A really fascinating description of crucifixion and its osteo-archeology by Kristina Killgrove, biological anthropologist. In it we learn that there’s actually ever only been a single skeleton discovered that’s definitively undergone the process, and “almost no direct archaeological evidence” for the practice. And that’s quite an amazing thought, if you think about how long the Romans practiced it and how many were subjected to this most gruesome of mortal ends. Also there’s the scene from Life Of Brian which forms part of the title of the post.
The Romans practiced crucifixion – literally, “fixed to a cross” – for nearly a millennium. Like death by guillotine in early modern times, crucifixion was a public act, but unlike the swift action of the guillotine, crucifixion involved a long and painful – hence, excruciating – death. So crucifixion was both a deterrent of further crimes and a humiliation of the dying person, who had to spend the last days of his life naked, in full view of any passersby, until he died of dehydration, asphyxiation, infection, or other causes. The Roman orator Cicero noted that “of all punishments, it is the most cruel and most terrifying” and Jewish historian Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths.”