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Executioners?

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william2332

Spectator
Quick question on a subject not always discussed.
Who did the nailing, who held the victims down and were they paid?
In all crucifixion scenes you see on films etc, the ones doing the nailing
look a lot more rough and tough than a Roman soldier.
Maybe they were criminals once and as a reprieve had to nail their own type?
 

Loxuru

Graf von Kreuzigung
Quick question on a subject not always discussed.
Who did the nailing, who held the victims down and were they paid?
In all crucifixion scenes you see on films etc, the ones doing the nailing
look a lot more rough and tough than a Roman soldier.
Maybe they were criminals once and as a reprieve had to nail their own type?
A guess, from an economic viewpoint.

Maybe self-employed craftsmen, hired by Roman justice? The lowest bidder gets the job?

One I could think off, is a carpenter. Skilled in working with wood and nailing techniques.
In our time, carpenters made coffins. They often accepted contracts for funerals too, because that gave a guaranteed stable sales of the coffins they made, and a higher added value. So, many of today's undertakers have started (two or three generations ago) as carpenters. The combination carpenter/undertaker still exists in rural villages.

I extend that reasoning to Roman times : selling wood for crucifixion was a business, additionally doing the crucifixions one's self was an extra source of a regular income.
 

Eulalia

Poet Laureate
Staff member
Presumably soldiers would only be involved if the criminals were prisoners of war or otherwise in trouble with the army - though 'Roman' soldiers were a rough, tough and very mixed bunch, especially in the later Empire, only the officer class in the elite legions and cavalry units would have been the kind of handsome, smart, full-dress types we see in pictures, and they'd have left the messy job to lower ranks and auxiliaries.
But I think civilian executions - including that of Jesus - were probably done by hired or conscripted local labour, especially the slaves or destitute wretches given jobs like grave-digging and clearing up the cemeteries and execution places - soldiers would have just been on guard, in case of any trouble.
 

Marcius

Governor
But I think civilian executions - including that of Jesus - were probably done by hired or conscripted local labour, especially the slaves or destitute wretches given jobs like grave-digging and clearing up the cemeteries and execution places - soldiers would have just been on guard, in case of any trouble.
I'd say that a run-of-the-mill Roman execution ordered by an imperial governor -- including that of Jesus -- is best regarded as 'military' with the governor's speculatores 'doing the honours'.

Or perhaps as 'bestial' -- with some local or imported fauna doing the same. :devil:
 

dfg42

Governor
I am quite sure it had to be soldiers, it is also in my country that many firing squads were composed of army personnel. I know which unit, unfortunately that was ahead of my time, but actually a little from that spirit was still there. For beheading and such stuff there was private business and not a good one, so the business stayed in the family line. Crucifixions would have been problematic, since they needed a lot of personal, which had to be well trained.
 

Trex

Assistant executioner
Presumably soldiers would only be involved if the criminals were prisoners of war or otherwise in trouble with the army - though 'Roman' soldiers were a rough, tough and very mixed bunch, especially in the later Empire, only the officer class in the elite legions and cavalry units would have been the kind of handsome, smart, full-dress types we see in pictures, and they'd have left the messy job to lower ranks and auxiliaries.
But I think civilian executions - including that of Jesus - were probably done by hired or conscripted local labour, especially the slaves or destitute wretches given jobs like grave-digging and clearing up the cemeteries and execution places - soldiers would have just been on guard, in case of any trouble.

I think this is a very plausible explanation of who did the nailing. I don't see soldiers being the first choice for the actual nailing but rather there to make sure everything went as planned.
 

dfg42

Governor
I think this is a very plausible explanation of who did the nailing. I don't see soldiers being the first choice for the actual nailing but rather there to make sure everything went as planned.
Roman soldier were very good carpenters since they build their forts themselves, not like todays specialised troups.
 

dfg42

Governor
Hhhm... also a fair point. Maybe it was the soldiers who built the basic structures and it was slaves that did the actual nailing of the prisoners. Just rank speculation on my part.
When we two finished the invention a time machine we surely must go to a roman crucifixion to see what really happened! Also we can solve the speculations about cornu and nude Jesus on cross. Don't forget the iPhone, I am looking forward to put that selfie on facebook.
 

jacksjg89

PROCRASTINATOR
Quick question on a subject not always discussed.
Who did the nailing, who held the victims down and were they paid?
In all crucifixion scenes you see on films etc, the ones doing the nailing
look a lot more rough and tough than a Roman soldier.
Maybe they were criminals once and as a reprieve had to nail their own type?
 

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Loxuru

Graf von Kreuzigung
Another possibility : if the Roman military was involved, perhaps the crucifixion jobs were carried out by a kind of penal military units?
 

StarbuckSlut

Executioner
I like to be the victim 80% of the time...however i can be sadistic and cruel where do i sign up...surely a female executioner is a rare thing indeed....;)
 

crumera

Crucifier of Pixels
Who held the victims down? Well anyone with a strong body would be able to do that job.
Hammering in the nails? Anyone with the strenght to raise a hammer and in the know where to place the nails.

Would an well to do citizen lower himself to do the job? prolly not, he would hire somone to do it for him.
So yes (retired) legionairs, (retired) auxilairy troops, slaves, tradesmen are all possibilities.
Each in their own enviroment.. militairy or civilian society.

Think in the militairy Auxilary troops would be more likely to be used for crucifixions,
as they were considered less valuable then professional legionairies.

Legionaries had to train for fighting and marching unless they were needed to do those things for real.
 

Naraku

Draconarius
Every legion included a group of military engineers - likely the first ever in the world - called "fabri" who built camps and fortifications, roads and bridges. The fabri would be assisted by the regular soldiers who would work under their supervision. For this reason, when on the march, every legionary carried a sword, a spear and a shovel. They built the first bridge across the Rhine, and Hadrian's Wall, so joining a couple of pieces of wood together would be no effort at all.

And, any legionary who said that executing someone was beneath him would have been flogged at the very least. Killing was their profession and brutality was their specialty. They were paid to slaughter Roman's enemies without mercy and nailing one to a cross was no different than hacking them to pieces with a sword. It was in a days work in the service of "the Senate and People of Rome".
 

william2332

Spectator
Loving the response to my question.
May I just add something else to the conversation in respect of numbers.
It would take more than a couple of strong men to carry out a crucifixion.
So many times do we see, in films, only a couple of men nailing a victim to
a cross or beam. No way! If I was being nailed down I would struggle like mad.
The Gospel of Matthew film shows a thief struggling and fighting all the way, just
as it should be, and there is more than two holding him down.
Therefore, more realism in films please.
 
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