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Earliest depictions of Roman crucifixion

Discussion in '[CF]:Files, Links, Stories, Pics and Videos' started by TD, Aug 2, 2009.

  1. TD

    TD Condemned

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    Esthetically, I'm appalled at seeing crucifixion victims nailed through the wrists or forearms. Ugly, grotesque, repulsive! Though the Romans may sometimes have used that method, as far as I can see it's mostly a recent fad, prompted by the discovery of a notch in a bone of one crucifixion victim--a notch that may have had nothing to do with crucifixion.

    What are the earliest depictions of Roman crucifixion?

    I'm no art expert; but as far as I've found, the earliest is the Alexamenos graffito, scratched on the wall of the imperial palace in Rome in the first century A.D., to make fun of a Christian named Alexamenos: see http://faculty.bbc.edu/rdecker/alex_graffito.htm

    [attachment=1:3bby80nd]Alexamenos Grafitti.jpg[/attachment:3bby80nd]
    The arms of the figure are apparently tied, and I, at least, can see no nails. But then this is a crude caricature, not a realistic drawing.

    Second oldest is this ivory plaque in the British Museum, from around 420-430 A.D. (about a century after Constantine abolished crucifixion):
    see http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/hi ... et_th.aspx ; also Kenneth Clark, The Nude, page 306 (Doubleday paperback, 1956)

    [attachment=2:3bby80nd]ps297856_l.jpg[/attachment:3bby80nd]
    Notice the nails are clearly in the palms of the hands. And in spite of so-called experts who claim that a footrest was not historical, this figure seems to have his feet on some sort of support--as the Alexamenos figure clearly does.

    The Kenneth Clark book mentions a panel from the wooden doors of Santa Sabina in Rome, from around the same time [see next post].

    Finally, there's this miniature painting in the Codex Rabulensis or Rabbula Gospels, from 586 A.D. : see Art Treasures in Italy, (McGraw-Hill, 1969) page 49

    [attachment=0:3bby80nd]rabbula-crucifixion.jpg[/attachment:3bby80nd]
    Of course, the drapery added to the central figure is not historical, and is merely due to Christian horror of nudity; but notice again the nails in the palms of the hands. In this case there are no footrests, and nails go through the ankles.
     

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  2. TD

    TD Condemned

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    Here's the Santa Sabina panel mentioned above:

    [attachment=0:3q8wpdwj]Sabina%20crucifixion.jpg[/attachment:3q8wpdwj]
    Again, the nails are through the hands.
     

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  3. PhilX

    PhilX Assistant executioner

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    I've looked before at the Alexamenos graffito & though difficult to see exactly any detail it seems to me that the donkey headed victim is crucified standing on a lower crossbeam, but also oddly he/it is facing the cross. I have read elsewhere that women were crucified facing the stipes, though I was always suspicious that this was a recent bit of squeamishness. I have also read that someone thought all crucifixion victims faced the cross due to their observation that the wounds on the back of the victim of the Turin Shroud show now signs of being smudged by rubbing up & down the timber - but then who believes the validity of the Shroud?

    This is though an interesting topic, but the problem is that the images are too late to be valid, by the 5th century AD the propaganda of Christianity had sanitised the whole subject of crucifixion, suggesting that Christ conquered a tiresome inconvenience & bounced back as the all powerful deity who will vanquish all foes. It wasn't till after St Francis that Christ became the suffering victim in Christian iconography.
     
  4. apostate630

    apostate630 Administrator Staff Member

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    I've been a while responding.

    The truth about Roman Crucifixion is that there is no truth. We have scant evidence about the practice.

    I think, as do others, that the nails most commonly went through the wrists or forearms. But there was no one method of nailing somebody to a cross, nor even what a cross looked like. Perhaps a carnifex liked putting the nails through the palms, but he'd have to use rope to secure the arms, otherwise the nails would tear out.

    Yusebby put together the known evidence and common sense in his Crux Intro drawings.
     

