In the articles APOTYMPANISMOS
it has been argued that the Greeks of pre-Macedonian times
were far more humane in their modes of inflicting death than has been
generally thought. The modes of capital punishment are enumerated by
Pollux (8.71: ὁ δὲ παραλαμβάνων τοὺς
ἀναιρουμένους καλεῖται δήμιος, δημόκοινος, ὁ πρὸς τῷ
ὀρύγματι καὶ τὰ ἐργαλεῖα αὐτοῦ ξίφος, βρόχος, τύμπανον,
): of these the only wantonly cruel
one, the τύμπανον,
has been shown to
have been extremely rare. Vague allusions to burning, impalement, and
crucifixion, as recognised modes of execution, are still to be found in
works of authority, though no instances can be alleged; the fact being
that to the Greeks of the best period such punishments were known only
as practised by barbarians or tyrants, and formed no part of legal
procedure. In this respect they stood far above the Romans in their
dealings with all but the privileged classes, and above the practice of
most Christian nations until the present century. Almost the only writer
who, to our knowledge, has drawn the just and clear distinction between
the excesses of irresponsible persons, whether mobs or individuals, and
the mind of the people as expressed in its laws, is Westermann (ap.
Pauly, s. v. Supplicium
), whose words have
been already quoted (Vol. I. p. 567a
further illustrations of our previous argument may here be given. The
earliest crucifixion recorded to have taken place in Greece is that of
the leaders of an insurrection at Sicyon by a Macedonian princess,
Cratesicleia, the widow of Alexander, son of Polysperchon, B.C. 314
). In the previous year
Apollonides, an officer of Cassander, had burnt the prytaneum at Argos
with 500 political opponents shut up in it (Id. ib. 63). No such deeds
as these disfigure the annals of free Greece; they follow rapidly on the
incursion of Macedonian barbarism. The treatment of servile
insurrections affords another contrast. We know how the Romans struck
terror on such occasions, not merely into slaves, but into free
provincials. The Spartans were in mortal dread of their Helots, and
privately made away with those whom they thought likely to prove
Greek feeling prevented their resorting to wholesale executions by cruel
methods. At Athens, also, we hear of insurrections among the mining
p. 659], but
there are no records of atrocious and unusual punishments.
Judicial torture, employed to extract evidence, was likewise confined at
Athens and among the Greeks generally within narrower limits, both as
regards the persons on whom it was inflicted and the modes of
infliction, than in those European countries which had adopted it from
the later Roman law. In particular, the Athenian feeling against
barbarity showed itself in very early times (see under CRUX
Vol. I. p. 566 a, b
). By a decree in the archonship of
Scamandrius, of unknown but probably of early date, it was ordained that
no free Athenian could be put to the torture (Andoc. de
§ 43); and what is more to the purpose, the
restriction was fully maintained in practice: Athenian citizens stood in
no fear of it (Lys. c. Agorat.
§ 27). Even in
the worst times of panic or exasperation, as in the case of the
mutilated Hermae, the power to override the law by a special psephisma,
though often demanded, was never really acted upon (see the narrative in
Grote, ch. 58, and especially the note at 5.175; other instances in
[Dem.] de Synt.
p. 170.114, Plut. Phoc. 35
). The best authorities are agreed that we
have no example of the torture of an Athenian citizen (Thalheim,
p. 29, n. 2; Lipsius, Att.
p. 896, n. 372). Free aliens, whether ξένοι
stood in general upon the same footing; the
masters of emancipated slaves (ἀπελεύθεροι
) retained the right of giving them up for
torture, but Demosthenes expressly says that it would be impious to do
so (οὐδ᾽ ὅσιον παραδοῦναι,
iii. p. 856.39, cf. c. Timoth.
p. 1200.55), though non-compliance with an opponent's challenge might
prejudice the jury against one's case. Some apparent exceptions are
discussed by Boeckh (P. E.
p. 185 =
3 1.227 f.): the torture of
a free man at Mytilene, who held out when a slave confessed (Antiph.
de caed. Her.
