Navigation banner for Diotima (6k)

Suicidal Males in Greek and Roman Mythology: A Catalogue

Dr. Elise P. Garrison
e-garrison@tamu.edu
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
January 2001

The following is a catalogue arranged alphabetically of the males of mythology who commit suicide, along with a thumbnail sketch of their lives and deaths. For more narrative details please consult E. Tripp, The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology (Meridian 1970); J.E. Zimmerman, Dictionary of Classical Mythology (Bantam 1964); P. Grimal, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, tr. A.R. Maxwell-Hyslop (Oxford 1996); or J. March, Cassell Dictionary of Classical Mythology (Cassell 1998). For convenience the primary sources dealing specifically with the suicides have been gathered and here presented in English in chronological order, and there is a bibliography of these sources with brief biographical notes at the end of the catalogue. For an interpretive essay, please see my forthcoming article. See also Suicide in Classical Mythology: An Essay and Suicidal Females in Greek and Roman Mythology: A Catalogue

Acamas (a.k.a. Demophon)

A son of Theseus and Phaedra, husband of Phyllis. When once he had to leave Phyllis, she gave him a box warning him not to open it unless he had decided never to return. Eventually Acamas opened the box and driven mad by its contents galloped wildly away on his horse until he was thrown and died by falling on his own sword.

Adrastus

A king of Argos and leader of the Seven Against Thebes, who in later life along with a son Hipponous threw himself into a fire in response to an oracle from Apollo.

Aegeus

A king of Athens, father of Theseus, who either flung himself from the Acropolis or into the sea, now called the Aegean, when Theseus returning from Crete failed to change the sails on his ship to alert Aegeus of his victory. Aegeus, in grief thinking his son had been killed, killed himself.

Aeson

Father of Jason, half-brother of Pelias. While Jason was away on his expedition, Pelias forced Aeson to commit suicide.

Agrius

A king of Calydon whose sons drove his brother Oeneus from the throne and gave the kingdom to their father. Later Oeneus' grandson Diomedes avenged him by killing some or all of Agrius' sons and expelled Agrius who then killed himself.

Ajax

Son of Telamon, a brave Greek hero in the Trojan War, second only to Achilles in prowess. When after Achilles' death his arms were awarded to Odysseus instead of Ajax, he was so angry that he intended to kill the leaders of the Greeks. In a state of madness sent by Athena he slaughtered instead the herds of the Greek forces. When he recovered he felt such shame that he slew himself with Hector's sword.

Althaemenes

The son of Catreus who was told by an oracle that one of his four children would kill him. Althaemenes somehow learned of the oracle and left to avoid fulfilling it. When sometime later Catreus went to find his son and bring him home, he and his crew were mistaken for pirates and attacked. Althaemenes unknowingly killed his father. When he discovered what he had done, he prayed to the gods for death and was swallowed up by the earth.

Ameinias

An adamant but rejected lover of Narcissus who killed himself with his sword, after calling on the gods to bring vengeance on Narcissus.

Amphion

Brother of Zethus and husband of Niobe, who bore him many sons and daughters. Because of Niobe's boasting, however, Apollo and Artemis killed all the children, and in grief Amphion stabbed himself.

Arion

A Greek poet and bard who on the way back home to Corinth from a successful tour of Sicily was threatened by the ship's crew. He therefore asked that he be allowed to put on his full costume and sing once more before dying. To the surprise of the crew, he leapt overboard to his apparent suicide.

Attis

A Phrygian god and companion of Cybele, son of the hermaphrodite Agdistis [Acdestis]. Agdistis fell in love with his beautiful son Attis and later struck him with madness. In this state, he castrated himself and died of self-mutilation.

Broteas

An artist who was driven insane by Artemis for refusing to honor her. Believing that he was immune to flames, he threw himself into a fire and died.

Broteas (2)

The son of Vulcan and Minerva who grew so tired of being taunted for his ugliness that he burnt himself.

Butes

A son of Boreas who became a pirate. He raped one of Dionysus's bacchants. When she complained to Dionysus the god drove Butes insane and he jumped into a well and drowned.

Caeneus

Caeneus was born Caenis, a beautiful girl, who after being violated by Poseidon asked to be changed into a male so as never to experience such an indignity again. Only Hyginus records the suicide.

