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The same practice extended also far west, and, besides Herulians, Getes, and Thracians, was in use with most of the Celtæ, Sarmatians, Germans, Gauls, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, not to omit some use thereof
Carthaginians and Americans; of greater antiquity among the Romans than most opinion, or Pliny seems to allow. For (besides the old table laws of burning or burying within the city,* of making the funeral fire with planed wood, or quenching the fire with wine,) Manlius, the consul, burnt the body of his son. Numa, by special clause of his will, was not burnt, but buried ; and Remus was solemnly buried, according to the description of Ovid. +
Cornelius Sylla was not the first whose body was burned in Rome, but of the Cornelian family, which being indifferently, not frequently used before, from that time spread, and became the prevalent practice; not totally pursued in the highest run of cremation; for when even crows were funerally burnt, Poppæa, the wife of Nero, found a peculiar grave interment. Now as all customs were founded upon some bottom of reason, so there wanted not grounds for this, according to several apprehensions of the most rational dissolution. Some, being of the opinion of Thales, that water was the original of all things, thought it most equal to submit unto the principle of putrefaction, and conclude in a moist relentment. Others conceived it most natural to end in fire, as due unto the master principle in the composition, according to the doctrine of Heraclitus; and therefore heaped up large piles, more actively to waft them toward that element, whereby they also declined a visible degeneration into worms, and left a lasting parcel of their composition.
* 12 Tab. Pars i. de jure sacro. Hominem mortuum in urbe ne sepelito, neve urito. tom. 2. Rogum asciâ ne polito. tom. 4.
+ Ultima prolato subdita flamma rogo.
Some apprehended a purifying virtue in fire, refining the grosser commixture, and firing out the ethereal particles so deeply immersed in it; and such as by tradition or rational conjecture held any hint of the final pyre of all things, or that this element at last must be too hard for all the rest, might conceive most naturally of the fiery dissolution. Others, pretending no natural grounds, politickly declined the malice of enemies upon their buried bodies; which consideration led Sylla unto this practice, who having thus served the body of Marius, could not but fear a retaliation upon his own, entertained after in the civil wars and revengeful contentions of Rome.
But as many nations embraced, and many left it indifferent, so others too much affected or strictly declined this practice. The Indian Brachmans seemed too great friends unto fire, who burnt themselves alive, and thought it the noblest way to end their days in fire; according to the expression of the Indian, burning himself at Athens, in his last words upon the pyre unto the amazed spectators,
“ Thus I make myself immortal.”'
But the Chaldeans, the great idolaters of fire, abhorred the burning of their carcasses, as a pollution of that deity. The Persian Magi declined it upon the like scruple, and being only solicitous about their bones, exposed their flesh to the prey of birds and dogs. And the Parsees now in India, which expose their bodies unto vultures, and endure not so much as feretra” or biers of wood, the proper fuel of fire, are led on with such niceties. But whether the ancient Germans, who burned their dead, held any such fear to pollute their deity of Herthus, or the earth, we have no authentic conjecture.
The Egyptians were afraid of fire, not as a deity, but a devouring element, mercilessly consuming their bodies, and leaving too little of them; and therefore, by precious embalments, depositure in dry earths, or handsome
enclosure in glasses, contrived the notablest ways of integral conservation; and from such Egyptian seruples, imbibed by Pythagoras, it may be conjectured that Numa and the Pythagorical sect first waved the fiery solution.
The Scythians, who swore by wind and sword, that is, by life and death, were so far from burning their bodies, that they declined all interment, and made their graves in the air ; and the Ichthyophagi, or fish-eating nations about Egypt, affected the sea for their grave, thereby declining visible corruption, and restoring the debt of their bodies. Whereas the old heroes in Homer dreaded nothing more than water or drowning, probably upon the old opinion of the fiery substance of the soul, only extinguishable by that element; and therefore the poet emphatically implieth the total destruction in this kind of death,* which happened to Ajax Oileus.
The old Balearians had a peculiar mode, for they used great urns and much wood, but no fire in their burials, while they bruised the flesh and bones of the dead, crowded them into urns, and laid heaps of wood upon them. And the Chinese, without cremation or urnal interment of their bodies, make use of trees and much burning, while they plant a pine tree by
* Which Magius reads igasóawas.
their grave, and burn great numbers of printed draughts of slaves and horses over it, civilly content with their companies in effigy, which barbarous nations exact unto reality.
Christians abhorred this way of obsequies, and though they sticked not to give their bodies to be burnt in their lives, detested that mode after death; affecting rather a depositure than absumption, and properly submitting unto the sentence of God, to return not unto ashes, but unto dust again, conformable unto the practice of the patriarchs, the interment of our Saviour, of Peter, Paul, and the ancient martyrs; and so far at last declining promiscuous interment with Pagans, that some have suffered ecclesiastical censures * for making no scruple thereof.
The Mussulman believers will never admit this fiery resolution ; for they hold a present trial from their black and white angels in the grave, which they must have made so hollow that they may rise upon their knees.
The Jewish nation, though they entertained the old way of inhumation, yet sometimes admitted this practice. For the men of Jabesh burnt the body of Saul ; and, by no prohibited practice, to avoid contagion or pollution in time of pestilence, burnt the bodies of their friends.t
* Martialis, the Bishop. Cyprian.