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crucify

Yeshua` HaNotsri U'Melech HaYehudim

Crucifixion (from Latin crucifixio, noun of process from perfect passive participle crucifixus, fixed to a cross, from prefix cruci-, cross, + verb ficere, fix or do, variant form of facere, do or make ) is an ancient method of execution, whereby the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross (of various shapes) and left to hang until dead.

Control of one’s own body was vital in the ancient world. Capital punishment took away control over one’s own body, thereby implying a loss of status and honour. Crucifixion was used for slaves, rebels, pirates and especially-despised enemies and criminals. Therefore crucifixion was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die.

Condemned Roman citizens were usually exempt from crucifixion (like feudal nobles from hanging, dying more honorably by decapitation) except for major crimes against the state, such as high treason.

The goal of Roman crucifixion was not just to kill the criminal, but also to mutilate and dishonour the body of the condemned. Indeed, Roman soldiers would amuse themselves by crucifying criminals in different positions. In ancient tradition, an honourable death required burial; leaving a body on the cross, so as to mutilate it and prevent its burial, was a grave dishonour.

It was in use particularly among the Persians, Seleucids, Carthaginians, and Romans from about the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD, when in the year 337 Emperor Constantine I abolished it in his empire, out of veneration for Jesus Christ, the most famous victim of crucifixion. It has sometimes been used even in modern times.

A crucifix, (from Latin crucifixus or cruci fixus, past participle passive of crucifigere or cruci figere, “crucify”, “fix to a cross”), an image of Christ crucified on a cross, is for Catholic Christians the main symbol of their religion, but most Protestant Christians prefer to use a cross without the figure (the “corpus” – Latin for “body”) of Christ.

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Michelangelo Buonarroti was a guest of the convent when he was only seventeen years old, after the death of his protector Lorenzo de' Medici. Here he could make anatomical studies on the corpses coming from the convent's hospital; in exchange, he sculpted a wooden crucifix which was placed over the high altar. Today the crucifix is in the octagonal sacristy that can be reached from the left, west aisle of the church.

Crucifixion was almost never performed for ritual or symbolic reasons outside of Christianity, but usually to provide a death that was particularly painful (hence the term excruciating, literally “out of crucifying”), gruesome (hence dissuading against the crimes punishable by it) and public (hence the metaphorical expression “to nail to the cross”), using whatever means were most expedient for that goal. Crucifixion methods varied considerably with location and time period.

The Greek and Latin words corresponding to “crucifixion” applied to many different forms of painful execution, from impaling on a stake to affixing to a tree, to an upright pole (what some call a crux simplex) or to a combination of an upright (in Latin, stipes) and a crossbeam (in Latin, patibulum).

A cruel prelude was scourging, which would cause the condemned to lose a large amount of blood, and approach a state of shock.

If a crossbeam was used, the condemned man was forced to carry it on his shoulders, which could have been torn open by flagellation, to the place of execution. A whole cross would weigh well over 300 pounds (135 kilograms), but the crossbeam would weigh only 75-125 pounds (35-60 kilograms). Upright posts would presumably be fixed permanently in that place, and the crossbeam, with the condemned person perhaps already nailed to it, would then be attached to the post.

cornelius-tacitusThe Roman historian Tacitus records that the city of Rome had a specific place for carrying out executions, situated outside the Esquiline Gate, and had a specific area reserved for the execution of slaves by crucifixion.

The person executed may sometimes have been attached to the cross by ropes, but nails are mentioned in a passage of Josephus, where he states that, at the Siege of Jerusalem (70), “the soldiers out of rage and hatred, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest”, and in John 20:25. Objects, such as nails, used in the execution of criminals were sought as amulets.

IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDÆORVM

IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDÆORVM

Cause of death

The condemned took days to die slowly from suffocation — caused by their blood slowly draining away to a quantity insufficient to supply the required oxygen to vital organs. The dead body was left up for vultures and other birds to consume.

The length of time required to reach death could range from a matter of hours to a number of days, depending on exact methods, the health of the crucified person and environmental circumstances.

Death could result from a variety of causes, including blood loss and hypovolemic shock, or infection and sepsis, caused by the scourging that preceded the crucifixion or by the nailing itself, and eventual dehydration.A theory attributed to Pierre Barbet holds that, when the whole body weight was supported by the stretched arms, the typical cause of death was asphyxiation. He conjectured that the condemned would have severe difficulty inhaling, due to hyper-expansion of the chest muscles and lungs. The condemned would therefore have to draw himself up by his arms, leading to exhaustion, or have his feet supported by tying or by a wood block.

Roman executioners could be asked to break or shatter the condemned’s legs with an iron club after he had hung for some time, in order to hasten his death. Once deprived of support and unable to lift himself, the condemned would die within a few minutes.

It is possible to survive crucifixion, if not prolonged, and there are records of people who did. The historian Josephus, a Judaean who defected to the Roman side during the Jewish uprising of AD 66 – 72, describes finding two of his friends crucified. He begged for and was granted their reprieve; one died, the other recovered. Josephus gives no details of the method or duration of their crucifixion before their reprieve.

Crucifixion (Hypercubic Body) by Salvador Dali

Hypercubic Body by Salvador Dali

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