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Modelling Roman suicide? The afterlife of Cato

Edwards, Catharine (2005) Modelling Roman suicide? The afterlife of Cato. Economy and Society 34 (2), pp. 200-222. ISSN 0308-5147.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03085140500054578

Abstract

This paper explores the idea of suicide as, under some circumstances, an act which may legitimately be witnessed, indeed demands to be witnessed, making it a proper subject for literary/artistic representation. For ancient Romans, a suicide might be honourable if it was felt to express the status of its agent as a moral witness. The death of Cato in 46 bce was celebrated in antiquity as the prime example of such a suicide. Cato's death was the subject of a highly successful stage play by Joseph Addison first staged in 1713. Addison's uneasy handling of Cato's death betrays the difficulty of presenting suicide as an inspirational spectacle of virtue in the context of early eighteenth-century Britain, where deliberate self-killing was treated as a crime and an offence against religion.

Item Type: Article
Keyword(s) / Subject(s): suicide, spectacle, agency, ancient Rome, eighteenth century
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Sandra Plummer
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2008 13:39
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:16
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/638

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