Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crucifixion the Bodily Support – The Acuta Crux in Anti-Christian Discourse (3).

(Part 6d of the series: Crucifixion the Bodily Support)

Part 1              Part 2             Part 3              Part 4 
Part 5a            Part 5b           Part 5c            Part 5d
Part 5e            Part 5f            Part 5g            Part6a
Part 6b           Part 6c

C. Other Ancient Non-Christians’ Statements.

The last two we will look at are the Milesian Apollo and porphyry (234 – 305 CE) who wrote his Against the Christians in several books about 280 CE. One refers to the crucifixion of Jesus and the other the crucifixion of Peter using cognates of the word σκόλοψ. This word, meaning “anything pointed”

Source: Wikipedia.

C.1.The Milesian Apollo.

In the ancient world before Christianity came of age and displaced everything, there were oracles all over the place. There were the Sibylline Oracles, the Oracles of Delphi, Diana of the Ephesians and the Oracles of Apollo, for starters. Well one Apollo was quoted by Lactantius (240-320 CE):

On which account the Milesian Apollo, being asked whether He was God or man, replied in this manner: “He was mortal as to His body, being wise with wondrous works; but being taken with arms under Chaldean judges, with nails and the cross He endured a bitter end.” In the first verse he spoke the truth, but he skilfully deceived him who asked the question, who was entirely ignorant of the mystery of the truth. For he appears to have denied that He was God.
Lactantius, Divine Institutes 4.13 (New Advent)
The original reads thusly:

Memimit et Apollo in Oraculo quopiam de Christo:
Θνητός ἰήν κατά σάρκα, σοφός, τερατώδεσιν ἔργοις,
λλ᾽ ὑπό χαλδαίων κριτῶν ὅπλοις συναλωβεις (?)
Γόμφοις καί σκολόπεσσι πικρήν ἀνέτλησε τελουτην
Lactantius Divinibus Institutionibus 4.13 (Documenta Catholica Omnia)
If we go to the notes of the linked PDF, we find the Latin of this oracle reads:
Mortalis erat corpore, sapiens portentificus (a) operibus
Sed sub Chandaeis judicibus armis comprehensus
Clavisque et cruce amarum toleravit finem.
Lactantius Divinibus Institutionibus 4.13, v.n. Milesins Apollo. (Documenta Catholica Omnia)
And it translates as follows:
Memimit and Apollo said something about Christ in an oracle:
He was mortal in body, wise, with pretentious works,
But under Chaldean judges with arms he was apprehended.
With nails and with the crux he endured a bitter end.
Justus Lipsius has the last line translation as follows: Claves et palis mortem exantlauit (exanclavit): “With nails and with pales he endured a bitter end.” (Justus Lipsius, De Cruce,) Keep in mind that σκολόπεσσι translates as “with stakes, thorns, pointed objects” yet the nails are excluded because they are indicated by the Greek word γόμφοις. Yet both places the Latin does not read, spinis (with thorns). One reads cruce (with the crux) and the other, palis (with pales). So it seems to me that there is something going on here that has been overlooked here. It might not be the crown of thorns – the Greek for “crown of thorns” is ἀκάνθινον στέφανον: a crown or wreath made of thorny twigs of the acantha bush, Acanthus spinosus. So it is very much possible the oracle is also or instead referring to the acuta crux of the Roman suspension device, the sharp points of the nails and the point of the thrusted lance (although the last is dubious, because he was supposed to have been stabbed with it after he endured that bitter death.

C.2. Porphyry.
Porphyry was an opponent of Christianity and a stout defender of the Panhellenic Paganism. He had crafted volumes of works, and a lot have been lost from his anti-Christian polemics. But quite a bit has been preserved in various Church Fathers, mostly post-Nicene, as quotes to be refuted or strongly criticized.

C.2.1. The Iron-Bound Death.
Porphyry, ἐκ λογίων φιλοσοφίας (Philosophy from Oracles), quoted in St Augustine, Civitas Dei 19.23 (New Advent) (The Latin Library), he collects and comments upon the responses which he pretends were uttered by the gods concerning divine things, he says— I give his own words as they have been translated from the Greek: “To one who inquired what god he should propitiate in order to recall his wife from Christianity, Apollo replied in the following verses.”
“You will probably find it easier to write lasting characters on the water, or lightly fly like a bird through the air, than to restore right feeling in your impious wife once she has polluted herself. Let her remain as she pleases in her foolish deception, and sing false laments to her dead God, who was condemned by right-minded judges, and perished ignominiously by a violent [an iron bound] death.”
Pergat quo modo uult inanibus fallacis persuerans et lamentari fallaciis mortuum Deum cantans, quem iudicibus recta sentientibus perditum pessima in speciosis ferro vincta mors interfecit.
(Let her go on in what manner she pleases convinced in [her] vain deceptions, and singing lamentations to a God who died in delusions, who was done away with by a panel of judges that had judged wisely, executed [him] in his prime [with] the very worst death, restrained with iron.)
Then… he goes on to say: “In these verses Apollo exposed the incurable corruption of the Christians, saying that the Jews, rather than the Christians, recognized God.”
So here Porphyry repeats the oracle's claim that the sort of crucifixion allegedly suffered by Jesus was then considered the worst death, bound with iron. Certainly for the Roman Empire of his day, where it was designed to be painful to the extreme for days on end, and utterly shameful. 

