(Part 7n 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 Part 6a
Part 6b Part 6c Part 6d Part 6e
Part 7a Part 7b Part 7c Part 7d
Part 7e Part 7f Part 7g Part 7h
Part 7i Part 7j Part 7k Part 7l
We’ve gone over before what Origen and Celsus thought was the nature of the Roman execution pole: something like a pole (σταυρός), but also a thorn (σκόλοψ). Here, I will repeat some points but also add some previously unintroduced thoughts expressed by Origen.
B. A Most Shameful Death.
Now according to Celsus, Jesus was bound ignominiously and disgracefully executed. But the English translation only begin to do the Greek justice, because Celsus uses superlatives in this passage:
Believe that he whom I introduce to you is the Son of God, although he was shamefully bound (δεδομένος ατιμότατα), and disgracefully punished (κεκολασμένος αίσχιστα),…
Origen, Contra Celsum 6.10 1
Now what Celsus was saying here when he describes Jesus to have been “shamefully bound and disgracefully punished” is δεδομένος ατιμότατα ή κεκολασμένος αίσχιστα (delivered up most ignominiously, as [one] finally punished most shameful[ly]).
Origen is cognisant of the same extreme shame associated with the death of the σταυρός (pole) in his Commentary on Matthew:
...not only did they demand that a murderer go free, but also that a just man be put to death – even to the utterly vile death of the pole (mortem turpissimam crucis).
Origen, Commentary on Matthew 27:22ff 2
The Latin turpissimam is a superlative accusative (direct object) of the adjective turpe: (of sight or condition) ugly, unsightly, unseemly, repulsive, foul, filthy; (of sound) disagreeable, cacophonous; (figuratively) shameful, disgraceful, repulsive, odious, base, infamous, scandalous, dishonorable. In the superlative, these undesirable qualities are made as bad as can be. And so “utterly vile” is a most excellent translation for a death on a Priapus stake: because in order to relieve the strain in his shoulders, the suspended man has to press up with his legs. But because he can’t lock his knees, his leg muscles will weaken, cramp and fail and so he once again slumps. Because of this compulsory dance, he is “riding” the virile member of the execution pole -- he is tightly around the thing, and so humiliates, tortures and crucifies himself with “conjectures.”
And again in Contra Celsum, Origen notes Celsus’ declamation that Jesus was a most degraded man executed by a suspension from a board:
Quotes Celsus: “When we declare the Logos to be the Son of God we do not present to view a pure and holy Logos, but a most degraded man, who was punished by scourging and crucifixion (ἀποτυμπανισθέντα).”
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.31 3
The word Celsus uses for crucifixion is ἀποτυμπανισθέντα (suspended from a τύμπανον: a board). The Greek punishment is defined in various lexica as “crucify on a plank” and “cudgeling”. The former meaning would apply here, unless Celsus had a gospel we know nothing about, where Jesus was bashed with a club, like the two robbers in the Canonical gospel of John. Now later on in the same 31st chapter, Origen did not dispute the method of suspension or even address it, but rather let it stand without comment, yet he disputed that Jesus was (merely) a most degraded man.
And he also makes mention of Jesus as “a most degraded man.” Just a recap: in the ethos of the ancient Mediterranean world, for a man to be penetrated was considered to be shameful, and for some men it was considered to be more shameful than for others. 4
So the execution delivered to Jesus was a most shameful one, which in my opinion involved some kind of impalement (in addition to micro-impalement with nails) wherein the person was bodily penetrated. And which is more shameful: simple direct impalement with a sharpened ordinary pole, or controlled impalement on a tall stake while suspended between two poles, or a full-blown Roman crucifixion involving a cross-armed pole with a wooden phallus? A simple imagining of how the suspended would look when he slid down on his impaling device would give you the answer.
C. A Suspension that Involved Racking... by Gravity.
“You,” says he [Celsus], “mock and revile the statues of our Gods, but if you had reviled Dionysius or Herakles in person, you would not perhaps done so with impunity. But those who crucified (κατατείνοντες καί κολάζοντες) your god, when present among men, suffered nothing for it, either at the time or during the whole of their lives.”
