The Immortal Marriage

The Immortal Marriage

The Immortal Marriage

The Immortal Marriage

Excerpt

Axiochus of Miletus was dead and in the dark hour before dawn the doors of his house were thrown open, the flute boy gave signal, the professional dirge-singers raised their voices in lamentation and issued into the street beating their breasts. The male relatives and friends followed, immediately preceding the body on its couch borne by slaves. Behind the bier walked Aspasia, the only child of the dead man, with a white lekythos in the bend of her arm and a few paces ahead of her aunts and cousins: a symbolic divarication that made her supple back a target for resentful eyes. The procession was closed by a number of slaves carrying a table loaded with garlands, lekythoi, and other votive offerings. Torch-bearers lit the way.

The mourners wore the black funeral himation, a full mantle sweeping severely from neck to sandal, one point thrown over the left shoulder, but the corpse had been dressed in white with a chaplet of gold leaves on its head and covered with wreaths of flowers, olive, and parsley. Axiochus, austere in life, lay on silken cushions and Persian tapestries, but his arms were straight and rigid at his sides, his pointed beard upthrust as if in defiance of death. Between his lips, as gray and hard as slate, was a coin to insure the services of Charon across the Styx.

The funeral procession passed through the narrow streets of the city, across the Agora, or market-place, through the inner . . .

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