Saturday, March 4, 2017

Last post here on this blog.

Posts will continue on Ed-M's Cruci Blog.

Here's the reason why:

Due to concerns expressed by my partner Andrew Porter about the commingling of my blogs and YouTube posts with his gmail inbox: he's got two gmail addresses with his name on it: one that he uses himself, and one that he has been letting me use because Google attached my blog and my YouTube account to it without asking me, when we tried to sign him up for gmail initially. Now the comments I've been expressing elsewhere under my old Google ID "Ed-M" and my YouTube ID "PfctvsPontivsPilatvs" has been showing up in the latter email address as is right and proper, but is also polluting the former address--the one that he's using! So I'm stopping my using those and going by my real ID now in order to prevent any further cross-pollution.

To expedite this, I'm starting new trio of blogs to succeed Fin des Voies Rapides / If Peak Oil Were No ObjectEd-M's Commentarium ), this blog ( Ed-M's Cruci Blog ), and International Highway Makeover 2 ( Ed-M's International Highway Makeover ).

Comment is free, as always. But I request you comment over therethere and there.

See you there!

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


The Divus Iulius Caesar, Son of Venus, rest his foot on the globe while holding a lituus in his right hand and a staff with a cross on the top in his left.

The staff appears to have a cross-piece about midway up its height, also.

The Divine Julius Caesar standing with his right foot on the globe.
Midway up the staff there appears to be a cross-piece; at the top there is a cross.
(Original image © bpk / M
ünzkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

Detail of the above image showing a cross.
The Roman religion -- the Imperial Cult of the Caesars -- apparently adopted the cross as one of its representative symbols. Why? We don't know, but the cross is a simplified version of the Star of Julius Caesar and also a simplified representation of a tropaeum.

Related note on Israel's history in the two subsequent centuries: The moniker "Son of a Star" was applied to the second-century CE Jewish messiah Simon bar-Kosiba and possibly to the first-century CE historical figure Yeshua ben-Yoseph, whose ossuary was found the Talipot Tomb with a star inscribed on its lid. Yeshua's star, apparently, was made by merging a "tau," a "chi," and an "iota" -- the first two regarded as crosses. Simon's star, on the other hand, was represented on coins, alternatively as a flame, a star of eight points, and as an equilateral cross.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

One of the things that throw scholars off...

Crucifixion d'un Chrétien en Algier - detail. Il est empalée aussi!
Source: / Biibliothèque nationale de France

Part 2: Length of Survival, or, Time of Expiry for the Executed

One of the things that throw scholars off is the idea that impalement as a death penalty invariably ends with an immediate, or at least a quick, death. Gunnar Samuelsson (Crucifixion in Antiquity, p. 44, n. 31) and John Granger Cook (Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, p. 3) both hold this conviction. Yet travelogue narratives, as well as sketches, from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries clearly indicate that this was not so!

In the revised and expanded first part I have shown, with period sketches, how the Turks and others transfixed the impaled person through the length of his body from the rectum and out the back below one of the shoulders without killing him instantly. To the typical Western European of the time was a disgusting and exceedingly vile combination of the utmost cruelty and what they considered unnatural sex.

Now there are several written accounts of how impaled persons suffered a slow lingering death for up to two or three days or even longer while transfixed through. There is even one account of a person surviving this after being recused by his friends!

Perished Straightaway, i.e., during the impalement process.

Now mind you, some who were longitudinally transfixed through certainly perished straightaway, as witnessed by Henry Blount (A Voyage into the Levant, p. 52) in the Levant, Paul Lucas (Voyage du sieur Paul Lucas, pp. 277-278) somewhere in North Africa (Mauretania or Tunisia) on 27 February 1705, Jean de Thevenot (The Travels Of Monsieur De Thevenot Into The Levant, vol. 1, p. 259) in Egypt.

Blount witnessed the impalement of three robbers, two of which perished during the process, and the third having survived the process was instantly killed otherwise:
The other was of three Arabs, who robbed in the wildernesse betweene Rossetto and Alexandria; they were taken at a place called Maidyah, where at my returne I saw execution done in this manner: They were laid naked upon the ground, their face downeward, their hands and legs tyed abroad to stakes; then came the hangman, who putting their own half-pikes in at the Fundament did with a Beetle, drive them up leisurely, till they came out at the Head, or Shoulder: two of them died suddenly, but the third whom the Pike had not toucht neither in the heart, nor braine, would have lived longer, had not the standers not dasht out his braines.
Lucas saw two men impaled, the first died during the process, the second was impaled only partial depth using a wooden stay, or brake, and so survived for at least few hours (“a long time”) sitting on the brake, suspended thus with his legs hanging in the air.
Pendant cette expedition infortunée on avoit surpris quatre Maures avec plusieurs Lettres addressées à quelques personnes de Tunis par les Mécontens retirez aux Frontieres du Roïaume. Le 27. Fevrier 1705 les fit mourir d'une étrange maniere. On en mit deux en croix: on leur cloua les mains & les pieds. Les deux autres surent mis au Cafouque , ou empalez. De ces miserables les deux premiers étoient encore vivans 12. heures aptès: le troisième mourut dans faction. Quelle apparence de-vivre! le bois lui traversoit non seulement les entrailles, mais le cœur, & lui sortoit par les épaules. Le dernier n'étant empalé que jusqu'au milieu du corps, demeura long-temps en vîe: il paroissoit comme assis, & aïant les mains libres; il poussoit vers le Ciel des cris , qui lui demandoient une mort plus prompte, & qui touchoient tous les spectateurs de compassion.
During this unfortunate expedition one sees suddenly four Mauretanians with several letters addressed to certain persons of Tunis for the Mécontens returning to the frontiers of the kingdom. On 27 February 1705 they were put to death in a strange manner. Someone put the two on crosses: he nailed their hands and feet. The two others then were put to the Cafoque, or impaled. Of these unfortunates the first two survived for twelve hours; the third died during the action. What an appearance for the living! The wood traversed not only the entrails, but also the heart and exited the body through the shoulder. The last was not impaled quite to the middle of the body, suffering for a long time alive: he appeared as if seated, and had his hands free, he directed his cries towards the Giel, who demanded that he be given a quicker death and who moved the spectators with compassion. (my transl.)
Thevenot witnessed a similar scene, except at the time to complete the process two or three hours later, the executioner removed the brake and let the impaled person drop and the pale emerged at his breast, killing the person instantly:
Impaling is also a very ordinary Punishment with them, which is done in this manner. They lay the Malefactor upon his Belly, with his Hands tied behind his Back, then they slit up his Fundament with a Razor, and throw into it a handful of Paste that they have in readiness, which immediately stops the Blood; after that they thrust up into his Body a very long Stake as big as a Mans Arm, sharp at the point and tapered, which they grease a little before; when they have driven it in with a Mallet, till it come out at his Breast, or at his Head or Shoulders, they lift him up, and plant this Stake very streight in the Ground, upon which they leave him so exposed for a day. One day I saw a Man upon the Pale, who was Sentenced to continue-so for three Hours alive, and that he might not die too soon, the Stake was not thrust up far enough to come out at any part of his Body, and they also put a stay or rest upon the Pale, to hinder the weight of his body from making him sink down upon it, or the point of it from piercing him through, which would have presently killed him: In this manner he was left for some Hours, (during which time he spoke) and turning from one side to another, prayed those that passed by to kill him, making a thousand wry Mouths and Faces, because of the pain be suffered when he stirred himself, but after Dinner the Basha sent one to dispatch him; which was easily done, by making the point of the Stake come out at his Breast, and then he was left till next Morning, when he was taken down, because he stunk horridly. Some have lived upon the Pale until the third day, and have in the mean while smoaked Tobacco, when it was given them.

