Top 10 Most Brutal Ancient Torture Methods To Make Your Blood Curdle

Tags: #torture

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2023-02-01 09:16:08

Even though the human mind is a marvel of evolution, it also has the capacity for horrifying thoughts. History has written about horror stories of torture, human brutality, and the sadistic joy that both individuals and groups experienced when seeing the suffering of others over the ages. Let us reveal the top ten cruelest torture methods in ancient times - if you dare!

10. Crucifixion 

It says a lot when crucifixion is the last place

Both the ancient world and the twentieth century engaged in this practice. The Assyrians and Babylonians were the first to introduce it, then the Persians, Alexander the Great, and the Phoenicians, who started it in Rome in the third century BC.

Being chained or nailed to a wooden beam—or cross—constituted the crucifixion process. Nails were driven through the bones just below the wrists to support the person's weight. It was a "wonderful" placement because the median nerve, which would cause the hands to flex down in a painful contracture and the fingers to seize, was damaged. Yet, no major blood arteries were affected. The body's weight had to be supported by the chest at this point, resulting in breathing issues and, ultimately, suffocation.

9. Rat Torture 

Little rodents munch on pretty everything, including humans

Torture by rats is right up there regarding the worst possible deaths, as they have the trait of eating through anything. It should thus not come as a massive surprise if humans created a torture device out of them in ancient times.

Usually, a little cage with a rat inside was placed against the victim's abdomen. The rat became agitated because the cage was heated externally by a candle, blazing stick, or hot coals. How, then, could it get away? By tearing into the only soft surface present, human skin. The person would experience excruciating pain as the rat immediately entered their guts. 

8. The Rack

Finally, you can be taller, though not alive to enjoy it

The rack was a horrifically popular torture tool in ancient times. It involved a table with axles and levers on both ends, typically made of wood. After being made to lie down, the victim's wrists and heels were bound with leather straps or belts. Then, one or more tormentors would gradually pull the levers, turning the axles and creating strain in the chains.

It is difficult to imagine the internal physical agony that would have resulted from that. Vertebrae were expanding, joints, muscles, and tendons giving way, posture changing, the rib cage pressurizing the lungs, bones shattering, and nerve endings becoming exposed. They were put on spiked axles as a gift for the "particularly tough," which tore the flesh from their backs.

7. Keelhauling

The predecessor of extreme scuba diving

The phrase is derived from the Dutch verb kielhalen, meaning "to pull along the keel"—precisely what this form of torture did. The crew member was stripped, bound, and hung from the ship's mast by a rope. Weights or chains were fastened to their legs. Once the sailor was let go, the rope was looped beneath the ship, and they were dragged under the keel.

A near 100% death rate was guaranteed. If the unfortunate victim did not drown, the repeated blows on the keel caused severe head trauma, and the barnacles and other aquatic growth on the hull caused deep lacerations. If they survived and were brought back on board, wound infections would still cause death.

6. The Wheel 

This wheel doesn't bring fortune; on the contrary

The wheel also goes by the names Catherine wheel, breaking wheel, and execution wheel. The ancient world frequently employed this brutal device for public executions. Although there were few variants, the prisoner was typically fastened to a substantial wooden wheel with spokes.

Instead of going for the kill, the executioner wanted to brutally mutilate them by shattering their leg bones before moving up. They beat the victim nearly to death, breaking all their bones and bludgeoning them with an iron bar. The now horrifyingly injured prisoner would be moved on the wheel so that their heels met at the nape of their neck after finishing. They were left to bleed to death in that position.

5. Impalement

How to make people into yard decoration

This list's midpoint is the horrifyingly gruesome procedure of impalement. This ancient type of torture was used by numerous civilizations and cultures. It involves impaling the victim with a protruding, pointed, and frequently greased stake to put down uprisings, discipline defectors, or eliminate military insubordination during battle.

The subject was positioned above the spike that was put halfway up their rear privates for a longitudinal way. The spike would pass through them when gravity took hold, avoiding vital organs and emerging through their shoulder or neck skin. This could keep someone alive for a few days. There was another way; the stake was inserted transversally through the torso, either from front to back or the other way around.

4. Blood Eagle

It's not easy to fly with your lungs out

Although it is fiercely debated whether this form of torture existed or was merely a literary fabrication, it was invented by a troubled mind. The late skaldic poetry is when the blood eagle rite first appears. The subject would be kept alive as their back was cut open while lying in a prone position.

Then, their lungs were dragged through the gap created when their ribs were severed from their spine, forming a pair of bleeding "wings." Even though it is difficult to imagine someone remaining aware long enough to accomplish this, if the Viking sagas are to be believed, this method has earned a reputation as one of the most gruesome, agonizing, and horrific ways to pass away.

3. Gold Chalice

Sometimes, the golden drink is literal

The nearly unbelievable execution technique of consuming molten gold earns this high spot. The Romans and the Spanish Inquisition may have done this more frequently than is known on both sides of the Atlantic. The method is obvious: the victim would be bound and forced to open their mouth as heated gold was poured down their throat.

The end outcome would be a significant injury to the distal organs and scorching of the lungs, causing instantaneous death. When the Parthians seized the Roman general and politician Marcus Licinius Crassus, he met this end. They allegedly did this to represent Crassus' desire for riches. Furthermore, Mithridates VI of Pontus vanquished Manius Aquillius and afterward used molten gold to put him to death. Next to it, Visery's death in Game of Thrones feels tame.

2. Flaying

Good people will make you open yourself

Flaying almost made it the most agonizing means of execution in the ancient world. After being undressed, the victim's hands and feet were bound to prevent further movement. The executioner would then start removing the prisoner's skin with a sharp blade, frequently starting with the head, because it would cause the most pain while the victim was still conscious.

In other cases, sections of the body were even cooked to soften and facilitate the removal of the skin. One could pass away through flaying in several different ways, including shock, fluid or blood loss, freezing, or infection. Additionally, the time of death could range from a few hours to several days. One of the famous victims of flaying was Hypatia of Alexandria.

1. The Roman Candle

An excellent way to illuminate the people

This is chilling on many levels, regardless of the execution method or the executioner who gave the order. The Roman emperor Nero used Christians as human lights because he greatly detested them.

The victims were first bound and fastened to high stakes. Then, they were covered with flammable liquid before being set on fire. To make their anguish last longer, the fire began at their feet. This was a horrible course of action, whether or not the Christians had rebelled against the government. It illustrates how harsh penalties were in ancient times.

Human imagination has always been capable of conjuring up innovative and horrifying ways to punish suspected sinners, villains, witches, and anybody else who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ruthless torture techniques and execution have come and gone over the years, and unfortunately, they aren't going away.

In your opinion, what is the worst torture method? Which torture would you add to the list?

Cover photo: RoAll/Pixabay


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