Vocal expression in Roman mourning

Hope, Valerie (2018). Vocal expression in Roman mourning. In: Butler, Shane and Nooter, Sarah eds. Sound and the Ancient Senses. The Senses in Antiquity. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 61–76.

URL: https://www.routledge.com/Sound-and-the-Ancient-Se...

Abstract

Tear-stained cheeks, dishevelled hair, bloodied breasts and dark clothing transformed the body to give physical representation to the altered emotional state and societal position of the Roman mourner. The expression of grief affected not just the physical surfaces of the body, but also its voice. This chapter explores the soundscape of Roman mourning, one that ranged from silence to clamour, from inarticulate groaning to finessed speeches. Mourners could wail, moan, cry, speak, shout and sing. Yet the vocalization of grief was not an uncontrolled emotional process but an orchestrated performance, dictated by the status of the deceased and the status and gender of the mourners. The acceptable and unacceptable aspects of vocalizing grief are investigated through literary evidence of diverse genres in this chapter.

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