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Crucifixion in the Roman Empire - Research Paper Example

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Death by crucifixion is an ancient practice, which was utilized frequently by the Romans to punish criminals in the society. Crucifixion was a process, which involved excruciating pain and humiliation for the convicted criminal; it was necessitated by the need to discourage other citizens from engaging in crime especially against the leadership…
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Crucifixion in the Roman Empire
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Crucifixion in the Roman Empire

Thereafter, the cross, along with the convict, was erected vertically on the ground and it remained in that position until after the criminal was confirmed dead. However, it is believed that some of the crosses were fixed permanently on the ground to serve as a constant reminder to the passersby and local inhabitants that death by crucifixion was the ultimate destiny for criminals (Hewitt, 1932). Death through crucifixion is a slow process and as such, it took a long time, depending on the health of the victim, for it to be achieved. It is claimed that some of the persons remained alive for more than 2 days while others succumbed to death in a matter of hours. However, it is notable that some of the guards assigned with the task of crucifying and guarding the convict utilized several tactics to hasten the death and to reduce the chances of the convict surviving the ordeal (Hengel, 1989). For example, before crucifixion, these guards ensured that the convict was weakened through harsh beatings concentrated on weak points such as the chest, the head, and limb joints among others, which subjected the criminal to low chances of survival even if the process was abandoned half way. In addition, the guards facilitated a quick and painful death by ensuring that while nailing the victim, the nails went through major bones on the legs, tibia and fibula, to break them thereby weakening the functioning of the body. Some of the texts also suggest that, due to the weakness of the palm flesh to sustain the weight of the body, there is a logical reason to believe that the nails on the hands were driven through the radius and the ulna, which are the two major bones that connect the palms to the elbow joints. Otherwise, the only other possibility was to increase support by tying the nailed hands to the cross (Tzaferis, 1985). It is also evident that Roman executioners hastened the death of the victim by spearing him in the chest. One of the major historical and biblical figures to die in the hands of Roman executioners through crucifixion was Jesus, who was crucified for treason. Jesus was perceived as a threat to the leadership of the roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar, by claiming that he was the king of the Jews and that there was another greater kingdom than the Roman empire, which belonged to his father. He was also accused of blasphemy due to his claims that he was the son of God yet he was a man with flesh and blood and therefore no different from other humans (Hengel, 1989). According to Jewish beliefs, crucified persons were not supposed to remain on the cross on the Sabbath day, which is equivalent to Saturday on the Gregorian calendar, and therefore it had been ordered that all the people crucified together with Jesus had to have their legs broken so as to ensure that they died on that very day. It is important to note that while hanging on the cross, the crucified persons had a chance of prolonging their death by supporting themselves with the legs thus reducing muscle tension created by the force of gravity. However, when it was the turn for Jesus to have his legs broken, the guard realized that he was already dead but to be sure, he pierced him on the chest with a spear (Hewitt, 1932). The crucifixion of Jesus also makes it clear that the Romans crucified their victims without their clothes on. To ... Read More
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