Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Romans NEVER CRUCIFIED the Way We Think They Did! 9 - Utility Poles and Masts

Christ Crucified on a Utility Pole.

Part 9 - Utility Poles and Masts. (Updated 27-Sept 2012)

Part 8 - Crown of Thorns.
Part 7 - Crucifixion and Priapus.
Part 6 - From Wax Image to Exposed Body.
Part 5 - The First Crucifix.
Part 4 - The Tropaeum and the Furca.
Part 3 - Crux - Modern English Use and Ancient Quotidian Meanings.
Part 2 - Crux.
Part 1.

A. Introduction - Some Tourist Photos from Rome.

A while back I found a pair of interesting photos somewhere on the internet (I wish I could remember where) and it has this strange depiction of a crucifixion going on outside a city at one of its corners. The scene was made in an archway of the Flavian Ampitheatre, better known as the Colosseum. The pictures were captioned "The Crucifixion." I filed them away and forgot about them until I came across them again yesterday afternoon. They seem to be portraying a very curious Crucifixion indeed!

Source: not known.

Source: Christine Takes On weblog.

Here is a depiction of The Crucifixion outside a city: the City of Jerusalem. The first photos is quite grainy so the detail is not the best. The second photo shows better colors and a less grainy focus. Each shows the Crucifixion as taking place at the north end, west side corner. The temple precinct of the House of the Holy Place is shown at mid-town, on the east side. The city wall is shown to be quite regular, surrounding the city with no inside corners. This is wholly in contradiction to the traditional site of Golgotha, under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is opposite the Temple Mount, now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques. There is something very peculiar about this Crucifixion. The way it was presented, I thought it was a five or six person crucifixion on crosses that resembled utility poles! And if this fresco is very ancient, as the depiction of the city appears to be, for it appears to have some kind of relief to it, then, I thought, this is an actual depiction of multiple full-blown Roman crucifixion along a highway, complete with a transgressive "seat" for each cross. For the suspended criminals are not hanging from their crosses, they are hanging on them. Well, anybody who knows anything about the mechanics of the human body, when it is hanged from a transverse beam with the feet secured with the legs flexed to a central post, knows what I am talking about!

Source: not known.

Source: Christine Takes On weblog.

These next two photos show the Crucifixion detail area. Now this really takes the cake, for it presents a very bizaare scene. For it depicts three stations of the twelve stations of the cross: in the foreground, the mocking of Jesus; in the midrange, the nailing of Jesus, and in the background next to the town wall, the hanging of Jesus with the two "thieves."

1. The mocking of Jesus. I have no words for it. It is very strange. He appears to have a white aura, except it's a blemish in the paint. He appears to be seated, lounging in a way, on what appears to be some kind of rock. He doesn't have a stitch of clothing on, except maybe (and I'm very skeptical about that) for a narrow red cloth to hide his modesty. Yet he is enjoying himself and calling attention to himself by lifting his right hand as if to say "Hi." And like in the other two stations, he appears to have short hair.

2. The nailing of Jesus. Now this is a beaut. I don't know what to think of it! he appears to have been nailed in a "T" form entirely naked on a cross ~ a tropaeum, really ~ that is laying flat on the ground. There are several people around and two of them, carnifices (executioners) apparently, are not wearing anything and one is seated in a very rude position! At least whoever depicted this scene knew crucifixion could be a bloody business. And those who are wearing clothes appear to be dressed in Renaissance-era outfits. Yet the nudes are all depicted authentically for Mid to Late Roman Antiquity, even when the stadium was built! (80 CE)

Additional note: there appears to be a bump on the one on the ground, being crucified. It appears to be hemispherical. It is possible that it will serve as the horizontal member of a sedile/cornu assembly that will keep him on his cross. Or it could be a horizontal that he will just sit and slide forward on. Or just something that acts as a placeholder. Or, being the same color as the rest of him, it could be his own genitals. A scholar who is trained in interpreting ancient frescos without being blinded by Christian tradition will help me figure this out immensely.

