Forced suicide

Forced suicide is a method of execution where the victim is coerced into committing suicide to avoid facing an alternative option they perceive as much worse, such as suffering torture or having friends or family members imprisoned, tortured, or killed. Another common form historically has been deliberately providing a condemned individual with a weapon and a brief period in which to commit honourable suicide if he or she chooses before being executed.

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.