Crucifixion As Capital Punishment
Located inside the Roman Colosseum, this cross was erected as a monument to the suffering of early Christians in Rome. Location: Rome, Italy. Source: (Jared I. Lenz Photography/Getty Image #830136434)
[Pictured above] The view is from below the cross looking up with the Colosseum walls surrounding it and the blue sky with puffy clouds above. The greenish color (copper) of the metal provides a nice contrast to the gray, brown and tan of the Colosseum and the dark blue of the sky. There are no people in the picture. The cross is located on the first floor where the Emperor's box used to be.
Crucifixions were a method of capital punishment that was used by the Romans although they were not the only ones. The Romans were very brutal in their “punishments.” It was not enough just to have someone put to death. They wanted them to suffer immeasurably first.
Through their crucifixions, it was the intent of the Romans to cause as much agony as possible for an extended period of time. Some people were hung on crosses with their hands and feet tied to the cross, while others were nailed to the cross. The crosses were then stood up in the ground in an upright position which caused the sufferers to die a slow miserable death. Sometimes this process would last for several days before they actually died.
Most of their victims were slaves or thieves. After their death, their bodies may or may not be taken down and buried. Many times the bodies were just left there for the animals to feed on.
Crucifixion was a common practice for the Romans, which they had learned from the Carthaginians until it was banned in the fourth century A.D. by Constantine.
The first recorded crucifixions actually took place in 519 B.C. when 3,000 were ordered to be crucified by King Darius of Persia. Besides the Babylonian and Carthaginian crucifixions, the Greeks also used crucifixion as a punishment.
Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes had Jews crucified who did not accept the language and culture of the ancient Greeks. Julius Caesar had two pirates crucified who had kidnapped him when he was a boy. Crucifixions were done in the Roman Colosseum where lower class criminals or deserters were the victims.
Crucifixion itself was excruciating enough, but before being put on the cross, victims were scourged severely and forced to bear the weight of the cross on their beaten back to the location where they were to be hung. Besides enduring pain the victims also had to suffer shame as they would be stripped of their clothes while onlookers watched them die. The Roman government wanted to put fear in others who might think of going against Roman laws. According to the Christian faith, it is believed that Jesus Christ was one of these victims who was crucified in this way.
The nails were placed, not in the palms of the hands but in the wrists, where it caused considerable pain along the nerves that run down to the hands. The feet were crossed with one on top of the other, as the nail was driven down through the arches. While on the cross, the victims would then have all of their weight supported only by the three nails. With the arms spread out on the cross, it was impossible to breathe because of pain due to cramping in the chest area. They would use their feet to lift up their body just to get a breath, and during this process, more pain was felt because of their badly beaten back rubbing up and down on the cross. This torturous cycle would continue for hours or days until they could no longer lift up enough to get a breath.
As with the case of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus, sometimes their legs were broken by the Roman soldiers, which made it impossible for them to lift themselves up to breathe inevitably causing them to suffocate.
The cross has become a symbol of this death by crucifixion, which to some serve as a reminder of what was done to Jesus Christ. For others, it is a symbol of offense. Regardless, it can be seen all over the world through jewelry, on top of church steeples, bookmarkers, and icons for all types of objects.