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  5. jonesygirl

    jonesygirl Tribunica Potestas

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    Hi,
    I don't see why anybody should be "appalled" by the aesthetics of not showing nails through the palm. The Old Masters would have us believe that Mary was a pretty, young white Caucasian and that Saints walked around with a circle of light above their heads....useful on dark nights I suppose. The first pic I did was LesCrux and the only sensible place to put the nails was in the upper arms to keep her aloft. I had no prior knowledge of crucifixions and the British Standards Office had yet to publish a definitive guide so I only had common sense to go on. She didn't come to any harm because last year you could buy poste crucifixion and after whipping cream from any decent chemist shop.
    I've attached a pic which I've called Wow because I don't know who did it. The nails are in the palms with just a drop of blood showing. Aesthetically I think it's brilliant but physically impossible of course...but that doesn't matter because the original logo for this site made it clear it was just about fantasy, or as Jedakk would put it...Crucifiction. I find the Wow pic a bit intimidating because the artist is so many light years ahead of most folk and I think that puts people off from posting their own work. I have no ego to lose........teaching sees to that!
    I've also attached an article by Wayne Blank (what a name! Officer: "And what's your name sir?" Wayne: "Blank." Officer: "Kindly step this way sir if you don't mind.") His article backs up the common sense theory.
    Julie
     

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  6. jonesygirl

    jonesygirl Tribunica Potestas

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    Hi,
    I hope nobody starts to take the contents of this site too seriously. I've attached a couple of cartoons to help keep people in the right frame of mind.
    I have recently been appointed Royal Keeper of the Worst Poetry, Fiction and General Literature of the Universe. I think I was head hunted....they didn't ask to see any qualifications, I was just given the job. I now see it as my solemn duty to warn all members of this site that I will more than frown upon people who express more than (> for mathematicians) a modicum of gravitas when writing articles about the crucifixion of females/males.....sod the rest, I'm not PC.
    Any breach of my wishes will be met by me posting an entire poem by Grunthos the Flatulent. My ultimate sanction will of course be a posting of one of the many works of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings. Do I need remind you that only Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz survived the first three verses, and only by chewing off his left leg. As a warning here is the first verse of one of Paula's ode's.

    The dead swans lay in the stagnant pool.
    They lay. They rotted. They turned
    Around occasionally.
    Bits of flesh dropped off them from
    Time to time.
    And sank into the pool's mire.
    They also smelt a great deal.

    Be warned!
    Julie

    PS The above verse was really written by one of our worst poets.
     

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  7. TD

    TD Condemned

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    To further confuse (or perhaps clarify) the possibilities, as some of you know forensic Dr. Frederick T. Zugibe has performed experiments that allegedly show:

    (1) Dr. Barbet, who first concluded that nails would tear out of the hands, reached that conclusion too quickly, without sufficiently recognizing the effect of support to the feet; and

    (2) although some people suspended by the arms have been unable to breath and have died of asphyxiation, Zugibe's test subjects reported no difficulty breathing--apparently it makes a big difference whether the arms are at an angle, or nearly vertical (as Jehovah's Witnesses pretend).

    See his website: http://www.crucifixion-shroud.com/exper ... ucifix.htm .

    Zugube is a pious Christian (I can't help irreverently dubbing him Jujubee :lol: ); but far as I can see his methods and results have been scientific.
     
  8. algabal

    algabal Onlooker

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    People have already been calling not to take this too seriously, but then taking things too seriously is one of my favourite pastimes :)

    Trying to decipher the actual methodology of crucifixion from late antique art...

    well, first when we look at the high point of classic Roman art, it's obvious they were able to depict humans and objects and their interactions in a very lifelike manner, and they also sometimes included everyday scenes. But they didn't do so with the intention of the documentary. Although the defeated and vanquished do appear in classic Roman art, the crucified do not; this was obviously an unclean subject, an ugly part of the machinery that was regrettably necessary to uphold their form of civilization. Likewise, while we know in some instances of the extent of the slave economy, there is no Roman "documentary art" that shows the ugly truth of that.

    Such subjects were by definition excluded from the elevated world of (visual) art. As for historians, chroniclers, etc, they had some more freedom to skirt such subjects as their job was also seen to inform and influence future decision-makers.

