December 01, 2004


In honor of certain court proceedings in California, let's take a look at capital punishment. Specifically, crucifixion.

Crucifixion, as the Romans used it, was considered to be the most ignoble and painful type of capital punishment. Only slaves and the very worst criminals were condemned to die in such a manner, and if the criminal could prove he was a Roman citizen, he was usually permitted to choose a different form of death. Courts in Rome proper were loath to administer the punishment of crucifixion, but it was more common in the outlying provinces and conquered territories.

The Romans did not invent crucifixion, although they were the more notorious users of it. Instead, it originated with the Phoenicians and was passed on most notably to the Assyrians, Carthaginians (who also used it in sacrifice), Egyptians, and Persians.

Originally, crucifers were simply hung from an upright pole. Eventually, the Romans developed various types of crosses...the well-known t-shape that Jesus was crucified upon, the y-shaped cross, the x-shaped cross (St. Andrew's cross), and a goalpost-shaped cross that wasn't used very often. This last shape was used for hanging the person by one arm and one leg. The most degrading form of crucifixion was to hang the person upside down, as was done to St. Peter.

Emperor Constantine abolished crucifixion in the Roman Empire in A.D. 315, but it was seen in other areas later than that. France used it mainly against Jews and heretics although an assassin was publicly crucified in 1127, and Japan used a form of the punishment as recently as the early 1800s.

Posted by Jennifer at December 1, 2004 05:20 PM


When it came to attaching people to the cross, was it ropes or nails or did it just depend?

Posted by: Harvey at December 2, 2004 10:31 AM

When it was just the upright pole, it seems they were tied to it...and left to die of thirst (or starvation). Later on, as I understand it, only the most serious offenders were nailed to the crosses.

Posted by: Jennifer at December 2, 2004 11:09 AM

mmmm... ropes... :-)

Posted by: Harvey at December 3, 2004 08:57 AM