Wednesday, June 23, 2021


Dinner with Vibius Virrius

Livy 26.13 (speech attributed to Vibius Virrius of Capua; tr. J.C. Yardley)
And so, for all those of you who intend to let death take them before they witness so many painful sights, a dinner has today been arranged and made ready at my house. When you have had your fill of wine and food, the cup that will have been given first to me will also pass around the company. That is a drink that will rescue your body from torment, your spirit from humiliation, your eyes and ears from all the painful and degrading sights and sounds that await the conquered. Men will be at hand to hurl our lifeless bodies on a pyre that will be lit in the courtyard of the house. This is the only path to death that is honourable and befitting a free man.
Id. 26.14:
Some twenty-seven senators went home with Vibius Virrius. They had dinner with him and, after doing their best to deaden their minds with wine to the prospect of the horror before them, they all took the poison. The banquet then broke up, and they clasped each other’s right hands and embraced for the last time, shedding tears for their own lot and that of their country. Some then stayed so they could be burned on the same pyre; others went home. The fact that their veins were replete with food and wine diminished the efficacy of the poison to bring on a swift death. The result was that most of them were in their death throes throughout the night and part of the next day; but they all breathed their last before the gates were opened to the enemy.
On this and similar occurrences see Jean Bayet, "Le Suicide mutuel dans la mentalité des Romains," L'Année sociologique sér. 3, t. 5 (1940/1948) 35-89.

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