessel found in Ancient Greece with a white background, thought to hold funerary oil like olive oil. They were usually hollow aside from the top, which held the oil. That way it would always look full. The Ancient Greeks used this vessel to wash the body with the oil before wrapping it in cloth.

Often these vessels have scenes painted on them, showing death.

Another custom was the funeral oration (also known as the epitaphios logos). This was a speech delivered at the funeral, and was considered a vital part of any burial process. It is thought to be exclusively an Athenian tradition, although there are some early representations of these speeches in Homer’s works and in Pindar’s lyrical poetry.

However, in Athens is where the epithaphios logos became popular. Historians believe this was around 470 BC to commemorate fallen soldiers in battle. Normally, the speech involves a part where the speech-giver (orator) tries to find the words to describe the dead person’s achievements and triumphs. There is a story telling, and an epilogue which acts as encouragement for the surviving members of the family.

Many traditional Ancient Greek customs are still used as part of the Greek Orthodox religion. Ritualistic offerings and prothesis are a part of their funeral process, and they have a wake over the deceased person the night before the funeral too.

Many of Athens’ dead were traditionally buried at Kerameikos, and tourists can still visit the necropolis.


▶︎ Ancient Greek funeral traditions through the centuries
▶︎ Mycenaean Burial Traditions
▶︎ Archaic and Classical Greece’s Funeral Rites
▶︎ Funeral Orations and Lekythoi