Grave Finds and Burial Practices in Thessaloniki (4th – 15th centuries)

Grave Finds and Burial Practices in Thessaloniki (4th – 15th centuries)

By Despina Makropoulou

Paper given at the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies (2006)

Introduction: In the past 60 years a large number of graves and burials have been investigated by the Ephoreia of Byzantine Antiquities of Thessaloniki in the course of salvage excavations. The resulting conclusions are summarized below.

The cemeteries of Thessaloniki in this period were set outside the city walls, in the areas to the East and West where there was flat ground and roads to facilitate access. The establishment of cemeteries outside the city walls was mandatory in that period, dictated by laws which invoked the issue of public health and the notion that the dead were impure. Between the 7th and 9th centuries the extramural part of the city was abandoned, possibly for fear of enemy raids, and the dead were buried within the walled area. The publication of Novella LIII of Emperor Leo VI, the Wise, secured the burial of the dead inside the cities, granting every subject of the empire the right to choose the place of burial of their dead relatives either inside or outside the city.

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