Already in ancient Rome a kind of Halloween – Mundus Patet – was celebrated. Three times a year, end of August, beginning of October and beginning of November, the festival of the dead took place. The name Mundus Patet can be translated as “the earth is open”, meaning that the the boundaries between the world of the living and the netherworld are permeable during these days.
When the realm of the dead opened up, people felt especially close to the deceased. Therefore these days were also high holidays during which all business rested, no battles were fought, no marriages were celebrated, and the temples stayed closed.
Another Roman mosaic from Pompeii, representing the Wheel of Fortune with death looming over it and life hanging by a thread (Memento mori). 1st century BC, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.
This Roman mosaic from Pompeii shows a skeleton with jugs, a carpe diem motive (telling us something like “drink before it is too late”), now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples.
This Memento Mori mosaic from the 1st century AD was excavated in the convent of San Gregorio in Rome, and is now in the National Museum in Rome. The Greek motto gnōthi sauton translates as “know thyself”.
This mosaic found in Hatay, Turkey, reads “be cheerful, enjoy your life”. It belonged to the floor decoration inside the dining room of a house from the 3rd century BC.