My blogger friend, Dr. Gerald Stein, has posted an interesting summary on the strange history of suicide. Despite religious and other prohibitions to what was once termed “self-murder”, those who sought to end their lives found a way.
Would you talk to a casual acquaintance about suicide? Probably not. Such weighty conversations most often occur with someone intimate — a therapist or close friend. Without such discussion, full knowledge of suicide becomes difficult. Moreover, even those who understand the psychology of suicide are unlikely to know its history. They are unaware, for example, that suicide victims in Europe during the Middle Ages were often punished for the act of self murder.
I imagine you are asking, how can a person who is already dead be punished? Leaving a body unburied was one way. An ancient example is found in the Sophocles play Antigone, where Polynices is prohibited from burial because he participated in a failed revolt against Thebes. The rationale for this disrespect went beyond the expectation of a corpse ravaged by animals: the absence of proper burial would prevent him from going to the Underworld, the…
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