Suicide in Style

Tacitus, Annals 16.19:

“By chance, Nero had gone to Campania then, while Petronius progressed to Cumae, where he was detained. He no longer put up with the delays of fear and hope, but he did not end his life precipitately. He cut his veins, as it pleased him, and bound them up. He then reopened them as he talked to his friends not about serious things or the kinds of things which would earn him a reputation for firmness of character. He heard no speeches about the immortality of the soul or the systems of philosophers, but rather, he enjoyed some trifling poems and a couple of silly verses. He gave some of his slaves a pension, and had some of the others beaten. He had dinner and then took a little nap, so that his death – though compulsory – would be similar to one by chance. Unlike many others who died at the time, he did not flatter Nero or Tigellinus or any of the other potentates in his will. Rather, he wrote a detailed account of the emperor’s debaucheries with the names of his boy-toys and lady lovers, describing the utter novelty of each lewd act. He signed this and sent it to Nero. Afterward, he broke his signet ring, so that no one could afterward use it to endanger other lives.”

Image result for petronius at his farewell party

Forte illis diebus Campaniam petiverat Caesar, et Cumas usque progressus Petronius illic attinebatur; nec tulit ultra timoris aut spei moras. neque tamen praeceps vitam expulit, sed incisas venas, ut libitum, obligatas aperire rursum et adloqui amicos, non per seria aut quibus gloriam constantiae peteret. audiebatque referentis nihil de immortalitate animae et sapientium placitis, sed levia carmina et facilis versus. servorum alios largitione, quosdam verberibus adfecit. iniit epulas, somno indulsit, ut quamquam coacta mors fortuitae similis esset. ne codicillis quidem, quod plerique pereuntium, Neronem aut Tigellinum aut quem alium potentium adulatus est, sed flagitia principis sub nominibus exoletorum feminarumque et novitatem cuiusque stupri perscripsit atque obsignata misit Neroni. fregitque anulum ne mox usui esset ad facienda pericula.

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