Roman literature; suicide; devotio; taedium vitae; desperata salus; literatura rzymska; samobójstwo
"Littera Antiqua" Nr 12 (2017), s. 4-17
The article presented various examples of suicides committed in ancient times, as
well as its assessment – outlined in accordance to contemporary politics, culture, ethics and
philosophy. Despite the fact that opinions about it were different, the most important role of
suicide was to prove one’s honour, dignity and value of undertaken decisions. Among the reasons, which made an individual end their own life, it is necessary to mention e.g. devotio –
one’s own sacrifice in order to ensure victory over enemies; taedium vitae – tiredness of
physical and mental pain in old age, and desperata salus – the lack of rescue options.
Moreover, ancient literature provided numerous cases when individuals committed suicide
in the face of insult or failure. It was common among soldiers to end their own life instead of
being captured or killed by their enemies. Thanks to the analysis of the chosen ancient
authors’ texts (e.g. Livy, Florus, Tacitus) it was possible to evaluate the cultural background
and interpretation of the examples. A strong emphasis was put on a comparison of ancient
suicide with modern one.