Part 8a in 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
Cicero - Part 1.
Earlier in another article I had expressed an opinion that Proconsul of Sicily Gaius Verres had invented the sort of torture-stake shown in the Vivat Crux and Pozzuoli graffiti: an execution utility pole that was patterned after Priapus. In his second actio of In Verrem (Against Verres), M.T. Cicero legally puts Verres dead to rights because he had discovered that Verres had put to death one Publius Gavius, a Roman citizen by crucifixion and/or impalement, after Gavius had said he was a Roman citizen and pled for his rights of citizenship.
Here is a sample of Cicero's prosecution speech against Verres :
apud te nomen civitatis ne tantum quidem valuisse ut dubitationem aliquam crucis, ut crudelissimi taeterrimique supplicii aliquam parvam moram saltam posset adferre. (That this mention of his citizenship had not even so much effect on you as to produce a little hesitation of the crux or to delay even for a little bit the infliction of that most cruel and disgusting penalty.)
Cicero, In Verrem 2.5.165
Usually crucis would be translated "of the cross" but we should hesitate here because even in Seneca's day, crux could be broadly interpreted as an impaling stake, an overhead beam or some other unspecified instrument, 1 and the Priapean structure was known to have both a patibulum (transverse suspension beam) and an acuta crux (sharpened impaling stake). 2
There are places in his second actio and elsewhere that would give us an indication what Cicero considered to be a crux. At the beginning of his speech, Cicero indicts Verres with illegal and inappropriate executions and punishments of Roman citizens: "cum civis Romanos morte, cruciatu, cruce adfecerit (when he wronged Roman citizens with death, with torture, with the crux) (In Verrem 2.1.9);" cruciatu could just as easily mean a putting to the rack as well as torture. At the beginning of the fifth book of his second actio, he describes the awful scene regarding an execution by crucifixion / impalement: "Quid deinde sequitur? verbera atque ignes et illa extrema ad supplicium damnatorum, metum ceterorum, cruciatus et crux! (What then follows? Beatings and fires and those ends [or extremes] as to the punishment of the condemned, and fear for the rest, the torture [or racking] and the crux!)" (In Verrem 2.5.14) It appears from this passage that the cruciatus, torture or racking, and crux, some kind of wooden executionary device like an impaling stake, are both the ends with regard to the punishment of the condemned, which puts fear into the rest, either the onlookers or noxious criminals not apprehended yet. So it behooves us what Cicero meant by cruciatus in the final punishment.
|Hermes (= Mercury) and Dionysius.|
We can find out what Cicero meant by this specific cruciatus from the torture-suspension of another Roman citizen in the middle of winter. This citizen, Sopater, was a magistrate of Tyndaris, a town in Sicily. Verres wanted a statue of Mercury that Scipio Publicus Africanus had erected in that city as an emblem of victory and a token of the townspeople's loyalty to and alliance with the people Rome, after he took Carthage. The magistrates of the town refused and Sopater was the unlucky sould to tell Verres he couldn't have it. And what does Verres do when Sopater gives him the news? He orders him suspended on the statue of Marcellus!
in ea Sopatrum, hominem eum domi nobilem tum summo magistratu praeditum, divaricari ac deligari iubet. quo cruciatu sit adfectus venire in mentem necesse est omnibus, cum esset vinctus nudus in aere, in imbri, in frigore. (On that he orders Sopater, not only a man of a respected house but also provided with the highest magistracy, to be stretched out and bound fast with ropes. With what torture he may be afflicted must inevitably come into everybody's mind, when he was bound stripped naked in the air, in the rain, in the cold.)
The Senate of the town soon gives in and Sopater was finally allowed to be taken down, scarecly alive, and almost frozen to the statue by the freezing rain. Cicero finds multiple charges in this one act with which to prosecute Verres. The final charge could be called libel against Marcellus, because Verres was demonstrating that the benificence of a good man and a patron was not equal to the insolence, greed and opportunism of a venal man like Verres. And in that final charge Cicero asks, "tibi Marcelli statua pro patibulo in clientis Marcellorum fuit? (Was the statue of Marcellus [to serve] you for a patibulum [to be inflicted] onto the clients of the Marcelli?)" So we have here clear evidence that being stretched tight and bound to a patibulum was considered by Cicero to be a cruciatus. We moderns would call it a crucifixion, with ropes.
So then, the word crux, to Cicero, likely meant something else other than a cross or a simple suspension from the wrists. We can determine that from some of his passages.
