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the decrepitude of old age by a voluntary death. At Athens the right hand of a person who had taken his own life was struck off and buried apart from the rest of the body, evidently in order to make him harmless after death.” Plato says in his · Laws, probably in agreement with Attic custom, that those who inflict death upon themselves “ from sloth or want of manliness,” shall be buried alone in such places as are uncultivated and nameless, and that no column or inscription shall mark the spot where they are interred.

At Thebes self-murderers were deprived of the accustomed funeral ceremonies, and in Cyprus they were left unburied. The objections which philosophers raised against the commission of suicide were no doubt to some extent shared by popular sentiments. Pythagoras is represented as saying that we should not abandon our station in life without the orders of our commander, that is, God. According to the Platonic Socrates, the gods are our guardians and we are a possession of theirs, hence “ there may be reason in saying that a man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him.” 8

Aristotle, again, maintains that he who from rage kills himself commits a wrong against the State, and that therefore the State punishes him and civil infamy is attached to him.' The religious argument could not be foreign to a people who regarded it as impious interference in the order of nature to make bridge over the Hellespont and to separate a landscape from the continent ; 10 and the idea that suicide is a matter of public concern evidently prevailed in Massilia, where no man was allowed to make away with himself unless the magistrates had given him permission to do so." But the Strabo, Geographica, x. 5. 6,

Plato, Leges, ix. 873. 486. Aelian, Varia historia, iii. 37. 5 Schmidt, op. cit. ii. 104. Cf. Boeckh, Gesammelte kleine Schriften, 6 Dio Chrysostom, Orationes, Ixiv. 3. vii. 345 599.; Welcker, Kleine Schriften, 7 Cicero, Cato Major, 20 (73).



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8 Plato, Phado, p. 62. 2 Aeschines, In Ctesiphontem, 244. 9 Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachca, v.

3 Some Australian natives cut off the thumb of the right hand of a dead foe in 10 See Schmidt, op. cit. ii. 83, 441; order to make his spirit unable to throw Rohde, Psyche, p. 202, n. 1. the spear efficiently (Oldfield, in Trans. 11 Valerius Maximus, Faitorum diiEthn, Soc. N. S. iii, 287).

torumque memorabilia, ii. 6. 7.

ii. 502 sq;

11. 3

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opinions of the

the philosophers were anything but unanimous. Plato himself, in his · Laws,' has no word of censure for him who deprives himself by violence of his appointed share of life under the compulsion of some painful and inevitable misfortune, or out of irremediable and intolerable shame.? Hegesias, surnamed the “deathpersuader," who belonged to the Cyrenaic school, tried to prove the utter worthlessness and unprofitableness of life.3 According to Epicurus we ought to consider “whether it be better that death should come to us, or we go to him.”! The Stoics, especially, advocated suicide as a

4 relief from all kinds of misery. Seneca remarks that it is a man's own fault if he suffers, as, by putting an end to himself, he can put an end to his misery :-"As I would choose a ship to sail in, or a house to live in, so would I choose the most tolerable death when about to die. ... Human affairs are in such a happy situation, that no one need be wretched but by choice. Do you like to be wretched ? Live. Do you like it not? It is in your power to return from whence you came.” 6 The Stoics did not deny that it is wrong to commit suicide in cases where the act would be an injury to society ; ' Seneca himself points out that Socrates lived thirty days in prison in expectation of death, so as to submit to the laws of his country, and to give his friends the enjoyment of his conversation to the last.S Epictetus opposes indiscriminate suicide on religious grounds :-“ Friends, wait for God; when he shall give the signal and release you from this service, then go to him ; but for the present endure to dwell in the place where he has put you.

Such a signal, however, is given often enough : it may consist in incurable disease, intolerable pain, or misery of any kind. . “Remember this : the door is open; be not more timid


! See Geiger, Der Selbstmord im 5 See Geiger, op. cit. p. 15 $99. klassischen Altertum, p. 5 599.

6 Seneca, Epistula, 70. See also 2 Plato, Leges, ix. 873.

Idem, De ira, iii. 15; Idem, Consolatio 3 Cicero, Tusculante questiones, i. 34 ad Marriam, 20. (83 sq.). Valerius Maximus, viii. 9. ? Lecky, History of European Morals, Externa 3

i. 214, n. 1. * Epicurus, quoted by Seneca, Epis- & Seneca, Epistula, 70. tuli, 26.

9 Epictetus, Dissertationes, i. 9. 16.

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than little children, but as they say, when the thing does not please them, I will play no longer,' so do you, when things seem to you of such a kind, say I will no longer play, and be gone : but if you stay, do not

Pliny says that the power of dying when you please is the best thing that God has given to man amidst all the sufferings of life.?

It seems that the Roman people, before the influence of Christianity made itself felt, regarded suicide with considerable moral indifference. According to Servius, it was provided by the Pontifical laws that whoever hanged himself should be cast out unburied ; 3 but from what has been said before it is probable that this practice only owed its origin to fear of the dead man's ghost. Vergil enumerates self-murderers not among the guilty, but among the unfortunate, confounding them with infants who have died prematurely and persons who have been condemned to die on a false charge. * Throughout the whole history of pagan Rome there was no statute declaring it to be a crime for an ordinary citizen to take his

The self-murderer's rights were in no way affected by his deed, his memory was no less honoured than if he had died a natural death, his will was recognised by law, and the regular order of succession was not interfered with. In Roman law there are only two noteworthy exceptions to the rule that suicide is a matter with which the State has nothing to do : it was prohibited in the case of soldiers, and the enactment was made that the suicide of an accused person should entail the same consequences as his condemnation ; but in the latter instance the deed was admitted as a confession of guilt.” On the other

own life.