    Crucifixion only ever appeared in later art because, by the mythology of Christ, it had entered into that "elevated" sphere.

    None of those artists were interested in crucifixion as such but only the Golgotha event. This was the total opposite of the mundane, everyday occasion of criminals and rebellious slaves being put down. It was a unique event of utmost symbolism.
    (The 2 thieves get their slot because of their Biblical role)
    Looking at the ivory plaque, are people with a hanging fetish going to discuss whether this was the preferred method of hanging 2000 years ago (Judas at left)?

    And then there's the huge difference between art from the Late Antique (or early Medieval or Dark Age or whatever you want to call it) and art from the heyday of the Empire.

    A huge, devastating cultural revolution swept through the Roman world from the late 4th to early 5th centuries, with an enormous amount of book-burning, killing, destruction of institutions, etc. The Christian art that surfaced thereafter was as much an expression of a radical ideological approach as Maoist art from 1960s Red China. The difference is that it took centuries, not decades, until Europe had the opportunity of re-importing and/or re-inventing the ways of thinking they had discarded.

    Very consciously, these revolutionary artists were disinterested in the "real world" and in fact the "wisdom of the world" was seen as something to be discarded. For centuries, the issue of iconographic imagery and Christology would be something people of the Byzantine world killed and died for.

    Simply put, anywhere after 391-408, asking "how were people actually crucified" in relation to JC was sacrilege. The question to ask was "how can I correctly celebrate and communicate the deity of Christ".

    And then there's the point of "about a century after Constantine abolished crucifixion"... it's easy to condense history in hindsight and make a century look like a short time. After all, look at all the things we know about everyday life in 1909!
    But you can't compare that. Most likely an artist in 420 AD knew and cared less about how crux actually worked than an artist today. But try to be realistic. For someone born in say, Russia in 1918 who lived out his four score and ten years, the USSR didn't seem very temporary. Nevertheless on the time-scale of looking back at Roman history it would seem ephemeral - the "short-lived" Vandal kingdom in North Africa lasted longer.

    If a young man in the early 300s AD saw an execution that was covered by a social taboo, and outlawed soon after, it is unlikely that this story would have been passed on with documentary precision to his great-great-grandchild. And if it was, and that descendant became an artist, and decided to depict a realistic crucifixion as opposed to Christology, his work (as well as he himself) would not have survived.

    All we can really infer is that crux was usually done with nails, often to many victims at once, and in many different positions.
     
  9. Naraku

    Naraku Draconarius

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    Allow be to throw in some more observations to further confuse the issue:

    1) There is the biblical reference to the Apostle Thomas saying he will not believe Jesus is resurerected until the sees the wounds in his hands & feet. Though there is debate about wether the word translated as "hands" could also include the wrist, the reference seems to clearly indicate that there were nail holes to be shown as proof.
    2) There is no reference in the gosspels to Jesus being nailed as a special punishment, which would be expected if this was not the normal method. The gosspels were written for an audience that would have been familiar with the techniques of crucifixion.
    3) The art depicting the crucifixion of Jesus was created after the punishment had ceased to be common. It was created as religious iconography, not historical document & is filled with symbolism. The arms out streached position was adopted to mimic the gesture of blessing delivered by priests. In combination with streight legs, it creates a triangular form symbolic of the trilogy. In many cases, Jesus is wearing Imperial robes. I'm pretty sure that's not historicly accurate.

    As I've said before, until someone builds a time machine, this debate will continue. My own efforts have been frustrated by problems with the flux capaciture & an inability to obtain enough plutonium.
     
  10. apostate630

    apostate630 Administrator Staff Member

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    As I've said before, until someone builds a time machine, this debate will continue. My own efforts have been frustrated by problems with the flux capaciture & an inability to obtain enough plutonium.

    Gee, I hate when that happens.

    Naraku, you're correct. There almost certainly was no "correct" way to crucify a person. The only prerequisites were to attach the victim so he or she couldn't get loose. There are all manner of methods by which that could be done.

    Jedakk's depiction is my personal preference, because as an engineer he worked out the awful physics of crucifixion, how to inflict the maximum amount of agony for the longest possible time.