C.2.2. Nailed to a Cross and Impaled on it.
Porphyry, Against the Christians frg. 36.5-6, quoted in Macarius, Apocriticus IV:4
[5] Let us look at what was said to Paul, “The Lord spoke to Paul in a night by a vision, ‘Be not afraid, but speak, for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee.’” (Acts xviii:9-10). And yet no sooner was he seized in Rome than this fine fellow, who said that we should judge angels, had his head cut off. [6] And Peter again, who received authority to feed the lambs, was nailed to a cross and impaled on it. And countless others, who held opinions like theirs, were either burnt, or put to death by receiving some kind of punishment or maltreatment. This is not worthy of the will of God, or even of a godly man, that a multitude of men should be cruelly punished through their relation to his own grace and faith, while the expected resurrection and coming remains unknown.
The Greek for this is Καὶ Πέτρος ... σταυρῷ προσηλωθεὶς ἀνασκολοπίζεται: (And Peter… having been nailed to a stauros, is impaled [on it].)

C.2.2.1 Some background for Peter’s “crucifixion”.
Tradition has it that Peter the Apostle was crucified at Rome on Vatican Hill, upside-down. This tradition apparently began when the Acts of Peter first appeared, in Greek, not later than 200 CE. When Peter is arrested, he is commandeered by four soldiers and led before Agrippa, who commands that he be crucified (staurow’ed). (ch. 36) Then as they are preparing the stauros, Peter asks the executioners to “crucify me thus, with the head downward and not otherwise: and the reason wherefore, I will tell unto them that hear” (ch. 37). And they proceed to suspend him in the manner requested. And then Peter describes the suspendion device to which he is affixed in an unusual manner:
So that the word is the upright beam whereon I am crucified. And the sound is that which crosseth it, the nature of man. And the nail which holdeth the cross-tree unto the upright in the midst thereof is the conversion and repentance of man.
Acts of Peter ch. 38
So it looks like Peter is nailed to a post through the ankles, or bound to it with his feet. The transverse, if a timber or log, could be held in place by the outrigged acuta-crux which would be a “tree-nail” as we have seen before with Lucian, or if a mere plank, held in place with a regular nail.
The Acts of Peter and Paul has Peter requesting the same thing:
And Peter, having come to the cross, said: “Since my Lord Jesus Christ, who came down from the heaven upon the earth, was raised upon the cross upright, and He has deigned to call to heaven me, who am of the earth, my cross ought to be fixed head down most, so as to direct my feet towards heaven; for I am not worthy to be crucified like my Lord.” Then, having reversed the cross, they nailed his feet up.”
But it appears Tertullian knows nothing about this tradition! Instead, he curtly wrote, Petrus passion Dominicae adequatur: “Peter was made equal to the suffering of the Lord.” (On a Prescription against Heretics 36.3) (New Advent) (The Latin Library) In other words, Peter was suspended on a crux in the usual way.
Origen seems to have relied upon a thoroughly different tradition and explains it this way: ἀνεσκολοπίσθη κατά κεφαλῆς οὕτως αὐτός ἀξιώσας παθεῖν: “He [Peter] was impaled through the head, having deemed himself worthy to suffer in this manner.” (Origen, quoted by Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 3.1)
Of course, you won’t find this in the English translations, they will just say “he was crucified head-downwards.” (New Advent) (Documenta Catholica Omnia)
Eusebius also describes upside-down crucifixions later on in his Historia Ecclesiastica: οἱ δέ ἀνάπαλιν κατωκάρα προσηλωθέντες: “but they were nailed up inversely -- head downwards.” (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.8) (New Advent (Documenta Catholica Omnia)
In Demonstratio Evangelica which Eusebius wrote prior to Historia Ecclesiastica, he repeats Origen’s language: Πέτρος κατά κεφαλῆς σταυροῦται: “Peter was crucified (or impaled) upon the head”. (Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica 3.116.c) (
Now in the second we may have information indicating knowledge that Peter was crucified upside down. But that would mean he was literally crucified on his head, whatever that means. It could mean he was nailed up upside down with his cranium literally resting on a projection of his cross – a horizontal plank or the very acuta crux itself. If the latter, if it was made out of iron, it could, after a while of Peter struggling to keep off the point and finally resting upon it, could fulfill both the traditional account and Origen’s source of information! Unfortunately, we do not know that for sure.
The English translation (at Early Christian Writings website) cross-references Historia Ecclesiastica 2.25: It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero (Church History 2.25.5, New Advent website). The Greek is: Παῦλος δὴ οὖν ἐπ᾿ αὐτῆς Ῥώμης τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποτμηθῆναι καὶ Πέτρος ὡσαύτως ἀνασκολοπισθῆναι κατ᾿ αὐτὸν ἱστοροῦνται: “Thus Paul at the very Rome itself to have his head cut off and Peter likewise to be fixed on a pole (impaled) according to that [which] they relate” (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 2.25.5).
It clearly shows that Eusebius was not privy to the tradition that Peter was crucified upside-down and instead had to rely upon the information he got from Origen. It is only with Jerome that we have the traditional account recorded in an official history:
Affixus cruci martyrio coronatus est capite ad terram verso et in sublime pedibus elevates, asserens se indignum qui sic crucifigeretur ut Dominus suus: “Having been affixed to a crux he is crowned by martyrdom with the head turned toward the Earth and the feet raised on high, asserting himself unworthy of the manner he might be crucified as his lord.”
Jerome, Catal. Script. Eccles. 1
But Sulpicius Severus does not know anything of Peter being crucified upside-down or impaled upon the head, we just get enough information to conclude that Peter was suspended on a crux in some manner: Petrus in crucem sublatus est: “Peter was hoisted into a cross (or onto a stake).” That is all.