(1) Hinc illa crux in quam iste civem Romanum multis inspectantibus sustulit (Hence that crux onto which you hoisted a Roman citizen in the full view of a crowd of people.) (In Verrem 2.4.24)
(2) in populi Romani quidem conspectum quo ore vos commisistis? nec prius illam crucem, quae etiam nunc civis Romani sanguine redundat, quae fixa est ad portum urbemque vestram, revellistis neque in profundum abiecistis locumque illum omnem expiastis (Indeed into the sight of the people of Rome, with what face have you presented yourself? And not yet before that crux, which even now presently overflows with the blood of a Roman citizen, which is fixed at the gate and your city, you had not yet pulled out and thrown down into the deep and purified that whole place) (In Verrem 2.4.26)
(3) An ego, si te Gabinum cruci suffixos viderem, maiore adficerer laetitia ex corporis vestri laceratione quam adficior ex famae? (Or is I were to see you and gabinus fixed underneath to a crux, should I feel a greater joy at the rending of your bodies than I do at that [tearing to pieces] of your reputations?) (In Pisonem 18.42)
(4) Italia autem alumnum suum servitutis extremo summoque supplicio adfixum videret. (Italy also might see her native son affixed to the end tip of and highest part of the penalty of slaves.) (In Verrem 2.5.169) 3
(5) nos a verberibus, ab unco, a crucis denique terrore neque res gestae neque acta aetas neque vestri honores vindicabunt? Neither our exploits nor the lives we have lived nor honors you have bestowed will liberate us from scourging, from the hook, and finally, from the terror of the crux? (pro Rabiro perduella 16)
(6) quid enim optari potest quod ego mallem quam me in consulatu meo carnificem de foro, crucem de campo sustulisse? For what can be desired by anyone which I should prefer to being said in my consulship to have banished the executioner from the Forum and the crux [taken up and] carried out of the Field of Mars? (pro Rabiro perduella 10)
(7) qui in campo Martio comitiis centuruatis auspicato in loco crucem ad civium supplicium defigi et constituti iubes (You, who order a crux to be planted and set up in the Field of Mars, the meeting-places of the Centuries, in the place consecrated by the auguries?) (pro Rabiro perduella 11)
(8) nam Stratonem quidem, iudices, in crucem esse actum, exsecta scitote lingua (For, O judges, know that Strato indeed was driven onto a crux, with his tongue cut out) (pro Cluentis 187)
(9) On the death of Polycrates: Ille vero, si insipiens -- quo certe, quoniam tyrannus --, numquam beatus; si sapiens, ne tum quidem miser, cum ab Oroete, praetore Darei, in crucem actus est. (Indeed if that one, if foolish, -- who surely, because of the tyrant --, never blessed, if knowing, moreover not wretched indeed, when by Oroestes, praetor of Darius, [Polycrates] was driven onto a crux. (de Finibus 5.92)
(10) statim deinde iussu praetoris in crucem esse sublatum. Ot once at the order of the praetor he was hoisted onto the crux. (In Verrem 2.5.7)
(11) Facinus est vincire civem Romanum, scelus verberare, prope parricidum necare; quid dicam in crucem tollere? ('Tis a crime to bind a Roman citizen, an abomination to scourge him, almost parricide to execute him; to lift him onto a crux, words fail me! (In Verrem 2.5.170)
We have some observations here: Cicero understood the condemned was hoisted onto a crux or lifted up onto it (1) (10) (11). The instrument, unless Cicero was exaggerating, was literally streamed over by, i.e., overflowed with the blood of the condemned (2). The condemned were attached underneath to the crux and their bodies were rent by it; note Cicero does not mention the usual preliminary scourging or flogging (3). The condemned was attached to what Cicero called "the end tip and highest part of the penalty for slaves;" two sources have defixum and ea fixum substituted for adfixum (4). The crux induced terror in people; this would seem more indicative of an impaling stake or penetrating horn outrigged to a gallows or pole (5). A crux could be pulled out of the ground (6) and it is planted and made to stand (7). The condemned is driven onto a crux: a slave was known as a res mancipi (purchased thing, i.e., a tool in human form) and the verb agere when applied to things usually meant drive, push, impel forwards. (8, 9) Also the context in (8) indicates his tongue was cut-out so he could not implicate the real culprit behind the crime. These observations when taken together, appear to indicate that Cicero understood the crux to be an impaling stake: either freestanding or attached to a pole that may or may not have a crossarm and from which the criminal is hanged.
One last quote:
Non tu hoc loco Gavium, non umum hominem nescioquem, sed communem libertatis et civitatis causam in illum cruciatum et crucem egisti. (Not only Gavius in this place, not just one human being, someone you didn't know, but the common cause of liberty and community you drove onto that rack and cross.)
Now it appears that, because of the construction illum cruciatum et crucem to indicate a unitary singular item out of the cruciatus (torture, racking, torture-form) and the crux, which in this case takes on the masculine grammatic gender. So it appears that this is the first time the patibulum and the crux as a combined unitary structure is first mentioned in ancient literature. So although we don't know for certain, this may be an indication that the unitary "Priapus stake" sort of crux was first invented by the Proconsul of Sicily, Gaius Verres.
1. Seneca, Dialogus 6 (Consolatione ad Marciam) 20.3: "Video istic cruces unius quidem generis sed aliter ab aliis fabricatas: capite quidam conversos in terram suspendere, alii per obscoena stipitem egerunt, alii brachis patibulo explicureeunt (Over yonder I see torture-devices, certainly not of one kind, but differently made out of wood, by others: some suspended [the body] turned back with the head toward the Earth, others drove a stake through the privates, others extended the arms on the crossbeam.)" Upside-down suspension or impalement through the mid-section could satisfy the first, the second is rectal impalement (a.k.a. crucifixion Vlad Tepes style), the third a limb suspension. The Roman Priapus stake combined the second and third.
2. Seneca, Epistulae morales ad Lucillium 101.12, quoting Maceneas: "'Suffigas licet et acutam sessuro crucem subdas.' Est tanti vulnus suum premere et patibulo pendere districtum? ('It is permitted [that] you may nail me up and place underneath a sharpened stake for me to sink down on.' Is it so great to weigh down on one's own 'wound' and to hang [impaled,] stretched out on a patibulum?)"
3. Naugerius has defixum (fixed down on), Nonius has ea fixum (fixed there). Hence I have "end tip of and highest part of" instead of "extreme and highest" for the Latin extremo summoque.