Origen, Contra Celsum 8.41 5
What Celsus uses here for “crucified” is the present passive participle κατατείνοντες (being stretched tight, racked, tightly bound) and κολάζοντες (being docked, punished) describing the actions of the executioners that were inflicted upon Jesus. So the execution meted out involved a stretching tight, a racking, a tight binding which would adequately describe the results of a suspension by the extremities on a pole equipped with an overhead crossarm. In chapter 42 Origen acknowledges that he understood that Jesus was killed in such a manner: “he supposes that it is the body of Jesus extended on the cross and slain, and not His divine nature, that we call God; and that it was as God that Jesus was crucified and slain,” but he, Origen, has a quibble with Celsus’ statement that those who killed him did not suffer retribution: he said the Jewish people in Jerusalem who called for his death were the ones who allegedly suffered retribution for it, for he wrote, “that this city not long afterwards [30 to 70 CE: 40 years!!] was attacked, and, after a long siege, was utterly overthrown and laid waste.” 6 Unfortunately, despite the fact that this was a known Roman penalty and the Jewish authorities had no authority to mete out capital punishment themselves, at least without express permission from the Roman Prefect or Procurator, Origen makes no mention of what happened to the Roman executioners!
D. A Slow, Lingering Death.
Origen for instance calculates it to have been a three hour death - from the sixth to the ninth hour (Commentary on Matthew 5. 140) miraculum, quoniam post tres horas receptus est. Here is the whole passage:
Since those crucified persons who are not stabbed, suffer greater torment, and survive in great pain, sometimes the whole of the following night, and even the whole of the next day ; and since Jesus was not stabbed, and his enemies hoped that by his hanging long upon the cross he would suffer the greater torment, he prayed to the Father and was heard, and as soon as he had called was taken to the Father ; or else, as one who had the power of laying down his life, he laid it down when he chose. This prodigy astonished the centurion, who said — “Truly this man was a son of God.” — For it was a miracle that he who would otherwise perhaps have survived two days on the cross, according to the custom of those who are crucified but not stabbed, should have been taken up after three hours, so that his death seems to have happened by the favour of God, and rather through the merit of his own prayer than through the violence of the cross.
Origen, Commentary on Matthew 5.140
There are two takeaways from this: first, people suspended on a Roman execution pole (Priapus stake) survive for two days or more, unless they are stabbed in a vital organ first (apparently Origen did not make an exception for those whose legs are broken and subsequently die from shock or fat embolism, but such a death could take up to a day and a half to occur. 7
E. Σταυρός: a Pole.
Celsus further down describes a continuous stream of literary effluent from an earthly church, and touches on one of their beliefs, in which the Christians of the time referred to as the “tree of life:”
And in all their writings (is mention made) of the ‘tree of life’ (τό της ζωης ξύλον), and a resurrection of the flesh by means of the 'tree' (από ξύλου), because, I imagine, their teacher was nailed to a cross (σταυρω ένηλώθη), and was a carpenter by craft (τέκτων τήν τεχνην)…
Origen, Contra Celsum 6:34 8
Celsus connects a so-called “tree of life,” and a bodily resurrection by means of the “tree,“ to Jesus’ execution: that he was σταυρω ένηλώθη (nailed to an execution pole) and his trade: τέκτων (of a carpenter, joiner). The relevant point Celsus is making here is that Jesus was suspended on a σταυρός, some kind of pole, and secured to it with nails (ἧλοι).
In chapter 36 Origen does not dispute the idea expressed by Celsus that Jesus was nailed to a pole, but disputes Celsus’ connexion of the execution to the tree of life, and Celsus’ allegation Jesus was a carpenter by trade (something a lot of Christians believe today), saying Celsus “not observing that the tree of life is mentioned in the Mosaic writings, and being blind also to this, that in none of the Gospels current in the Churches is Jesus Himself ever described as being a carpenter.” 9
Origen typically uses σταυρός himself, such as for example in Contra Celsum 1.66 (6) where he complains about what Celsus said about the blood of Jesus (and he quotes Celsus in Contra Celsum 2.36 -- see below in Section F):
He asserts, sporting at least, that the blood of Jesus which was poured out upon the pole (σταυρῷ), that it was assuredly not "Ichor, such as flows in the veins of the blessed Gods."
