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1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world


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Why do we call "agony" when the end of life of a person comes, often terrible and painful?

With the word "agony" we mean the end of life, when a body, which is alive and able to sustain and keep itself until that moment, loses its power and begins to decompose as an organic and structured being.

"Agony" comes from the Latin “agonia”, and this last one, at the same time, comes from the Greek “ἀγωνία “, meaning fight, combat.

For anyone who has had the misfortune of observing a non-instantaneous death, explanation is no needed. Those who have not had this terrible experience must know that life hangs itself on to the last moment and that all the vital machinery resists in a terrible struggle to stop working and give it up. Those agonizing moments are a real fight of life against death. Unfortunately, in the end, the death always wins and it has to be accepted.

Moreover, everything about the death, that in the ancient world and, until recently, also among us, it looked more normally for being more integrated in the life experience of the people, is now treated less directly, as we try to hide it or somehow to keep it, in hospitals or in those places called "morgues.

Even in the medico-legal language this terrible moment is no more called "death" but "exitus", Latin word for output, exit, departure, outlet, up, way out, journey.

The final question, however, remains the same, I mean, it’s always the eternal question: "exitus"= output/ exit, but where...?

But the funny thing is that also the ancient people used this euphemism for "death", which should not be named, because they, like us now, were scared of it:

For example, in

       : PELEUS: “How ... is gone (dead) the only son of my only son?”

And in Hecuba 414, of the same tragedian, Polyxena, about to be ritually sacrificed, tells his mother Hecuba:

                "Oh, mother, oh you who gave me light! I'm already going to go down

Death scares us, death thrills us. It’s better not to talk about it.


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