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Ancient Greeks: Everyday Life, Beliefs and Myths

Ancient Greek beliefs about the afterlife

Ancient burials give us information about how people lived and their beliefs as well as about their deaths. The Greeks believed that after death, their souls went on to the underworld, Hades. Here, it was decided whether they would make it into Heaven (also called Elysian Fields). Those who were good did make it, other who did not instead went to Hell (also called Tartarus).

When the Greeks conquered Egypt, they took on many of the Egyptian traditions such as mummification. They used simple boxes for burials instead of painted coffins.

The deceased were washed and it was believed that placing a coin in their mouth would pay the ferrymen of the dead. They were then led to their tomb in an emotional procession where they would be either buried or cremated.


Entrances to the tombs, where the Greeks were laid to rest, were make of marble. Heads of gorgons were carved onto the doors to ward off evil. The tombs ensured that the dead would not be forgotten as gravestones often showed the deceased with people that they knew in life. Objects belonging to the person were placed in the tomb with the body. These included pottery, jewellery and coins. Every year it was the families duty to visit the tomb in order to make offerings and decorate the tomb.

Can you see any similarities to what we do today when we visit gravestones?

Document icon Learning article provided by: Leeds City Museum | 

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