Contra Celsum 1.66 22
F. Σκόλοφ: a Thorn.
When Celsus first recounts Jesus’ crucifixion and his sufferings on the cross (or rather, a Roman torture-stake), he first, through his Jewish sock-puppet, to recount other myths and even some scams! And to these he compares to Jesus’ death on his pole:
But the question is, whether anyone who was really dead ever rose with a veritable body. Or do you imagine the statements of others not only to be myths, but to have the appearance of such, while you have discovered a becoming and credible termination to your drama in the voice from the cross (σκόλοπος), when he breathed his last, and in the earthquake and the darkness?
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.55 10
There are two takeaways from this. First, Celsus doesn’t believe a word of the gospels (that goes without saying). And second, Celsus calls the gear of Jesus’ execution, which a believer would call a σταυρός, a σκόλοψ: a thorn!
Origen reiterates the charge in the 58th chapter :
Further, after these Greek stories which the Jew adduced respecting those who were guilty of juggling practices, and who pretended to have risen from the dead, he says to those Jews who are converts to Christianity: “Do you imagine the statements of others not only to be myths, but to have the appearance of such, while you have discovered a becoming and credible termination to your drama in the voice from the cross (σκόλοπος: “thorn”), when he breathed his last?”
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.58 11
And in the very same chapter he states that he DOES deem it a becoming and credible termination to the drama in the voice from the “cross” (thorn), when he breathed his last. Not only that, but Origen states the Christians believed it was crowned by Jesus’ alleged resurrection from the dead, and that the whole business was predicted by the prophets of the scriptures which both the Jews and Christians shared in common.
And later Celsus’ “Jew” asserts an immediate disappearance from the Cross was a far more appropriate action for a diety:
But let us observe how this Jew of Celsus asserts that, “if this at least would have helped to manifest his divinity, he ought accordingly to have at once disappeared from the cross (σκόλοπος: “thorn”).”
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.68 12
And notice he uses the same term – σκόλοψ – thorn – again! Celsus is quite aware that part of the Roman punishment was some sort of impaling device. The LSJ and the Autenrieth Greek-English Lexica, among others, define a σκόλοψ as “anything pointed, esp a pale, stake for impaling.”
And indeed Origen in the next chapter of the same book shows that indeed Celsus was absolutely right in calling the well-known Roman torture-stake a σκόλοψ:
But we wish to show that his instantaneous bodily disappearance from the cross (σκόλοπος: “thorn”) was not better fitted to serve the whole purposes of the economy of salvation.
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69 13
The literal narrative, however, one might thus explain, viz., that it was appropriate for Him who had resolved to endure suspension upon the cross (ἐπί σκόλοπος κρεμασθῆναι), to maintain all the accompaniments of the character He had assumed, in order that He who as a man had been put to death, and who as a man had died, might also as a man be buried.
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69 14
And yes Origen does come out and say it, that suspension from the cross was, in his words, ἐπί σκόλοψ κρεμασθῆναι (to have been hanged upon the thorn): in essence, penetrated by it.
Yet many Christians have argued, argue, and will argue, that from the Septuagint Numbers 33:55 (σκόλοπες ἐν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ὑμῶν “thorns in your eyes”) and 2 Cor 12:7 (σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί “a thorn in the flesh”) that σκόλοψ doesn’t necessarily mean impaling stake or impaling thorn, it means… something else. Something small, like the nails. Except what Origen says destroys the Christians’ arguments utterly when he acknowledges that what Celsus calls a σκόλοψ – thorn, singular -- is the σταυρός – pole -- when he puts words into Celsus’ mouth:
But even if it had been related in the Gospels, according to the view of Celsus, that Jesus had immediately disappeared from the cross (σκόλοπος), he and other unbelievers would have found fault with the narrative, and would have brought against it some such objection as this: “Why, pray, did he disappear after he had been put upon the cross (τί δήποτε μετά τόν σταυρόν), and not disappear before he suffered?”
