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Last Wills and Testaments in Graeco-Roman Perspective

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Chapter Summary

This chapter provides an overview of Greek and Roman wills, giving emphasis to those features of will-making that appear to be most relevant to the testamentary literature produced by Jews and Christians living in the Graeco-Roman world. It pays particular attention to the way in which Hellenistic philosophers and other moralists understood the process of testation. A will was widely believed to be self-revelatory. Bad wills were widely believed to reveal vile people, and good wills to reveal virtuous ones. To make a will was viewed by both Hellenistic moralists and Roman jurists as a moral obligation. The deathbed or imminent death testament was as common in the ancient world as deathbed confessions are in our own time. The making of a will was, as Valerius Maximus says, an activity requiring special care (praecipuae curae) and one's final hours (ultimi temporis).

Keywords: Christians; Graeco-Roman world; Greek wills; Jews; Roman wills; Valerius Maximus



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