3. And now the pièce de résistance: the hanging of Jesus and the two "thieves." This is obviously what is depicted here, for the "thief' on the right cross is hanged all higgledy-piggledy with his ankles nailed to the sides of the post. The one on the left looks like he's sitting on his cross like he's sitting in a chair with his arms out to the sides. It's very hard to tell, but it appears that the three are shown not only hanging on their crosses, but they seem to have their privates covered. Do they have ropes tied around their midsection? Nope, no rope is shown. And Jesus? Well, he's crucified like in the late Mediaeval and Renaissance depictions: legs together, arms out to the side. Worse, it appears the carnifices have set a fire at the foot of his cross and are now asphyxiating him! Or he is burnt already.

I really do not know what to make of this. Crosses that look like they could be of a utility pole type but on closer observation are your typical christian crosses: tropaea. And the execution scene? Only the city could be said to have existed in real life. And this is a fanciful representation of it. The multiple execution on the other hand, as including the Crucifixion of Christ, appears to have hardly any basis in reality. It is theological. And very strange.

Yet when we consider that the Jews ~ 20,000 of them ~ built the Colisseum as slave laborers would they not somehow have depicted the disaster that had befallen their city when Vespasian threatened it and Titus finally beseiged it and demolished it? And would they not have depicted a scene that represented to them, the disaster, that had befallen to the Jews when Titus crucified 500 Jews a day until there were no more crosses to be had for the living bodies, and space for the crosses? Of course they would. Josephus reported it in his Jewish War So now the mystery, I believe, is solved. The depiction of Christ and the two thieves from the medieval times on has a coincidental congruence with reality. And the "Renaissance-era" clothing instead appears to be 1st C. CE Jewish period costume. The loincloths on the crucified are there to avoid reminding Jews recreating this scene the terrible shame of complete nudity of those crucified especially in the full-blown manner. Whatever this is, this is certainly not the crucifixion of Christ. For Jesus was never reported in any historic chronicle, Jewish writing, or Christian writing whether Canonical, Extracanonical, Orthodox or "heretic" to have been burnt on the cross. And the crucifixions depicted here are the full-blown kind, with the cornu.


What appear to be loincloths may be something else entirely: tar or pitch applied to the exposed midsection of each one crucified to aggravate the punishment, which for us, is cruel and unusual as it is. For in Column II, lines 11, 12 and 13 of the Lex Puteoli we read: 
11 Quotiens supplicium magistratus publice sumet, ita imperatio; (For each public punishment the magistrate must give the appropriate orders.) 
quotienscumque imperatum erit, praestu esse sup- 12 plicium sumere cruces statuere clavos pecem ceram candelas quaeque ad eas opus erunt redemptor 13 gratis praestare debeto; (Each time the orders have been given, the contractor must guarantee that the punishment will be inflicted, that the crosses [or poles or impale stakes] will be erected, that there will be nails, pitch, wax, candles, and everything that is needed, free of charge.)" 
And since the crosses themselves are blackened, chances are that either the poles and crossarms were "creosoted" with crude oil or liquid asphalt from Lake Asphaltitis, or they have been blackened by the smoke from multiple asphyxiations on each cross.

B. Typical Roman Crucifixion (Suspension - Impalement) Poles.

Now how did the Romans really crucify? What sort of poles did they hang men on? I'm not just talking about the business part that made a crux a crux. I'm talking of the gallows the acuta crux was attached to: usually called the stipes or patibulum.

Sometimes the poles were of a mast type: the beam was laid upon the ground and the person thrown onto it and his arms spread out. He was then bound, nailed or nailed-and-bound to the beam and hoisted up onto the crux. And parked on it.

Σταυρόυσθαι πασι μέν τοϊς ναυτιλλομένοις άγατόν καί γάρ έκ ξύλον καί ήλων γέγονεν ό σταυρός ως καί τό πλοιον, καί ή κατάπτιος αυτού όμοια έστι σταυρω.

To be crucified, indeed, is admirable for those who go down to the sea in ships. For the σταυρός (crux), like a ship, is made out of timber and nails and a ship's mast resembles a σταυρός.

