10 Worst and Most Brutal Punishments of Ancient Time

Extrajudicial punishments are those punishments which are carried out by the state’s official authority without having legal process. Middle Ages were considered a time of punishment and harsh torture. In ancient time, people used some of the most brutal methods of execution. That time, people accused of crimes didn’t go through any type of court system. The culprits were punished by some unusual and wicked punishments. Even the Churches used torture to obtain confessions from them. Suffocating culprit in water and poisonous gases, boiled in oil and fingers torn off were the common punishments at that time. Here are the cruelest and gruesome punishments from the middle ages that will give you goosebumps.

10. Beheading

Beheading1Photo credit: wikimedia

Beheading or decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. It has to be done with an axe, sword and knife or by ancient methods like a guillotine. Beheading was considered as the painless punishment because the sword used was sharp and the executioner was so strong that results in sudden death. Now Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen and Qatar allow beheading but only Saudi Arabia continues to behead its prisoners.

9. The Pear of Anguish

The Pear of Anguish1Photo credit: wikimedia

The pear of anguish or choke pear is an ancient instrument used as a muzzle and for torture. It is made up of metal of pear shape, which divided into spoon like structures screw. It was used in 18th and 19th century in Holland. It was inserted in the body according to their crime. A few samples of pear of anguish are stored in the Lubaska land museum in Poland.

8. Eye Gouging

Eye Gouging1Photo credit: flickr

Eye gouging involves pressing and tearing of eyes using the fingers or any instruments. Eye gouging can cause a very high risk of eye injury or complete blindness. Few centuries ago, eye gouging was used as a punishment on prisoners who has harmed another person’s eye. It is still in practice in few parts of Saudi Arabia.

7. Brazen Bull

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The brazen bull or Sicilian bull was an execution machine, designed in ancient Greece. It was made of bronze and hollow with a door on one side. The accused were locked inside the bull and a slow fire was set under it and broils the person to death. The bull’s head was designed with a complex system of tubes that convert the prisoner’s scream into the sounds of roar of the bull. This was the biggest irony that its inventor was killed in its own creation.

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6. The Rack

The Rack1Photo credit: wikimedia

The rack is a torture device, consists a rectangular, wooden frame with rollers. It was first used during Anquity period and later used in Britain in 1447 on John Holland. The rack was not only meant for physical damages, it can cause pain and psychological trauma to any victim. In France, it was used in the form of spiked roller that was inserted in the victim’s spine, causing pain and physical damage.

5. Guillotine

Guillotine1Photo credit: wikimedia

A guillotine is an execution machine by beheading. It consists of a tall frame of a total height of 4.5 meters and the blade used was 3.5 kg in weight. This method of execution was used by many countries. Only in Nazi Germany, more than 16,000 people were killed. It was first used on two criminals in a single day on 30th April 1650. Estimates of the death tolls range between 20000-40000. It was banned in France and the last person guillotine was Hamida Djandoubi on 10th September 1977.

4. Hanging

HangingPhoto credit: wikimedia

Hanging is the judicial punishment of suspension by the neck. It was originated in the United States but more common in many other countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Singapore. In many countries, this punishment was banned but some are still practicing this. Hanging is of four types such as short drop, long drop, suspension hanging and standard hanging. In the Unites States, the last prisoner executed by hanging was on 15th March 1963.

3. Amputation

AmputationPhoto credit: wikimedia

Amputation is the removal of the body part by prolonged constriction or surgery. Many countries like Malaysia, UAE, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran and Jamaica uses the method of limb amputation as punishment. Even the tongue, nose and ears are also amputated in some countries. Amputation is legal in those countries where the judicial system based on the Islamic laws. In the US, there was an average of over 130,000 patients for amputation per year due to complication in the vascular system. The statistics of amputation as punishment is totally unknown.

2. Crucifixion

Crucifixion1Photo credit: wikimedia

Crucifixion is a painful execution in which the victim is tied and pinned to a wooden cross and left hanging until death. Crucifixion was done on people with monstrous crimes and left as warning to others. The crucifixion of Jesus is the main event in the Christianity and Christian used the crucifix as their religious symbol. In some cases, the victim was forced to carry the cross to the place of execution which would weigh over 130 kg. This method of execution is still occasionally used in a few countries.

1. Flaying

Flaying - Most Brutal PunishmentsPhoto credit: wikimedia

Flaying is the method of torture or execution in which the skin of the prisoner is removed. This was the most brutal and painful punishment. The removing of skin was depended on the victim’s crime. It was first used in the early 18th century in France. All the victims died after flaying due to critical loss of blood and other body fluids. They can hardly live up to few hours to few days after the flaying. In 1942, Finland soldiers flayed a Soviet soldier, who was allegedly eaten by their own troops.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is an experienced science and technology journalist interested in machines, AI, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out what his latest project is, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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  • Malaysia does NOT carry out amputation. Malaysia does follow the syariah law and the western law but not the hudud law. Hence, the punishments are same as the western countries. Please correct your facts. Thx