The ruins, the sculpture, the culture, the lines of character and history traced in white marble — it all tends to leave an impression of the Classical world of Greece which is solid, profound, dignified. And then one reads what was going on then and, slowly but surely, a little human daftness starts creeping back in to liven the impression. And one particular observation crops up: the sheer oddity of the ways some of these classical figures of repute died.
We must be eternally grateful to ancient chroniclers and history writers for lots of things, but especially for not being particularly discerning when someone told them a rumour; if they came across a story that sounded good, they reported it, rather than discounting it out of hand. The result is that if someone told them that a famous philosopher covered himself in manure and then got eaten by dogs, little was done to check if this was true, and the full weird narrative given instead.
From eating raw octopuses to laughing at a donkey till you croak, these are ten of the most bizarre ways ancient figures died, from the weird but plausible to the just plain ridiculous.
10. Philitas Of Cos — Studied So Hard, He Wasted Away
I'm sure at some point in our lives, we've all done a bit of cramming. Philitas of Cos, however, rather took this to the extreme.
An accomplished elegiac poet and a pioneering lexicographer, Philitas carried an exulted reputation throughout the centuries until, regrettably, his works were lost in the Dark Ages. As such, aside from his reputation, we have only one gift from Philitas to posterity: the unusual manner in which he overexerted himself.
Athenaeus records that Philitas studied false arguments and incorrect word usage in the course of his grammatical and lexicographical work with such intensity that he starved himself and wasted away. Another source suggests that the final blow was dealt at the end of these obsessive evenings when he came across the 'liar's paradox,' and developed insomnia on top of his starving by thinking about it so much, thereby pushing himself over the edge (the paradox is when someone says 'I am lying,' as if they are telling the truth then they are lying which means they can't be telling the truth, yet they must be so on and so forth).
To be fair, that would probably push me over the edge as well.