C.2.2.2 Conclusion regarding Porphyry’s Knowledge about Peter’s Death.
One cannot assume, therefore, that Porphyry knew anything about the Apostle Peter being crucified upside down, or being impaled on the head. If he heard about the two differing accounts with their flabbergasting differences, he may have concluded it was all stuff and nonsense. The only sense we can make out of Porphyry’s minimal statement then was that Peter was meted out a full-blown crucifixion the usual way: with an acuta crux for his sedile --- particularly when Tertullian knows nothing about any upside-down crucifixion or an impalement upon the head.

C.2.3. Conclusion about Porphyry’s Knowledge about Crucifixion.
We do know that Porphyry knows something about Roman crucifixion. First, the person was perditum: done away with, destroyed, ruined, thrown away, wasted, lost (utterly and irrevocably). It was the very worst death in his estimation (pessima mors), incidentally bound with iron (ferro vincta). Finally he understood crucifixion as a form of nailing (προσηλόω) and impaling (ἀνασκολοπίζω) on to some kind of utility pole / upright pale (σταυρός). It would be utility pole with an outrigged upright pale to serve as the crucified’s seat, no? Certainly it would have its crossarm!
C.2.4. Lagniappe.
Porphyry, Against the Christians frg. 15, quoted in Macarius, Apocriticus II:12:
But he with bitterness, and with very grim look, bent forward and declared to us yet more savagely that the Evangelists were inventors and not historians of the events concerning Jesus. For each of them wrote an account of the Passion which was not harmonious but as contradictory as could be. For one records that, when he was crucified, a certain man filled a sponge with vinegar and brought it to him (Mark xv. 36). But another says in a different way, "When they had come to the place Golgotha, they gave him to drink wine mingled with gall, and when he had tasted it, he would not drink" (Matt. xxvii. 33). And a little further, "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, Eloim, Eloim, lama sabachthani? That is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This is Matthew (v. 46). And another says, "Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar. Having therefore bound a vessel full of the vinegar with a reed, they offered it to his mouth. When therefore he had taken the vinegar, Jesus said, It is finished, and having bowed his head, he gave up the ghost" (John xix. 29). But another says, "And he cried out with a loud voice and said, Father, into thy hands I will commend my spirit." This happens to be Luke (Luke xxiii. 46). From this out-of-date and contradictory record, one can receive it as the statement of the suffering, not of one man, but of many. For if one says "Into thy hands I will commend my spirit," and another " It is finished," and another "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and another " My God, my God, why didst thou reproach me?" it is plain that this is a discordant invention, and either points to many who were crucified, or one who died hard and did not give a clear view of his passion to those who were present. But if these men were not able to tell the manner of his death in a truthful way, and simply repeated it by rote, neither did they leave any clear record concerning the rest of the narrative.
This is why each gospel should be its own separate story, and not harmonized as if they were eyewitness accounts of an actual event. For according to the first gospel, there was no one there (“They all forsook him, and fled”) except for many women, only three of them noteworthy enough for Mark to mention their names, who were watching the event from a great distance (gMark 14:50, 15:40). Women, who would have as much chance in a Jewish court back then as they would in an Islamic court today (tip o’ the hat to the late Christopher Hitchens), watching things from afar, which means their view would have been blocked from time to time and they didn’t see everything. Nor did they hear everything (if anything!), for what the various parties said had to travel over the cacophony of the crowds.
Porphyry, Against the Christians frg. 15, quoted in Macarius, Apocriticus II:12:
It will be proved from another passage that the accounts of his death were all a matter of guess-work. For John writes : "But when they came to Jesus, when they saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." For only John has said this, and none of the others. Wherefore he is desirous of bearing witness to himself when he says: "And he that saw it hath borne witness, and his witness is true" (v. 35). This is haply, as it seems to me, the statement of a simpleton. For how is the witness true when its object has no existence? For a man witnesses to something real; but how can witness be spoken of concerning a thing which is not real?
Indeed. For blood and water does not come out of the side of a dead man under pressure! Yet that is how it is presented in all Catholic (and most Protestant) tradition, right up to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ!
Next and last installment of Parts 6: Wrap-up.

