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I'm trying to track down an anecdote I remember hearing many years ago about a ancient Roman (or Greek) teenager who attempted to immortalize his name by a particularly flashy act of suicide. The ironic coda to the story is that we do in fact remember him all these many years later.

Does anyone know the actual details of this story?

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It does not fit entirely the description, but I think you might be thinking about Herostratus.

More than by suiciding directly, he sought fame by setting fire to the Temple of Artemis, and that lead not only to his execution but to a sentence damnatio memoriae that would erase his name from the records1, in order to prevent others from trying the same.


1It looks like it was not very effective.

  • It's possible that I might have the details wrong, but the story as I remember it was quite different from this, although it does have the same central element of a desperate act in pursuit of immortality. That seems to have been a fairly common theme in antiquity, however. +1 in any case. – Chris Sunami Aug 21 '17 at 12:12
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    The issue with the history as you recall it is that death was not that much of an issue in Roman and Greek times; dying was easy enough. Just suicide for the sake it would not have been glorified; what was valued was stoicism and facing death with serenity (one legend had Rome being evacuated in the face of an incoming enemy and the older people -who would have delayed the others- staying calmly in Rome, waiting to be slaughtered). Military feats and last stands would have been glorified, too, but I cannot think of a simple instance of suicide as we know it being glorified. – SJuan76 Aug 21 '17 at 12:20
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    @SJuan76 Lucretia's suicide, perhaps? But that was more to remove perceived dishonor than the other way around. – andejons Aug 21 '17 at 16:18
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Though I'm not sure, but you may be trying to remember the story of Peregrinus, who committed the act of self-immolation at the Olympic Games 165 A.D.

His story is well-known due to Lucian's "The Death of Peregrine".

  • Another good suggestion! Maybe I conflated these two stories together in my head. – Chris Sunami Aug 24 '17 at 11:46

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