Suicide is a sensitive topic. Unfortunately, there are a lot of well-known individuals who have taken their own lives in the distant past as well as in more recent times. Here are 20 celebrities that took their own lives.
20. Lucius Annaeus Seneca
The Romans often used the same praenomen, nomen, and cognomen in generation after generation. As a result, it was very common for a father and a son to have the same name. Something that can be extremely inconvenient when both are prominent. This Lucius Annaeus Seneca would be the son rather than the father, which is why he is called Seneca the Younger rather than Seneca the Elder. He was Nero’s tutor, so he made a natural transition to being Nero’s advisor when said individual became the fifth Roman emperor. Seneca became less and less favored over time, which culminated in him being ordered to commit suicide in the aftermath of a failed plot against his former pupil. It is something that has inspired more than one piece of post-classical art, presumably because the man was seen in such a positive light in post-classical times. However, Roman accounts were much more ambiguous on the matter.
19. Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
Speaking of which, Nero is one of those people who are remembered by their personal name, which to be fair, makes sense because his praenomen is so rare. He was the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Someone who was very popular with certain segments of Roman society but very unpopular with others, not least because he appeared in public as an actor, a musician, and other roles that were considered to be demeaning by the Roman elite. Eventually, Nero’s regime eventually crumbled beneath him, with the result that he committed suicide at a country villa when he heard the sound of approaching horsemen. Despite this, there was a belief that he would return to life, which is connected to his later identification with the Antichrist.
18. Marcus Porcius Cato
There were two well-known individuals named Marcus Porcius Cato during the Roman Republic. This one would be Cato the Younger, who is called thus because he was the great-grandson of Cato the Elder. Said individual is well-known for a number of reasons. For example, he was seen as an honest and honorable person in a very corrupt era. Similarly, he was infamous for being stubborn and strong-willed. On top of this, Cato had a very personal rivalry with Gaius Julius Caesar, which presumably wasn’t helped by the time when his half-sister Servilia’s affair with Caesar came out in front of the entire Roman senate while he was accusing Caesar of having committed treason. In the end, Cato committed suicide after being defeated by Caesar in the civil war. He knew that he could receive clemency but he refused to recognize Caesar’s legitimacy by asking for it. Instead, Cato tried to kill himself with a sword but botched it because of his wounded hand. His son and his friends tried to save him when they came upon the scene. However, Cato recovered enough to thrust aside the physician who was working on him before proceeding to tear open his wound and tear out his bowels, thus ensuring his death.
17. Marcus Antonius
Marcus Antonius was the most senior of Caesar’s subordinates. As a result, it was expected that he would inherit the leadership of the Caesarians when the man was assassinated. Instead, it turned out that Caesar had chosen to adopt his grand-nephew Gaius Octavius, thus making the teenager the single richest man in Rome. In the end, Caesar proved to be very far-sighted, seeing as how his heir teamed up with Antonius to defeat Caesar’s assassins before proceeding to defeat Antonius for supreme power in Rome itself. Upon this, Antonius committed suicide under the false belief that his lover Cleopatra had already done so, though he lingered long enough for the two to meet one last time at Cleopatra’s intended tomb. She was permitted to give him his funeral rites. After which, Cleopatra committed suicide as well.
Avicii was the stage name of Tim Bergling. He was a Swedish DJ who refined his music-making on electronic music forums, which would eventually result in him getting a record deal. After which, Avicii went on to become quite notable, as shown by how he was one of the DJs who brought about a surge of popularity for electronic music in the early 2010s. Unfortunately, he was known to have suffered from stress as well as other mental health problems for quite some time before his death in 2018.
15. Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga is considered to be the first of the three unifiers of Japan towards the end of the Sengoku period. He was far from having managed to bring the whole of Japan under his control. However, it seemed like it would be no more than a matter of time, seeing as how he had accumulated an overwhelming advantage in resources while every single one of his great rivals had died before him. Instead, what happened was that Nobunaga was attacked at the Honno-ji temple by one of his most powerful vassals Akechi Mitsuhide, whose reasons for doing so have never been made clear. There was a struggle, but in the end, Nobunaga committed suicide while his page Mori Ranmaru set the temple on fire so that no one could take Nobunaga’s head. In modern times, there have been numerous works about Oda Nobunaga, which have been very wide-ranging in presentation. Sometimes, he is a far-sighted leader who does violence for the purpose of bringing peace to a troubled land. Other times, he is straight-up demonic. Something that seems to have been inspired by a bit of trash-talking between Nobunaga and one of his great rivals Takeda Shingen.
Nowadays, there are a lot of people who will associate the name Hannibal with the fictional character Hannibal Lecter. However, it is important to note that there were a lot of Carthaginians named Hannibal, which included the single greatest general to ever face the Romans. Said Hannibal dealt the Romans three terrible defeats at the Trebia, Lake Trasimene, and Cannae, but a lack of support from Carthaginian territories meant that he was never able to deal the knock-out blow to Rome itself. Instead, the Romans overcame the Carthaginians in other theaters before eventually besting Hannibal at Zama when he was called home to defend Carthage’s core territories. Afterwards, Hannibal proved himself to be a capable statesman, so much so that the Romans were alarmed enough to go after him. Hannibal went into voluntary exile with the result that he eventually died in Bithynia. His cause of death isn’t 100 percent certain. There is a claim that he took poison, a claim that he was poisoned, and a claim that he died from a fever after he was wounded.