    I think he got it right.
     

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  11. admihoek

    admihoek Administrator Staff Member

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    ask melissa julie and their friends kermit and jimmy for help they try to exploit a coffee-shop(in a dutch way???) in the distant past. :roll:

    hans
     
  12. melissa

    melissa Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Naraku,
    " As I've said before, until someone builds a time machine, this debate will continue. My own efforts have been frustrated by problems with the flux capaciture & an inability to obtain enough plutonium."

    I certainly hope you are not using plutonium anywhere in your time machine!! You should be using DiLithium crystals in your warp drive!.... please report to Mr Spock for further details.

    As far as whether the palms/nails could withstand the forces of gravity of being crucified should not be too difficult to determine. Let's assume a body weight of 180 lbs and that three nails were used. The max weight on each palm would be 90 lbs assuming no support from the feet. I would imagine an iron nail to have a cross sectional area of around 0.3 sq.inch. that would mean each nail would be subject to a max. of 180/0.3 = 600 p.s.i. I shall look up the tensile strengths of iron and report back. I suspect the nails were more than strong enough because they were good at building ships but I think the palm is rather weak.

    Mel
     
  13. Naraku

    Naraku Draconarius

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    My time machine design is based on notes written by a Dr Emmett Brown in the late 1880s. It requires 1.21 gigawatts of electricity which can only be generated by a small nuclear reactor or a bolt of lightning. There's an alternative suggestion in the notes employing a locomotive, but it seems a bit far fetched to me.

    Can you pick me up a grande mocha latte to go? I'll pay you later. Thanks.
     
  14. jonesygirl

    jonesygirl Tribunica Potestas

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    Hi Naraku,
    I think you may have misread Doc Brown's notes. He did build his steam locomotive in 1885. Whatever your mode of transport, as far as your coffee is concerned would you be requiring topless service?
    Julie
     
  15. Naraku

    Naraku Draconarius

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    These days, it's easier to find plutonium, than a steam locomotive. As for diesel, well, where you are, the trains may run on time, but over here the trains run on rusting rails.
    Since I'm getting my coffee to go, I guess it will have to have a top. Otherwise it could spill.
     
  16. fxh20012

    fxh20012 Condemned

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    great images.
    thank !
     
    TD likes this.
  17. helmut

    helmut Administrator Staff Member

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    I agree, the Romans executed people by crucifixion, everything else is speculation. The History Channel did a show on the subject, and as I recall the pressure suggested on the nails and the flesh through which they were inserted amounted to hundreds of pounds so the hands are out. Remember even with a foot rest there would come a point where the victim would be unable to stand.
    On the lighter side this is how it was really done.
    Enjoy,
    Helmut :lol:
     

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  18. Ed-M

    Ed-M Condemned

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    I hate to resurreect an old thread that's been lying around for 7 months but I discovered the oldest depictions of Roman crucifixion dating back to the First Century CE.

    The first is the Puzzuoli Graffito which dates to about 100 CE. The way I see it, two taggers were involved in this graffito. The first one drew a man viewed from the rear, naked except for scourge marks, with his back to the cross. The second saw a woman in a similar position and made some changes to the drawing: he added long hair and identified the vic: Crucarius Alcimilla. There is a seat, an apparent anal horn, and an apparent smile on the vic's face as he, then she, appears to be "riding" the horn.

    [attachment=1:27o0b95v]pozzuoli hv3.jpg[/attachment:27o0b95v]

    The second is the Vivat Crux Graffito from Pompeii, dated at the latest 79 CE. You can see it in grey in the Puzzuoli image I uploaded, but I also cleaned up the image a bit to bring out the architecture of a Roman crux. And learning from how Latin is structured and what things Romans referred to as a crux, I believe the horn itself is the crux proper.

    [attachment=0:27o0b95v]Vivat Crux.jpg[/attachment:27o0b95v]

    Ancient Graffiti Do Not Lie.