Cinyras (a.k.a. Thias)

A wealthy king and priest of Aphrodite, who was punished because of the blasphemy of his wife who claimed that her daughter Smyrna (a.k.a Myrrha) was more beautiful than the goddess. Aphrodite caused the daughter to fall in love with her father and aided by her nurse conceived a child (Adonis) by him while he was intoxicated. When Cinyras learned the truth he killed himself.

Clymenus

A king of Arcadia who raped and impregnated his daughter Harpalyce. When the child was born, she cut it up and served it to Clymenus at a banquet. When he discovered what he had eaten, he killed her and then himself.

Codrus

A legendary king of Athens. According to legend, the Dorians who wished to attack Athens had learned that if they harmed the king of Athens they would not be able to take her. When Codrus learned of this oracle, he disguised himself, picked a quarrel with the invaders, and they killed him.

Coresus

A priest of Dionysus who loved unsuccessfully Callirrhoe. When he asked Dionysus for help, the god caused the Calydonians to go mad. An oracle explained that the madness would only be lifted upon the sacrifice of Callirrhoe. At the moment when the priest Coresus was to perform the sacrifice, he found that he loved Callirrhoe more than his own life and stabbed himself, becoming the proxy victim.

Demophon (cf. Acamas)

Evenus

A son of Ares and Demonice. When Idas carried off Evenus' daughter, Marpessa, Evenus pursued his chariot until he could go no further. Then he killed his horses and drowned himself from rage or grief.

Haemon

Son of Creon and Eurydice, who having failed in his murder attempt against his father, turned the knife against himself and died.

Heracles

The son of Zeus and Alcmene, greatest universal hero of classical mythology. In all versions of his death he commands a pyre to be built and lit once he has stepped upon it, but only Hyginus says that he leapt into the already flaming pyre.

Hipponous (cf. Adrastus)

Jason

Leader of the Argonauts, husband of Medea. According to some writers, Jason, overcome with grief and disgrace after Medea took her revenge on him, committed suicide.

Lycurgus

A king of the Edonians in Thrace, who resisted Dionysus and his followers. As punishment Dionysus drove him mad and some writers say that in his madness he killed himself.

Macareus (a.k.a. Macar)

A son of Aeolus who killed himself after committing incest with his sister Canace.

Menestratos

A Thespian youth who sacrificed himself to a dragon in order to save his lover Cleostratus.

Menoeceus

A son of Creon and Eurydice who in order to comply with an oracle to save Thebes leapt from the walls of the city.

Narcissus

A beautiful youth, son of the Boeotian river god Cephisus and the nymph Leiriope of Thespiae. Though desired by many, he rejected them all. One rejected lover, Ameinias, killed himself after calling for vengeance. His prayers were granted when one day Narcissus caught sight of himself in a spring and instantly fell in love with himself. According to one source, in despair he killed himself.

Nisus

The son of Mars and king of the Megarians who had a purple lock of hair on his head. Knowing from an oracle that he would rule as long as he preserved that lock, when his daughter betrayed him and cut it off in order to help the invader Minos, he killed himself.

Nycteus

A king of Thebes, father of Antiope. When Antiope became pregnant by Zeus, she fled Thebes, but Nycteus killed himself from shame.

Oedipus

The husband/son of Jocaste. Though typically he is said to have blinded himself and gone into exile, Hyginus relates that he killed himself.

Orpheus

Husband of Eurydice. He had almost rescued her from Hades, but he turned back to see if she was still following him. She instantly faded away and in one version he committed suicide.

Pyramus

An Assyrian, lover of Thisbe. Finding her bloody cloak and assuming she had been killed by a lion, he killed himself with his sword.

Solois

An Athenian, contemporary of Theseus, who joined Theseus on the expedition against the Amazons. He fell in love with Antiope, and a friend of his, in whom he had confided, brought the case to Antiope who absolutely rejected the overtures. Solois then drowned himself in despair.

Valerius

From Tusculum, father of Valeria and father/grandfather of Silvanus. He was tricked into sleeping with his daughter who became pregnant. When Valerius learned the truth he leapt from a cliff and killed himself.

Bibliography

The primary sources for classical mythology span several centuries and genres. Below are the sources in alphabetic order with a brief sketch of each. Many of the sources are not available in English and they have been listed separately.

Primary sources readily available in English:

Works not so readily available in English (Many of these authors are also available via the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae -- www.tlg.uci.edu)

Return to the Index

www.stoa.org/diotima