Plutarch’s Lives are considered the authority on ancient biographies; I have no clue where the guy got his information, but his pieces are thorough and take a deep look into the people he writes about.
I reference his Cato the Younger in chapter 9 (and have talked about it a little in my section here on Plato), when Jason is reading Plato’s Crito. In Cato, we learn that the politician, one of the ones that not only opposed Julius Caesar’s ascension to the crown but rallied an army against him, read through the dialogue three times before killing himself.
Now, this seems as good a time as any to highlight a little historical tidbit about suicide. I remember the first time I read stuff about Romans falling on their swords I was pretty cynical about it. It seemed like a copout, and I was totally against suicide in general. Then someone told me something that made it not so simple, morally speaking.
According to Roman law, if someone like Cato were captured and executed, then his family would lose all their holdings in Rome. But if he died, they retained their wealth. So rather than subject their families to this, when someone saw the enemy closing in and knew there was no escape, they killed themselves. It was actually the altruistic thing to do, and it’s what Cato did when he saw there would be no getting away from Caesar’s armies.
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