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Death Before Dishonor in the Caribbean

Dying by suicide rather than being captured by one's enemy has been practiced for thousands of years by many societies.

Both Native Americans and Africans chose suicide as form of resistance - an act made to rob a perpetrator of an opportunity to kill and allow a victim to meet death on his/her own terms.

Throughout history, suicide has been seen as a form of resistance, the ultimate act of defiance. Here are two famous examples of mass suicide from history:

The Siege of Masada that occurred during the Great Jewish Revolt that began in 67 C.E ended when the 967 defenders led by Elazar ben Yair, with the war all but won by the Romans, made the decision to die rather than be taken prisoner.

In India, mass suicide, also known as Jauhar, was carried out by women and men of the defeated community, when the fall of a city besieged by the enemy forces was certain. Some of the known cases of Jauhar of Rajput women are at the fort of Chittaur in Rajasthan, in 1303, in 1535, and 1568.

There are also examples of individuals taking their own lives as a form of protest.

After Samson had lost his great strength, he was imprisoned by the Philistines. When he was brought before the Philistines to entertain them he leaned against the support pillar of the temple they were all in and knocked down the pillar causing the temple to fall down on himself and 3,000 Philistines.

Another very famous individual suicide as an act of resistance is that of Cleopatra, the last Pharoah of independent Egypt, who took her own life to deny Octavian the pleasure of parading her in Rome as a captive as part of his Triumph after she and Marcus Antonius were decisively defeated by the Roman forces under Octavian.

 Falling upon a sword was a method of suicide used by some ancient Roman generals. 
For the Romans, killing oneself was a sign of great courage and a chance to maintain honor. This solution was better than living in the face of disgrace or defeat. According to the Stoics, death was a guarantee of liberation and the only way to avoid dishonor.
Seppuku 'cutting the belly, also called harakiri is a form of Japanese ritualistic suicide by disembowelment. It was originally reserved for samurai in their code of honor. 
As a samurai practice, seppuku was used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies (and likely be tortured).

This theme examines suicide - whether mass suicide or individual suicides as a form of resistance.

By viewing suicide as form of resistance—an act made to rob a perpetrator of an opportunity to kill and allow a victim to meet death on his/her own terms—we gain a better appreciation of the horrors Native Americans who resisted the Europeans and African freedom fighters, who were captured alive after staging a revolt or even conspiring to stage a revolt, faced.

This tells us that they embodied the sentiment made famous by Patrick Henry in 1775 prior to the start of the American revolutionary war “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.”

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