b. circa 70 B.C.E., Rome; d. circa 42 B.C.E., Rome
Porcia Catonis’ famous second marriage was to her first cousin, Marcus Junius Brutus, the close friend of the Roman emperor Julius Caesar who plotted his murder. Information about Porcia comes from ancient sources such as Plutarch, and most of it has a decidedly literary quality. For instance, it is said that Brutus revealed the assassination plot to Porcia and, to prove she was worthy of his confidence and could withstand torture if need be, stabbed herself in the thigh. Shortly after Brutus’ suicide in 42 B.C.E. and the downfall of the conservative party, which had instigated Caesar’s assassination, Porcia also committed suicide, supposedly by swallowing hot coals. It is more likely, however, that she inhaled smoke from a charcoal fire, which was not uncommon as a method of suicide at the time.