A very short time.

Jean-Antoine Guer (Moeurs et usages des Turcs, vol. 2, p. 161) in Constantinople, and John Matthias Korbinsky (Geographisch-historisches und Produkten-Lexikon von Ungarn, p. 139) about a case in Hungary both describe impaled persons perishing in a very short time after being impaled. Guer noted that unless the pale went askew, the impaled person perished either during the process or some short time thereafter; he didn’t specify which:
On empale les assassins, & ceux qui font coupables de crimes plus énormes. Un crimine! Qui (Du Pal) doit être empalé, est conduit fur un chariot à une des places de Constantinople; là on le met sur une Espéce de pieu pointu, ayant un poids attaché à chacune de ses jambs, de façon que la pointe entrant par le fondement, pierce jusqu’aux entrailles, & sort par le haut du dos. Si le pieu va de travers, le Criminel languit plus long-tems: on en voit assez communément qui souffrent plusiers jours, avant que d’expirer; en attendant ce dernier moment, les Musalmans charitables vont les consoler, & leur portent des refraîchissmens.
They impaled murderers, and those who are guilty of most heinous crimes. A crime! Whosoever (of the Stake) must be impaled, is led just like a wagon [i.e., on a leash] to one of the squares of Constantinople; there they shove in a kind of pointed stake, with a weight attached to each of its jambs, so that the tip entering through the fundament pierces the entrails, and exits through the upper back. If the stake goes awry, the Criminal languishes much longer: we see them quite commonly suffer several days before expiring; until that last moment, charitable Muslims will comfort them, and carry them refreshments. (my transl.)
Korbinsky on the other hand describes a case in Hungary where the transfixed person perished after only nine minutes (indecipherable 18th-Century German).

Two to three hours, “some” hours, or a “long time.”

In their same accounts as above, both Paul Lucas and Jean de Thevenot described criminals being impaled for only about a foot or eighteen inches, and kept from sliding further down by a stay, or brake. Lucas said the person stayed suspended for a “long time” while Thevenot describes another criminal suspended thusly for three hours, until the time arrived to dispatch him. In his account above Jean-Antione Guer also mentions that if the impaling stake were to go awry (i.e., askew) during the process, the person so impaled would suffer for a much longer time.

Another account was of the 1601 execution of the Archbishop Serapheim (Nomikos M. Vaporis, Witnesses for Christ, pp 101-102 – page view inaccessible), upon which the account of the impalement scene in Ivo Andric's award-winning novel The Bridge on the Drina is dependent.

William Shepard (Paris, in 1802, and 1814, p. 255) recounts that in one of his Paris visits, when viewing the skeleton of an assassin of General Kleber in a museum, one of (I presume) the museum guides explained that the assassin was executed by impalement, and had suffered for “some hours” on the stake alive.
Quitting the wild beasts we visited the Museum of Anatomy. Here the first object pointed out to us was the skeleton of the Assasin of General Kleber. This wretched enthusiast was impaled alive, and though two of his lower vertebrae were broken by the stake, he lived in torture for some hours.
In The Bridge on the Drina, third chapter, Ivo Andric describes the impalement of a Bosnian Serb named Radisav, who tried to sabotage the bridge's construction. A certain unnamed man from Plevlje has been assigned to supervise the impalement of Radisav. The man from Plevlje, who answers to Abidaga, a Turkish official, tells a gypsy assigned to do the dirty task that he would be paid double if he and his two assistants ensure that Radisav survives on the stake until nightfall. The hired man is careful to drive the stake correctly, i.e., askew, and the stake finally emerges below Radisav’s right shoulder. At the end of the short narrative, after Radisav was set upright on the top of the unfinished bridge and thereby suspended over the river Drina, the man from Plevlje checks on the now transfixed Radisav and verifies that he was still alive, conscious and breathing, and that his internal organs had not been damaged. And as the man was checking on him, Radisav uttered a curse on him and the whole Turkish lot:
Through the clenched teeth came a long drawn-out groaning in which a few words could with difficulty be distinguished.

"Turks, Turks, ..." moaned the man on the stake, "Turks on the bridge ... may you die like dogs ... like dogs."
Another literary account comes from the 43rd issue of The Casket (Purser, “A Turkish Execution,” pp 337-339). This scene describes the impalements of two local Syrian men, who were two of Damascus’ criminal elements, carried out by two very muscular Nubian (black African) executioners; one of them was impaled transversely from back to front, the other in an undescribed manner but presumably the typical longitudinal method. The story finishes the scene with the two suspended men very much alive and conscious, one was even uttering prayers to his Prophet:
The first robber who had suffered still preserved his proud stubborn silence; the distorted and leaden features, and the creeping shivering of the limbs, told of the torments of hell – but the tongue was mute! But the other! The Nubians had been unable, as he struggled beneath them, to stanch the blood, as in his companion, and it issued from the gaping wound, made it still more hideous by his writhings, in a black flood, tricking down his back, matting together with the black masses of his hair, and thence descending in clotted gouts to the ground. His face too! The eye was white and orbless, and the black and frothy lips muttered indistinct curses and appeals to his prophet.

Six hours.

According to William Hurd (A New Universal History of the Religious Rites, Ceremonies and Customs of the Whole World, p. 308), the penalty for converting a Muslim to Christianity was the death sentence – by live impalement – for both the catechist and the catechumen. For punishment for this religious crime, an innovation was added: after the process was completed, the impaled was hung on a cross-shaped gibbet. One man suffered such for six hours at Smyrna:
Near the out parts of the city, at the common place of execution, a gibbet is erected in the form of a cross, and the person condemned by the cadi, or judge, is brought out and stripped naked. A small piece of wood, almost in the shape of a lance is thrust in at his fundament, till the other end comes out at his shoulder, and in this manner he is hung up on the gibbet, and left to expire. When Mr. Thompson was at Smyrna, he saw a man suffer in this manner for changing his religion, and he continued in tortures upwards of six hours, before he expired….

Possibly twelve hours or more.

