*** WARNING ***
THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE VERBALLY DEPICTS HUMAN DEATH UPON
A CROSS, SUCH AS SUFFERED BY CHRIST. THIS ARTICLE IS AS
ACCURATE AS POSSIBLE, EXPLAINING THE ACTUAL EVENTS THAT
CAUSED SLOW DEATH. IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO CONFRONT
THESE FACTS AT THIS TIME, THEN PLEASE DISCONTINUE...
Death on a Cross
In the first century, at a time when the
the known world, a favored method of execution was to hang the
accused upon a cross until death.
In executions today, at least within the free world, death comes
quickly and is never public. That is, not displayed in a public
area, nor on TV. There is little or no pain involved.
The Romans believed that execution, when used as a means of
punishment, should be as painful and as humiliating as possible, and
that death should linger on to enhance the pain. They also believed
that the execution should be a public event.
All this was done with design and purpose. For the death penalty
then, as now, was used as a deterrent to crime. They believed that
a public display of such an horrible death as with crucifixion would
give a message to the people that "crime does not pay".
Many of us still believe this today, and much can be said concerning
both sides of the debate.
Death upon a cross was the most hideous and anguishing of any type
man could devise.
One cannot discuss crucifixion without explaining scourging. Usually those
who were going to be crucified were first SCOURGED.
Scourging is a form of beating with a type of whip.
The Jews had a law that prohibited them from beating the accused more than
40 times. Because of this law, they always stopped at 39, counting
carefully as they went.
The Romans had no such law, and there were no specific number of lashes
which could be inflicted upon an accused, therefore the Romans commonly
called scourging, "halfway death".
In the room of scourging, which was a room of torture, there was a low
thick stump or post. It was about knee high, or a little higher. At the
base of the post were four metal rings, used for tying the wrists and
ankles. The accused was stripped naked. He was bent forward, over the
post, and tied in that position.
The instrument of torture was called a flagellum. It was a piece of wood
from 14 to 18 inches long, circular in shape, to which were tied long
leather thongs. To these thongs were sewn bits of glass, bone, pellets
of lead, and pieces of metal, adding weight to the flagellum.
The user of the flagellum was called a lictor. He was a professional in
the grim art of torture. The lictor would place himself about 6 feet from
the accused. The flagellum was then brought all the way back, over his
shoulder, then whistled forward, making a dull drum sound as the strips of
leather smashed against the back of the rig cage. The bits of bone and
chain and glass curled around the sides of the body, raising small
hemorrhages about the back, chest, stomach, and sides.
The flagellum came back again, aimed slightly lower, and again, aimed
higher, as it crashed against the skin and flesh. The flagellum now moved
in a slow heavy rhythm - "flagellations".
One historian writes, "It reduced the naked body to strips of raw flesh,
and inflamed bleeding wounds."
It was not uncommon for a man to die on the stump. It was also not
uncommon for a man to go insane. Invariably the victim passed out -
through pain. Blood came from all the holes in the face and head during
flagellation. If one of the lead weights hit the face just right, an
eye could be popped out.
Victims would fall into spasms. Their bodies would shake uncontrollably.
Their teeth rattled audibly. Victims would be revived by buckets of salt
water, as the Romans used pain to keep the level of pain conscious.
On to the Cross
The accused was chained to the crossbeam, and was forced to carry
this to the place of execution. The crossbeam was a rough piece of
timber 4 inches by 6 inches, and about 6 feet long. A board was hung
from the victim's neck, upon which was written his name and his crime.
The victim did not carry the upright board. It would have been much
too heavy. He was led through the streets on the way to the execution
place. He was forced to walk inside an imaginary square - in the
hollow of the square. A soldier walked at each corner of this square
with a centurion in the lead.
The actual upright portion of the cross was already at the execution
site, and in place.
Facts about Death on the Cross:
Note that the normal practice for crucifixion in those days was to
break the subject's legs. This was so that the subject could not lift
himself up with his legs to relieve the pain in the arms and chest. The idea
of the crucifixion was really to induce death by suffocation, slowly but
Consider too, that the knees are a second heart. When you move they
pump the blood back up to the heart. When your legs are immobilized, the
blood collects in your legs, and with less and less blood to pump, the
body goes into shock, where only the brain and lungs are getting blood.
Then, as there is even less blood, the lungs fill with liquid. This
results in a person loosing consciousness.
Those who have been trapped in cave-ins where their legs are
immobilized are treated by the medics for both of these problems; low
blood pressure and pneumonia. Those who stand at attention for long
periods of time will also pass out if they fail to move their knees.
