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{{short description|Inscription on a tombstone}}{{other uses}}{{distinguish|text=epigraph}}{{Globalize|article|Western culture|date=March 2019}}File:The day will come.jpg|thumb|right|240px|Epitaph on the base of the Haymarket Riot Memorial, Waldheim Cemetery Chicago.]]An epitaph (from Greek epitaphios "a funeral oration" from ἐπί epi "at, over" and τάφος taphos "tomb"){{LSJ|e)pita/fios|ἐπιτάφιος|ref}}WEB,weblink Online Etymology Dictionary: Epitaph,, 2012-03-18, is a short text honoring a deceased person. Strictly speaking, it refers to text that is inscribed on a tombstone or plaque, but it may also be used in a figurative sense. Some epitaphs are specified by the person themselves before their death, while others are chosen by those responsible for the burial. An epitaph may be written in prose or in poem verse; poets have been known to compose their own epitaphs prior to their death, as did William Shakespeare.(commons:File:Shakespeare grave -Stratford-upon-Avon -3June2007.jpg|Photograph of William Shakespear's grave, 3 June 2007)Most epitaphs are brief records of the family, and perhaps the career, of the deceased, often with a common expression of love or respect—for example, "beloved father of ..."—but others are more ambitious. From the Renaissance to the 19th century in Western culture, epitaphs for notable people became increasingly lengthy and pompous descriptions of their family origins, career, virtues and immediate family, often in Latin. Notably, the Laudatio Turiae, the longest known Ancient Roman epitaph, exceeds almost all of these at 180 lines; it celebrates the virtues of an honored wife, probably of a consul.{{citation needed|date=June 2012}}Some are quotes from holy texts, or aphorisms. One approach of many epitaphs is to 'speak' to the reader and warn them about their own mortality. A wry trick of others is to request the reader to get off their resting place, inasmuch as the reader would have to be standing on the ground above the coffin to read the inscription. Some record achievements (e.g., past politicians note the years of their terms of office). Nearly all (excepting those where this is impossible by definition, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) note name, year or date of birth, and date of death. Many list family members and the relationship of the deceased to them (for example, "Father / Mother / Son / Daughter of").{{citation needed|date=June 2012}}

Epitaphs in England

Mediaeval era

File:SirJohnHarsyck 1384 SouthAcreChurch Norfolk.jpg|thumb|ledger stone with epitaph in ledger lines of Sir John Harsyck (d.1384), South Acre Church, Norfolk]]Stock phrases or standard elements present in epitaphs on mediaeval church monuments and ledger stones in England include:
  • Hic jacet.. (here lies...)
  • ... cuius animae propitietur deus amen (generally abbreviated to cuius aie ppitiet ds ame with tildes over the omitted letters) ("whose soul may God look upon with favour Amen")
  • Memoriae sacrum ... / MS ("Sacred to the memory (of) ...")

Modern era

  • Requiescat in pace / RIP ("may he rest in peace")

Notable examples

{{Refimprove section|date=June 2015}}

Poets, playwrights and other writers

Good frend for Iesvs sake forebeare,To digg the dvst encloased heare. Bleste be Middle English the.svg man Middle English that.svg spares thes stones,And cvrst be he Middle English that.svg moves my bones.(In modern spelling):Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear,To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones,And cursed be he that moves my bones. Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water Cast a cold eyeOn life, on death.Horseman, pass by! Heroes and Kings your distance keep;In peace let one poor poet sleep,Who never flattered folks like you;Let Horace blush and Virgil too.
Alexander PopeBOOK, Charles Dickens, Dickens' Dictionary Of The Thames, 1893, 269,
Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas,Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please. Homo sum! the adventurer Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!
Virginia Woolf{hide}Citation
| first = Virginia | last = Woolf
| author-link = Virginia Woolf
| title = The Waves
| place = Berlin
| publisher = Harcourt
| year = 1931


Looking into the portals of eternity teaches thatThe brotherhood of man is inspired by God's word;Then all prejudice of race vanishes away. Oh God (Devanagari: हे राम)


I've finally stopped getting dumber.()
Paul Erdős{{Citation needed|date=June 2015}}
We must know. We will know.()
David HilbertBOOK,weblink The Great Mathematicians, Debasis, Biswas,, Google Books, 9781105381386,


Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing bythat here, obedient to their law, we lie.
Simonides's epigram honoring the 300 at Thermopylae
Here sleeps at peace a Hampshire GrenadierWho caught his early death by drinking cold small beer.Soldiers, be wise at his untimely fall,And when you're hot, drink strong or none at all.
Thomas Thetcher tombstone epitaph in Winchester Cathedral
To save your world you asked this man to die:Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?
Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier, written by W. H. AudenWEB,weblink Famous Epitaph on Unknown Soldier tomb stone,, 2012-03-18,
There is borne an empty hearsecovered over for such as appear not. Heroes have the whole earth for their tomb.
Unknown Soldier's epitaph, Athens; passages taken from Pericles' Funeral OrationBOOK, The English works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, VIII, Thucydides, Thucydides, Thomas Hobbes (translator), William, Molesworth, John Bohn, London, 1843, 188, History of the Peloponnesian War 2.34.3,
chapter-url=, Available online at the Perseus Project.BOOK, The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides, Thucydides, Richard Crawley, Richard Crawley, J. M. Dent; E. P. Dutton, London, New York, 1910, 2.43.3,weblink Available online at the Perseus Project.