Nota bene:
γόμφοις = noun, plural, masculine, (instrumental) dative: bolt, dowel, bond, fasteners; determined; instrument for cauterizing; sea fish; wooden nails, pegs.
σκολόπεσσι = noun plural masculine (instrumental) dative: stake, thorn, anything pointed, palisades; impaling stake; urethrea surgery tool; point of a fishhook, 'tree'.
νεσκολοπίσθη is third person, singular, aorist indicative passive of the verb ἀνασκολοπίζω, fix on a pole, impale.”
Κατά constructed with a genitive means down, down from, down over, down through, in through, from top to bottom, utterly (Autenrieth); below, by, over (which an oath is taken) (Slater); down from above, down from, (denoting) downward (motion), down upon or over, along, upon, down into, under, towards, by over (which an oath is taken),on, toward, down upon, against, upon, in respect of, concerning, on, of (LSJ and Middle Liddell)
Κεφαλῆς is the singular genitive of the grammatically feminine noun κεφαλή, “head”.
Σταυροῦται is the third person present indicative medium-passive of the verb σταυρόω: “fence with pales, pile-drive, impale, crucify.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crucifixion the Bodily Support – The Acuta Crux in Anti-Christian Discourse (2A).

(Part 6c of the series: Crucifixion the Bodily Support)

Part 1              Part 2              Part 3              Part4 

Part 5a            Part 5b           Part 5c            Part5d
Part 5e            Part 5f            Part 5g            

Part 6a            Part 6b

Part 6c – The Acuta Crux in Anti-Christian Discourse (2A) – Lucian (2 of 2).

In the previous installment I showed how Lucian used the verb ἀνασκολοπίζω: “impale, fix on a pole” to denote the execution of the original founder of the Christian religion, or then, superstition. I then went over one of his works, Prometheus, to show that he had an immense variety of nouns and verbs at hand to that were used to connote the Roman method of execution by suspension and torture with an inanimate object with no moving parts. And now I will show to you what verb he used in his other works… and how he (or a ghost-writer, perhaps) described how the Romans actually crucified people, that is, fixed to a crux, not necessarily nailed to a cross. (Edit: deleted incorrect information about Pseudo-Lucian.) 

B.4. The Voyage to the Lower World.

Cataplus is also known as The Downward Journey, The Voyage to the Lower World, or The Tyrant. Its storyline is about a group of dead people who are carried to the underworld in the boat piloted by Charon. Hermes, who makes his appearance once again, this time brings a small brood of passengers with him to the wharf where Charon is waiting. One of the people is one tyrant by the name of Megapenthes, who tried to escape Hermes’ grasp. Charon’s business companion, Clotho, firsts asks for the souls of the infants, then of the elderly, then of those who died from battle wounds, those who killed themselves for love, rivals to thrones, one murdered by his wife and her lover, and then those killed by the law:

“Now bring in the output of the courts, I mean those who had died by the scourge and by the cross. (τοὺς ἐκ τυμπάνου καὶ τοὺς ἀνεσκολοπισμένους)”

Lucian, Cataplus 6 1, 2

The phrase “by the scourge and the by the cross” is also rendered as “the cudgeled and the crucified. 3” But it the transliteration of the Greek is, “those from the τύμπανον (tympanon) and those suspended on a σκόλοψ (thorn, impaling stake4).” From the Lexica, a τύμπανον was a kettledrum; a drum-stick, staff, cudgel, a wheel of solid wood5. The area of the pediment of a temple where friezes were installed was and is also called a tympanon6. And we have seen before, Celsus used the verb ἀποτυμπανίζω, “crucify on a plank, cudgel7,” to describe the suspension of Jesus in his critique of Christianity, On the True Discourse8, which would reduce the tympanon to a board. So it’s possible those who died violently by law: τοὺς ἐκ τυμπάνου καὶ τοὺς ἀνεσκολοπισμένους were those who died suspended by a plank or those impaled.

