Neanderthals would bury soldiers’ dead bodies, including their objects. Many human-hunter groups used to gather and bury corpses at specific locations that were used as a pilgrimage site for these nomads. So, what did soldiers do with the corpses of their comrades and enemies?
To learn about what happened to soldiers’ dead bodies after battles, we have to take account of many battles throughout history. So without wasting time, let’s get started.
What Greek did with the corpses after battle
According to Greek historians, Greeks always made an effort to respect the burial customs of the dead after the battle, and they didn’t collect the bodies of enemy soldiers. E.g. Following the Battle of Chaeronea between the Athenians and Philip II of Macedonia, both sides buried the corpses of soldiers according to their religious customs of that period. It was done by both sides out of respect for the bravery that the fallen soldiers showed in the battle.
Except for Spartans, most Greek societies made efforts to bury their soldier’s corpses near the city they came from if the time allowed it.
As said, the exception to this is Spartans, who mostly buried the dead soldiers on the battleground they were killed at. Instead of taking all the valuable things from the dead soldiers, each dead Spartan was buried with their armor and weapons.
What Romans did with the corpses after battle
Most of their soldiers paid a small amount each month to pay for funeral expenses that could occur if they fall in the battle. The Romans also made efforts to recover the bodies of dead soldiers, and if time allowed, they also buried/cremated the individuals. If burying or cremating wasn’t possible, the bodies of fallen soldiers were collected and given a mass cremation.
What happened to the corpses during the deadly Napoleonic wars?
Finally, coming to World War 1 and 2, individual units were given the responsibility of disposal of their corpses with both Allied and Axis forces having their own set of rules on how this should be handled.
During the WW1 and 2, some guidelines indicated that mass graves should be close to railway lines and should feature a pathway, the main intention behind this was that those places could turn into war cemeteries.
So, throughout the history of battles, different things were done to the soldiers’ corpses, depending on where they were battling.