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69 15
Of course, here, Origen acknowledges that σκόλοψ is a commonly used word for σταυρός, which here he uses to define a Roman crucifixion, specifically one in particular. Note bene: “after he was put on the cross” is rendered simply as: τί δήποτε μετά τόν σταυρόν (lit.: why at some time after the σταυρός-punishment). This is verbiage not unknown to the Greek-speaking ancients. 16
And further, Origen uses the same terminology when he compares what Celsus and his “Jewish companion” say ought to have happened on the Roman pole with the account of the post-Resurrection appearances and disppearances:
If, then, after learning from the Gospels that He did not at once disappear from the cross (σκόλοπος: “thorn”), they imagine that they can find fault with the narrative, because it did not invent, as they consider it ought to have done, any such instantaneous disappearance, but gave a true account of the matter, is it not reasonable that they should accord their faith also to His resurrection, and should believe that He, according to His pleasure, on one occasion, when the doors were shut, stood in the midst of His disciples, and on another, after distributing bread to two of His acquaintances, immediately disappeared from view, after He had spoken to them certain words?
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69 17
Again, Origen uses the noun σκόλοψ (thorn) when most other Christian apologists would have used the word σταυρός (pole). Indeed, there are plenty of other places where he does use σταυρός, but his use of the other known is an indication that he seems to understand that the Roman execution pole has some kind of thorn, upon which the crucified are suspended.
In the following,both Origen (Contra Celsum 3.32) and Celsus (Contra Celsum 2.36) both use the verb ἀνασκολοπίζω "impale, fix on a pole."
He laid it [his life] down when he said, "Father, why have you forsaken me? And when he had cried with a loud voice, he gave up the ghost," anticipating the public executioners of the crucified (των ἀνεσκολοπισμένον: “those impaled”), who break the legs of the victims (των σταυρουμένον: “those suspended or pile driven”) and who do so in order that their punishment might not be prolonged.
Origen, Contra Celsum 3:32 18
Now we know that Origen understands ἀνασκολοπίζειν (to impale) in the etymological manner because in Contra Celsum 2.69 above, he said so in the above-mentioned passage ἐπί σκόλοπος κρεμασθῆναι (to be suspended on a thorn) in Contra Celsum 2.69! And here in 3.32, he equates it with σταυροῦν (to suspend: i.e., crucify, poleify, impale or pile-drive).
Celsus next says, "What is the nature of the ichor in the body of the crucified (ἀνασκολοπιζομένον: “impaled”) Jesus? is it 'such as flows in the bodies of the Immortal Gods?'"
Origen, Contra Celsum 2.36 19
Now here, Celsus uses the verb ἀνασκολοπίζειν (to impale) and understands it in the etymological sense also, owing to the fact that he repeatedly used the singular noun σκόλοψ (impaling stake, thorn) when referring to the suspension pole of Jesus.
And Origen does not dispute the nature of the typical Roman executionary suspension (how do we know it’s typical? Origen applies it to Jesus , sight unseen). Instead, he disputes the nature of Jesus’ blood: it is neither like the nature of the ichor of the immortal (Panhellenic) gods, nor is it of the typical blood of a dead man, where, if one were to stab someone whose heart blew up because of the stress of strenuous activity after receiving a blunt force trauma such as falling on one’s front side while carrying a heavy timber in a weakened state, the sort of “blood and water” that would come out would be congealed blood and translucent serum. But instead Origen said that both Jesus’ own blood and pure water flowed forth from his side, as if he were still alive (never mind the fact that only one gospel writer recorded it, at least 60-odd years after Jesus’ reported death).
And again, Origen uses the same verb ἀνασκολοπίζειν with regard to the legendary crucifixion of the Apostle Peter, where, as it is recorded in the Acts of Peter, and in the Acts of Peter and Paul, he was crucified with his feet nailed to the frame so that he was suspended upside down. Then in each account, he proclaims a short speech and immediately gives up the ghost. 20 Yet Origen is on record in Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiasticae 3.1 as stating that Peter was impaled upon the head (ανασκολοπισθε κατά κεφαλης , lit.:”he was impaled down of the head.”) because he preferred not to suffer in the same manner Jesus suffered. 21 It is most peculiar, it seems to go against the bulk of Christian tradition concerning this Apostle.