B.5. The Lover of Lies.

This, Philopseudes, also The Lover of Lies, The Liar or The Doubter, is a collection of fables, including the famous story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. In section 29, during a discussion whether the spirits of the dead walk the earth or not, enters one Arignotus, a Pythagorean, who then states his opinion:

'Ah, but, Eucrates,' said he, 'perhaps all that Tychiades means is, that a spirit only walks if its owner met with a violent end, if he was strangled, for instance, or beheaded or crucified (ἀνεσκολοπίσθη), [or was scourged by another,] and not if he died a natural death.

Lucian, Philopseudes 29 9, 10 

Again, we have for “was crucified,” ἀνεσκολοπίσθη, “was fixed on a pole (σκόλοψ), impaled4.”

B.6. Zeus Goes on a Tear.

This parody of a Greek tragedy, Juppiter Tragoedeus, also known as Zeus Tragoedus or Zeus Rants, involves a discussion of the conflicting Stoic and Epicurean ideas on the natures of the gods. In section 19 Momus is reflecting on why people are concluding the gods don’t exist because of what transpires down below on Earth: the disasters and evils that are inflicted by good people by happenstance, whilst unscrupulous bastards roll in unlimited wealth and enjoy continual good fortune and honour, and temple-robbers escape unpunished whilst persons innocent of any crime are continually put to death with repulsively cruel and unusual punishments. And speaking of the punishments:

…detestable scoundrels honoured, rolling in wealth, and ordering their betters about, temple-robbers undetected and unpunished, the innocent constantly crucified (ἀνασκολοπιζομένους) and bastinadoed?

Lucian, Zeus Tragoedus 19 11, 12

Again, we have for “crucified” is ἀνασκολοπιζομένους, “being fixed on a pole (σκόλοψ), impaled4.”

B.7. Jupiter Put on the Spot.

The next is Juppiter Confutatus, or Zeus Cross-examined. In this piece, Zeus is appearing in Court and is questioned as a defendant: why is he always deaf to the prayers and requests of those beseeching him. In section 16, we have a litany of good people suffering misfortune while those wicked and corrupt always enjoy good fortune! For example:

…nor yet why the effeminate Sardanapalus was a king, and one high minded Persian after another went to the cross (ἀνεσκολοπίσθη) for refusing to countenance his doings?

Lucian, Zeus Cross-examined 16 13, 14

This is how the Assyrians "crucified" people -- impalement.
Now we full well know that “went to the cross” is a very terrible mistranslation for the Greek verb ἀνεσκολοπίσθη does not mean, “was led to the cross,” but rather, "was fixed on a pole (σκόλοψ), was impaled4.”

And we know that “was impaled” is the proper translation because Sardanapalus was an Assyrian king, and the epigraphy clearly show that the Assyrians didn’t crucify people by nailing them to crosses, but rather, they impaled people.

B.8. The Fisherman.

In this one Revivescentes sive Piscator, or Piscator, The Dead Come to Life or The Fisherman, or The Fisher, Socrates is depicted asking his fellow philosophers how the free-thinking Parrhesaides is to be punished.

First Phil. Impale him (ἀνασκολοπισθῆναι), say I.
Second Phil. Yes, but scourge him first.
Third Phil. Tear out his eyes.
Fourth Phil. Ah, but first out with the offending tongue.

Lucian, The Fisher 2 15, 16

At least this translation gets the meaning of ἀνασκολοπισθῆναι quite right! Martin Hengel sees it as “I think he should be crucified.17

B.9. On Sacrifices.

This theme, also as De sacrifiis and Of Sacrifice, is a diatribe on sacrifices from a Cynic perspective. In section 6 the discussion focuses on Prometheus and his unhappy suspension in the Caucasus Mountains (you can still go to Russia today and see, hahaha):

…though well disposed to men, he was brought by Zeus to Scythia [the barbarian land par excellence], where he was crucified (ἀνεσταύρωσεν).

Lucian, On Sacrifices 6 18, 19

Prometheus chained to The Caucasus.
Another text has “where he was crucified” rendered as “nailed up on Caucasus20.” The Greek original is ἀνεσταύρωσεν, “was impaled, crucified.21” And we have already seen in the previous installment that Hermes and Hephaestus was described by Lucian as being chained and bolted to an overhanging precipice, and hanged so that his own body formed the schematic of a ‘T’.

B.10. In the Court of the Vowels.

And this last In the Court of the Vowels, also known as Lis Consonantium, Judicium Vocalium, Consonants at Law, or Trial in the Court of Vowels, we have Sigma accusing Tau of doing many dastardly things, mostly corrupting people’s speech so that the pronunciation letter ‘Σ’ (‘S’) came out as the latter ‘T’ in daily speech and the spelling soon followed. And Sigma finishes up with a flourish, of inspiring tyrants of devising structures shaped like Tau in order to hang men on them:

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 (ἀνασκολοπίζειν). Σταυρός the vile engine (τῷ τεχνήματι τῷ πονηρῷ) 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.