There is an account in a scholarly or popular book or article somewhere offline except for Google-books, of an impalement event somewhere in the Ottoman Turk-occupied Balkans when sometime during the following night, a strong wind developed and managed to uproot one of the occupied stakes and knock it over to the ground, with the man still attached to it. This person, who was ravenously thirsty, struggled as he crawled to the nearest town to drink some water from the fountain its town square in order to slake his thirst. Once he got to the fountain, he took a drink and dies straightaway. The townspeople found his body next to the fountain with the pale still transfixing it.

Fifteen hours.

Giles Fletcher and Jerome Horsley with Edward A. Bond as editor (Russia at the Close of the Sixteenth Century, p. 172) describe in bad 17th-Century spelling the execution of one Knez Boris Telupa who was found out and convicted of treason and sedition (confederacy with disaffected nobles) was sentenced to be impaled. In this account instead of the pale being driven into him, he was drawn onto the stake – in crucem trahere indeed! Once transfixed and suspended, he suffered in horrible pain for fifteen hours alive on the stake before he perished:
Knez Boris Telupa, a great favorett of that tyme, ‘being’ discovered to be a treason worcker ‘traytor’ against the emperor, and confederatt with the discontented nobillitie, was drawen upon a longe sharpe made stake, soped to enter ‘so made as that it was thrust into’ his fundament thorrow his bodye, which came owt at his næck; upon which he languished in horable paine for fifteen howres alive….

Twenty-four hours or more.

This account by Friedrich Wilhelm von Taube (Historische und geographische Beschreibung des Königreiches Slavonien und des herxogthumes Syrmien, vol. 2 pp 70-71, n. **) is in barely decipherable 18th-Century German, but once transcribed and fed into Google-translate, one finds out it describes robbers being transfixed through, suspended and then often surviving for twenty-four hours on the stake:
**) Das Spiesten ist fomol in der ganzen Türkey, als ach in den hungarischen Ländern eine geivohnliche Strafe. Nachdem der Uebelthäter nactend auf deu. Baud gelegt und der auf der Erde festgebunden warden: so hauet ihm der Scharf-richter mit einem Beil den hintern auf und stedtet den holzernen Speiss hinein, welcher vorn mit Eifen beschlagen ist von hinten von den henterstnechten mit hoelzernen Reulen in den Leib des Missethaeters hineingetrieben, vom Scharf-richter, nach Inhalt des Urtheils, den Speiss so Lenten, dass solcher inwendig im Leide neben dem Ruedgrade hergehe und im Nachten oder auf den Schultern wieder heraustomme. In diesem Falle lebet der rauber oft 24 Stunden, rauchet am Speisse…
After the malefactors nactend on eng. Baud placed and the warden tied on earth: so he hews the Scharf-richter with an ax to butt in and steadies the hewn spit onto which the iron front end is ‘herded’ from behind by subjoining with a wooden stake in the body of evildoers, the Scharf-richter, according to the instructions of the sentence, drives the spit so slowly that such inwardly in harm shall go beside the spine and coming out again at the neck or the shoulders. In this case, lives of the robbers are often 24 hour, racketed on ‘kebabs’…. (Google-translate transl., modified)

Two to three days.

Jean de Thevenot aboves mentions that “Some have lived upon the Pale until the third day.”

André Raymond, William Wood (Cairo, p. 240) includes Jean Coppin’s report of executions in Egypt in or around 1640. The execution was by impalement, the pale being driven through the anus and out by the shoulders; some of those impaled survived for almost two days.
I once saw two criminals pass by who had been sentenced to impalement …. Each carried a round stake about the thickness of an arm, pointed on the end coated at the top with soap, apparently to penetrate more readily .... When they arrived at the designated place, the hands of one of the criminals were tied behind his back and he was made to lie down on his stomach ... A [man] ... started to make the stake penetrate him as far as possible through the anus, then finished making it pass with great blows from a wooden mallet until it emerged above the shoulders. Next the stake was set into a hole already dug for the purpose, and the subject was left upright ... ... Some remain alive for almost two days in this state before expiring...
William Dampier (A Collection of Voyages: In Four Volumes, vol. 2, p. 140) describes in his account of a method of execution by impalement, longitudinally from the anus to the shoulders. Mr. Dampier actually saw one person suffering on the stake in this manner for two or three days.
One way is by Impaling on a sharp Stake, which passeth up right from the Fundament through the Bowels, and comes out at the Neck. The Stake is about the Bigness of a Man’s Thigh, placed upright, one End is about 12 or 14 Foot high. I saw one man spitted in this manner, and there he remain’d two or three Days
Fynes Moryson, Andrew Hadfield, (edr). Amazons, Savages, and Machiavels: Travel and Colonial Writing in English, 1550-1630, pp. 170-171) describes an account from the 16th or 17th Century, included verbatim in the volume (including the bad spelling!), of an eyewitness to an impalement wherein the malefactor survived on the stake for some two or three days.
The malefactor carryes the wooden stake upon which he is to dye, being eight foot long and sharpe towards one end, and when he comes into the place of execution, he is stripped into his shirt, and laid upon the ground with his face downeward, then the sharpe end of the stake is thrust into his fundament, and beaten with beetles upp into his body, till it come out, at or about his Wast, then the blunt end is fastened in the ground, and so he setts at little ease, till he dye, which may be soone if the stake be driven with favour, otherwise, he may languish two or three days in payne and hunger.
O. F. Mentzel and R. F. Allemann, with Margaret Greenlees translating (Life at the Cape in Mid-eighteenth Century, p. 102), describe a mass execution in the aftermath of a slave revolt with arson at a Cape Colony plantation:
Of the remaining incendiaries, five were impaled; four were broken on the wheel; … four were hanged, and two women were slowly strangled …. In warm weather it is usual for slaves impaled and broken on the wheel to live between two or three days and nights, but on this occasion it was cold and they were all dead by midnight.

Six Days

Monsieur de Pagès (Pierre Marie François), Travels around the World, p. 284
… the tyrannical maxims which actuate the tools of this mercantile government. During my short residence in Batavia [Jakarta, Indonesia] the Dutch beheaded one Indian, and impaled another with circumstances of such savage barbarity, as I believe are scarce to be paralleled in the annals of Turkey. The last unhappy man remained six days alive upon the stake, and was permitted, among those who call themselves Christians, to expire at last in the wind and rain under all the agony of all his wounds.

A recollection of a report of one surviving this process!

This recollection was years after a second-hand narration to Stephen C. Massett ("Drifting About", pp. 88-89) from a certain Jeems Pipes who related what he saw and had heard. In this account he describes the mass impalement of thirteen or fourteen robbers in Adrianople (Edirne, Turkey) who were strangled first, although the locals told him that the Turks formerly had impaled criminals alive:
They were formerly set upon the stake alive, and I heard of a case in which a man was at night removed from his stake by his friends, and none of the vital parts having been touched, he lived for many years afterwards, but never subsequently stood straight.
This apparent crookedness in the survivor’s posture seems to be very similar to the curvature in the torso of the victim in the image, Crucifixion d’un Chrétien en Algier that was shown in my previous post.