And the beat goes on. That's all folks! I told you I was ill.()
Spike MilliganNEWS,weblink Milligan gets last laugh on grave, 2004-05-24, 2015-06-08, BBC News Online,


He never killed a man that did not need killing.

Monuments with epitaphs

File:SSACRAM 64.JPG|Epitaph painted by Guidon Reni, for the knight van Ertborn de WitteFile:Selena Quintanilla-Perez's grave.jpg|Grave of Selena at Seaside Memorial Park in Corpus Christi, Texas citing Isaiah 25:8 writings File:Epitaph for heart of Frédéric Chopin in Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.PNG|Epitaph for heart of Frédéric ChopinImage:Grave of W. B. Yeats; Drumecliff, Co Sligo.jpg|Grave of W. B. Yeats; Drumecliff, Co. SligoImage:Grabplatte Johann Wauer Hochkirch.jpg|Lengthy epitaph for Johann Wauer a (German pastor), died 1728, concluding with a short Biblical quotationImage:Mel Blanc 4-15-05.JPG|The epitaph on voice actor Mel Blanc's tombstoneHeather O'Rourke crypt 2.jpg|Inscription at Heather O'Rourke's cryptFile:Sahabi tomb.jpg|Ezzatollah Sahabi, Glory of Iran and his patriotic daughter HalehFile:Garner headstone with eitaph, Houghton, Cambridgeshire.jpg|A folksy epitaph to an English village blacksmith in Houghton, Cambridgeshire, UKFile:Spike Milligan gravestone, Winchelsea, East Sussex.jpg|The gravestone of comedian, writer and actor Spike Milligan showing the notable epitaphFile:Mary Kay Bergman Grave.JPG|Grave of Mary Kay Bergman, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills). Note that it features etchings of characters she voiced on South Park.

In music

In a more figurative sense, the term may be used for music composed in memory of the deceased. Igor Stravinsky composed in 1958 Epitaphium for flute, clarinet and harp. In 1967 Krzysztof Meyer called his Symphony No. 2 for choir and orchestra Epitaphium Stanisław Wiechowicz in memoriam. Jeffrey Lewis composed Epitaphium – Children of the Sun for narrator, chamber choir, piano, flute, clarinet and percussion. Bronius Kutavičius composed in 1998 Epitaphium temporum pereunti. Valentin Silvestrov composed in 1999 Epitaph L.B. (Епітафія Л.Б.) for viola (or cello) and piano. In 2007 Graham Waterhouse composed Epitaphium for string trio as a tribute to the memory of his father William Waterhouse. The South African poet Gert Vlok Nel wrote an (originally) untitled song, which appeared on his first music album 'Beaufort-Wes se Beautiful Woorde' as 'Epitaph', because his producer Eckard Potgieter told him that the song sounded like an epitaph. David Bowie's final album, Blackstar, released in 2016, is generally seen as his musical epitaph, with singles "Blackstar" and "Lazarus" often singled out.

In space

In the late 1990s, a unique epitaph was flown to the moon along with the ashes of geologist and planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker.WEB, Porco, Carolyn, The Eugene M. Shoemaker Tribute,weblink Diamond Sky Productions, 8 June 2013, At the suggestion of colleague Carolyn Porco, Shoemaker's ashes were launched aboard the Lunar Prospector spacecraft on January 6, 1998.NEWS, Porco, Carolyn C., Destination Moon,weblink 8 June 2013, Astronomy, February 2000, The ashes were accompanied by a laser-engraved epitaph on a small piece of foil. The spacecraft, along with the ashes and epitaph, crashed on command into the south polar region of the moon on July 31, 1999.

See also




  • Vidor, Gian Marco (2014). Satisfying the mind and inflaming the heart: emotions and funerary epigraphy in nineteenth-century Italy. Mortality (Routledge), on-line edition.weblink
  • Bertrand, Régis (2005). Que de vertus. Les épitaphes édifiantes des débuts du XIXe siècle. In R. Bertrand, A. Carol, & J.-N. Pelen (Eds.), Les narrations de la mort (pp. 241–255). Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l’Universite´ de Provence.
  • Guthke, K. S. (2003). Epitaph culture in the west. Variations on a theme in cultural history. Lewiston, NY: Mellen.

External links

  • WEB, Imperial War Museum, Imperial War Museum,weblink What is the Kohima Epitaph?,, 4 April 2013,weblink" title="">weblink 30 December 2014, yes,
  • weblink" title="">Kohima Epitaph
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