The practice of suttee (Sati) – the ritual sacrifice, willingly or otherwise, of a man’s wife upon his death – is well testified to in ancient sources with both Greek and Roman authors describing this horrific custom (Plutarch, Moralia, p. 499c.; Aelian, Varia Historia, 8. 18; Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 5. 27, 78; Propertius, 4. 12. 15–22; Valerius Maximus, Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium Libri, 2. 6. 14).
The Mahasati (the great Sati) or the Sahagamana (joint departure) system of cremating a woman alive on the death of her husband is an ancient custom in India, and Sati appears in both Hindi and Sanskrit texts, where it is synonymous with ‘good wife’, the term suttee being commonly used later by Anglo-Indian writers…