Mechanism used by families to feed the dead in Rome. (Image Credits: Google Images)

Tradition of feeding the dead in Rome

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Rome is one of the oldest cities in the world and has been considered one of the bed rocks of the political and cultural evolution of the various civilizations connected to the ancient empire.

As such, the city has seen many unique and often bizarre traditions and customs. One such tradition was the practice of feeding the dead, as astonishing as that might sound.

In true Roman tradition, tombs were visited often by living relatives who would make offerings of food and most importantly wine. Special occasions and festivals would also draw out family members who would celebrate them with their deceased relatives.

It was believed that by observing these traditions with continuity and care through generations, families could maintain a tie with previous generations. It was also believed that by maintaining this connection, people could allow their ancestors or loved ones to influence their lives in a positive manner.

In most cases, families would pour wine and food through vessels installed in the graves allowing them access. The reason for offering libations, mostly wine was also to appease the dead. Often, even water or beer were poured into these graves, depending on the preference of the family.

This practice is said to have originated in Egypt, then moving to North Africa and on to Greece.  Having said that, it was the Romans who made this practice popular with their extravagance.

They held the belief that through their bones and ash, the dead were able to consume food and drinks offered to them.

The belief was so strong that it led to the construction of specialized libation tubes or vessels as mentioned earlier. The purpose of these tubes was to allow wine to flow directly to their ancestors with out having to pour it on the ground and letting the earth absorb it.

The manner in which the Romans buried their dead, catered specifically to these needs. Bodies were surrounded by tiles, the likes of which were used for roofing. The libation tubes were fixed into these structures, surrounded by soil.

Through them, the living would offer food and drinks to the deceased with ease, during festivals and celebrations through out the year.