Brazen Bull: History’s Worst Torture Device

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Brazen Bull: History’s Worst Torture Device

 

Medieval times were a period when the most unthinkable and gruesome torture devices and punishments were popularized. Among the worst of their kind was the Brazen Bull, a hollow brass statue crafted to resemble a real bull. It was an extremely cruel instrument as well as a renowned example of how an invention led to the death of its inventor.

 

Photo Credit: All That's Interesting

 

The Brazen Bull was a gift by court sculptor Perilaus to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas in Sicily, in ancient Greece around 560 BC. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, Perilaus showed Phalaris a replica of a bull, in gleaming brass. What made it unusual was it was affixed with pipes and whistles, hollow on the inside, and constructed over a roaring fire. This torture device was notorious for how it slowly killed people.

 

Photo Credit: All That's Interesting

 

Victims would be placed on the Brazen Bull, where a fire would be lit under its belly. It would heat up the device, turning it into an oven and roasting the victim within it. The most gruesome part of this device was that the pipes and whistles converted the screams of the victims into snorts and growls of a bull. However, it was believed that the first person to have experienced the Brazen Bull’s cruelty was Perilaus himself. 

 

Photo Credit: Michael Mortola on Flickr

 

According to famed poet and philosopher Cicero, the torture device was proof of Phalaris’s viciousness. In his series “In Verrum,” he said, “…that noble bull, which that most cruel of all tyrants, Phalaris, is said to have had, into which he was accustomed to putting men for punishment, and to put fire under.” Fellow historian Diodorus Siculus also wrote that the court sculptor said: “If you ever wish to punish some man, O Phalaris, shut him up within the bull and lay a fire beneath it; by his groanings the bull will be thought to bellow and his cries of pain will give you pleasure as they come through the pipes in the nostrils.”

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