Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)


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Finally, display and the context of viewing shall be considered. In conclusion, an evaluation of the contribution of this paper within previous scholarship shall be undertaken. Crucifixion Crucifixion was an excruciating experience designed to punish, torture, humiliate and kill the victim while providing a spectacle. It is - for it should be noted the practice remains legally extant in Iran while news reports indicate it has recently been used on women from the Karen minority ethnic group in Burma - also almost unique.

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Indeed, torture, as we understand it today, is largely employed to extract information and not as method of enacting the death penalty. Indeed, importantly, crucifixion was a punishment comprising addita ludibria additional derision ; being attached to the cross was merely the culmination of a series of physical tortures.

Fifth century BCE historian Herodotus indicates crucifixion was utilised by the Persians in the Sixth century BCE and Hengel notes that scholars cite them as the originators of the punishment, which later became prevalent among Seleucid, Carthaginian and Roman societies. Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly wounds on his shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long drawn out agony? He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross.

Religion and Spirituality: Crucifixion and the Real Cause of Jesus’ Death | Vision

Figure 1. Reconstruction of the crucifixion of the man discovered at Giv cat ha-Mivtar, Israel, the sole attestation of crucifixion in the archaeology record.


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Standard art-historical depiction of the crucifixion compared to the above archaeological record, where nails are driven through both feet onto the front of the stipes. First, the victim would be in a state of intense trauma which could induce cardiac arrest. Over such a prolonged period the victim would be dehydrated, causing hallucination, confusion and heat-stroke.

Continuous pain would have occurred due to the nailing procedure whilst the scourged back rubbing against the rough cross would aggravate bleeding. A large nail driven through the wrists could potentially injure the median nerve, causing significant pain. Agonising cramps in the arms, shoulders and legs would be constant, with the victim devoid of the ability to alleviate suffering by movement.


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Additionally, after a period of days, maggots would form in the wounds and flies would envelope the victim, compounded by defecation. Concurrently, the organs would gradually fail; multi-organ breakdown is considered by some as the main cause of death whilst others emphasise painful asphyxiation whereupon respiratory muscles become gradually weakened, though — surely deliberately - quick death is hindered by the elevated state of the arms which encourage circulation, but result in intense pain with every breath.

Dishonour: A Question of Status Demonstrably, crucifixion is a monstrous way to die. As mentioned, Hengel asserts that the Romans were well aware of this, and the paucity of literary descriptions referring to the process indicates it was not a topic one should speak of at length.


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Indeed, a key characteristic of Roman society was that it was strictly hierarchical with its defined order of patricians, equestrians, plebeians and slaves. Indeed, if the importance of social stratigraphy and citizenship underscored what it meant to live in the Roman world, we should expect this ideology to be replicated in death. To be sure, freedmen were eager to commemorate their elevation to citizenship in funerary contexts. There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed.

This contrasts with conceptions of crucifixion in other societies in antiquity. Indeed, the crucifixion of soldiers ordered by the emperor Macrinus between and CE, recounted in the historically dubious Historia Augusta, is notable for its exceptional nature. This was considered of the utmost disloyalty and so he was condemned to crucifixion.

Of course, for crucifixion to be ordered, a crime had to be committed, or at least alleged. Donald Kyle contends that criminals in the Roman world noxii were frequently perceived as a commodity largely comprised of foreigners, a by-product of imperialism, and many were subsequently sold into slavery.

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Unsurprisingly, crucifixion ranks at the top followed by burning, decapitation and being thrown to beasts as the main death punishments employed, known collectively as summum supplicium the highest punishments. Indeed, honestiores were exempt from execution save for in circumstances of patricide or high treason and, even then, were prohibited to undergo crucifixion, flogging and torture. Degradation: Soul meets Body The next section arguesthat torture is a key component of the crucifixion process.

In torture was, and still is defined by the United Nations as: Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Much of this could be said to degrade the victim given it was undertaken publicly.

Some scholars, however, are dissatisfied with the concept. But to whom? To myself? To the people watching? In any event, no harm presumably would befall anyone in the vicinity but, rather, it is that it is considered uncouth which makes it undignified. Since it was largely reserved for non-citizens and lower orders, crucifixion was arguably the extension of a violation of personal autonomy which had already occurred given that freedoms and rights enjoyed by citizens rendered those excluded from this demographic legally and socially handicapped in comparison.

However, it may be more useful to assess the violation of personal autonomy by crucifixion if we think of it in a literal sense. Indeed, any kind of torture asserts the powerlessness of the victim. Foucault argued that the modern transition from public execution to penitentiaries and long-term confinement represented a fundamental shift in ideology: from punishment of the body through violence to the soul or personality through control of the body in a discourse of subjection by incarceration. Indeed Graeco-Roman society espoused the existence of the soul, though there was little consensus as to its form.

Denial of burial was ultimately an extension of the damnation the victim received in life. Upon realisation, the soldier panics, understanding he would be executed for his negligence. Conversely, in Jewish societies governed by Halakha Jewish law , crucifixion was interpreted as an act of clemency.

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Beyond Judaea, however, burial would not occur. Instead, death was merely one chapter in a series of degradations.

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Display: Experiencing the Landscape of Execution The previous sections have investigated crucifixion on a micro scale, focussing on the impact upon the victim. Start your free 30 days. Page 1 of 1. Close Dialog Are you sure? Also remove everything in this list from your library. Are you sure you want to delete this list? Remove them from Saved? No Yes. Condition: New. New copy - Usually dispatched within 2 working days.

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What Romans said about crucifixion
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets) Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets) Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets) Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets) Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets) Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets) Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets) Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets) Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)
Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Facets)

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