Early Execution Methods

Written by greg stone
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Early Execution Methods
Crucifixion caused intense pain and suffering and is considered one of the worst forms of early execution. (Cross image by Robzilla from Fotolia.com)

Since ancient history, people have died for crimes they've committed. Today capital punishment comes in a relatively humane fashion in many modern cultures through lethal injection. However, earlier methods of execution involved much pain and suffering. Executioners often dealt their torture on prisoners in the public view, often celebrated as an event. Some methods of execution seem to be creatively fashioned in order to inflict the greatest pain and humiliation possible.


The Roman government during the time of Jesus utilised crucifixion as a humiliating form of execution. The condemned were either tied or nailed to a cross in the shape of either a T or X. They were left to hang until death, which at times did not occur for days. Most deaths came about from blood loss, dehydration, or suffocation due to the awkward position on the cross.


The Roman government also used this form of execution. The condemned received a large mallet strike to the head in a public square. Usually the strike stunned the prisoner. The executioner then slit the throat to speed up death.

Snake Pit

An executioner tossed the condemned into a large pit filled with venomous snakes. European and Chinese rulers used this form of capital punishment.


Many ancient cultures used stoning, including the early Jewish culture before and during the time of Jesus. The condemned would be surrounded by officials and other community members, who would throw large rocks at the victim until he was bludgeoned to death. Various crimes brought on stoning, including adultery.


Henry VIII boiled convicted poisoners during his reign in England. Middle Age executioners boiled counterfeiters for their crimes. Ganghis Khan boiled rival Chinese generals alive around A.D. 1200.


Burning took place in both ancient and medieval times, but still happens today in some parts of the world. An individual is tied to a stake or pole typically for crimes of treason, heresy and witchcraft. The Roman Emperor Nero was notorious for burning many early Christians to death on stakes outside his palace window.


Decapitation removes the head from the body. France and England used this method widely for several centuries. Noblemen considered this a noble form of execution, compared with hanging or burning.

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