Lucian, In the Court of the Vowels 12 22, 23

Indeed, for “crucify” we have ἀνασκολοπίζειν, “to impale, fix on a pole (σκόλοψ)4.” But here the object on which men are to be impaled is shaped like a ‘T’! Since the modern definition of “crucify” involves a mere nailing or binding of a person to a cross for suspension until dead, something else is going on here: and the most likely scenario here is that the writer did not care if the executioner used nails or ropes to suspend the person from the larger structure, but he is probably cognizant that the crucified person was suspended on some kind of σκόλοψ: an outrigged acuta-crux, and at the time this paragraph was written, it was normally the case.  

And further down in the paragraph, the original Greek for “vile engine” is τῷ τεχνήματι τῷ πονηρῷ (with that cunning device for that base [act])24. Now with an acuta-crux attached as is implied to be the usual case in this paragraph, because the writer says right out that the poor souls were suspended on a thorn, the above translation “vile engine” is right appropriate.

Now this whole paragraph is tricky. It is credited by most to Lucian, certainly, but some consider it, and the rest of the work with it, to have been written by a ghost-writer. And they have a reason: why would Lucian call attention to himself from the Roman Government if he stated right out that tyrants impaled men alive on wooden instruments in the shape of Tau, in the manner that the Government did?

B.11. Return to Peregrine.

In Peregrine we have some other references to the Roman punishment, when Lucian comments on the spectacle of his funeral procession and cremation, fortuitously at the Olympiad at the time, in order to fob himself off as the new Hercules:

However, he had a fine following, and drank his fill of notoriety, as he gazed on the host of his admirers; poor man! he forgot that criminals on the way to the cross (επί τον σταυρόν απάγεσθαι) or in the executioner's hands, have a greater escort by far.

Lucian, On the Death of Peregrine 34 25, 26

The corresponding Greek “on the way to the cross” (επί τον σταυρόν απάγεσθαι) transliterates as “to be led or carried off to the σταυρός, i.e, execution pole. Nothing in this specifiec text shows any indication whether the pole had a crossarm. 27   

And at the conclusion of Lucian’s satire, he portrays Proteus as worrying about rheumy eyes when, as Lucian has said so many times, he had so many defects of character!

I myself, not so long ago, saw Proteus with some irritant rubbed on his eyes to purge them of rheum. Evidently we are to infer that there is no admission for blear eyes in the kingdom of Aeacus [a mythological king]. ’Twas as if a man on the way to be crucified  (ἐπί σταυρόν ἀναβήσεσθαι) were to concern himself about a sprained finger.

Lucian, On the Death of Peregrine 45 28, 29

In this paragraph Lucian makes reference to the Roman penalty in the phrase “on the way to be crucified (ἐπί σταυρόν ἀναβήσεσθαι),” ἀναβήσεσθαι can either translate as either “about to go up, mount, be fastened or be made fast on a σταυρός, which at least sometimes was the well-known Roman execution pole.
B.12. Conclusions.

Puzzuoli Graffito. Note the suspended is riding an
acuta crux, a thorn-shaped upright peg mounted
midway out on an elaborate support shaped like
an uncircumcized penis.
What should be noted is the frequency he uses the various verbs for the Roman punishment throughout his works: ἀνασκολοπίζω “impale, fix to a pole, suspend on a thorn, crucify” 8 times (or 9 counting In the Court of the Vowels), ἀνασταυρόω “suspend on a pole, impale, crucify” 5 times, ἀναβαίνω “go up, mount” twice (except one of those instances may be ἀνάπτω “to fasten, attach, make fast” instead), κρεμάννυμι “hang”, προσηλόω “nail to”, and σταυρόω “fence with pales, pile drive, crucify”, καταπήγνυμι “plant firmly” and προσπασσαλεύω “peg to” each once. As Lucian uses all these verbs the Greco-Roman Hellenic-speaking population used to describe the various actions of the apparently typical Roman penalty for the suspension of Prometheus in his dramatic play, it is abundantly clear that these different verbs described the Roman penalty of the σταυρός / crux like the reports of blind people describing an elephant. And what’s more, the traditional concept of crucifixion (nail or bind to a two-beam cross, or tropaeum) does not do these verbs sufficient justice, particularly the ones that involve or derive from impaling and the one that indicates the possibility of the use at least one πάσσαλος, a wooden peg, stake, or tree-nail.

