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.
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,"
sér. 3, t. 5 (1940/1948) 35-89.