Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Epitaph, (epi, upon, taphos, tomb), originally meant either an address delivered at a tomb, or an inscription upon it, which latter meaning is the only one borne by the word at the present day. The Egyptian epitaph consisted of the name and condition of the dead with perhaps a prayer, but the Greek epitaph was of a poetical and elaborate character. The Roman epitaph was simple, and, as tombs were often by the wayside, "Siste viator" was a common one. The 18th century in England was an age of tedious and exaggerated epitaphs, of which there are examples in Westminster Abbey and in many churches and cathedrals. A noble epitaph is the well-known one to Sir Christopher Wren in St. Paul's: "Si monumentum requiris, circumspice." Shakespeare's epitaph is also well known. There are endless examples of quaint, comic, and eccentric epitaphs to be found in our country churchyards. Some are elaborate allusions to the calling or trade of the dead they commemorate, as, for instance, those of Benjamin Franklin, of a blacksmith in Sutton churchyard, Surrey, and of the pie-woman. Some witty epitaphs have been written - e.g. Piron's, composed by himself -

"Ci-git Piron, qui ne feet rien,
Pas meme Academicien."