Illustrated History: Ancient Punishment
Illustrations of Ancient Methods of Punishment
Assyrian Death Penalty
This sketch represents the usual death penalty given by the Assyrians which was hoisting on poles. The victims were tied with their stomachs or throats on the point of a stake so that their own weight thrust them downwards.
Pairs of bronze fetters were used to fasten prisoners. They were made of various shapes and materials. The ones that were put on Zedekiah and Samson were made of brass or copper. The sketch on top is from a pair of Fetters found in Nineveh, currently in the British Museum. They weigh 8 lbs. 11 oz. and are 16 ½ inches long. The part which enclosed the ankles is thinner so that they could be hammered small after the feet were placed in them. The Egyptians enclosed the hands of their prisoners in an elongated shackle of wood, made of two opposite segments nailed together at each end.
Assyrian Hooking the Lips
This sketch is an archaeological discovery from the ruins of Ancient Assyria. It reveals an Assyrian king blinding a captive king while holding his head still with a hook in his lips. The other kings are waiting for the same fate. The Bible reveals accounts of prisoners being blinded and this metaphor is used of God leading rebellious people and nations.
Assyrians Blinding Their Prisoners
This sketch represents part of a scene from a marble slab discovered at Khorsabad. The Assyrian king is using a spear to blind one of his many prisoners. In his left hand he holds a cord with a hook attached at the opposite end which are inserted into the prisoners lips. The Assyrians would thrust the point of a dagger or spear into the eye. Their are many representations that have been discovered revealing that the Babylonians, Assyrians and Persians made use of the same cruel punishment.
Counting Dead Men's Hands
This sketch represents how the Egyptians would count the severed hands of enemy corpses after a battle. They would usually cut off the hands or the genitals of the dead and make a heap before their king. In one case 12,535 of these "battle trophies" were counted and assembled into a mound after a victory of Ramsees III over the Libyans.
Israelites Forced to Labor
This sketch is taken from a marble relief found in the palace of Sennacherib. It illustrates how the Israelite prisoners were assembled into gangs and forced to perform heavy labor. They are clothed in short skirted garments and are carrying heavy loads of rocks.
The Romans would, according to custom, scourge a condemned criminal before he was put to death. The Roman scourge, also called the "flagrum" or "flagellum" was a short whip made of two or three leather (ox-hide) thongs or ropes connected to a handle as in the sketch above. The leather thongs were knotted with a number of small pieces of metal, usually zinc and iron, attached at various intervals. Scourging would quickly remove the skin.
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