With the sketches and narrative descriptions of impalements by the Ottoman Turks and others, it is quite clear that executioners can rectally impale a condemned man so that he survives for a long, long time, up to two or three days before perishing, and even speaks after they did the deed. I have also shown two previous articles that the ancient Greeks knew how it could be done, too, using both literary and visual sources. Now what does this mean for certain scholars preferring to use the word “suspend” or even “crucify” when referring to the known ancient writers’ described suspensions on wood during and before their time? It means in my opinion that one must look to see not only if there is explicit language describing an impalement, but implicit – at least strongly implicit – verbiage also; it also means that one can classify the suspension as “crucifixion” only if the language is explicit and acccording to the context of the event (ex., did the Romans do it, or did the Barbarians?).

Credits – books:

Andric, Ivo. The Bridge on the Drina. Chicago, University Of Chicago Press (1977).

Blount, Henry. A Voyage into the Levant. London: Andrew Crooke (1636).

Bond, Edward A. (edr); Fletcher, Giles; Horsley, Sir Jerome. Russia at the Close of the Sixteenth Century. New York City: Burt Franklin (1856).

Dampier, William. A Collection of Voyages: In Four Volumes. London: James and John Knapton (1729), Volume 2.

Guer, Jean-Antoine. Moeurs et usages des Turcs, leur religion, leur gouvernement civil, militaire at politique, avec un abregé de l’Histoire Ottomane, Volume 2, Paris: Chez F. G. Merigot et Piget (1747).

Hurd, William. A New Universal History of the Religious Rites, Ceremonies and Customs, of the Whole World. London: Richard Evans, (1814).

Korabinsky, Johann Matthias. Geographisch-historisches und Produkten-Lexikon von Ungarn. Pressburg, Weber u. Korabinsky, (1786).

Lucas, Paul & Fourment, Etienne. Voyage du sieur Paul Lucas, Amsterdam (1714).

Massett, Stephen C. "Drifting About"; Or, What "Jeems Pipes, of Pipesville," Saw-and-did. An Autobiography. New York: Carleton, Publisher (1863).

Mentzel, O. F.; Allemann, R. F.; Greenlees, Margaret (transl.) Life at the Cape in Mid-eighteenth Century: Being the Biography of Rudolf Siegfried Allemann, Captain of the Military Forces and Commander of the Castle in the Service of the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope. Capetown: Van Riebeck Society (1919).

Moryson, Fynes; Hadfield, Andrew, (ed.). “Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary (1617)” Amazons, Savages, and Machiavels: Travel and Colonial Writing in English, 1550-1630. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2001).

de Pagès, Monsieur (Pierre Marie François), Travels around the World, in the Years 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771. London: J. Murray (1791).

Raymond, André; Wood, William (transl.). Cairo, Cambridge, Mass. London UK Harvard University Press (2000), contains: Coppin, Jean (ca 1640). Description de l'Egypte

Shepherd, William. Paris, in eighteen hunderd and two, and eighteen hundred and fourteen. London: Strahan and Preston (1814),

von Taube, Friedrich Wilhelm. Historische und geographische Beschreibung des Königreiches Slavonien und des herxogthumes Syrmien, Volume 2. Leipzig (1777).

de Thévenot, Jean; Lovell, Archibald (tr.). The Travels Of Monsieur De Thevenot Into The Levant: In Three Parts, Volume 1. London: H. Faithorne, J. Adamson, C. Skegnes, and T. Newborough, (1687).

Vaporis, Nomikos M. Witnesses for Christ. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press (2000).

Credit – periodical:

Purser (1 December 1827), “A Turkish Execution,” The Casket, Vol 1, No. 43, London: Cowie and Strange and Co. (1827).

Credit – web page:

Wikipedia, “Impalement” accessed May 24,2016. Includes links for the books, where included. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Revised and Expanded: One of the things that throw scholars off... (Part 1)

... is the idea that impalement as a death penalty usually -- or invariably -- ends with an immediate, or at least a quick, death.  Gunnar Samuelsson [1] and John Granger Cook [2] both hold this conviction. Yet illustrations and narratives from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries show that this was not so!

There was a way that the Turks -- and Vlad Țepeș (sometimes) -- did it; by transfixing the person through the length of his body from the rectum and out the back below one of the shoulders.  The Western Europeans of the time thought it was a disgusting and exceedingly vile combination of the utmost cruelty and what they called unnatural sex:
Swords, bows, and spears took the place of the pyres on which the Protestant martyrs suffered, but were just as much perpetual reminders of violence, threat, and danger. And sometimes sexual excess and perversity were suggested instead of savagery. In some images all these elements were present. Many Europeans were convinced that Muslims were pederasts and sodomites. The Turks were held to be devotees of impalement, one of the few forms of cruel punishment not practiced in the West. The depictions of this implied both unnatural sex and excessive cruelty. [3]
In this first part we will deal with the illustrations.

Show-place of Barbaric Slavery. 
 The above illustration depicts an active impalement underway in the middle foreground and behind it, people already impaled and suspended on poles. These two persons are depicted as still alive -- the one on the left appears to be interacting with two spectators while smoking a pipe.

The next two illustrations depict an impalement scene under the Ottoman Empire.The next two illustrations come from French edition of Voyages de M. Thevenot tant en Europe qu'en Asie et en Afrique and and depicts an impalement scene in Ottoman Egypt.  In the foregeround is an Arab seated upon a camel with lit candles stuck in his arms so that the hot pitch or rosin would drip down and burn not only his skin, but also the muscles within. In the background are two pyramids, and in front of that are two impaled men, surrounded by guards and spectators, one of them smoking a pipe. This pipe seems to be a popular meme in these depictions.  The second comes from the 1723 Dutch edition of Alle  de gedenkwaardige en zeer naauwkeurige reizen van de beere de Thevenot, trans. G. van Broekhuizen, 2nd impression, (Amsterdam, 1723, p. 441).   Here the landscape is changed; it appears to be southeast European or Anatolian, perhaps Levantine. The pyramids have been replaced by a stony outcropping on the left and a city at a distance on the right. The impalement scene now receives top billing so as to emphasize the brutal, cruel and unusual (to Europeans) punishments of the Turks – an active impalement is depicted in the foreground, while the scene of the two suspended men is shown immediately behind. [6]

