By Timothy David Hill
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Extra info for Ambitiosa Mors: Suicide and the Self in Roman Thought and Literature (Studies in Classics)
Four difficulties in particular must be addressed in any attempt to map the cultural and philosophical assumptions that unify the Ciceronian philosophical corpus. 1. Philosophical inscrutability: Cicero’s actual position is often difficult to assess accurately throughout his philosophical works. He repeatedly declares himself to be an adherent of the skeptical “New” Academy headed by Philo of Larissa. The school was distinguished by its claim that certain knowledge is impossible to obtain, but that it is nevertheless permissible for the individual to assent to doctrines that are ‘likely’—in Cicero’s terminology, probabile (“probable”) or veri simile (“apparently true”).
All the above limitations are encountered in attempting to reduce Cicero’s scattered pronouncements on the ethics of self-killing to a single determinate position. Although such a position does exist, references to self-killing in Cicero’s works are frequently opaque or ambiguous where they are not apparently contradictory. A cursory overview of the points at which Cicero addresses the question of self-killing makes this plain. 1. 49 Cicero reports—via his spokesman for the Epicurean position, Torquatus—the Epicurean belief that self-killing is permissible when life becomes unpleasing, tamquam e theatro exeamus (“as though one were leaving a theater”).
A less justifiable shortcoming of this work is the extremely limited attention it grants to female practitioners of the Romana mors. The foundation of the Republic began, in Roman myth, with the suicide of Lucretia, and women continued to play a significant role in Roman discourse on suicide throughout the historical era. Gender-related questions repeatedly presented themselves throughout the composition of this study: Why do Seneca and his wife attempt to die together, and why is Tacitus so concerned to explain their failure to do so?
Ambitiosa Mors: Suicide and the Self in Roman Thought and Literature (Studies in Classics) by Timothy David Hill