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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2005 May;111(5):384-91.

Suicide in classical mythology: cues for prevention.

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Department of Psychology, University of Cagliari, Italy.



To compare well established antecedents and correlates of completed suicide with the motives and the mechanics reported in Greek mythology.


A well-known collection of Greek myths, the Book of fables by Hyginus, was explored to investigate the mechanics driving an individual to imagine, design and carry out a suicide attempt.


Females outnumber males in the mythographer's list, their favourite methods to die being drowning, hanging, self-burning and throwing themselves down from on high. Some kind of familial recurrence of suicide was accounted for, and a large percentage of these suicides was connected to incest. Shame, sense of guilt and grief for the death of a loved one are the most frequently reported psychological correlates of the act, whereas defeat, failure or a catastrophic change in living conditions and, among females, an unfortunate love affair figure as the main antecedents of suicide.


Negative life events and emotional reactions to the severing of social ties frequently occur as antecedents of suicide in Greek mythology.

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