Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Brazen Bull

The Brazen Bull, or the Sicilian Bull, is a torture and execution device designed in ancient Greece. Perillos of Athens, a brass-founder, proposed to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, the invention of a new means for executing criminals. Accordingly, he cast a bull, made entirely of brass, hollow, with a door in the side. The condemned were shut in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until it became yellow hot and causing the person inside to roast to death.

Phalaris commanded that the bull be designed in such a way that its smoke rose in spicy clouds of incense. The head of the ox was designed with a complex system of tubes and stops so that the prisoner's screams were converted into sounds like the bellowing of an infuriated bull. It is also said that when the bull was reopened, the scorched bones of the remains shone like jewels and were made into bracelets.

Perillos said to Phalaris: “[his screams] will come to you through the pipes as the tenderest, most pathetic, most melodious of bellowings”. Phalaris ordered its horn sound system to be tested on Perillos himself. When Perillos entered, he was immediately locked in, and the fire was set, so that Phalaris could hear the sound of his screams.


steveowinlow said...

So, who's being executed/tortured in the picture? It can't be Perillos, the Christian iconography indicates otherwise (I can't read Greek).

Pain said...

Perillos was its first victim. there are conflicting historical notations about dancing around the brazen bull and some apocryphal legends and word of mouth relations in near modern times saying there was nude dancing to the screams that came forth from the glowing bull by men and women smeared with fat.

The picture in the post is of St. Antipas of Pergamum who met his end in the brazen bull ~c. 92 CE.

Anonymous said...
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elle enne said...

Fantastically horrible.

Tradesman said...

I hope he required payment in advance of delivery. Otherwise, he got screwed.