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Asian J Psychiatr. 2013 Dec;6(6):548-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ajp.2013.08.001. Epub 2013 Aug 12.

Suicidal behaviour in the ancient Greek and Roman world.

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  • 12nd Psychiatric University Department, Attikon Hospital, Athens, Greece.



We attempt to present and analyze suicidal behaviour in the ancient Greek and Roman world.


Drawing information from ancient Greek and Latin sources (History, Philosophy, Medicine, Literature, Visual Arts) we aim to point out psychological and social aspects of suicidal behaviour in antiquity.


The shocking exposition of suicides reveals the zeitgeist of each era and illustrates the prevailing concepts. Social and legal reactions appear ambivalent, as they can oscillate from acceptance and interpretation of the act to punishment. In the history of these attitudes, we can observe continuities and breaches, reserving a special place in cases of mental disease. The delayed emergence of a generally accepted term for the voluntary exit from life (the term suicidium established during the 17th century), is connected to reactions triggered by the act of suicide than to the frequency and the extent of the phenomenon.


The social environment of the person, who voluntary ends his life usually dictates the behaviour and historical evidence confirms the phenomenon.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Ancient Greece; Ancient Rome; Ancient philosophy; Greek tragedies; Suicidal behaviour

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