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Sextus Roscius

Worst Roman Punishment?

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I read about a fairly sadistic one in a book about the arena last week. On condemned criminal would be given a sword and put into the arena with an unarmed criminal, it would be his job to pass sentence. The unarmed man would obviously flee until he was run down and stabbed to death. The executioner would then be force to relinquish his weapon, and another condemned man would take the weapon, at which point the process would begin again.

 

This was obviously more entertaining some standard executions. I thought it seemed quite sadistic for some reason, even compared to other rather more grizzly methods of execution.

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There is an instance i saw on the history channel where Julias Caesar had 4 legions decimated for complaining about the long marches. None of those legions had lost men so thats 400 men killed over a couple muttered complaints.

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Aurelian had quite a nice one reserved for adulterers. Basicly the accused was tied between two huge trees which were then cut down in different directions, tearing their legs and arms off, who was then left to die.

 

There was another punishment similar to this i read about while writing a paper on Roman law, it involved the accused being sat down straddling a steel wedge about 6 feet high with a 45deg angle at top. Weights were then added to both feet in 5 pound increments. Usually 130-170 pounds would have been applied before the pelvis would break and the person would be split up the middle. Hows that for OOOWWWW!!!!!! :blink:

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Yet another delightful thread on brutality! On reading through it and spotting the traditional punishment for parricide, I must share with you the wit of Robert Harris in his novel Imperium. As we know, Cicero defended Popillius Laenus against the charge of killing his father, the punishment for which was the flaying and being sewn into a sack with a dog, a cock and a viper. Here's a snippet, narrated by Tiro:

 

I caught a glimpse of Popillius himself, a notoriously violent youth, whose eyebrows merged to form a continuous thick black line. He was seated next to his uncle on the bench reserved for the defence, scowling defiantly, spitting at anyone who came too close. "We really must secure an acquittal," observed Cicero, "if only to spare the dog, the cock and the viper the ordeal of being sewn up in a sack with Popillius."

 

OK - just wanted to shed some light. Now back to discussing all the nasty things that hurt.... Ouch! Isn't this like the other thread we had a few weeks ago on torture/execution or the like?

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In the 6th century I think it was, there was chap who had been found guilty of plotting against the eastern emperor. Well... The citizens of the town cut out his tongue, removed his ears, gouged out his eyes, cut off his arms and legs, paraded him around the town for a while, then placed him in a boat which they set on fire. I'm not kidding. As to whether he was still alive by the time he was set afloat is difficuly to say.

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OK nasty punishments...well there are a few actually. Having a mullet stuck up your behind always struck me as quite unpleasant. Apparently they used the mullet because it had nasty scales so when it was pulled back out.....ouch (now that would make your eyes water).

 

 

IIRC, the mullet punnishment wasn't a legal thing but a threat made by the poet Catulus as a joke. I can't find the exact poem but here's the lot of them in translation here.

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According to the Oxford Classical Dictionary, a man guilty of parricidium (killing any close relative, as defined by the lex Pompeia de parricidiis) "was drowned in the sea, tied up in a sack (culleus) with a dog, cock, ape, and viper."

 

For me this raises the question: where did they get the ape? Did they have them waiting in a zoo for just that purpose?? Was the accused to be held in the Tullianum until they dragged some poor ape from out of Africa? I find this baffling.

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Apes were still present in one or two places but I don't have info on which ones or where. Gibraltar still has them doesn't it? The reason is because of the world hothouse during the Tertiary Period following the K/T event. Apes evolved rapidly and extended their range over mainland europe, retreating in the face of the colder climate in the Pleistocene. By roman times, outposts of apes were in short supply and I have no doubt whatsoever that they were also the reason why those outposts are not there today.

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Plenty of apes still on Gibraltar.The apes mentioned would likely be "barbary" ie: N African apes

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Agreed, but then fossils of monkeys and apes have been found in France, Italy, greece, and Czechoslovakia. I do think there's a possibility of native populations that no longer survive, at least in southern europe.

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I wanted to get people's opinions on the worst Roman punishment of the anceint world. Any time period is fine but I thought I might learn something new out of this and might make some people feel sympathetic for the criminals today he heh....

 

Personaly, I think the worst Roman punishment was the punishment for patricide or killing your father. This was considered a act of ultimate evil durring the pagan ages or Rome. The punishment was devised by the Priests of Jupiter rather than the roman politicians. My file name is actually the name fo some one accused of this crime and also the case where Cicero made himself famous

 

The first thing that happened was that you were taken to the feild of Mars outside Rome. they would Then strip you of everything on you and have you put one foot on two pedestals placed a couple feet apart as to expose every part of your body. You were then wipped until there was no difference between flesh and blood on your body. The crowd was free to throw stones at you and about anything they wanted really.

 

After you were completely whipped they took your naked body and but you in a sack with a snake, a chicken and a dog. This was to simbolize the reverse of being born. Thus un-born since you had taken the life of the one that gave life to you, it was seen as fit punishment. After you were in the bag with the other animals they would sow the bag shut and then chuck it in the Tiber. How gruesome :)

I can only imagaine the poor person who had to do thins... :fish:

 

P.S. not sure why I put the fish thing but I thought it was rather funny at the time...

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It is also said that when the bull was reopened, the scorched bones of the remains shone like jewels and were made into bracelets.

 

EWW ::shudders:: that's just awful! :)

 

Not sure why that bothers me more than the rest of it though LOL.

 

On the other hand, it does mean a nifty way to dispose of the bodies *as well as* kill the victims.

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The animals that shared the parricide's sack were meant to embody the different vices that had driven our victim to parricide. Note also that killing fathers specifically was patricide. Parricide, I believe, included bumping off any senior member of the family, but specifically the paterfamilias (who might not be the father).

 

Given the bunch of ghouls on this thread ;), I'm surprised that the Persian 'boats' have not come up yet. I'd go into detail, but I'm about to have dinner. Specifics in Plutarch's Artaxerxes for those who want to know why that's significant.

Edited by Maty

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The animals that shared the parricide's sack were meant to embody the different vices that had driven our victim to parricide. Note also that killing fathers specifically was patricide. Parricide, I believe, included bumping off any senior member of the family, but specifically the paterfamilias (who might not be the father).

 

I had wondered about the animals!! Thanks! ;)

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