G. Conclusions on Origen’s View of Roman Crucifixion.
So looking above we can see that Origen basically agreed with Celsus that the gear of Jesus’ execution included a thorn (σκόλοψ) on which he was suspended, a pole (σταυρός) to which he was nailed (ένηλώθη) and a board (τύμπανον) from which he hanged. He also assented to Celsus’ statement that the gear had put Jesus to the full stretch, i.e., racked him (κατατείνοντες), which is what the Romans intended that the Earth’s gravity do to their worst criminals with their own body mass when they suspended them to be executed. He also agreed with the Anti-Christian polemiscist that the penalty was most shameful (αίσχιστα) and a person undergoing such a penalty was to be most degraded. (ατίμοτατον). It appears Origen is also familiar with the full-blown Roman crux, complete with stipes, patibulum and acuta-crux a.k.a. sedilis excessu (projecting, transgressive seat). And of course, nails. It is also apparent that the use of the acuta crux was widespread enough that Origen could safely assume that it was applied to the living person of Jesus when he was suspended by the Romans (an historical Jesus crucified by Romans is assumed). Which means in Origen’s day, too, it was typical.
1. Origen, Contra Celsum 6.10: πίστευσον ον εισηγουμαί σοί τουτου ειναι υιόν θεου, κάν η δεδομένος ατιμότατα ή κεκολασμένος αίσχιστα,… (you must have believed that he who I introduce to you to be this son of a god, although he may be delivered up most ignominiously, as [one] finally punished most shameful[ly].)
2. Non solum homicidam postulantes ad vitam, sed etiam iustum ad mortem et ad mortem turpissimam crucis. Quoted in: Martin Hengel, John Bowden transl., Crucifixion. Philadelphia, Fortress press (1977), p. xi.
3. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.31: ἐπεί “λόγον ἐπαγγελλόμενοι υἱόν εἷναι τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀποδείκνυμεν οὐ λόγον καθαρόν καί ἅγιον, ἀλλά ἄνθρωπον ἀτιμότατον* ἀπαχθέντα καί ἀποτυμπανισθέντα. (He says: “Declaring the Logos to be the son or the God, we do not make known a pure and holy Logos, but a most dishonoured man, who was punished by scourging and suspension from a board.)
* Quator Codd. MSS. Regius, Basileensis, et duo Anglicani: ἀτιμότατα.
4. Seneca the Elder Controversiae 4. Praef. 10: impudicitia in ingenuo crimen est, in servo necessitas, in liberto officium. (Gross indecency [passive male homosexual promiscuity: letting one’s self be topped by another male] is a crime in the freeborn man, an inevitability in the slave, and a duty in the freedman.)
5. Origen, Contra Celsum 8.41: Τόν δέ σόν θεόν παρόντα κατατείνοντες καί κολάζοντες ουδέν οι ταυτα δράσαντες πεπόνθασιν, αλλ' ουδε μετά ταυτα εν τοσούτο βίω. (But that one your god while present being racked and punished, not one of them who did this work suffered, and in no wise among these [the rest], [or] otherwise in the meantime during his life.)
6. Origen, Contra Celsum 8.42
7. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th Edition (2009), Elsevier. Link.
8. Origen, Contra Celsum 6.34: ...πανταχου δέ έκει τό της ζωης ξύλον καί ανάστασιν σαρκός από ξύλου, διότι οιμι ό διδάσκαλος αυτων σταυρω ένηλώθη καί ην τέκτων τήν τεχνην. (…and everywhere in that place that tree of life and a raising up of the body by the tree, for that reason I suppose that teacher of them was nailed to a pole and [his] skill was of that a carpenter.)
9. Origen, Contra Celsum 6.36
10. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.55: Αλλ' εκεινο σκεπτέον, εί τις ως αληθως αποθανών, ανέστη ποτέ αυτω σώματι' ή οίεσθε τά μεν των άλλων μύθους ειναί τε καί δοκειν, υμιν δέ τήν καταστροφήν του δράματος ευσχημόνς ή πιθανως εφευρησθαι, τήν επί του σκόλοπος αυτου φωνήν ότ απεπνει, καί τόν σεισμόν, καί τόν σκότον; (But the subject examined, whether anyone was truly dead, rose up at some time with his body, or do you suppose indeed those [narratives] of those others to be fictions and even to seem [as such], but to you all that catastrophe of the drama to be found decent and credible, that voice upon his thorn when he breathed out his last, and the earthquake, and the darkness?)
11. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.58: Ετι δέ μεθ' άς παρέθετο ο Ιουδαιος ιστορίας Ελληνικας, περί των ωσανεί τερατευσαμένον, καί περί των ως αναστάντων εκ νεκρων, φησί πρός τούς από Ιουδαίων τω Ιησου πιστεύοντας. "ή οίεσθε, τά μεν των άλλων μύθους ειναί τε καί δοκειν, υμιν δέ τήν καταστροφήν του δράματος ευσχημόνως ή πιθανως εφευρησθαι, τήν επί του σκόλοπος αυτου φωνήν, ότ απέπνει ;” (Further, after the Greek stories which the Jew adduced respecting those who were indulging in strange gesticulations, and who [have pretended to] have arisen from the dead, he says to those Jews who put their trust in Jesus: “Do you imagine the statements of others not only to be myths, but to have the appearance as such, while you have discovered an appropriate and plausible termination [or catastrophe] to your drama in the voice upon his thorn, where he breathed his last?”)
12. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.68: Ιδωμεν δέ τίνα τρόπον φησιν ό παρά τω Κέλσω Ιουδαιος, ότι "ει δ' ουν τόγε τοσουτον ώφειλεν εις επίδειξιν θεότηος, από του σκόλοπος γουν εύθύς αφανης γενέσθαι (Let us observe what manner that Jew besides Celsus says, that “But if this then would have augmented into a making known of his divinity, at least then straightaway from the thorn he would have disappeared.”
13. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69: Θέλομεν δέ παραστησαι, πως ου χρησιμώτερον ην πρός τήν οικονομίαν όλην τό, ευθύς από τού σκόλοπος αυτόν αφανη γενέσθαι σωματικως. (But we wish to present, how it was not more useful toward the whole magical operation that, straightaway from the thorn [he] himself should have become invisible.)
14. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69: Τά δέ της λεξεως ούτως άν τις άποδωη, ότι κατά τόν κρίνατα υπομειναι τό επί σκόλοπς κρεμασθηναι, ην καί τά εξης τη υποθεσαι τηρησαι, ίν' ώς άνθροπος καθαιρεθείς, τω ώς άνθρωπος αποτεθνηκέναι, ώς άνθροπος καί ταφη. (But this of the narrative, if haply, one might thus explain, that [it was] in accordance for him, having chosen to endure it, having been hanged upon the thorn, and was to have watched over the habits of the [inner] essence, for him as a man to have been put down, for whom as a man to have died and as a man to be buried.)
15. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69: Ἀλλά καί εἰ καθ᾽ ὑπόθεσιν ἐγεραπτο ἐν τοῖς εὐαγγελίοις, ὅτι ἀπό τοῦ σκόλοπος ἀφανής εὐθύς ἔγεντο ἐκάκιζεν ἄν τό γεγραμμένον ὁ Kελσος καί οἱ ἄπιστοι, καί κατηγόρησαν ἄν καί οὕτω λέγοντες "τί δήποτε μετά τόν σταυρόν γέγουεν ἀφανής, οὐ πρό τοῦ παθεῖν δὲ τοῦτ᾽ ἐπραγματεύσατο (But even if according to the hypothesis it had been written in the gospels, that he straightaway disappeared from the thorn, if that was written Celsus and others [would] disbelieve it, and perhaps would have brought an objection even such as this: “Why at some time after the σταυρός-punishment he disappeared, and had not taken the trouble before this suffering?”)
16. This is similar to where Didorus Siculus (90-21 BCE), (Library of History 20.54.4) said that when the captured citizens of Utica, suspended on a siege-machine, were pierced when the defenders of the city “nailed [them] down against the machine with sharp-pointed items (τοῖς ὀξυβελέσι πρὸς τῇ μηχανῇ προσκαθήλωσαν), the violence and vengeance was almost tantamount to a σταυρός (ὥστε σταυρῷ παραπλησίανεἶναι τὴν ὕβριν ἅμα καὶ τὴν τιμωρίαν), that is, an executionary suspension on a Roman execution pole, fastened with nails.
This is also the verbiage Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 50 CE), (In Flaccum 72) uses when he said that certain Jews mourning their murdered comrades during a pogrom were seized forthwith and put through an immense amount of torture, where the final and seated (reserved or physically seated, probably both) penalty was the σταυρός (ἡ τελευταία καὶ ἔφεδρος τιμωρία σταυρὸς ἦν.), i.e., the suspension on the same kind of Roman pole.
17. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.69: είπερ ουν από των ευαγγελιων μεμαθηκότες ότι ου γέγονεν ευθύς αφανής από του σκόλοπος, εγκαλειν οίονται τω λόγω, μη πλασαμένω, ως εκεινοι ηξίωσαν, τό, ευθύς αυτόν αφανη γεγέσθαι από του σκόλοπος, αλλά τό αληθές αναστάσει αυτου, καί ως βουληθεις οτέ δούς άρτον δυσι των γνωρίμων, ευθύς άφαντος εγένετο απ' αυτων, μετά τινας, ούς ελαλησεν αυτοις, λογους. (If really then, having learned from the gospels that because he did not become straightaway invisible from the thorn, they suppose to find fault with the story, not invented, thus they deem it worthy, that he himself should have become straightaway invisible from the thorn, yet that true [account] with his raising up, and having preferred those when moreover having given bread to two together of those known [by him], after he spoke to them certain words?)
18. Origen, Contra Celsum 3.32: Επει γάρ εξουσίαν ειχε θειναι αυτήν έθηκε μέν, ηνίκα ειπε "πατερ, ινατί με εγκατέλιτες; και κραξας φωνη μεγάλη, άφηκε τό πνευμα" προλαβών τούς επί των ανεσκολοπίσμένων δημίους, υποτέμνοντας τά σκέλη των σταυρουμένον, καί διά ύποτέμνοντας, ίνα μή επιπλέον τιμωρίαν τισωσιν. (For when he had the authority to bring it to pass, indeed he laid down his life, at the time he spoke "'Father, why have you left me in the lurch?' And having cried out in a mighty voice, he gave up the breath," having anticipated the executioners of the impaled, who break the upper legs of the pile-driven, and who do so lest they serve all the sentence they would have paid.)
19. Origen, Contra Celsum 3:36: Ειτά φησιν ο Κέλσος. "τί καί ανασκολοπιζομένον του σώματς ποιος ιχώρ, -- οιός πέρ τε ρεει μακάεσσι Θεοισιν." (Then declares that Celsus, "And what is the nature of the ichor in the body of the impaled one? -- And at least as of the sort that flows in the Blessed Gods.")
20. Acts of Peter and Paul, "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."
Cf. Acts of Peter ch. 37: "'I beseech you the executioners, crucify me thus, with the head downward and not otherwise: and the reason wherefore, I will tell unto them that hear.'"
Cf. Acts of Peter ch. 38: "And when they had hanged him up after the manner he desired, he began again to say:... '...For it is right to mount upon the cross of Christ, who is the word stretched out, the one and only, of whom the spirit saith: For what else is Christ, but the word, the sound of God? 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.'"
21. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiasticae 3.1: ανασκολοπισθε κατά κεφαλης ούτως αυτός αξιώσας παθειν (having deemed himself worthy to suffer in this manner he was impaled upon the head [lit.: he was impaled down of the head].) The translation at New Advent instead renders it in English as “he was crucified head-downwards.”
22. Origen, Contra Celsum 1.66: Παίζων γοῦν τό ἐπί τῷ σταυρῷ προχυθέν αἷμα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ φησιν, ὅτι οὐκ ἦν
Ἰχώρ, οἷος πέρ τε ῥέει μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν(Sporting at least then the blood of Jesus having been poured out upon the pole he asserts, that assuredly not it was
"Ichor, such as all and in stream in the blessed Gods.")
New Advent, Church Fathers, Origen, Against Celsus. Link.
New Advent, Church Fathers, Eusebius, Church History. Link.
New Advent, Church Fathers, Apocryphal Writings, Acts of Peter and Paul. Link.
Documenta Catholica Omnia, Eusebius, Historia Ecciesiasticae. Link.
Early Christian Writings, Acts of Peter. Link.
Origenis, Contra Celsum, libri I, II, III, IV, William Selwyn, S.T.P., ed., Cambridge, Dighton, Bell & Co. (1874) (Preview available at Google books)
The Latin Lexicon: Latin Word Study Tool.
Notre Dame ND.edu: Whittaker's Words.