A description of an actual occurrence from the 1687 English edition:
… Impaling is also a very ordinary Punishment with them, which is done in this manner. They lay the Malefactor upon his Belly, with his Hands tied behind his Back, then they slit up his Fundament with a Razor, and throw into it a handful of Paste that they have in readiness, which immediately stops the Blood; after that they thrust up into his Body a very long Stake as big as a Man’s Arm, sharp at the point and tapered, which they grease a little before; when they have driven it in with a Mallet, till it come out at his Breast, or at his Head or Shoulders, they lift him up, and plant this Stake very streight in the Ground, upon which they leave him so exposed for a day. One day I saw a Man upon the Pale, who was Sentenced to continue-so for three Hours alive, and that he might not die too soon, the Stake was not thrust up far enough to come out at any part of his Body, and they also put a stay or rest upon the Pale, to hinder the weight of his body from making him sink down upon it, or the point of it from piercing him through, which would have presently killed him: In this manner he was left for some Hours, (during which time he spoke) and turning from one side to another, prayed those that passed by to kill him, making a thousand wry Mouths and Faces, because of the pain be suffered when he stirred himself, but after Dinner the Basha sent one to dispatch him; which was easily done, by making the point of the Stake come out at his Breast, and then he was left till next Morning, when he was taken down, because he stunk horridly. Some have lived upon the Pale until the third day, and have in the mean while smoaked Tobacco, when it was given them. This poor wretch carried the Scales and Weights, of those who go about to visit the Weights, to see if they be just, and he had so combined with such as had false Weights, that he brought false ones also with him; so that the Searchers not perceiving the change of their own Weights, thought the other to be just. When Arabs, or such other Robbers are carried to be Empaled, they put them on a Camel, their Hands tied behind their Backs, and with a Knife make great gashes in their naked Arms, thrusting into them Candles of Pitch and Rosin, which they light, to make the stuff run into their Flesh; and yet some of these Rogues go chearfully to Death, glorying (as it were) that they could deserve it, and saying, That if they had not been brave Men, they would not have been so put to death. [6]

Des supplices en usage en Egypte.
From Voyages de M. De Thevenot tant en Europe.... (1689 edn.)

Jan Luyken: Straf empaleren Egypten
From Alle de gedenkwaardige … de Thevenot (1723 edn.)
The next illustration depicts the scene of a crucifixion of a Christian in the middle of Algiers. In the detail below it a sharpened stake can be clearly seen behind the victim with the sharp point rising above his head. In this detail, the victim is clearly shown standing up crookedly with a reverse twist in his torso.  He is also shown alive and suffering, implying that the stake was run through him before he is to be nailed to his cross, and unfortunately for him, it missed all his vital organs.  The crookedness introduced into his body suggests the stake missed nicking either of the two critical central blood vessels of the torso: the descending aorta and the vena cava

Crucifixion d'un Chretien a Alger.
Source: / Biibliothèque nationale de France
Crucifixion d'un Chretien a Alger - detail.
The following image, titled "Impaled on a Stake," depicts a scene in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. The stake is depicted with a transom, which acts as a brake for the body, bringing to mind Macaenas’ line “Though I sit on a piercing cross!” (Sen. Ep. 101.10 - English transl.)

One Impaled on a Stake [in Ceylon].
Source: Robert Knox's An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East-Indies [9]
This image below is a scene showing a variety of tortures and executions meted out in Asian countries. The depiction of an impalement is midway up on the right, labeled no. 10. Here the executioners are depicted to be pushing up the stake, on which the victim already has been transfixed, his feet apparently nailed to the stake.

Scenes des supplices Asiatiques / Alle Asiatische Straffen
Source unknown.
Impalements weren’t limited to the Islamic world at that time. This 16th Century woodcut below depicts an impalement scene in Russia. The illustrator apparently showed the victim on the right with a smile; the stake as shown would have nicked his descending aorta or vena cava, guaranteeing a quick death (John Granger Cook, p. 3). The victim in the center is also apparently dead, seeing that the stake is shown emerging from his breast, apparently through his heart. The victim on the left though has been depicted with the stake driven slightly askew and emerging from his back between the spine and the shoulder. One such victim was recorded to have suffered for fifteen hours alive in such a manner. [8]

Impalement scene in 16th Century Russia.
The one on the right is depicted to be smiling.
This next one, Scenes des supplices / Elendige Straffen Dic. de. Túrcken de Slaaven doen Leyden, is a triptych of engravings illustrating several sorts of executions under the Turks in the 17th-18th Centuries. In the background, in front of the citadel, is depicted an impalement scene. One of the victims is shown transfixed through and possibly, but not necessarily, quite dead, the other one infixed only to a partial depth and obviously still alive judging by the flexing of his legs.

Elendige Straffen Dic. de. Túrcken de Slaaven doen Leyden.
Source: / Biibliothèque nationale de France.
Elendige Straffen ... - detail.
Note one of the impales is obviously alive by the positioning of his legs.

So you can see, if one were to impale another with care, the victim will be transfixed to suffer extreme torture for a long, slow, lingering death.

I also found evidence that the ancient Greeks knew this was true, too; and included their knowledge thereof in epigraphs and literature... although very, very rarely.

Next Part: Descriptions of Impalement in Travelogues and Literature.


[1]   Gunnar Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, p. 44, n. 31.
[2]   John Granger Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean, p. 3.
[3]   Andrew Wheatcroft, Infidels: A History of Conflict between Christendom and Islam, p. 260.
[4]   Voyages de M. Thevenot tant en Europe qu'en Asie et en Afrique. Paris: Charles Angot (1689).
[5]   Alle  de gedenkwaardige en zeer naauwkeurige reizen van de beere de Thevenot, trans. G. van   Broekhuizen, 2nd impression, Amsterdam (1723), p. 441.
[6]   Wheatcroft, p. 260 n. 3.
[7]   Jean de Thévenot, Archibald Lovell (trans.), The Travels Of Monsieur De Thevenot Into The Levant: In Three Parts, Volume 1 London: H. Faithorne, J. Adamson, C. Skegnes, and T. Newborough, (1687), p. 259.
[8]   Giles Fletcher, Sir Jerome Horsley. Edward A. Bond, edr. Russia at the Close of the Sixteenth Century. New York City: Burt Franklin (1856), p. 172.
[9] Robert Knox, An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East-Indies: Together with an Account of the Detaining in Captivity the Author and divers other Englishmen now Living there, and of the Author’s Miraculous Escape, London: Richard Chiswell (1681), p. 39.

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Post Coming Soon

It's an expansion of my previous post on Asian and Muslim penalties, specifically their methods of impalement.

After that part 2 on the Origin and Evolution of Roman "Crucifixion" (Do you guys really think they nailed to crosses -- the kind of things you see at the front end of your church??? Come on already!).

Then I will tear into the Introduction section of John Granger Cook's Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Origin and Evolution of Roman "Crucifixion"

"Awl in a deye's wuhk," said the Centurion from Australia.
Yet another lurid Christian Crucifiction scene.

Based on and expanded from a back-translation into English from the Italian, Leolaia, Ph.D., I fatti sulla crocifissione, lo stauros, e il palo di tortura. (ca 2008), Section III, "l’Origine della crocifissione Romana," pp. 5-8. Link:

LSJ stands for: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones, with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (1940). Accessible at PDL and Perseus Greek Word Study Tool.