Artemidorus, Oneirocriticon 2.53

Θάλασσα μεν γαρ ου τέμνεται, ην μη τούτο το τροπαίων, ο καλείται ιστίων, εν τη νχη σώον μείνη γη δε ουκ αρουται ενευ αυτού σκαπανείς δε την εργασίαν ου ποιούνται, ουδέ βαλαυσουργοί ομοίως, ει μη δια των το σχήμα τούτο σχοντων εργαλείων. Το δε ανθρωπείων σχήμα ουδενί άλλω των αλόγων ζώων διαφέρει, η τω ορθών τη είναι, και έκτασιν χειρών έχειν, και εν τω προσώπω από του μετωπίου τεταγμένων τον λεγόμενων μυξωθρα φέρειν, δι ου η τη αναπνοή εστί τω ζώω, και ουδέν άλλο δείκνυσιν η το σχήμα του σταυρού.

For the sea is not traversed except that trophy which is called a sail abide safe in the ship; and the earth is not ploughed without it: diggers and mechanics do not their work, except with tools which have this shape. And the human form differs from that of the irrational animals in nothing else than in its being erect and having the hands extended, and having on the face extending from the forehead what is called the nose, through which there is respiration for the living creature; and this shows no other form than that of the cross.

Justin Martyr First Apology 55

Usually the poles were of a T type: it wasn't that high. Again, the beam was laid upon the ground and the person thrown onto it and his arms spread out. He was then bound, or nailed to the beam and pushed up or made to step up to be secured to the post and even nailed to it. Then they attached the acuta crux. Strategically placed so that, when the condemned was exhausted, he would have to sit on it.
οὕτω μὲν οὖν ὅσον ἐς φωνὴν ἀνθρώπους ἀδικεῖ: ἔργῳ,δὲ πῶς; κλάουσιν ἄνθρωποι καὶ τὴν αὑτῶν τύχην ὀδύρονται καὶ Κάδμῳ καταρῶνται πολλάκις, ὅτι τὸ Ταῦ ἐς τὸ τῶν στοιχείων γένος παρήγαγε: τῷ γάρ τούτου σώματί φασι τοὺς τυράννους ἀκολουθήσαντας καὶ μιμησαμένους αὐτοῦ τὸ πλάσμα ἔπειτα σχήματι τοιούτῳ ξύλα τεκτήναντας ἀνθρώπους ἀνασκολοπίζειν ἐπ᾽ αὐτά: ἀπὸ δὲ τούτου καὶ τῷ τεχνήματι τῷ πονηρῷ τὴν πονηρὰν ἐπωνυμίαν συνελθεῖν. τούτων οὖν ἁπάντων ἕνεκα πόσων θανάτων τὸ Ταῦ ἄξιον εἶναι νομίζετε; ἐγὼ μὲν γὰρ οἶμαι δικαίως τοῦτο μόνον ἐς τὴν τοῦ Ταῦ τιμωρίαν ὑπολείπεσθαι, τὸ τῷ σχήματι τῷ αὑτοῦ τὴν δίκην ὑποσχεῖν..

Such are his verbal offences against man; his offences in deed remain. Men weep, and bewail their lot, and curse Cadmus with many curses for introducing Tau into the family of letters; they say it was his body that tyrants took for a model, his shape that they imitated, when they set up the erections on which men are crucified [impaled].* Σταυρός the vile engine is called, and it derives its vile name from him. Now, with all these crimes upon him, does he not deserve death, nay, many deaths? For my part I know none bad enough but that supplied by his own shape--that shape which he gave to the gibbet named σταυρός after him by men.

*Lit.: ἀνθρώπους ἀνασκολοπίζειν ἐπ᾽ αὐτά = to impale men upon them. Lucian does not use a nailing verb. he uses the verb ἀνασκολοπίζω = impale, fix on a pointed stick or "thorn."

And this is what a typical T-type execution utility pole ~ not tropaeum, but crux ~ would have looked like when it was empty, with a titulus attached.

And then there was the acuta crux (simplex). A simple impaling stake. but I'll talk about that in a later installment, for it is so disgusting.

C. Previous Series.

Crucifixion – The Bodily Support - Part 1.
Crucifixion – The Bodily Support - Part 2 - Archaeological Evidence.
Crucifixion – The Bodily Support - Part 4 - Physics of Crucifixion.

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