§ § 29, 49, cf.
Mahaffy, p. 241), may have been under Lesbian and not Attic law, or the
Athenians may have been less scrupulous when their subject-allies were
concerned: the case in Lysias (c. Simon.
is of a Plataean youth, who, as such, was not necessarily an Athenian
citizen, and who after all was not put to the torture: the orator only
argues that he might have been. Even under the Thirty it is admitted by
their bitterest enemy that there was no torture of citizens, though the
aliens who were the chief victims of murder and confiscation did not
escape it (Lys. c. Agorat.
§ § 54, 59,
61). But under regular governments freemen, not being citizens, were
sometimes tortured at moments of panic, e. g. the barber who first
spread the news of the Sicilian disaster (Plut. Nicias,
30); Antiphon, an Athenian who had lost his
apparently by a
Dem. de Cor.
p. 271.133), and who was accused of a plot to
burn the dockyard in Philip's interest. In this case Boeckh (l.c.
) thinks that the torture was in aggravation
of the punishment; the words στρεβλώσαντες
however, do not mean “put to death by
torture,” but “put to death after
akin to στρέφω,
is always used of torture employed to wring out
confession, not of vindictive cruelty, for which the word is αἰκίζεσθαι.
So of the female prisoner, who
was probably not a free woman, in Antiphon (de Venef.
§ 20); the words τῷ γὰρ δημοκοίνῳ
τροχισθῆναι παρεδ όθη
do not imply that she was racked
to death, as δημόκοινος
is applied [p. 2.852]
to a torturer as well as an executioner. These
remarks, it may be repeated, apply only to the free ages of Greece: the
record of later times in Polybius and Diodorus is naturally very
different, and after two centuries of degeneracy we need not be
surprised at the statement of Cicero (Part. Orat.
de institutis Atheniensium, Rhodiorum . . . apud
quos liberi civesque torquentur
It was in taking the evidence of slaves, whose willing testimony was not
accepted, that the torture was most commonly employed: for the rule
which prevailed on this subject see MARTYRIA
p. 128 b,
p. 658 b.
The argument often recurs in the orators,
that evidence thus extorted was of more value than that of freemen: this
was partly, no doubt, owing to the low standard of veracity among the
Greeks, but much of it is mere rhetorical artifice; it is to persuade
the jury that the other side refuse to tender their slaves for
examination, not from humanity, but from the consciousness of a bad
case; and we always find it employed when the demand to give them up has
been refused (Antiph. Tetral. i.
§ 25; Isae. Or.
§ 12;--Dem. c. Aphob.
iii. p. 848.13; c.
i. p. 874.37;--Lycurg. c. Leocr.
§ § 29, 30). There is good reason to think, as has
been seen under SERVUS
the contemporaries of Demosthenes were more humane in this respect than
those of Antiphon. Either party 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.
was usually in writing,
and specified the particular allegations to be substantiated, the
“terms of the torture” (καθ᾽ ὅ
τι ἔσται ἡ βάσανος,
Dem. c. Steph.
p. 1120.61; cf. c. Pantaen.
p. 978.40). We do not think
that these words mean “what kind of torture was to be
inflicted:” it appears both from the orators and the grammarians
that only one mode of torture was in general use in the Attic courts,
the rack (τροχός
: ἀναβιβάζειν ἐπὶ
: cf. ECULEUS
). There seem to have been exceptions: a comic passage
of course proves nothing (Aristoph. Frogs
ff.), but cf. Antiph. de Choreut.
§ 23, βασανίζειν τρόπῳ ὁποίῳ
: Isocr. Trapez.
