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Tormentum

βάσανος). Torture.


1. Greek

By a decree of Scamandrius of uncertain date it was ordained that no free Athenian could be put to the torture (De Myst. 43), and this appears to have been the general rule. The evidence of slaves was, however, always taken with torture, and their testimony was not otherwise received. From this circumstance their testimony appears to have been considered of more value than that of freemen. Any person might offer his own slave to be examined by torture, or demand that of his adversary, and the offer or demand was equally called πρόκλησις εἰς βάσανον, “challenge to torture.” The parties interested either superintended the torture themselves, or chose certain persons for this purpose, hence called βασανισταί, who took the evidence of the slaves. The official torturer was called δήμιος or δημόκοινος.


2. Roman

During the time of the Republic, freemen were never put to the torture, and slaves only were exposed to this punishment, which might be by scourging, laceration with hooks, or burning. Slaves, however, could not be tortured to prove the guilt of their own master, except in the case of incestum, which was a crime against the gods, or unless the Senate made an exception in some special instance. At a later time, slaves might be tortured to bear witness against their masters in cases of maiestas and adultery. (See Adulterium.) Under the emperors even free persons were put to the torture to extract evidence from them in cases of maiestas; and although this indignity was confined for the most part to persons in humble circumstances, we read of cases in which even Roman senators and knights were exposed to it. The torture was inflicted by the public slaves known as tortores and carnifices.

See Becker-Göll, Charikles, pp. 37 foll.; Mahaffy, Social Life in Greece, 3d ed. pp. 240 foll.; Rein, Criminalrecht der Römer, p. 542; and the articles Crux; Eculeus; Fidicula; Flagrum; Maiestas; Servus.

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