Suicide in Homer and the Tale of the Heike

Yamagata, Naoko (2020). Suicide in Homer and the Tale of the Heike. Yearbook of Ancient Greek Epic, 4 pp. 72–94.




Comparison of suicides and suicidal wishes in Homer and the Tale of the Heike reveals significant similarities. In both worlds, shame, loyalty and grief are the main causes of suicidal wishes. However, Heike characters are more prone to suicide, whilst Homeric characters never actually commit suicide. Heike suicides can be seen to derive from the desire to be with one’s community and loved ones, enhanced by the Buddhist belief in an afterlife. Homeric characters on the other hand display much stronger attachment to life, based on the belief that there is no existence or fame after death worth dying for.

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