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that his queen was dead, and that she had suffered no violence from Alexander, he covered his head and wept a long while ; and then throwing off the garment that covered him, gave God thanks for Alexander's moderation and justice. This custom was of great antiquity in Persia; for when Haman's plot against Mordecai was defeated, he is said to have“ hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered." The Jews are represented by Jeremiah as being “ ashamed and confounded, and covering their heads” in the time of a grievous famine :and when David received the tidings of Absalom's death,“ he covered his face, and cried with a loud voice." That this was a common expression of extreme distress, appears from a passage in the prophecies of Ezekiel, where the sorrows of captive Israel are foretold, under the type of removing: “ Thou shalt cover thy face that thou see not the ground; for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel.” It seems indeed to be a natural expression of grief or shame, and to have been accordingly practised among all nations. Thus Demosthenes, being on a particular occasion hissed by the people, went home with his head covered. Ulysses wrapped his face in his large purple robe and wept bitterly, when the musician celebrated in song the valorous deeds of the Greeks before Troy. The heathen nations adored their deities with covered heads, except Saturn and Hercules, whose solemnities were celebrated with heads unveiled; and the Jews, in worshipping the true God, covered their heads, from a spirit of bondage and fear. These are probably the reasons that the apostle thus expresses himself to the Corinthians : “ Every man
Esth. vi, 7.
8 Jer. xiv, 3, 4. Odyssey, lib. viii, 1. 83, 92.
praying, or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head."
To cover the lips was a very ancient sign of mourning; and it continues to be practised among the Jews of Barbary to this day. When they return from the grave to the house of the deceased, the chief mourner receives them with his jaws tied up with a linen cloth, in imitation of the manner in which the face of the dead is covered ; and by this the mourner is said to testify that he was ready to die for his friend. Muffled in this way, the mourner goes for seven days, during which the rest of his friends come twice every twenty-four hours to pray with him. This allusion is perhaps involved in the charge which Ezekiel received when his wife died, to abstain from the custom mary forms of mourning : “ Forbear to cry; make no mourning for the dead; bind the tire of thy head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men.” The law of Moses required a leper to have his clothes rent, his head bare, and a covering upon his upper lip, because he was considered as a dead man, “ of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb."
Sitting on the ground was a posture which denoted severe distress. Thus the prophet represents the elders of Israel, after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the captivity of those whom the sword had spared : “ The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence; they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth; the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.”! Ju
i 1 Cor. xi, 4.
k Ezek. xxiv, 17.
Lam. ii, 10.
dea is represented by a woman on several coins of Vespasian and Titus, in this very posture of sorrow and captivity sitting on the ground. The Jews lamented their dispersion, by the rivers of Babylon, in the same mournful posture : “ By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion." But what is more remarkable, we find Judea under the figure of a sorrowful woman sitting on the ground, in a passage of the prophet, where the same calamity, recorded on the niedals of these Roman emperors, is foretold ; “ And she being desolate, shall sit upon the ground.” 1
Oriental mourners often proceeded to great excesses, beating their breasts and thighs, tearing their flesh, and making furrows in their faces with their nails. These signs of grief, although sometimes exhibited by men, were more frequent among females, whose passions are more violent and unmanageable. In this manner Anna bewails her sister Dido's death :
“ Audiit exanimis trepidoque exterrita cursu,
Unguibus ora soror foedans et pectora palmis.” Æn. lib. iv, 1. 673. To smite upon the breast was a very common sign of penitential sorrow. Thus in the Odyssey, “ Smiting upon his breast, he began to chide his heart ;” and in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, the latter “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful unto me a sin
Significant of the same kind of sorrow was the custom, not less ancient, of smiting upon the thigh. This is mentioned as a circumstance which attended the
repentance of Ephraim : “ Surely after that I was turned, I
m Psa. cxxxvii, 1.
n Isa. iii, 26. • Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. ii, p. 203.
repented; and after that I was instructed I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.”p But it was not in every instance an expression of penitential sorrow; for we learn from Xenophon, that Cyrus smote upon his thigh when he received the news of the death of his generous friend Abradatus.
Another very singular method of expressing sorrow, was by burning brimstone in the house of the deceased. Livy mentions this practice as general among the Romans ;' and some commentators think it is referred to in these words of Bildad : “ Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation.” The idea corresponds with the design of the speaker, which is to describe the miserable end of the hypocrite.
Chardin informs us that when the king of Persia dies, his physicians and astrologers lose their places and are excluded from the court; the first, because they could not cure their sovereign, and the last, because they did not give previous notice of his death. This whimsical custom he supposes has descended to modern times from a very remote antiquity; and to have been the true reason that Daniel was absent when Belshazzar saw the hand writing his doom on the wall. If the conjecture of that intelligent traveller be well founded, the venerable prophet had been forced by the established etiquette of the court to retire from the management of public affairs at the death of Nebuchadnezzar; and had remained in a private station for twenty-three years, neglected or forgotten, till the awful
p Jer. xxxi, 19.
Cyrop. lib. vi, p. 408. Hesiod. Scutum Herc. 1. 243. r Lib. xxx, c. 15. s Job xviii, 15. Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. ii, p. 230.
occurrence of that memorable night rendered his assistance necessary, and brought him again into public notice. This accounts in a very satisfactory manner, as well for the ignorance of that dissolute and thoughtless monarch, as for the recollection of Nitocris the queen-mother, who had long known his character and abilities during the reign of her husband. The thought is at least ingenious, and furnishes the best solution of a difficulty which otherwise it is not easy to remove.
The funeral obsequies of an oriental were concluded by a feast, according with the rank and wealth of surviving relations. Chardin was present at many of those funeral banquets among the Armenian Christians in Per• sia. To this custom the prophet Jeremiah refers in these words: “ Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them, for the dead ; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink, for their sister or for their mother. Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting to sit with them to eat and to drink.”u In the seventh verse the prophet speaks of the provisions which relations and acquaintances usually sent to the house of their departed friend ; and of those healths which were drunk to the survivors of the family. In Barbary, when a person dies, the neighbours, relations, and friends send bread to the house of mourning, which the prophet Ezekiel calls “ the bread of men." It was supposed the family were so depressed by the loss of their relation, as to be unable to think of their necessary food. Those who sent the provisions made a visit to their sor. rowful and bereaved friends after the funeral, to com.
+ Daniel v, 11-16. Harmer's Observ. vol. jii, p. 89.
Chap. xxiv, 17.