Lewis & Short stands for: A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews' edition of Freund's Latin dictionary. revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. Oxford: Clarendon Press (1879). Accessible at PDL, and at Numen and Perseus Latin Word Study Tools

PDL stands for: the Perseus Digital Library, . Linked PDL: specified section of work within.  Definitions of all Greek and Latin Words can be verified therein.

Scholars of the subject generally believe that the execution pole called the crux compacta or crux commissa, consisting of a vertical pole and a transverse bar on which a person’s arms were bound or nailed, was a Roman invention that was obtained by combining indigenous practices of executions of Rome and Latium with those acquired from contact with neighbouring peoples. There are several predecessors of crucifixion in the ancient Near East and North Africa, including live impalement, and the post-mortem exposure of the corpse. The first method was to penetrate prisoners or slaves alive with pointed stakes, and as illustrated by some Assyrian reliefs, the best confirmation of this ancient practice is located in the Code of Hammurabi, dating to 1700 BCE; the second method was the exposure of the condemned after death, was likely to have been accomplished by impalement also, and was practiced by the ancient Israelites.

After being stoned to death, the idolaters and blasphemers were hung on trees to show that they were cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23); the law also required that these bodies should not remain suspended upon the trees all night. The ancient Persians instead executed their criminals and prisoners by attaching them while they were still living onto trees and poles. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament claims that "the Persians invented or first used this method of execution [i.e., crucifixion]. Probably they did not contaminate the earth, which was dedicated to Ormuzd, with the bodies of people who were executed." [1]

What distinguishes this practice from the Jewish post-mortem suspension is that the victims were still alive when their bodies were hanged or impaled. It is believed that the references to suspension, hanging or “smiting” in Ezra 6.11 and Esther 7.9 and 10 were Persian suspensions -- the texts do not appear to be specific enough. [2]

The Greco-Persian Wars (449-479 BC) made ​​this form of execution known to the Greeks and Herodotus (Histories, 1.128.2 [ἀνεσκολόπισε], 3.125.3 [ἀνεσταύρωσε], 3.132.2 [ἀνασκολοπιεῖσϑαι], 3.159.1 [ἀνεσκολόπισε], 4.43.2-7 [ἀνασκολοπιεῖσϑαι, ἀνεσκολόπισε], 6.30.1 [ανέσταύρωσαν], 7.194 [ἀνεσταύρωσε]) has frequent references to this custom among the Persians (see also Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 1.110.3 [ἀνεσταυρωϑη], for its use in Egypt of the time). The verbs, which are inflected forms of ἀνασταυρόω, and ἀνασκόλοπιζω respectively, are obviously derivatives of σταυρός, at that time an upright pale or pole, and σκόλοψ, an upright pointed stake or pole (LSJ).

For example, Herodotus mentions a viceroy called Sandoces, son of Tamas, who had been "condemned to be impaled by Darius" Darius then had a change of opinion: "Sandoces had already been suspended, when Darius, reflecting carefully, he discovered that his good deeds towards the royal family were greater than his error: he found this and realizing that he had acted more quickly than with wisdom, and so made ​​him free. So Sandoces, whom Darius freed, lest he be utterly destroyed (ἀπολέσϑαι), was able to escape death." (Histories, 7.194) The passage clearly indicates that Sandoces was still alive when he was reportedly impaled. The verb ἀπολέσϑαι means “be utterly destroyed, demolished, killed” (LSJ).

The shape of the instrument Persians used in their executionary suspensions varied considerably. Herodotus does not describe it, but explicitly states that tall poles were used for the suspension of impaled heads. (Histories, 4.103.1-3) He also mentions that Polycrates was “executed in a manner not fit to be described and then suspended on a pale / pole” (Histories, 3.125.3); [3] while Plutarch reports that as many as four vertical pales (σταυροι) were used for the same single victim (Artaxerxes 17.5). Ctesias reports that a leader of an Egyptian rebellion or coup was suspended on three pales / poles (Ctesias, Fragments 688F 14.39). Apparently, the configuration of this device did not matter to Persians, it was enough to bring out its purpose.

One of the penalties that the Romans drew on (and developed separately their own penalty of exposure known as dierigere “to hang or erect with limbs apart” [4]) was the Greek penalty of ἀποτύμπανισμος (apotympanismos). This punishment goes way back into the pre-Archaic mists of Greek culture and the first mention of it is in Homer’s Odysseus, or The Odyssey. At the end of the main character Odysseus’ long journey, when he had returned home and revealed himself, his son Telemachus and a farmhand or friend Eumaeus grabbed the goatherd Melanthius who had acted treasonably to Odysseus and had him executed by suspending him hog-tied around some boards:
“I and Telemachus will keep the lordly wooers within the hall, how fierce so ever they be, but do you two bend behind him his feet and his arms above, and cast him into the store-room, and tie boards behind his back; then make fast to his body a twisted rope, and hoist him up the tall pillar, till you bring him near the roof-beams, that he may keep alive long, and to suffer grievious torment.

“Then the two [Eumaeus and Telemachus] sprang upon him [Melanthius] and seized him. They dragged him in by the hair, and flung him down on the ground in sore terror, and bound his feet and hands with galling bonds, binding him firmly behind his back, as the son of Laertes bade them, the much enduring, goodly Odysseus; and they made fast to his body a twisted rope, and hoisted him up the tall pillar, till they brought him near the roof-beams.”

(Homer, The Odyssey, as quoted in [5])

This would be a slow and painful death, suspended while bound to planks or simply crimp-nailed / garroted or tied to a wooden plank or pole. The penalty -- ἀπὸτυμπανίσμος (apotympanismos) – was normally meted out to noxious criminals and they were left to die gradually. It was in broad use in the Greek-speaking areas, even in Pentecontaetian Athens. The only difference in later days is, the criminal was executed in public and exposed to the abuse of the masses. [6]

