Forced suicide

In ancient Greece and Rome

Forced suicide was a common means of execution in ancient Greece and Rome. As a mark of respect it was generally reserved for aristocrats sentenced to death; the victims would either drink hemlock or fall on their swords. Economic motivations prompted some suicides in ancient Rome. A person who was condemned to death would forfeit property to the government. People could evade that provision and let the property pass to their heirs by committing suicide prior to arrest.

The most well-known forced suicide is that of the philosopher Socrates, who drank hemlock after his trial for allegedly corrupting the youth of Athens. The Stoic philosopher Seneca also killed himself in response to an order by his pupil, the Roman Emperor Nero, who himself was forced to commit suicide at a later date. Other famous forced suicides include those of Brutus, Mark Antony, Emperor Otho, and the Roman General Corbulo.