Monday, January 25, 2016

"You Hang Christians on Crosses and Stakes."

Crucibus et stipitibus inponitis Christianos. Quod simulacrum non prius argilla deformat cruci et stipiti superstructa? in patibulo primum corpus dei vestri dedicatur.
"You hang Christians on crosses and stakes; what statue is there but is first modelled in clay upon a cross and stake superstructure? It is on a patibulum that the body of your god is first dedicated"

The comparison with ad Mart. 4 would have shown instantly that Tertullian was using crux in the very broad sense of "torment," as, e.g., he calls the peaks on which Prometheus was bound cruces Caucasorum (adv. Marc. I.1). This usage is common in Latin, as the lexica show.
But here he is being specific! Argilla is “white clay, potter’s earth, marl.” Could he be confusing it with wax??? I think in this case, by crux he means a cross and by stipes he means some kind of stake, or pole. And I presume he knows about Divus Iulius Caesar, who during his cremation was dedicated in a wax effigy nailed upon a tropaeum, of which the horizontal would serve as a lifting beam, i.e. a patibulum!

The Latin for “hang” is imponitis (2nd person plural present active indicative) which actually means “to place upon, set on, impose, establish, introduce, set, place.”
Crux could mean a rack because it appears to be the root noun for cruciatus, meaning “rack, instrument of torture,” via crucio “torture, torment, put to the rack.” Taking a flat cross, either in the shape of a , a T, an X, or a Y, and do not provide support for the body of the condemned except by the nails and/or ropes at the wrists and ankles, it is obviously a rack that overstretches the person when he hangs by the wrists!

Stipes could also mean tree-limb (M. Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalia, Luc. 9.820)
Stipiti is the dative singular of stipes (stake). Stipitibus, dative-ablative plural. In my opinion, it’s called that because it’s obviously an impaling stake or a simple pole onto which a condemned person was attached for purpose of execution (crucifixion: immobilization in extreme torture, in this case impale; exposure to wild animals; burning at the stake).

Deligare ad stipitem means “Bind to a stake” (Suetonius, Nero 29).  Seneca referred to the stipitem as an obscene impaling stake – it was shoved into the anus and sometimes it eventually emerged from the mouth. Of course, the unfortunate whom this was done to frequently died straightaway -- always so when the pole was routed to emerge through the mouth because the descending aorta and the vena cava were in the way.
What a stipes was originally used for before the Romans discovered impalement:
Stipes: (στύπος). A round stake driven into the ground as a landmark (Ovid, Fast. ii. 642), or as a convenient place for hanging things upon, as the helmets of soldiers, etc., in camp (Suet. Nero, 29). The word was also used as a term of reproach, like our “blockhead.”

Harry Thurston Peck, Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Antiquities,“Stipes,” New York, Harper and Brothers, 1898.

στύπος      "stem, stump, block"         noun singular neuter nominative, vocative, accusative

A. stem, stump, block, “στιβαρὸν ς. ἀμπέλουA.R.1.1117; pl., Plb.1.48.9, 21.27.4; also = κύτος, ς. ὅλμου Nic.Th.951, Al.70.


A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews’ edition of Freund’s Latin dictionary. Revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by  Charlton T. Lewis, PhD  and Charles Short, LL.D  Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1879.

John Granger Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World. Tubingen, Mohr Siebeck (2014) p. 3. (Preview at GoogleBooks)


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A little levity.

It's been a while, since my last post, so today I'll give y'all a little bit of levity.

Redacted -- Sorry!