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Exploring Unusual Deaths in Ancient Times 2

Chrysippus of Soli is known in history as the successor to the head position of Stoic philosophy , a former student of Cleanthes who was the second head of the Stoic school in Athens. This title gave Chrysippus the confidence to jumpstart a successful run in Stoicism. His efforts would launch what became known as one of the most influential movements in the Greek and Roman world that had taken place for centuries.

Chrysippus , 207 BC

As a youth, there isn’t much information on Chrysippus except that researchers known that he grew up in a neighborhood called Tarsus. This is where he would come in contact with the teachings of philosophy. His interest grew, prompting him to relocate to Athens so that he could study philosophy after he lost a great deal of inherited property due to legal woes. Following this loss, he became Cleanthes’ pupil , drawn in by his loyalty to Zeno of Citium.

As a well-known writer, he penned many texts , and had a reputation of writing at least 500 lines on a daily basis. He also earned credit for exercising great debate skills, where he was known to take both sides of an argument. As a result, it was not uncommon to see his followers criticize this method.

More than 700 written pieces are attributed to Chrysippus , yet none of them were able to survive. A handful of fragments have been uncovered , embedded in the works of authors to follow in his footsteps, such as Seneca, Cicero, Plutarch, and Galen. Remains of two of his works have been preserved at the Villa of the Papyri , located at Herculaneum. Some believe pieces of a third work may have also survived throughout the years , joining “Logical Questions” and “On Providence.”

In the world of mathematics, Chrysippus interestingly gained notoriety for stating that “one” was a number. During ancient Greek times, this number was not always acknowledged since they only took notice to things that could prove varying levels of measurement.

His Death: There is a rumor that Chrysippus met his end when he fed wine to a donkey and then died of laughter after he watched the creature try to consume figs. It is widely accepted that this is probably a falsehood of some sort.  

Marcus Licinius Crassus , 53 BC

This Roman general and political figure made his mark by commanding the intricate victory plans of Sulla (Roman general and conservative politician) at Colline Gate. He is also associated with quelling a slave revolt led by Spartacus, as well as entered a pact shrouded in secrecy that became known as the First Triumvirate (with Gaius Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus). If you’ve ever seen the 1960’s film, “Spartucus,” then you probably already know who I’m speaking of.

In history, he is viewed as one of the richest men of his time, but wanted much more than this. While he was revered as the man who gave financial and political stability to a young Julius Caesar, Crassus longed for accolades that came by way of military accomplishments. He wanted to taste a victory, which would bring him to Syria, where he was bested and killed during a Roman loss that took place at Carrhae.

His Death: It is said that Crassus died after an execution that involved molten gold poured down his throat. Other accounts state that his head was cut off and later used as a stage prop in a play that served as entertainment for Orodes II , the Parthian king at the time.