1 Ibid. i. 24. 20; i. 25. 20 sg. ; ii. in Bibliothèque de l École des Chartes, 16. 37 sqq. ; iii. 13. 14 ; iii. 24. 95 iii. 544. Geiger, op. cit. p. 64 599. 54:

Bynkershoek, Observationes Juris ko2 Pliny, Historia naturalis, ii. 5 (7). mani, iv. 4, p. 350.

3 Servius, Commentarii in Virgilii 6 Digesta, xlix. 16. 6. 7. Æneidos, xii. 603.

? Ibid. xlviii. 21. 3 pr. Cf. Bourque4 Vergil, Æneis, vi. 426 sqq.

lot, op. cit. iii. 543 sq.; Gibbon, Deiline 5 Bourquelot,

and Fall of the Roman Empire, v. 326 ; opinions et la législation en matière de Lecky, History of European Morals, i, mort volontaire pendant le moyen age,'

. Recherches sur les


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hand, it seems to have been the general opinion in Rome that suicide under certain circumstances is an heroic and praiseworthy act. Even Cicero, who professed the doctrine of Pythagoras,' approved of the death of Cato.

In no question of morality was there a greater difference between classical and Christian doctrines than in regard to suicide. The earlier Fathers of the Church still allowed, or even approved of, suicide in certain cases, namely, when committed in order to procure martyrdom, or to avoid apostacy, or to retain the crown of virginity. To bring death upon ourselves voluntarily, says Lactantius, is a wicked and impious deed ; " but when urged to the alternative, either of forsaking God and relinquishing faith, or of expecting all torture and death, then it is that undaunted in spirit we defy that death with all its previous threats and terrors which others fear.” Eusebius and other ecclesiastical writers mention several instances of Christian women putting an end to their lives when their chastity was in danger, and their acts are spoken of with tenderness, if not approbation ; indeed, some of them were admitted into the calendar of saints.6 This admission was due to the extreme honour in which virginity was held by the Fathers; St. Jerome, who denied that it was lawful in times of persecution to die by one's own hands, made an exception for cases in which a person's chastity was at stake.?

But even this exception was abolished by St. Augustine. He allows that the virgins who laid violent hands upon themselves are worthy of compassion, but declares that there was no necessity for their doing so, since chastity is a virtue of

1 Stäudlin, Geschichte der Vorstel. logia cursus, vi. 697). lungen und Lehren vom Selbstmorde, p. 6 Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica,

viii. 12 (Migne, op. cit. Ser. Graeca, 2 Cicero, Cato Major, 20 (72 sq.). xx. 769 599.), 14 (ibid. col. 785 sqq.). 3 Idem, De officiis, i. 31 (112). St. Ambrose, De virginibus, xiii. 7

* See Barbeyrac, Traité de la morale (Migne, op. cit. xvi. 229 399.). St. des Pires de l'Eglise, pp. 18, 122 sq, ; Chrysostom, Homilia encomiastica in S. Buonafede, Istoria critica e filosofica del Martyrem Pelagiam (Migne, op. cit. suicidio, p. 135 s49.; Lecky, op. cit. ii.

Ser. Graeca, l. 579 sqq.). 45.SI

7 St. Jerome, Commentarii in Jonam, Lactantius, Divince Institutiones, i. 12 (Migne, op. cit. xxv. 1129). vi. ('De vero cultu') 17 (Migne, Patro

62 sq.


the mind which is not lost by the body being in captivity to the will and superior force of another. He argues that there is no passage in the canonical Scriptures which permits us to destroy ourselves either with a view to obtaining immortality or to avoiding calamity. On the contrary, suicide is prohibited in the commandment, “ Thou shalt not kill," namely, “neither thyself nor another ” ; for he who kills himself kills no other but a man. This doctrine, which assimilates suicide with murder, was adopted by the Church.” Nay, self-murder was declared to be the worst form of murder, “the most grievous thing of all ” ; already St. Chrysostom had declared that “if it is base to destroy others, much more is it to destroy one's self.” 4 The self-murderer was deprived of rights which were granted to all other criminals. In the sixth century a Council at Orleans enjoined that “the oblations of those who were killed in the commission of any crime may be received, except of such as laid violent hands on themselves" ;' and a subsequent Council denied self-murderers the usual rites of Christian burial. It was even said that Judas committed a greater sin in killing himself than in betraying his master Christ to a certain death.?

According to the Christian doctrine, as formulated by Thomas Aquinas, suicide is utterly unlawful for three reasons. First, everything naturally loves itself and preserves itself in being ; suicide is against a natural inclination and contrary to the charity which a man ought to bear towards himself, and consequently a mortal sin. 1 St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, i. 6 Concilium Bracarense 11.

563, cap. 16 (Labbe-Mansi, op. cit. ix. 2 Gratian, Decretum, ii. 23. 5. 9. 3. 779).

3 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theolo- 7 Damhouder, Praxis rerum crimgica, ii.-ii. 64. 5. 3.

inalium, lviii. 2 sq., p. 258. See 4 St. Chrysostom, In Epistolam ad Gratian, op. cit. ii. 33. 3. 3. 38. At Galatas commentarius, i. 4 (Migne, op. the trial of the Marquise de Brinvilliers cit. Ser. Graeca, lxi. 618 sq.).

in 1676, the presiding judge said to the 5 Concilium Aurelianense II. A.D. prisoner that "the greatest of all her 533, can. 15 (Labbe- Mansi, Sacrorum crimes, horrible as they were, was, not Conciliorum collectio, viii. 837). See the poisoning of her father and brothers, also Concilium dutisiodorense, A.D. 578, but her attempt to poison hersell” can. 17 (Labbe-Mansi, ix. 913). (Ives, Classification of Crimes, p. 36).


16 sqq.

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