Death Before Surrender - The Roman Seppuku DOCUMENTARY

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As with the Japanese Seppuku, the Romans had their own concept of the heroic suicide in the face of defeat. Many of these western ideas have their roots in the Homeric warrior tradition. Relive their story with Total War Saga: Troy on the Epic store

In this history documentary we explore the warrior ethos of the Roman Army. More specifically we look at the consequences of failure. The documentary begins with the most famous example of this principle with the Rite of the Devotio from the Early Roman Republic. The ritual involved making a sacrifice of the Roman General who committed himself to death in order to secure a victory for the Roman Army. This was only invoked three times in history, and each time by members of the Decii family.

Next we discuss the wider tradition of a heroic death within the Roman aristocracy. This involves the idea of one's legacy and the consequences of failure which motivated an individual. Such concepts also extended to the rank and file troops who were also conditioned to undertake heroic deeds. For more on this check out our previous episodes on the Heroes of Caesar's Army.

We then cover more famous examples of Roman Generals committing Seppuku during the late Roman Republic. These involve the cases of Publius Licinius Crassus at the battle of Carrhae, Cato the Younger following the battle of Thapsus, and Cassius and Brutus in the battle of Philippi. We then conclude with the example of the death of Publius Quintilius Varus who kills himself at the end of the battle of the Teutoburg forest as depicted in the Netflix show Barbarians.

Bibliography and Suggested Reading
Roman Death: The Dying and the Dead in Ancient Rome, Valerie M. Hope
Death in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook, Valerie M. Hope
Death in Ancient Rome, Catharine Edwards
Pollution and Religion in Ancient Rome, Jack Lennon
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