These, then, fall flat on their face, or the other way.
Not only was crucifixion the most painful of deaths, it was also the
The condemned was striped naked, and left exposed in his agony.
Often the Romans denied burial to the victims - allowing the body to
hang until it disintegrated.
But death by crucifixion did not originate with the Romans. It was
developed by the Phoenicians
much earlier in history. In
they believed in a god "ORMUZD". The god of earth. The pure god.
No criminal would be allowed to contaminate the earth with their
So they devised an ingenious plan where the victim could be lifted
off the ground and left in that position to die. This allowed the
earth to remain pure.
This type of death was passed on to the Egyptians and then on to the
Romans. The Romans embraced it and developed it into an actual art.
They devised the very best plan by which to carry it out.
The Roman Procedure
The executioner laid the crossbeam behind the accused and brought
him to the ground quickly by grasping his arm and jerking him
downward. As the condemned fell, the beam was fitted under the back
of his neck. On each side soldiers quickly knelt on the inside of
each of the elbows. Once again, the matter was done quickly and
The executioner wore a leather apron with pockets. He placed two
square five inch long nails between his teeth, and a hammer in his
hand, kneeling beside the right arm.
The soldier whose knee rested on the inside of the elbow, held the
forearm flat on the board. The executioner probed with his hand,
the wrist and hand of the victim, to find the little hollow spot,
meaning, where there would be no vital blood vessel.
When he found it, he took one of the square cut iron nails from his
teeth, held it against the spot - directly behind the so-called
"lifeline". Often a piece of wood, such as olive wood, was
fashioned into a sort of washer to be fitted on the nail so that
the nail could not be torn through the flesh.
He then raised the hammer over the nail head, and brought it down
with force. As soon as he was satisfied that the victim, in
struggling, could not pull himself free, he did the same on the
The two soldiers would then grab each side of the crossbeam and as
the executioner motioned, they lifted. As they pulled up, they
dragged the victim by the wrists. When the soldiers reached the
upright, the four of them began to lift the crossbeam higher, until
the feet of the accused were completely off the ground.
By then, the accused writhed with pain.
When the crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner reached up and
set the board which listed the prisoner's name and crime.
Then the executioner knelt before the cross. Two soldiers hurried
Each one took hold of a leg, at the calf. The procedure was to
nail the right foot over the left foot. This was probabaly the most
difficult part of their work. If the feet were pulled downward too
far, and nailed too close to the foot of the cross, the prisoner
always died quickly.
Over the years, the Romans had learned to push the feet upward,
buckling the knees so the comdemned man could lean on the nails
through his feet and stretch himself upward.
The victim was now in a "V" position with his arms, and became
conscience of two unendurable circumstances.
First; that the pain in his wrists was beyond bearing, and that
muscle cramps knotted the forearms, upper arms and the pads of his
Second; that the pectoral muscles at both sides of his chest were
momentarily paralyzed. This induced in him an involuntary panic,
for while he found that while he could draw air into his lungs, he
was powerless to exhale.
Victims upon the cross were literally in constant motion, so as to
To hang strictly on the hands, long enough, would prohibit the
breathing process. And so, he literally rubbed himself up and
down, up and down, against the rough timber, in order to keep
breathing and stay alive.
The victim would ultimately die, not from the loss of blood, but
by suffocation. He no longer could breath properly once he became
unable to lift himself up.
With each second the pain mounted. The arms, limbs, torso screamed
with pain. The force of gravity pushing downward on the body, with
the arms at the "V" position, was using leverage to literally tear
muscles, tendons, and flesh, and nerves, to where the length of the
arms would be increased by several inches.
Slowly, but steadily, he was being asphyxiated by his own loss of
strength and will to raise himself for another breath.
On occasion when they wished the condemned to die after a certain
time, they would merely have to break the legs. Thus the victim
would no longer be able to raise up to breath, but would sag, and
It is recorded that some lived as long as several days in this
position before finally dying. Obviously, they would have to
have been given water in order to survive that long.
Eventually though, one would weaken, tire, become overcome with
pain and struggle, and involuntarily begin to sag and loose the
ability to raise again.
Eventually one would cease movement, struggle, and life.
It is difficult to imagine a more terrible suffering and death.
torture of insects
exposure to brutal spectators
the absolute horror of rigid fixation
all, continuing interminably, and combining to
make death by crucifixion a supreme humiliation and torture.
I wonder, after reading this, if I were condemned to die upon a cross,
would any of you volunteer to take my place?