CRUCIFIXION (kru'si•fik'shim), in Greek d vaor arpo all-as-tou-roon'; in I .a t in, crwri offig• ere, in crucem (z.krere or In//ere; in later times crud ere, whence our crucitixion.
To describe this punishment the Jews used the general term r.:7, taw-4,w% for crucifixion is a kind of hanging; whence Christ in the polemical ing; of the Jews is designated "the hanged one," and Christians "worshipers of the crucified." (1) Cruel and Disgraceful. Crucifixion was a most cruel and disgraceful punishment. It was the punishment chiefly of slaves; accordingly the word furcifer, 'cross-bearer.' was a term of re proach for slaves, and the punishment is termed servile suppficium, 'a slave's punishment.' Free born persons also suffered crucifixion, but only humiles, those of low condition and provincials. Citizens could not be crucified (Cic. ['cm 1:5; Quintil. viii:4; Suet. Calk).- This punishment was reserved for the greatest crimes, as robbery, piracy, assassination, perjury, sedition, treason, and (in the case of soldiers) desertion. Its origin is ancient. In Thucydides we read of Inarus, an African king, who was crucified by the Egyptians. The similar fate of Polycrates, who suffered un der the Persians, is detailed by Hcrodotus, who adds, in the same book, that no less than 30o per sons were condemned to the cross by Darius, after his successful siege of Babylon. That the Greeks adopted it is plain from the cruel executions which Alexander ordered after the capture of Tyre, when 2.000 captives were nailed to crosses along the sea-shore (Q. Curtius, iv:4; Justin, xviii :3). With the Romans it was used under their early monarchical government, and was the death to which Horatius was adjudged for the stern and savage murder of his sister ( Liv. i :26), where the terms employed show that the punishment was not at that time limited to any rank or condition. It appears also from the passage that scourging then preceded crucifixion, as undoubtedly was custom ary in later times. The column to which Jesus was fastened during this cruel infliction is stated by Jerome (Episi. ad Euslach.) to have existed in his time in the portico of the holy sepulcher, and to have retained marks of his blood. The Jews received the punishment of crucifixion from the Romans (Joseph. A niiq. xii :14, 2; xx :6, 2; De Bell. lad. ii:t2). Though it has been a matter of debate, yet it appears clear that crucifixion, properly so called, was not originally a Hebrew punishment. (Bormitii, De truce num. Ebrcror. stipp. fuerit.) (2) Method. The condemned, after having been scourged (Li v. XXX V1:26 ; Prud. Enchir. had to bear his cross, or at least the transverse beam, to the place of execution, which was gen erally in some frequented place without the city.
The cross itself, or the upright beam, was fixed in the ground. Arrived at the spot the delinquent was supplied with an intoxicating drink, made of myrrh and other bitter herbs (Pipping, Exercit. Acad. Iv), and having been stript of his clothing. was raised and affixed to the cross, by nails driven into his hands, and more rarely into his feet ; sometimes the feet were fastened by one nail driven through both. The feet .vere bound to the cross by cords, and Xenophon as serts that it was usual among the Egyptians to bind in this manner not only the feet but the hands. A small tablet (thulus), declaring the crime, was placed on the top of the cross (Sutton. Cal. 38; Dom. to; Euseb. Hist. Eccles. v:1). The body of the crucified person rested on a sort of seat. stage (ken. Adv. I fer. ii :42). The crim inal died under the most frightful sufferings—so great that even amid the raging passions of war pity was sometimes excited (Comp. p. 472, above).
(3) Disposal of the Body. Sometimes the suf fering was shortened a ml abated by breaking the legs of the criminal—crura fracia (Cic. Phil '
Nat. xxxvi :24). A guard was set near the cross, to prevent the corpse from being taken away for burial ( Plut. Cleomen. 30; Pr tron. Satyr. iii :6; Sen. Er. tot ). But among the Jews the dead body was customarily taken down and buried. Josephus says (De Bell. lad. v • 2), 'the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men that they took down those that were con demned and crucified. and buried them before the going down of the sun.' In order that death might be hastened. and the law might not be N'io laced, the Jews were accustomed to break the legs (John xix :3r, 32, 33; Deut. xxi :22; Lipsius, De Cruc. lib. iii). The execution took place at the hands of the carnifcx, or hangman, attended by a band of soldiers, and in Rome, under the supervision of the Triumviri Capitales (Tac. Ann. xv :6o; Lactan. iv :26). The accounts given in the Gospels of the execution of Jesus Christ are in entire agreement with the customs and prac tices of the Romans in this particular (Tholuck, Glaubwfirdigkeit der Evangel. Gesell. p. 361).
(4) Abolition. The punishment continued in the Roman empire till the time of Constantine, when it was abolished through the influence of the Christian religion. Examples of it are found in the early part of the emperor's reign, but the reverence which, at a later period, he was led to feel for the cross, induced him to put an end to the inhuman practice.