By Timothy David Hill

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Gender-related questions repeatedly presented themselves throughout the composition of this study: Why do Seneca and his wife attempt to die together, and why is Tacitus so concerned to explain their failure to do so? What is the significance of Cornelia’s convoluted suicidal rhetoric in the De Bello Civili, and why doesn’t she match her actions to her words? Why are “tragic” suicides in Latin literature invariably female? Preliminary research into all of these, and related, questions, indicated that considerations of space once again necessitated their absence from the book.

130, for instance, notes that the Stoics considered self-killing to be an appropriate act if this would save the life of a friend, be of benefit to one’s country, or allow one to escape a painful and incurable illness. 13 Such advice, according as it does with both the tenets of a variety of other ancient 14 15 philosophies and with Roman cultural practice, would presumably have appeared unremarkable to its original audience. No fundamental epistemological problem, then, should be perceived in Cato’s summary.

17 In any event, the central idea is clear: the theory of oikeio–sis outlined by Cato describes the process whereby individuals discover what is most suitable to themselves and what is in conformity with their own natures. Cato’s discourse, in other words, concerns the means by which an individual’s subjective consciousness comes to be aware of his or her own objectively definable constitution. In Cato’s account, this realization occurs as a result of the individual’s ability to extrapolate from the character of his or her own desires to conclusions regarding the nature that gives rise to them.

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