Sunday, April 15, 2012

Punishment Over Time

Over time there have been many shifts involving our Criminal Justice system.  More specifically there were several major shifts in the evolution of punishment.  The three major shift in punishment included were as follows: first the shift from psychical punishment transformed into mental punishment, second instead of public punishment it became privatized, and third punishment moved from individual punishment to family punishment to church controlling punishment and then to state being the one in charge of distributing punishment.
Two forms of punishment that I find interesting are the Brazen Bull and Scaphism.  The brazen bull, also known as the bronze bull or the Sicilian bull, was invented by the Ancient Greece as a torture device.  As stated on the Medieval Times & Castles website, this was created hoping to dissuade the poor population from committing more crimes.  The bull was made out of hollowed bronze with a trap door at the top.  The idea was to place the criminal inside the bull, lock them inside, and set fire underneath.  The person would slowly roast to death!   The morbidly humorous part of this form of torture is that when the person inside would scream the brass was so think that no one could hear them.  All that could be heard from the outside was through a horn particularly placed near the bull’s mouth that made the screams sound like a howling bull.  This form of torture can be found featured in the movie Immortals.
            The second form of punishment not discussed in class that I find interesting is Scaphism, also known as Boats.  The word scaphism comes from the Greek word skaphe, meaning scooped or hollowed” (  This form of punishment was very slow lasting several days and very painful.  The criminal was first stripped naked, placed in a hollowed out boat or tree trunk and placed on a pond.  Their arms and legs were left outside the tree or boat and left exposed to the elements and insects.  He or she was fed honey and milk each day to causing them to have diarrhea, which also attracted the insects.  Slowly the bugs would eat away at the person’s skin until they eventually died.
            These are just two forms of punishment that I find interesting!  Over time there have been hundreds of different forms of punishments!  Some more interesting form of punishment can be found at here, here, and here.  I also find it interesting how over time the forms of punishment we use change.  Such as how one decades something may be perfectly normal but a decade later it is considered cruel and unusual punishment.  Since the punishment we have today is a lot more humane then the forms of punishment listed above it will be interesting to see what forms of punishment we will come across in our lifetime.  In my opinion, since it has become so privatized and their in limited access to punishments such as the death penalty, I feel this is going to be the direction our justice system keeps moving towards.


  1. Having animals and incests eat off your skin until you die? That sounds repulsive. I for one, am glad that I wasn't alive in those times and that we don't still enforce those types of punishments. What if you were wrongfully accused and found guilty of something you didn't do. Dale Helmig for example, if they had tortured him and then years realized he was really innocent, what happens then. An apology from the judge saying, "Sorry we had insects eat your arm, hope it's better!" The forms of punishment back in those days were very grotesque but what other options did they really have? Just to put them in a shelter that may or may not have been suitable for life to live in for the rest of their lives. In my opinion, back in those times, if they board and fed a prisoner, it would take away from the masses that had to work hard to grow, kill, and harvest their own food. So, in order to alleviate the problem, they just got rid of it. The thought process back then of people who committed crimes was much different than what it is today. Now, we are more likely to give second and third chances to criminals who make wrong decisions. Back then, they might have only received one strike and they were out. The punishments that you posted make me cringe, especially the rat torture. I'd be begging for them to just cut off my head than to have a rat chew at my brains for a couple of days. Thanks for the interesting, yet disturbing information Christina!

  2. I can't even imagine how horrible it would be to die this way and yet people still complain about lethal injection being inhumane. I had never heard of scaphism before and it seems like a horrible way to die. I agree with you that the forms of punishment are changing at will be interesting to see how they change over our lifetime.