Through their interaction with the Persians, the Greeks adopted their method of execution as a military strategy, while keeping their own penalty of apotympanismos. The adopted method was practiced mainly by Alexander the Great in his wars against the Persians (336-323 BCE). Thus, after the siege of Tyre in 332 BCE brought to an end, "two thousand men, ... were affixed to cruces and remained suspended along a long stretch of the beach" (Curtius Rufus, Histories of Alexander the Great, 4.4.17. The writer Quintus Curtius Rufus, in the First or Second Century CE, describes this execution in terms of a Roman crucifixion (crucibus adfixi). See also Plutarch, Alexander 7.2 on the suspension of the Persian doctor made ​​by the Macedonian king. After Alexander's death his successors (the Diadochi) continued to use the Persian style against their enemies (see also Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library, 16.61.2), but the Greeks never fully integrated it into their legal system as a civil punishment. Greeks were allegedly disgusted with a brutal showy execution of this kind (cf. Herodotus, Histories 7.128, 9.78). Possibly as a result of the Greek siege of Tyre, Phoenicians and Carthaginians adopted the tactic of this sort of suspension en masse for use in wartime, unless they were already practicing it – Carthaginian suspensions, at least of individuals, predated Alexander’s siege of the city of Tyre by some 300 years. [7] Carthaginians were notorious for suspending their generals who did not follow ordered strategies and tactics, even if they returned victorious, and also enemy individuals whom they captured or who came under their power (Valerius Maximus, Memorabilia, 2.7, Silius Italicus, The Punic Wars, 2.339-44).
During the Punic Wars (264-146 BCE), the Romans encountered the Phoenician-Punic version of suspension and promptly appropriated it as an instrument of capital punishment for slaves, combining it with their dierectus. Disregarding the purpose for which the Phoenicians had originally conceived, the Romans converted it into a brutal instrument of torture. It was accomplished by placing a wooded transom set on one pole or between two poles called a patibulum. [8] In addition, a thorn- or spike-shaped peg called a sedile [9], an impaling stake or at the very least a short (but sufficiently long) beam was set underneath upon which the victims rested their weight. Without this “seat” or a similar support, the Romans would have to have the condemned sustained with ropes. [10] It is not known, however, if Romans’ development of this penalty was gradual, or if they invented a device similar to our cross straightaway. Before their invention of crucifixion Romans used the patibulum to humiliate condemned slaves marching to their execution. Dionysius of Halicarnassus describes this archaic practice:
"A fairly well known Roman had delivered one of his slaves to other slaves for leading him to death and the punishment was so sensational, he ordered him dragged, whipping through the Forum and any other place in town that was heavilly frequented, ahead of the procession which the Romans staged in honor of the god on that occasion. The men that led the slave to torture, after having stretched out his arms and tied them to a beam (τὰς χεῖρας ἀποτείναντες ἀμφοτέρας καὶ ξύλῳ προσδῆσαντες) that, along the chest and shoulders, extended out to his wrists, followed him with the whip hitting his naked body."

(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 7.69.1-2)
The punishment of transporting the patibulum, during which a slave was whipped and driven through the city, was practiced in pre-republican Rome. It was the direct ancestor of the ritual of crucifixion in which the victim was carrying his patibulum (the horizontal bar used to hoist up and suspend the condemned). This march of shame not always led to execution, but was often used for the sole purpose of humiliation.

Other descriptions of this primitive form of punishment can be found in Livy and Plutarch, both of whom tell of this custom in pre-republican Rome and reveal that the wood carried by the victim was also called a furca, i.e., yoke or Y-shaped gibbet.

"They were then setting up the grand games in Rome, which had been begun by head. The reason for the repetition was as follows: on the morning of games, before they started the show, a head of a household had led around the Circus under a yoke (furca) a slave, scourging him as he went."

(Livy, Histories, 2.36.1)

"A man had entrusted one of his servants to other servants, with orders to lead him through the Forum with scourgings of the whip and then kill him. While performing the order and beating the slave, who because of his suffering is bent in every way possible and stirred with other contortions in horrible pain, by chance the Sacred Procession in Honour of Iuppiter found itself to advance behind them. ... If a slave had committed some fault, it was already considered a severe punishment to go around the neighborhood carrying on their shoulders the wood that is used in wagons to support the tow-pole. In fact, the one who had suffered this punishment and had been seen by friends and neighbors is discounted, losing their credit and is called a furcifer, since what the Romans called a furca is that thing which the Greeks call an ὑποστάτην (hypostatên: prop) or a στήριγμα (stêrigma: support)."

(Plutarch, Lives, Caius Marcius Coriolanus, 24.3-5)

And this piece of wood that will become in later centuries the horizontal arm of the Roman crux. The crux compacta / commissa might have come into existence when probably the Romans merged the Phoenician suspension method with the preexisting punishment of the forced-march transport of the patibulum. Since then, the punishment of slaves and fugitives was not only to be forced to parade naked through the city streets yoked to a patibulum, but also to be hanged from it. And when was this procedure started? We must examine the first known descriptions of the mode of execution adopted by the Romans and the specific terms used to refer to it.


