History's Most Bizarre and Incredulous Deaths

French illustration depicting the suicide of Charondas, as described by Diodorus Siculus (c. 1787). Wikimedia Commons.

18. Attributed to two figures from the ancient world – Charondas and Zaleucus – both men wrote laws proscribing the carrying of arms into the public forum and, upon forgetting to disarm, committed ritual suicide

Commonly identified as a student of Pythagoras, Charondas is widely attributed as the author of the ancient code of laws used by the Rhegians during the 5th century BCE. Written originally in verse and adopted by the wider Chalcidic colonies across modern-day Italy, among the many precise laws dictated by Charondas was the strict rule that no person may entire the public assembly whilst wearing a sword. Entering one day after hunting whilst inadvertently still carrying his knife, according to legend Charondas committed suicide upon the blade in a demonstration of his devotion to the equal application of the law.

Possibly apocryphal, the story of Charondas likely draws inspiration from the older character of Zaleucus. A Greek lawgiver from the 7th century BCE, Zaleucus is often credited with being the author of the first written Greek law code: the Locrian Code. Stipulating numerous harsh punishments for a variety of offenses, Greek folklore told of how Zaleucus, to spare his son, blinded himself in one eye in accordance with his own law after his progeny committed adultery. Equally, after forgetting to remove his blade at the entrance, Zaleucus likewise entered the Senate House bearing arms and consequently threw himself upon it as a public sacrifice to the sovereignty of the law.