Altruistic Suicide or Altruistic Martyrdom?
Christian Greek orthodox Neomartyrs: A Case Study
[From Archives of Suicide Research, Volume 8, No 1, 2004].
The Early Christian Experience
Early Christian martyrologies and church historians such as Eusebios of Caesarea provide abundant information on motives of Christian martyrs during the persecutions from the reign of Nero (54-68) to Diocletian (284-305). Even conservative accounts speak of the many thousands of Christian martyrs of various ethnic and racial backgrounds. The usual motive for defying death was their steadfastness to their religious faith and moral principles. There were, however, individuals who provoked their death. Their act of martyrdom was considered suicide and the names of those who willingly and carelessly sought death for the sake of glory seldom appear in the martyrologies for honor and commemoration (Eusebios, 1957, ch. 8; Frend, 1967 (esp. pp. 123-130, 157-158, 159-162, 300-308, 350-392); see also Droge & Tabar, 1971).
In brief, whether in Greek antiquity, or in Judaism and Christianity there is little evidence that martyrs suffered from "martyr-psychosis" or "masochistic instincts." Religious and moral beliefs are powerful motives for martyrdom.