Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings

LCL 493: 374-375

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Book IX

P. Rupilius in Henna, a bandit stronghold which we had captured. When asked about the strength and enterprises of the runaways, he took some time to collect himself, then covered his head, fell on his knees, and stopped his breath; so in the very hands of his guards and in the presence of highest command he found rest in the security for which he yearned.10 Let those unfortunates for whom death is better than survival agonize, seeking in quavering anxiety to plan their way out of life; let them sharpen steel, compound poisons, catch at ropes, survey vast heights as though great preparation or ingenious contrivance were needed to dissolve the partnership between mind and body, linked by a fragile bond. Nothing of that sort for Coma; he found his end by shutting his breath inside his bosom. And indeed that blessing is not worth too much effort to retain, whose fragile possession could slip away at the shock of so slight a whiff of violence.

The poet Aeschylus’ departure was not voluntary, but the novelty of the occurrence makes it worth mention. He was in Sicily. Leaving the walls of the town where he was staying, he sat down in a sunny spot. An eagle carrying a tortoise was above him. Deceived by the gleam of his hairless skull, it dashed the tortoise against it, as though it were a stone, in order to feed on the flesh of the broken animal.11 By that blow the origin and beginning of more perfect tragedy was extinguished.

The cause of Homer’s death too is said to have been out of the common run. He is believed to have died of chagrin on the island of Ios because he had been unable to resolve

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.valerius_maximus-memorable_doings_sayings.2000