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FLAGRUM dim. FLAGELLUM (μάστιξ), a whip, scourge.

It may be broadly stated that the corporal punishment of freemen was, like other forms of torture, “abhorrent to Greek manners” [CRUX p. 567 a]. The exceptions noticed by Thalheim (Rechtsalterth. p. 127) prove little against this rule. The military and paternal government of Sparta allowed old men to use their walking-sticks (βακτηρίαι) on those who were guilty of unseemly conduct in public (τοὺς ἀκοσμοῦντας, Dionys. xx. fr. 2=13 Kiessling); a very different thing from flogging as commonly understood. We are not surprised to read that Cinadon and his associates, who had planned a wholesale massacre of their fellow-citizens, were scourged on the way to execution (Xen. Hell. 3.3, § 11). But we entirely reject the notion, based only on scholiasts and grammarians and unsupported by contemporary evidence, that the Athenian market was patrolled by men with whips, even if they were only to be used against non-citizens [AGORANOMI]. The strong feeling against ὕβρις, or open violence, extended even to slaves ([Xen.] Rep. Ath. 1.10; Aeschin. c. Timarch. § 17). Not only was the use of the μάστιξ limited to slaves, but we find no trace of its infliction in public, as among the Romans (Liv. 2.36). A slave who had been flogged was called μαστιγίας (Aristoph. Kn. 1228, Ran. 501, Lysistr. 1240; Philem. fr. 143 M.), which of course became a term of mockery and contempt. Through the comic writers, mastigia passed into Latin (Plaut. Capt. 3.4, 68, and often; Terent. Adelph. 5.2. 6). Among the different kinds of whips we find the σκυτίνη μάστιξ, Lat. lorum or scutica (Anacr. fr. 19=21 Bergk4); one called ὑστριχὶς with a lash of bristles (Aristoph. Frogs 619; Pax, 746); another, the most terrible of all, called ἀστραγαλωτή, because strung with ἀστράγαλοι or knuckle-bones (Crates, fr. 32 M. ap. Poll. 10.54; Lucian, Asin. 38, p. 606 R.; Posidon, ap. Ath. 4.153 a).

At Rome the sourging of citizens had been forbidden from very early times (Liv. 10.9; Cic. Rab. Perd. 4, § 12; in Verr. 5.66.170). Unprivileged persons, and especially slaves, were scourged in a variety of ways, of which the flagellum was the worst (horribili flagello, Hor. Sat. 1.3, 119). It was a “knout” or “cat,” with lashes of knotted cord, or even wire; like the ἀστραγαλωτὴ of the Greeks, it might be loaded with knuckle-bones (tali, whence talaria, sc. flagella, Senec. de Ira, 3.19.1), or other cruel aggravations (cf. Apul. Met. viii. p. 173). The cut below represents a scourge taken from a bas-relief of the statue of Cybele in the Capitoline Museum at Rome. The infliction of punishment with it upon the naked back of the sufferer (Juv. 6.477) was sometimes fatal (Hor. Sat. 1.2, 41), and was carried into execution by a class of persons, themselves slaves, who were called lorarii. Some flagella found at Herculaneum consist of several short chains with knobs of metal at the end, attached to a short handle. Rich, who figures one of them, thinks that this sort was the flagrum, the other the flagellum; other writers treat flagrum and flagellum as equivalent (Marquardt, Privatl. 179, n. 3; Becker-Göll, Gallus, 2.176). The stimuli mentioned by Plautus are probably goads or other sharp-pointed instruments used separately (Göll), not spikes fastened to the flagellum (Marquardt); so μαστιγούμενος καὶ κεντούμενος, Xen. l.c. Less severe forms of corporal punishment were with the cane (νάρθηξ, ferula), the leathern strap (habena, scutica, lorum, Hor. Sat. 1.3, 119; Ep. 1.16, 47, 2.2, 15; cf. bubulis exuviis, Plaut. Most. 4.1, 26); the rope's end (Hor. Epod. 4, 3, where the Hiberici funes are made of esparto grass, and different from the flagella of v. 11). During the Saturnalia the scourge was deposited under the seal of the master. We likewise find that some gladiators fought with the flagellum, as in the coin here introduced: it has two lashes, as is also the case with some driving-whips figured in ancient paintings.


For the virgae of the lictors, see FASCES For corporal punishment in schools, ferulae and lora are mentioned (Juv. 1.15, with Mayor's note; Mart. 10.62); see also a curious painting from Herculaneum figured in Rich, s. v. “Ludus,” and in Milman's Horace.

[J.Y] [W.W]

hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Aristophanes, Frogs, 619
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 1228
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 3.3
    • Cicero, For Rabirius on a Charge of Treason, 4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 36
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 10.62
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