The idea that the dead were polluting — that is, that corpses posed a danger of making the living unclean, offensive both to their own communities and to the gods — has long occupied a fundamental position in Roman funerary studies. Nevertheless, what that pollution comprised, as well as how it affected living society, remain subject to debate. This article aims to clarify the issue by re-examining the evidence for Roman attitudes towards the dead. Focusing on the city of Rome itself, I conclude that we have little reason to reconstruct a fear of death pollution prior to Late Antiquity; in fact, the term itself has been detrimental to current understandings. No surviving text from the late republican or early imperial periods indicates that corpses were objects of metaphysical fear, and rather than polluted, mourners are better conceived as obligated, bound by a variable combination of emotions and conventions to behave in certain, if certainly changeable, ways following a death.