uable, in national influence, of all the excellent customs which the wisest people of antiquity sacredly guarded in its institutions. The tribute paid to the dead by a public acknowledgment of their services; the sympathetic bearing by the body-politic of those losses which burden individual families; the consolation offered by the orator, appointed by the state and speaking to the fathers and mothers, wives and children of the dead soldiers; and the general uplifting of the soul above the sorrows of the mourner to the holy, patriotic joys of the nation's heart, inspired crowds of her citizens with the spirit of deliberate martyrdom and gained for the first republic in the world that heroic devotion that other forms of government can but feebly understand.
The prelude to the splendid funeral oration of Pericles, political master of Athens, gives an interesting description of the ceremonies attending military funerals in the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.).
The oration was repeated on the anniversary of the solemnity and, as Plato said in the Menexenus, "the nation never ceased honoring the dead every year, celebrating in public the rites proper to each and all; and in addition to this, holding gymnastic and equestrian festivals and musical festivals of every sort." Thus did all the different departments of national, religious and artistic life contribute to the glorification of the Memorial Day of the old Athenian volunteer.
A brief analysis of the military panegyric at Athens, together with a few extracts from her most celebrated funeral orations may be of value both as a mirror of the customs of the day and as an expression of the grateful sympathy of the nation's heart. As Bekker has said in his "Demosthenes as Statesman and Orator," "the subject was always the same—praise of the dead soldiers, mourning of their country for her
- Private funerals often took place the next day after the decease, of Demosthenes, Or. 43, Sec. 62, in a law attributed to Solon. Note similar custom in the gulf states of our country.
- Thucydides, Bk. 2, Sec. 34 seq.