       [1] Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans (1985), p. 16. There is not enough information from the Persian epigraphy to verify this; the inscriptions on the Behistun Rock have been translated either as “impale” or “crucify”, which means the scholars are just as much in the dark as we are. Nevertheless, I find this claim of Persian crucifixion to be dubious.
       [2] See David W. Chapman’s discussion of these passages in his Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion, Tübingen / Grand Rapids, Mich.: Mohr Siebeck / Baker Academic (2008), pp. 162-71.
       [3] Histories 3.125.3: άποκτείνας δέ μιν ουκ άξίως άπηγήσιος Όροίτης άνεσταύρωσε. Clearly back then, one was likely to be led to believe that the method of execution was by impalement, that is, Polycrates perished when the pale inside him hit a vital organ or a blood vessel and he was still on the ground, and so did not have to undergo a humiliating and extended death struggle in this manner.
       [4] The OLD (1982 ed.) defines it as “Word of uncertain etymology used predicatively, app[arently] conveying the sense of peremptory dismissal or sim[ilar]” It doesn’t give a particular meaning for the word, but in the Lewis & Short (1879 ed.) we have “stretched out and raised on high,” i.e., hanged with limbs apart so that one was also put to the rack, so to speak, by Earth’s gravity acting on one’s body mass. Hence the phrase, I dierecte in maxumam malam crucem! from Plautus, Poenulus 1.2.134, can literally translate into: “Go and be hanged with limbs apart into the most wicked extreme torture [i.e., onto the most wicked torture-stake]”, denoting not only the expressed wish for the lifting of the addressed with a patibulum, but also his being parked or affixed onto some kind of stake.
       Nota bene that mala (nom. of malam) seems to have had the same sense in Plautus’ Old Roman Latin, that the word “wicked” does in one of its senses in modern Boston English: as an amplifier.
       There are discrepancies in the etymology of the word itself. Although the Lewis and Short goes by the late 19th Century consensus of the word being derived from dis (divided in two, in two different directions) and erectus (participle of erigo, “raise, set up, erect”). This is affirmed in note 15 of line 457 (Act 2, Scene 4, line156) of T. Maccius Plautus, Trinummis: Three Pieces of Money, in: Henry Thomas Riley, ed., The Comedies of Plautus. London: G. Bell and Sons (1912) (PDL) and in note 1 of line 579 (Act 4, Scene 1, line 7) of Bacchides: The Twin Sisters in Riley, in Riley, The Comedies of Plautus. (PDL). On the other hand, Varro (116-27 BCE), found in Nonius Marcellus (Severan era, early 3rd C. CE), De comp. doct. 49.26 (?) has this to say about the origin of the word: Dierecti dicti crucifixi, quasi ad diem erecti. (Of crucifixus called dierectus, as though erected by daylight).
       [6] Ibid. For a short discussion of the penalty see also Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, trans. John Bowden. Philadelphia: Fortress Press (1977), pp. 67-72; nota bene the information in notes 2, 4, 6, 11 and 12, and beware the conflation the author makes between the Greek penalty and (the modern understanding of) crucifixion.
       [7] About 550 BCE the Carthaginian general Malchus lost a battle and was put into exile. Not willing to accept the penalty he returned with his army and besieged his own home town. When his son came out to greet him, wearing all his purples and ornaments, the father had him suspended on a skyscraping cross. See John Granger Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck (2014), p. 147, and “The Cross and Its Significance,” The Open Court. London: [vol. and no. unknown], (18??), pp. 149-163, esp. p. 153. The latter dates this event to about 600 BCE. Anecdote sourced from Justin (fl. ca 2nd – 4th C. CE), Epitome 18.7.15. “This he commanded that he be fixed to a very high cross with his adornment in view of the city (Atque ita eum cum ornatu suo in altissimam crucem in conspectus Urbis suffigi iussit).” Trans. J. C. Yardley, Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, I, comm. W. Heckel, Oxford (2011), 8-13, strikeout typeface of “cross” mine, because Justin probably understood the crux to be something T-shaped like the Roman execution device or our utility pole and certainly not a cross! or tropaeum.
       [8] Some may argue that sometimes in Latin patibulum indicates more than the horizontal arm of the cross, be confused with crux, that indicates a pole, impaling stake, T-pole or scaffold tout court. The problem has been studied by G. Serbat in his Les dérivés nominaux latins à suffix mediàtif, Paris, 1975, pp. 54-58 and this confusion is from the late-antique period, not about the sources we are analyzing.
       [9] Tertullian, Ad Nationes 1.12.3-4: Sed nobis tota crux imputatur, cum antenna scilicet sua et cum illo sedilis excessu (But to us is imputed a complete cross, certainly with its ship’s yard, and as well as the well-known projection of a seat). The noun excessu is an ablative derived from excessus, meaning protuberance, projection, as well as towering above, departure from standard (i.e., from a regular seat), excess for the intended purpose (i.e., for merely sustaining the person), transgression, and death; itself derived from excedere, to exceed, depart, to go out, to rise above, to transgress, to die. There are other terms for it, such as acuta crux (sharpened torture-stake [Seneca, Ep. 101.10-14, esp. 12]) upon which one was “to press down his own ‘wound’” (vulnus suum premere [ibid.]) with his own body weight; κέρας… ἐφ᾽ ᾧ ἐποχοῦνται οἱ σταυρούμενοι (a horn… upon which “ride” those who are being crucified [Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 91]); finis / summitas (end/high point [Irenaeus, Against all Heresies 2.24.4]); cornu (horn [Tertullian An Answer to the Jews 10.2.7 and Against Marcion 3.18.3-4]). Tertullian tops this last off in both references, with unicornis autem medio stipite palus (of the unicorn [i.e., rhinoceros] on the other hand is the palus at/from the middle of the stake) in the former and unicornis autem medius stipitis palus (of the unicorn on the other hand is the central palus of the stake) in the latter; stake (stipes), in both cases, probably means the main pole of the frame as understood by Tertullian (cf. Apology 12:3 “You put Christians on crosses and stakes” [crucibus et stibitibus imponitis Christianos]).
       Nota bene that vulnus here is a euphemism for the rear end, that is, the arse, κέρας and palus were euphemisms for the phallus and even crux itself was a euphemism for the phallus! (See Sportive Epigrams on Priapus, by divers poets in English verse and prose, translation by Leonard C. Smithers and Sir Richard Burton (1890), p. 101 at Sacred, The Priapreia, Sodomy with Women for vulnus, J. N. Adams, Latin Sexual Vocabulary. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press (1982), p.11, n. 1, ref. Archilochus 247 for κέρας; Lewis & Short s.v. palus, II. Transf. "= membrum virile", ref. Horace, Satires 1.8.1-7; Priapeia (Appendix Vergiliana) 2.16-21 and Virgil, Aenid VII-XII. Minor Poems, vol. 2 LCL, ed. and trans. H. R. Fairclough, Cambridge, Mass./London: Harvard Univ. Press (1918), p. 483, cited in Cook, Crucifixion, p. 106 n. 245, for crux.)
       [10] Mishaps can occur quite frequently in modern votive crucifixions, especially when the support for the body, probably always a suppedaneum (footrest), gives way. See The Crucifixion of Sebastian Horsley, part 1 and part 2, on You Tube: and respectively (both accessed 4-26-2016). Mr. Horsley’s involuntary descent happens toward the beginning of part 2.

Friday, April 22, 2016


The following graphic short story about hanging off clothesline poles appeared in alternative newsweeklies in various cities across the country in 1988.

Source and copyright owned by: Lynda Barry, The! Greatest! Of! Marlys!
Seattle WA, Sasquatch Books, 2000. Go visit their website,

Now here are some real-life T-poles.
 A clothesline pole being dug out of a backyard on Baudin St, New Orleans, La. 

The same pole viewed from a different point.
Two utility poles on Greenfield Lane, Scituate, Mass.
Another utility pole elsewhere in New England.
Now what does this have to do with the way the Romans executed people by suspending them  in torture on a pole? Simple:

People weep and mourn over their destiny and often curse Cadmus, because he brought the Tau into the class of letters. For they affirm that tyrants follow its figure and imitate its form and then join pieces of wood together with the same figure to impale people on them. From this, the evil name is united with the evil device. For the stauros has been created by this letter [the Tau], but has been given a name by people.

κλάουσιν ἄνθρωποι καὶ τὴν αὑτῶν τύχην ὀδύρονται καὶ Κάδμῳ καταρῶνται πολλάκις, ὅτι τὸ Ταῦ ἐς τὸ τῶν στοιχείων γένος παρήγαγε· τῷ γὰρ τούτου σώματί φασι τοὺς τυράννους ἀκολουθήσαντας καὶ μιμησαμένους αὐτοῦ τὸ πλάσμα ἔπειτα σχήματι τοιούτῳ ξύλα τεκτήναντας ἀνθρώπους ἀνασκολοπίζειν ἐπ᾿ αὐτά· ἀπὸ δὲ τούτου καὶ τῷ τεχνήματι τῷ πονηρῷ τὴν πονηρὰν ἐπωνυμίαν συνελθεῖν. ὅ σταυρός εἶναι ὑπό τούτου μέν ἐδημιουργήθη ὑπό δέ ἀνθρώπων ὀνομάζεται. [1]

And the Greek letter Tau is the same as our letter "T." Particularly in the ancient world when people wrote in all caps. Those fabrications weren't shaped like crosses, then. So where is the evidence for crucifixion? Come on, scholars! Where is the evidence? You'll find there is... none.

[1] Lucian, Jud. voc. 12., quoted in John Granger Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck 2014, p. 5. (modifications mine).