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Torture Throughout The Ages

Well heres the answer; they were all forms of torture a long time ago. Iron Maidens were female effigies constructed of wood or iron with the inside hollowed out and filled with sharp iron spikes. The iron maiden would be opened up and the offender placed inside. The person would then be embraced by the iron maiden, being impaled by all the spikes. A Garrote was anything that was tied around someones neck that would tighten and eventually they would suffocate.

Water Torture was when water was poured on top of the prisoner’s head and a large bucket of water was also placed under their chin to simulate the feeling of drowning. Torture started because people thought the legal codes should be tougher. Reasons for this was simply that people thought that criminals, traitors, or just wrong-doers should be tortured instead of killed because they will die sometime anyway so they didnt consider it much of a punishment. Because of this they began torture. As time went on and civilizations grew, the need for a code of laws came.

Because of this code of laws, people could now perform torture only on enemy tribes and animals. In many cultures, religious sacrifices were the start of torture practices. The early European codes were usually based on the principle of Lex Talionis, who gave the idea of an eye for an eye in the Bible. Punishment for crimes should be similar to the offense is the Law of Hammurabi, written around 2000 BC. This civil code would soon be expanded to include other crimes in the Mosaic Code 1000 years later. This code formed into the basis of Hebrew, Greek and Roman legal systems.

The Greeks and others were still operating under the Law of Lex Talionis and at the time, torture was mainly used as a means of extracting retaliation for real or imagined (accused) crimes or wrongs. Public displays such as stoning (throwing stones at a person) or crucifixion were used mainly to discourage other criminals from committing crimes. The savagery of torture had not yet entered into the European culture yet. All this, however, would soon change. Early Roman rulers were actually quite humane; it was only Julius Caesar that tortured his conquered enemies as an example for other likely adversaries.

Eventually things would change, Roman savagery was the greatest in its public appeal and widespread usage. The first roman gladiatorial contest started in 264 BC as a match of man against man, but eventually turned into an all out slaughter. When prisoners could not be found, slaves were more often than not starved and then thrown into the arena with one or more wild animals. The insatiable bloodlust of the Roman public was hard to satisfy; by the time Claudius ruled, there were often 1000 or more victims in the arena at one time.

During the fall of Rome till the 13th Century, torture was used as a weapon of private citizens and eventually the State; rulers that realized they could gain respect by publicly showing these displays of force and power then adopted torture. Also during this time period the Church used torture in its proceedings, this would soon prompt civil authorities to adopt the practice as well. All this changed in the 6th Century, when the order of Pope Gregory the First made torture unacceptable. Torture was then not used as a punishment for nearly 800 years.

Torture, however, was still an option for mob justice. This remained until it was banned by the Papacy in 1225. Heretics or non-believers, were one of the most common people for torture practices to be used on, but there were many leniencies with them up until the 13th Century. Then the rise of the Albigeneses and other religious groups prompted Pope Innocent the Third to start the Holy Inquisition of Toulouse to destroy the threat to the Catholic Church. He had previously allowed the use of torture on a bull in 1252, which set things up for following events.

The movement against heretics quickly spread to Germany, Holland, Portugal, and eventually most of Europe. The procedure adopted by the Inquisition, which would be used later in witch trials, re-introduced torture to Europe. These Inquisitions were all performed with skill and expertise and under a rigorous procedure, this contained a lengthy process of examination followed by torture. The accused were rarely allowed to see the witnesses against them, and were subjected to such tortures as a contraption consisting of a table, pulleys and rope which would stretch the limbs of victims.

Other tortures used on them were the treatment of body parts with fire. Its span was huge; Larente, secretary of the Spanish Inquisition, estimated that from 1481 to 1517 there were over 13000 people burnt alive, with 17000 more condemned to other forms of torture. It is estimated that in 1481 alone, Torquemada burnt over 800 heretics. The thoroughness and completeness of the Inquisitions spread and covered Europe. After a while, the focus of persecution would change from religious groups to the punishment of supposed witches and sorcerers.

This carried into the British Isles and eventually out of Europe. In Scotland and Ireland in the 16th and 17th Centuries torture was commonly used to get accused criminals to confess their crimes. Only in 1808 would Napoleons capture of Almanza and other cities in Spain end the Spanish Inquisition, the last remaining part of this operation. In modern times, while some forms of torture continue, we seem to have gotten rid of most of the primitive uses of torture. Besides some cases of modern torture and punishment, most forms of modern torture involve imprisonment.

While in ancient times humans would ban their criminals away from the community, now we lock them up in stone and metal jails. Even from the beginnings of civilization, there have been a few notable individuals who voiced their objections to torture in its many forms. Senaca, Cicero, and St. Augustine all recognized that torture might result in the wrongful conviction of innocent people. Unfortunately, they were a minority whose opinions did not shape events to come later. Only after the 16th Century did stronger voices oppose torture openly.

In the 17th and 18th Centuries the opposition became sterner. Johann Graefe in 1624 published Tribunal Reformation, a case against torture. Cesare Beccaria, an Italian lawyer, published in 1764 An Essay on Crimes and Punishments, in which he argued that torture unjustly punished the innocent and should be unnecessary in proving guilt. His book went through 6 editions in 18 months and was translated into 22 languages. This was the end of the era of harsh physical torture. Throughout Europe, torture in its current state would decline quickly.

It was banned by Frederick the Great in Prussia in 1740. Italy followed in 1786, followed by France in 1789 and Russia in 1801. After a while nearly every nation would abolish most forms of torture. While occasional breaches would occur, there were few government-sanctioned tortures besides incarceration after this time. Torture has come a long way, from being used as a punishment to entertainment to finding guilty criminals, in other words, torture has greatly changed and evolved from its first use.

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