Who’s Buried in Jim Morrison’s Epitaph?

Photo by Chris
Photo by Chris

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY FORTUNATO SALAZAR AND PUBLISHED BY MEDIUM ON DECEMBER 19, 2018.

If you die young, you’re at the mercy of the friends and family who bury you. You weren’t thinking about the cemetery at the time you bit the dust. The plot where you’ll be laid out eternally isn’t even faintly visible in your remote imagined future. You’re not focused on that plot. You’re living it up and making a name for yourself in the career that chose you (concert pianist, stand-up comic, chef). Unless you’re truly exceptional, a prodigy of morbid foresight, you haven’t given a thought to the inscription on your tomb.

Case in point: James Douglas Morrison. The Doors frontman may have been a celebrated lyricist, but the notebooks he was filling with poetry didn’t include draft verses for his grave. When he died young, it fell to his survivors to choose the inscription that sums him up. The resulting text isn’t in the language that he spoke or sang, or a language that he had any special connection to. It’s not even in a living language.

The Doors frontman may have been a celebrated lyricist, but the notebooks he was filling with poetry didn’t include draft verses for his grave. When he died young, it fell to his survivors to choose the inscription that sums him up.

On the famous gravestone at Père-Lachaise cemetery in central Paris is a bronze plaque engraved with three lines: full name, dates, (“1943–1971”), then a four-word phrase in ancient Greek, “KATA TON DAIMONA EAUTOU” as it’s normally transliterated.

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