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A necropolis (plural: necropolises or necropoleis) is a cemetery or burying-place, literally a "city of the dead". Apart from the occasional application of the word to modern cemeteries outside large towns, the term is chiefly used of burial grounds near the sites of the centers of ancient civilizations.

Necropolises were built for many reasons. Sometimes their origin was purely religious: the Valley of the Kings in Egypt is a prime example. Other cultures created necropolises in response to prohibitions on burials within city limits. Roads immediately outside towns therefore came to be lined with funerary monuments, especially in the Roman Empire. Examples of this kind of necropolis can be found on the Appian Way just outside Rome and at the Alyscamps in Arles, France.

During the 19th century, necropolises enjoyed a revival spurred by the Victorian fashion for large, elaborate memorials.

The word is often used in a much more sensationalist way in fantasy literature; for instance, it might refer to a city populated by zombies or other undead creatures.

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This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

Last updated: 02-08-2005 08:49:23
Last updated: 02-20-2005 07:20:02