History of Self-Destruction: When Was The First Suicide?

Stone-age is the most suitable answer to the question of when was the first suicide. However, the recorded history of self-destruction very likely starts in the old Egypt around 1500 B.C. A written description holds a story of two brothers who decided to kill themselves and by doing so became the first men to commit suicide. When it comes to fame surrounding the act of self-destruction, sometime around 434 B.C. an ancient greek named Empidocle jumped into the Sicilian volcano at the top of Mount Etna.

The First Suicide – Stone Age Stories

Written historical records make only a small part of human history. Most of our past is reconstructed with the help of remaining tools and paintings of our ancestors that allow us to assume how life used to look like. As well as prostitution, wars, murders, rapings, thievery and other similar phenomenons, suicide is present and old as the humankind itself. It is probably the first generation of homo-sapiens that gave birth to the first suicide hundreds of thousands of years ago. While we can’t precisely say when it was or who committed it we can, to some degree, assume what was the reason.

Why Did The First Suicide Happen?

When it comes to human beings, suicide is often triggered by the wish to stop suffering. The decision to commit an act of self-destruction is often followed by depression featured by the constant feeling of sadness, hardship, pressure, pain, and complete lack of hope that things can change on better. The same applies to stone-age. Back then, when people lived in hunter-gatherer tribes, it was of extreme importance for the member of the pack to be capable of providing use to his group. Diseases, injuries, wounds, or some other types of unexpected circumstances could be the reason why some stone-man decided to commit suicide. But it can also be the sacrifice. During hunting, things could have gotten out of control and induced the father to sacrifice himself for the sake of his young son. Regardless of the reason for the first suicide, the philosophy of old heathen societies related to self-destruction was pretty liberal when compared to modern attitudes.

Suicide In The Old Cultures

While the first recorded suicide is related to Egyp, ancient Greeks and Romans are also full of it.

Ancient Greeks and Suicide

Suicide by jumping from the top of the volcano into the lava
Suicide by jumping from the top of the volcano into the lava

Empedocles was a greek who jumped into the volcano believing that death is only the transformation into something greater. Pythagoras opposed suicide. But not on the ethical reasons though. His motives were more of a mathematical nature as he believed that due to the limited number of souls that can be of use to this world, sudden departure can cause disbalance. Aristotle, on the other hand, condemned suicide because the one who commits it would strip society for his services.

Old Romans and Suicide

When dealing with suicide Romans were highly rational. At least in the economic sense of that word. Choosing to die of your own hand was not against the law. However, this was not applied in three cases:

  • Suicide was not allowed to people sentenced to big crimes.
  • No soldier was allowed to take his own life as it was observed as deserting.
  • Slaves had no right to kill themselves. If a slave would be bought and committed suicide during the first six months the previous owner had to provide a refund.

There was also a virtuous suicide.

What Is Virtuous Suicide?

Virtuous suicide was defined as a decision of one to take his own life rather than to live dishonored. This existed in both old Rome and Greece. But it was practiced in Samurai culture as well. Vikings were also prone to taking their own lives as the final act of honor which was intended to let them enter Valhalla.

Suicide in Old Japan

Japanise culture has a long-lasting tradition of suicides. Honor suicide as they called it was, similar to Roman virtuous suicide, in which an individual took his own life to escape the shame. This act was highly differentiated from regular suicide. The main feature of distinguishment was that honor suicide was implemented with the clear-minded decision of an individual to privately or publicly take his own life in order to protect the honor of his name or his family. Or avoid living in some kind of shame such as defeat.

Vikings and Self-Destruction

Old Vikings believed that it was only the violent death that can take men through the Gates of Valhalla. They also considered shame dying of the old age. It is why, if some warrior was unlucky enough not to lose his life in battles, a special suicidal ritual was organized. People would gather and watch as the old man climbs at the top of the cliff and jumps at sharp rocks below.

Suicide In Christianity

When it comes to suicide and Christianity, the attitude of this religion is clear – it is one of the greatest sins that can be committed by a living soul. As Christianity devoured heathen countries most of the world started condemning the act of self-destruction. The fifth of ten commandments explicitly prohibits any man to take human life. Since there is no exception this implies to their own life as well. Sometime around the fifth century, the church even invented a rule of degrading ways of burying those who committed suicide. In modern times, an orthodox priest is not allowed to hold any kind of ceremony for a man who took his own life. However, Renaissance ushered away for a different opinion.

Suicide in Renaissance – Euthanasia

In the 16th century, Thomas Mor created Utopia. In his famous creation, besides many other things, he wrote about suicide as an instrument to escape the suffering. Thomas explained that in some cases, such as hard disease that will certainly lead to death, committing suicide means only to free yourself from agony rather than to take your life away. Since death was going to end the torture and not joy, Thomas perceived the commitment of the act as a holy action. The same applies to the actions of other people who decide to assist an individual in his quest to release himself from the agony. This might be the first mention of what is today known of Euthanasia.

What Is The Most Bizzare Suicide?

Suicide by jumping from the Building
Suicide by jumping from the Building

There are many contendents for the title. From old greek jumping into the volcano, to an American teenager killing himself with cobra it is very hard to pick a winner. However, one phenomenon stands out making Roland Opus officially an individual who committed the most bizarre suicide in human history.

In 1994, annual awards dinner given by the American Association for Forensic Sciences, AAFS President Don Harper Mills astounded his audience in San Diego with the legal complications of a bizarre death.

Roland Opus left a goodbye note and jumped from the top of the ten-story building. However, his intentions were not filled in a way he intended. As he passed the 9th floor, a shotgun blast that came through the window killed him instantly. You might think that he would have died anyway. So did he as both Roland and the shooter who had no intention of shooting Roland were not aware of the new circumstance that would change everything. As a measurement of protection for window washers a net, a net has been spread around the building on the eighth floor. This means that if it wasn’t for the shotgun, Roland would survive.

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