μαστιγοῦν τὸν ἐκδοθέντα καὶ
The suitor who put an opponent's slave to the
torture was liable for damages for any loss of time or bodily hurt
resulting from it (Dem. c. Pantaen.
l.c.; Aristoph. Frogs 624
); a proviso which
must have gone some way to check the excesses of cruelty. The
state-torturer, a slave, was called δήμιος
p. 124, n. 8); the parties might
themselves agree to act as βασανισταί,
or choose certain persons for this purpose (Antiph. de
§ 10; Dem. c. Pantaen.
§ § 40, 42); but we find an agreement repudiated when
themselves instead of δημόκοινοι
former could not venture to carry out the torture on their own
responsibility, and the plaintiff's case broke down (Isocr.
§ 15). The torture was usually
administered in private: instances occur of its infliction in open court
(Aeschin. de F. L.
§ 126; [Dem.] c.
Everg. et Mnes.
p. 1144.17), but these are exceptional
(βασανίζειν οὐκ ἔστιν ἐναντίον
Dem. c. Steph.
i. p. 1106.16). The
general practice was to read at the trial the depositions of the slaves,
which were called βάσανοι
Harpocrat., Suid. s.v. Dem. c. Nicostr.
p. 1254.24), and
to confirm them by the evidence of those who had been present at the
torture. (Att. Process,
pp. 889-897, Lipsius;
p. 37 ff.; Mahaffy,
Social Life in Greece,
ed. 3, pp. 240-243.)
During the time of the Republic, freemen were never put to the torture,
at least. by lawful authority; the cruelties inflicted on two military
tribunes by Pleminius at Locri were the acts of a madman (Liv. 29.9
). The rule as to slaves' evidence was
the same at Rome as in Greece; their voluntary statements were not
received except under special circumstances, as when they gave
information of conspiracies against the state; they were tortured to
make them confess what it was sought to prove. Slaves, however, could
not be tortured to prove the guilt of their own master, except in the
case of incestus, which was a crime against the gods,. or unless the
senate made a special exception, as was done in the Catilinarian
conspiracy (Cic. pro Mil.
, § 59; pro Deiot.
1.3; Partit. Orat.
34.118). Under Augustus the law
was so far modified that, when the emperor suspected conspiracy against
his government, he could demand the compulsory sale of slaves to the
state or to himself, in order that they might be tortured; this did not
pass without a protest (D. C. 55.5
; Tac. Ann. 2.30
). The suspicious tyrants who immediately followed
Augustus extended the law of majestas to the torture of free persons
]; and we
read of cases in which senators and equites were exposed to it (Suet. Tib. 58
Claudius began his reign by abolishing the law of majestas, and is said
never to have punished any one under it (D. C.
); but his wives and freedmen abused his authority, and the
practice was revived (Id. ib. 15). It remained the general law of
imperial times that only freemen of low degree (humiliores
) could be tortured in prosecutions for
majestas: slaves might be compelled to bear witness against their
masters in cases of majestas (Cod. 9, 8, 6, 7) and adultery (Dig. 48
; Cod. 9, 9, § § 3, 6, 32).
Ammianus takes, perhaps, a malicious pleasure in recording the cruelties
inflicted upon free citizens by the Christian emperors Constantius,
Valentinian, and Valens (Amm. Marc. 14.5
As to the modes of torture, see ECULEUS,
FIDICULA, and FLAGELLUM, in Vol. I.
Cicero mentions some atrocious cases: “ignes candentesque laminae
ceterique cruciatus admovebantur” (in Verr.
5.63.163: cf. pro Cluent.
but in general we get few details. The hooks (unci
) with which the bodies of criminals were dragged after
execution (Juv. 10.66
, with Mayor's note)
were likewise employed to lacerate the living (Ammian. 14.5
Id. 26.10). The torturers,. (tortores, carnifices
) were probably public slaves (CARNIFEX; cf. Mommsen, Staatsr.
i.2 313). On the torture of slaves by their
masters, see Marquardt, Privatl.
180: on the whole
subject, Dig. 48
des römischen Rechts,
ed. 1, p. 875 ff.; Rein,