The Romans feared their dead. In fact, Roman funeral customs derived from a need to propitiate the sensibilities of the departed. The very word funus may be translated as dead body, funeral ceremony, or murder. There was a genuine concern that, if not treated appropriately, the spirits of the dead, or manes, would return to wreak revenge
The faithful clamoured to be buried alongside the martyrs, as close as possible to the venerable remains, a custom which, in anthropological terms, recalls Neolithic beliefs that certain human remains possessed supernatural properties. It was believed that canonized saints did not rot, like lesser mortals, but that their corpses were miraculously preserved and emanated an odour of sanctity, a sweet, floral smell, for years after death. In forensic terms, such preservation is likely to be a result of natural mummification in hot, dry conditions.
Until two days ago what had driven him was the will to survive: deep, animal, full of rage but always part of him had not cared at all whether he lived or died. Now he did care, and very deeply, and so for the first time in a long time he was afraid. To love life is, of course, a wonderful thing, but not on this day of all days.