Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds 9.12
“Aeschylus did not meet a willing death, but it is worth mentioning because of its novelty. As he was leaving the walls where he was staying in Italy, he stopped in a sunny spot. An eagle who was flying above him carrying a tortoise was tricked by his shining skull—for he had no hair—and it dropped it on him as if he were a stone so that it might eat the flesh from the broken shell. By that strike, the origin and font of a better type of tragedy was extinct.”
“But Euripides’ death was a bit more savage. As he was returning from dinner with Archelaus to the place where he was staying in Macedonia, he died, lacerated by the bites of dogs. Such a genius did not merit this cruel fate.”
“When Sophocles was extremely old, and he had entered a tragedy competition, he was agitated for too long over the uncertain outcome of the vote, but when he was the winner by a single vote, his joy was the cause of his death.”
ext. 2Aeschyli vero poetae excessus quem ad modum non voluntarius sic propter novitatem casus referendus. in Sicilia moenibus urbis, in qua morabatur, egressus aprico in loco resedit. super quem aquila testudinem ferens elusa splendore capitis—erat enim capillis vacuum—perinde atque lapidi eam illisit, ut fractae carne vesceretur, eoque ictu origo et principium <per>fectioris tragoediae exstinctum est.
ext. 4Sed atrocius aliquanto Euripides finitus est: ab Archelai enim regis cena in Macedonia domum hospitalem repetens, canum morsibus laniatus obiit: crudelitas fati tanto ingenio non debita.
Sophocles ultimae iam senectutis, cum in certamen tragoediam demisisset, ancipiti sententiarum eventu diu sollicitus, aliquando tamen una sententia victor causam mortis gaudium habuit.
3 thoughts on “By Tortoise, Dogs and Laughter: The Deaths of Your Favorite Tragedians”
Aeschylus and Pyrrhus have my favorite ignominious ancient deaths.
Because the death comes randomly from above? On that account, I submit Odysseus’ death by bird feces as an entry in the “don’t look up” death competition”
Death by gull dropped turtle just seems whimsical to me, and yet it happened, to the father of theater, no less! With Pyrrhus it’s more that this great general and warrior managed to survive all those battles only to get taken out by an old woman with a roof tile.