13. Freddie Prinze
Freddie Prinze was the star of a NBC sitcom called Chico and the Man, which ran from 1974 until 1977. At the time, he was still just 22 years old. Prinze is known to have suffered from depression. However, there was a civil case in which the jury found that his death was medication-induced, thus enabling his family to collect $200,000 in life insurance.
12. Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was an American poet who was very notable in spite of her short career. This can be seen in how she received the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in the 1980s, which made her the fourth individual to receive it as a posthumous award.
11. Chester Bennington
Chester Bennington was an American singer-songwriter. Generally speaking, he was known for being the lead vocalist of Linkin Park. However, he served as the lead vocalist for three other bands as well. Combined, that was more than enough to make Bennington one of the greatest rock vocalists of his generation. He was very good friends with Cornell, who committed suicide a couple of months before him. As a result, people have often commented on how Bennington died on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.
10. Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell started out earlier than Bennington. As a result, his band Soundgarden was one of the banner-bearers of grunge in the mid 1980s. Other than that, Cornell also had a solo career as well as a second band called Audioslave. Despite his incredible success over the course of more than three decades, he is known to have struggled with depression for most of his life.
9. Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf was one of the most famous English writers of the 20th century. She is a major figure in literary modernism. Furthermore, she is one of the pioneers of stream of consciousness as a writing technique. Woolf was troubled by mental health problems throughout her lifetime, as shown by how she was institutionalized on several occasions. It has been speculated that she had what would now be considered a case of bipolar disorder, for which there was no effective intervention during her lifetime.
8. Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson was a journalist who was well-known for a number of things. For example, he was the one who founded gonzo journalism, which is a style of journalism in which the journalist makes no claim of objectivity whatsoever. Similarly, he was famous for his love of guns, his love of drugs, and his contempt for authority. Strictly speaking, Thompson wasn’t the same as his literary self. However, it has been said by more than one commentator that the line between them became more and more blurred over time. Unsurprisingly, the man was an icon of American counterculture.
7. Martha Gellhorn
Martha Gellhorn is one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century. This can be seen in the sheer number of conflicts that she covered during her lifetime, which included the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 even though she was in her 80s at the time. Unsurprisingly, Gellhorn was a living legend for this, which isn’t even mentioning the rest of her work. She died in 1998 after swallowing a cyanide capsule, by which point, she was almost blind, suffering from ovarian cancer, and otherwise in poor health.
6. Robin Williams
There are a lot of people who consider Robin Williams to be one of the greatest comedians of all-time. His ability to improve played a part in that. Similarly, the sheer range of characters that he portrayed played a part in that as well. It turned out that Williams had an undiagnosed case of Lewy body disease, which explains the increased fear, increased anxiety, delusions, paranoia, and memory loss that he experienced towards the end.
5. Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh was a commercial failure in his lifetime. However, he was eventually recognized as one of the most notable names in the western art of recent centuries. Van Gogh suffered from poverty, depression, and other mental health issues, which weren in addition to his neglect of his physical health. In the end, he is believed to have shot himself with a revolver. The bullet passed through his chest without doing damage to his internal organs. Instead, it was the subsequent infection that killed Van Gogh. Sadly, the shock of the incident contributed to his brother Theo van Gogh’s death less than a year later as well.
4. Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain was another American singer-songwriter who served as a banner-bearer for the grunge movement. In fact, if there is one album that brought grunge to the mainstream, that would be his band’s second album Nevermind. A number of health issues culminated in Cobain being found dead in April of 1994, which was ruled as having been caused by a self-inflicted shotgun wound.
3. Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway is remembered for more than one thing. For starters, his economic style as a writer had a huge impact on 20th century fiction. Furthermore, his adventurous life contributed much to his image as a public figure. Hemingway suffered serious injuries in two successive plane crashes in 1954, which are believed to have contributed to the breakdown that culminated in his death from a self-inflicted shotgun wound in 1961.
2. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1950s. However, she is known to have been dissatisfied by certain aspects of her treatment, which makes sense because she was both typecast and underpaid. Besides this, Monroe is also remembered because of her troubled personal life, which culminated in a barbiturate overdose in 1962.
1. Cleopatra VII Philopator
Cleopatra is a very rare example of someone who has managed to remain well-known for more than two millennium. For proof, look no further than the fact that everyone knows her as Cleopatra even though she was Cleopatra VII Philopator of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who were not well-known for their inventiveness when it came to naming their children. Regardless, Cleopatra lived a storied life in one of the most storied periods of Mediterranean history, as shown by how her life entwined with those of Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius. Sadly, her efforts to restore the power of Ptolemaic Egypt failed. Cleopatra could have lived but Cleopatra chose suicide because she refused to be paraded at a Roman triumph.