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The Acceptance Of Suicide By The Romans

2183 words - 9 pages

The Acceptance of Suicide by the Romans

The societies of the Romans readily accepted suicide as a normal act in their culture. These great conquerors and creators of government that even, the United States government is modeled after, considered it a noble act. There seem to be different reasons to commit suicide in Ancient Rome such as a failing in public life which is shown by the higher suicide rates in the Late Republic and Early Empire stages. There is also an attitude of the willingness to commit suicide is shown by other suicides in different times and different classes of people. The reason a person committed suicide depends on the class the person was in society. The largest reason for suicide in Ancient Rome was pudor(honor). In living in a society that suicide is consider self-murder and is even punishable by law, I need to ask the question why? Where did committing suicide originated for the Romans as an option in life?
The easy reason for suicide was "committing suicide becomes something of a moral duty for the nobleman who loses face or favour of the emperor." These types of suicides were most likely motivated by the power of the emperor. For if you did not kill yourself, the emperor probably would have sentence you to death. It gave, the man, in the eyes of Roman society in honorable way to die then to die at the hands of another. I believed that they took this concept from the Ancient Greeks. The Ancient Greeks believed that the citizens lived and died for the state and not as individuals, for they consider it wrong for one to commit suicide without the permission of the state. "Man who kills what is most private, who violently robs fate of its disposal- at least when not killing himself on the explicit orders of the state." The Greeks were thinking in terms of the polis and if the polis agree that you needed to die then accomplish the task, for it was honorable to die for the polis. Which the Romans started to do, when a nobleman was ordered to death by the emperor, it was an honor to die for Rome, so there was not a conflict. By killing oneself, the nobleman was able to save his honor in the eyes of the people. This idea was motive by the will of state being superior over the will of the individual.
A major road to suicide was that of escaping dishonor and misery of being a slave. Captured soldiers frequently used this kind of reason to commit suicide. It was consider dishonorable to surrender to the enemy, so soldiers were excepted to fight to the death. So if the soldier saw that they were about to be captured, they would end their lives before capture. For being a prisoner of war and running away were considered cowardly and dishonorable acts. They had a fear of losing honor, which contributed to their decision to commit suicide. An example of this was the Battle in the Teutoburg Forest, where the whole army at Carrhae was destroyed. "But Roman honor was saved, officers and soldiers...

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