Lucian is also cognizant of the σταυρὸς, which he mentioned four times, as not only as the pole on which the condemned person is suspended, but also as the suspension penalty itself. The use of οἴκτιστος θέαμα “most pitiable sight or spectacle” indicates he was knowledgeable of the utterly repulsive sight of such a penalty and the great sadness one must feel for one so suspended. The sight would probably be even more pitiable if the one suspended was also rectally penetrated by an upright wooden ‘peg’, which could have been quite large.

Considering that Lucian lived at a time when the Roman penalty of the σταυρὸς / crux on a Priapus Stake, i.e., a utility pole with a vertically-oriented, outrigged pointed stake in the shape of a thorn, was known and indeed for at least a hundred years before the time of Lucian’s passing away, and that he used the verbs ἀνασταυρόω and ἀνασκολοπίζω more frequently than the others to describe it, he probably would have attributed the death of the then-supposed death of the author of the Christian cult to the same sort of execution.


1. Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, John Bowden, tr., Philadelphia, Fortress Press (1977), p. 82, n. 27.
2. Perseus Digital Library, Lucian, Cataplus6.
Κλωθώ (Clotho:)
τοὺς ἐκ δικαστηρίων δῆτα παράγαγε, λέγω δὲ τοὺς ἐκ τυμπάνου καὶ τοὺς ἀνεσκολοπισμένους. οἱ δ᾽ ὑπὸ λῃστῶν ἀποθανόντες ἑκκαίδεκα ποῦ εἰσιν, ὦ Ἑρμῆ (But indeed bring forward those out of a court of law, and I mean, those who were cudgeled / crucified on a plank and those crucified / impaled.)
3. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, Voyage to the Lower World 6.
4. Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, ἀνασκολοπίζω, “fix on a pole [i.e., heads on pikes], impale;” σκόλοψ, “a stake for palisades or impaling, a thorn, anything pointed.”
5. Perseus Word Study Tool, τύμπανον.
6. The Free, Tympanon.
7. Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, ἀποτυμπανίζω, “crucify on a plank, cudgel.”
8. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.31
9. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, The Liar 29. Part of this translation [in brackets] is mine, because it was missing from the online translation.
10. Perseus Digital Library, Lucian, Philopseudessive incredulus 29:
ὁ δέ, ‘ ὅρα,’ ἔφη, ‘ὦ Εὔκρατες, μὴ τοῦτό φησιν Τυχιάδης, τάς τῶν βιαίως ἀποθανόντων μόνας ψυχάς περινοστεῖν, οἷον εἴ τις ἀπήγξατο ἢ ἀπετμήθη τήν κεφαλήν ἢ ἀνεσκολοπίσθη ἢ ἄλλῳ γέ τῳ τρόπῳ τοιούτῳ ἀπῆλθεν ἐκ τοῦ βίου, τάς δέ τῶν κατά μοῖραν ἀποθανόντων οὐκέτι:’ (But then, “behold,” he says, perhaps what Eucrates says is, of the spirits of those who having perished by the violent [means] only walk the Earth, as for example if anyone strangles himself, or would have his head cut off, or is suspended up on a pointed stake, or perishes from the hand of another with scourges, but those of the ones having passed away properly [i.e., naturally], no longer.)
11. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, Zeus Tragoedus 19.
12. Perseus Digital Library, Juppitertrageoedeus 19:
…παμπονήρους δὲ καὶ μιαροὺς ἀνθρώπους προτιμωμένους καὶ ὑπερπλουτοῦντας καὶ ἐπιτάττοντας τοῖς κρείττοσι, καὶ τοὺς μὲν ἱεροσύλους οὐ κολαζομένους ἀλλὰ διαλανθάνοντας, ἀνασκολοπιζομένους δὲ καὶ τυμπανιζομένους ἐνίοτε τοὺς οὐδὲν ἀδικοῦντας;… (and thoroughly knavish and even defiled men being prejudged worthy and …becoming too rich and ordering those superior [in character], and indeed temple robbers, however, not being punished yet by escaping unnoticed, and at times men doing nothing wrong are suspended up on pointed stakes and even beaten to death;…)
13. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, Zeus Cross-examined 16 fin.
14. Perseus Digital Library, Lucian, Juppiterconfutatus 16 fin.-17:
…καὶ Σαρδανάπαλλος μὲν ἐβασίλευε θῆλυς ὤν, Γώχης δὲ ἀνὴρ ἐνάρετος ἀνεσκολοπίσθη πρὸς αὐτοῦ, διότι μὴ ἠρέσκετο τοῖς γιγνομένοις: (…and Sardanapalus, being effeminate, certainly was King, while [one] right-minded man [after another] was impaled in his presence.)
15. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, The Fisher 2
16. Perseus Digital Library, Lucian, Piscator2:
ἐμοὶ μὲν ἀνασκολοπισθῆναι δοκεῖ αὐτόν.
(Philospoher: Indeed, for me---, I fancy that he should be impaled.)
νὴ Δία, μαστιγωθέντα γε πρότερον.
(Another: Aye, at least first have him chewed up all over by scourges first.)
πολὺ πρότερον τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐκκεκολάφθω.
(Another: First of many, his eyes should be put out.)
τὴν γλῶτταν αὐτὴν ἔτι πολὺ πρότερον ἀποτετμήσθω.
(Another: First of many still, his tongue should be cut out and destroyed.)
17. Hengel, p. 83.
18. Hengel, p. 12.
19. Perseus Digital Library, Lucian, Desacrifiis 6 fin.:
καὶ γὰρ αὖ καὶ τοῦτον εἰς τὴν Σκυθίαν ἀγαγὼν ὁ Ζεὺς ἀνεσταύρωσεν ἐπὶ τοῦ Καυκάσου, τὸν ἀετὸν αὐτῷ παρακαταστήσας τὸ ἧπαρ ὁσημέραι κολάψοντα. (And indeed once more, even this one [Prometheus] Zeus, having led him into Scythia, suspended in a ‘T’ up in the Caucasus, setting the eagle upon him to nosh on his liver each and every day.)
20. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, Of Sacrifice 6 fin.:
How he too fell a victim to the wrath of Zeus, and was carried into Scythia, and nailed up on Caucasus, with an eagle to keep him company and make daily havoc of his liver?
21. Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, ἀνασταυρόω, “impale, crucify.”
22. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, Trial In the Court of Vowels 12.
23. Perseus Digital Library, Lucian, Judicium Vocalium 12.:
οὕτω μὲν οὖν ὅσον ἐς φωνὴν ἀνθρώπους ἀδικεῖ: ἔργῳ,δὲ πῶς; (Thus indeed then how much in speech he injures men and by any means in deed.) κλάουσιν ἄνθρωποι καὶ τὴν αὑτῶν τύχην ὀδύρονται καὶ Κάδμῳ καταρῶνται πολλάκις, ὅτι τὸ Ταῦ ἐς τὸ τῶν στοιχείων γένος παρήγαγε: (Men cry out and bewail their fortunes, and call down curses upon Cadmus many times for which he introduced the letter ‘Tau’ into the family of letters.) τῷ γάρ τούτου σώματί φασι τοὺς τυράννους ἀκολουθήσαντας καὶ μιμησαμένους αὐτοῦ τὸ πλάσμα ἔπειτα σχήματι τοιούτῳ ξύλα τεκτήναντας ἀνθρώπους ἀνασκολοπίζειν ἐπ᾽ αὐτά: (For they say the tyrants, having followed from his body and in this case with such a schematic they have joined together cut timbers to impale men upon them.) ἀπὸ δὲ τούτου καὶ τῷ τεχνήματι τῷ πονηρῷ τὴν πονηρὰν ἐπωνυμίαν συνελθεῖν. (And from this one [they derive and] join in the wicked name with that cunning device for that vile [act].) τούτων οὖν ἁπάντων ἕνεκα πόσων θανάτων τὸ Ταῦ ἄξιον εἶναι νομίζετε; (So then, of these all together do you consider the letter ‘Tau’ to be worthy on account of so many deaths?) ἐγὼ μὲν γὰρ οἶμαι δικαίως τοῦτο μόνον ἐς τὴν τοῦ Ταῦ τιμωρίαν ὑπολείπεσθαι, τὸ τῷ σχήματι τῷ αὑτοῦ τὴν δίκην ὑποσχεῖν. (For indeed I suppose only this to be left remaining equal to the punishment of the letter ‘Tau’, that to have supplied the usage with the schematic from his own [shape].)
24. Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, τῷ, definite article, dative case “to the, for the, with the, from the, etc.;” τεχνήματι (dative of τέχνημα), “that which is cunningly wrought, work of art, handiwork;” πονηρῷ (dative of πονηρός), “oppressed by toils, painful, grevious, bad, worthless, knavish, rogue, evil, base.” Cf. Wikipedia article on the Greek Dative Case.
25. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, TheDeath of Peregrine 34.
26. Perseus Digital Library, Lucian, De Morte Peregrini 34.
27. Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, απάγεσθαι, “to be led, to be carried off”
28. Sacred Texts Archive, Lucian, TheDeath of Peregrine 45.
29. Perseus Digital Library, Lucian, De Morte Peregrini 45.
30. Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, ἀναβήσεσθαι: future tense infinitive case middle voice of ἀναβαίνω, “go up, mount” (as in mount on horseback or mount on the wheel of torture: i.e., to get on top of a horse or be fastened or bound to the wheel, respectively.); future tense infinitive case passive voice of ἀνάπτω, “fasten up, attach, make fast on or to” (bound tight, nailed, pegged, penetrated and/or impaled).