    Thanks! :)
     

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  19. PhilX

    PhilX Assistant executioner

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    Ed-M has written at enormous length about the use of a horn on a sedile that would penetrate the victims' anuses or vaginas. He has researched this possibility thoroughly so I have no reason to argue with what he describes. For a long time I suspected (most probably injustly!) some ulterior motive that involved a personal pleasure in anal penetration, & as that is something I have absolutely no interest in I tended to dismiss his argument.

    However I have been thinking a bit more round the subject & bearing in mind Ed's own research I now think he has a very good point.

    The main point of crucifixion apart from it being a means of agonising execution was to ridicule & debase the victim in the strongest way possible. That was as good a deterrent as death itself to anyone contemplating a serious crime. Nakedness was of course the first way to achieve this, but once naked some sexual parody would have added a considerable element of fun for the spectators & shame for the victims.

    The resemblance of a cross with a jutting sedile to a rampant male is obvious. To turn this semblance into an actual implement of sexual penetration of its victim doesn't involve much extra in its complexity, to angle the sedile up to say 30° to the stipes, or 60° to the horizontal would be enough for it to enter the victim. An alternative is what Ed-M describes & that is the vertical horn on the sedile. Either way the cross becomes a parody of a lover.

    I have read descriptions of victims on the cross writhing "like those copulating", this of course describes vividly the struggles to relieve the pain, & the 'dance'. But could it actually describe the victim coping with the intrusion of an enormous foreign body in his anus or her vagina?

    I have also read that women were crucified facing the cross whereas men were always facing away. This is another parody of the sex act & its traditional positions, the women would be penetrated from the front & men from behind.

    I therefore wonder if it wasn't perfectly normal for the stipes to have not so much a sedile for the victim to just sit astride on but a vicious impaling instrument as well as Ed-M tells us. These additions could easily have been large fallus-shaped bronze castings that curved upwards on permanent crucifixion sites, or if the executions were done quickly in some out of the way place merely a sharpened spike angled upwards.

    The ordeal of the victim would be as follows. The mere sight of such a disgusting threat upon arrival at the stipes would add extra horror. When lifted up hanging from the patibulum first their heads would bash painfully into the jutting bronze dildo, which would then scrape down their flayed back & buttocks. Once hanging on the cross they would try as long as they could to stand up above the jutting threat, & the size of it would be daunting! Once standing became too much for the pain in the feet they could avoid penetration by thrusting their body forward to hang in front of it, that would delight the crowd below - in-yer-face pudenda! But the stretch this would entail would make it unsustainable. Eventually the victim would have to succumb & lower himself or herself down onto it & endure the agony & shame as it penetrated their bodies, remember it would never be washed & the dried blood & faeces on it would be crusty & sharp, it would hurt! With their feet nailed so their knees were spread apart the whole penetration would be witnessed by the crowd.

    The whole lengthy process of crucifixion would be a sort of rape by the State, & be a hilarious thing for those watching.
     
  20. Ed-M

    Ed-M Condemned

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    Well guilty as charged on liking anal penetration but NOT if it's part of a genuine Roman crucifixion! It was definitely no fun, even if the body of the vic responded with an involuntary orgasm. I would rather be nailed to a cross with a horizontal board at crotch height were the Romans to crucify me, thank you very much. Because being penetrated by a Roman crux was fucking TORTURE.

    PhilX has it quite right, except (1) from what I've seen the record on Romans crucifying women is spotty so we can't know exactly for sure, the Puzzuoli above seems to indicate that at least once a woman was crucified with her back to the post, so maybe it was a case by case decision by the executioners; and (2) I would think the executioners would keep their impalers clean regardless of material it was made out of, so the threat would be more visible to the vic as he approached the post.

    And hats off to Jedakk for depicting a crucifixion with a horizontal peg. Even then it resembles a parody of intercrural intercourse because of the suspended person's bodily tendency to sway forward like an archery bow when exhausted or relaxed. Maybe that's why Jedakk had a "head" at the front end to catch the person when he or she would slide forward. Ouch! Unfortunately I haven't found any indisputable evidence that the Romans crucified people this way, though. But plenty of Christian conjecture! Nevertheless it's a great fantasy.
     

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