Death in Ancient Rome
For the Romans, the manner of a person’s death was the most telling indication of their true character. Death revealed the true patriot, the genuine philosopher, even, perhaps, the great artist—and certainly the faithful Christian. Catharine Edwards draws on the many and richly varied accounts of death in the writings of Roman historians, poets, and philosophers, including Cicero, Lucretius, Virgil, Seneca, Petronius, Tacitus, Tertullian, and Augustine, to investigate the complex significance of dying in the Roman world.
Death in the Roman world was largely understood and often literally viewed as a spectacle. Those deaths that figured in recorded history were almost invariably violent—murders, executions, suicides—and yet the most admired figures met their ends with exemplary calm, their last words set down for posterity. From noble deaths in civil war, mortal combat between gladiators, political execution and suicide, to the deathly dinner of Domitian, the harrowing deaths of women such as the mythical Lucretia and Nero’s mother Agrippina, as well as instances of Christian martyrdom, Edwards engagingly explores the culture of death in Roman literature and history.
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Aeneas Aeneid afterlife Agrippina Annals arena argues aristocratic associated audience Barton battle body brave bravery Brutus Caesar Catiline Cato Cato's death celebrated Chapter Christian Cicero civil condemned context dead death of Cato defeated gladiator described devotio dinner party discussed Domitian dying earlier emperor emphasises endurance Epicurean Epicurus example explored fear of death fight funeral gladiator gladiatorial combat Griffin honour individual instance invoked kill later Letter libertas live Livy Livy's Lucan Lucretius martyrs Messalina mortem mortis Mucius narrative Nero Nero's offered Otho Paetus pagan pain particular perhaps Petronius Phaedo philosophical Plass play pleasure Pliny Plutarch poem political preoccupation quam reader role Roman death Rome Satyricon seems seen senate Seneca sibi significant Socrates spectacle spectators Stoic Stoicism Suetonius suggests suicide Tacitus term Tertullian texts Thrasea Tiberius Trimalchio Tusc Valerius Valerius Maximus virtus vitae Vulteius Wiedemann 1992 writing