Pompa in Pompeii: experiencing a funeral procession in the ancient city

Virginia L. Campbell (University of Birmingham & The Open University)


The pompa funebris, the funeral procession, was a fundamental part of the rituals enacted upon the death of a Roman, especially those of the aristocracy. A public event, the funeral procession was part performance, part entertainment, and part commemoration, designed to engage both the family and friends of the deceased as well as members of the general populace. The route of the funeral procession had specific aims for memorialisation of the dead and his or her ancestry in addition to inviting participation from the multitudes. The unique archaeological and epigraphic evidence preserved in Pompeii allows potential routes of funeral processions for individuals to be recreated, linking house, tomb, civic space such as the Forum, and other significant locations to be mapped. This provides the opportunity to consider the lived experience of the pompa funebris more fully as a kinetic religious ritual integrated into the urban landscape.

Keywords: Pompeii, funeral processions, Roman tombs, epigraphy, urban topography

Full text: OAJ_ISSUE_10_8_Virginia L. Campbell_final (PDF 846KB).

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2021s08

Biographical note 
Virginia L. Campbell is a lecturer and researcher in Roman history and archaeology, and has worked at multiple universities across the UK including a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Oxford, and posts at The Open University, the University of Exeter, and the University of St. Andrews, where she is a member of the Centre for Ancient Environmental Studies. She earned her PhD in Classics and MA City of Rome from the University of Reading, and a BA in Anthropology and History from The American University, Washington, D.C. Her research utilises the epigraphic and archaeological evidence of Pompeii to examine different aspects of life and death including funerary commemoration, politics, and social networks.