Through the ages, the public has utilized various extreme and brutal punishments across the globe. This is why when people today ask which of these processes is the worst of all, several answers can be found on various platforms.
Among all, though, there is one that stands out in the majority of publications. Apart from being controversial about its background, as well as the true extent of its actuality, this punishment is quite popular because of the brutality of the process.
Imagine being eaten alive for weeks under the scorching sun. Before you meet your demise, you will go through the horrifying process of torture for a long period of time. If you can’t, buckle up as the (potential) worst punishment in the history of humanity centers on this kind of torture.
It is worth noting, though, that the “worst” for some might not be the same for others. Nevertheless, many individuals can agree that scaphism is one of the most brutal and extreme forms of punishment.
About Scaphism: Being Eaten Alive For Weeks
Scaphism was an ancient method of torture to punish people. Based on the accounts of historians, Persians were the ones who utilized this form of punishment.
The name comes from the Greek word “skaphe,” which means “anything dug out” or scooped out. This relates to the initial process of the torture, wherein the accused was trapped between two boats or in a hollowed-out tree trunk.
Several reports claim that Persians, at times, refer to the punishment as “boats.” So, when the punisher tells the executioners – “give him the boats,” this means scaphism.
This method of torture was only given to the accused individuals who committed the worst kinds of crimes.
However, the original accounts in history seemingly show that only one person experienced the full extent of scaphism. Plus, the veracity of it is still being questioned by many experts. We’ll get to these points, though, later on, in this post.
The Process, How It Works
As noted, the torture began with the executioners tying the accused’s hands and legs to a boat. The limbs were spread out so that they would hang from the sides after placing a smaller boat on top of the accused individual. Aside from the limbs, the face and neck were also exposed.
Before tying the second boat, though, the executioners and torturers would mix milk and honey in a reservoir. They would feed the accused individual with large portions of the mixture. Also, they would pour it into the mouth, face, neck, and limbs, as well as other parts of the body.
The purpose of the second boat was to ensure that there was no way for the accused to escape the punishment. As for the milk and honey mixture, it was for attracting all sorts of insects and pests.
The torture would take place in swamps under the scorching sun. Accordingly, the victims of scaphism were not only attracting insects and pests, but they were also suffering from the scathing heat of the sun.
The entire process would take weeks to complete. This is because the main torture relied on the insects and pests, eating the accused individual alive. This is also why the executioners and torturers would force-feed the victim with more milk and honey every single day.
Aside from attracting rats, flies, maggots, worms, and all other sorts of pests and insects, the mixture had severe side effects on the accused person. They would have severe diarrhea and regurgitation, causing them to vomit and defecate.
The more this happens, the more pests and insects would go to the boat to feed on the accused individual. This is why the entire torture would take time before the person dies.
The Tale In History
Scaphism is, indeed, a worse kind of punishment. But, did the Persians truly utilize this torture?
The question remains apparent in this day and age. As noted, there was only one account of scaphism in all of the available historical published works.
This was written by Plutarch, who was a Greek philosopher and historian. He mentioned scaphism in his book, Life of Artaxerxes II.
He described the overall process, noting that this was the punishment given to Mithridates, a Persian soldier in the army of King Artaxerxes II. According to him, Mithridates “accidentally killed” Cyrus The Younger in the failed Battle of Cunaxa, in 401 BC.
Cyrus The Younger was the younger brother of King Artaxerxes II. He challenged his older brother’s claim to the throne, leading to the battle in 401 BC.
Following his death, the King rewarded Mithridates. However, it was reportedly his wish that all men would think that he alone had slain Cyrus.
While Mithridates initially agreed to this, he, later on, boasted that he was the one who killed the Persian Prince-turned-rebel. King Artaxerxes II then allegedly ordered the torture and death of the Persian soldier with the use of scaphism.
An Allegation Against The Persians
Apart from Plutarch’s published work, no other publication has ever mentioned scaphism. This excludes, however, the Annals, written by the 12-century Byzantine chronicler Joannes Zonaras. Reports noted, though, that Zonaras’ descriptions of scaphism were based on Plutarch’s previous work.
Several historians and experts have since questioned the authenticity of the torture. Many even conclude that Plutarch’s accounts of scaphism were just an allegation to “demonize” the Persians, and make his culture look good, considering that he was Greek.
To date, the debate remains. But, this is the prevailing account of scaphism, as well as the torture and death of Mithridates.
What Do I Think
Whether scaphism was an existing method of torture in the ancient Persian empire or not, it remains to be one of the most brutal and extreme forms of punishment in history, if not the most. Reports also noted that it never became a form of entertainment, unlike other kinds of punishments and tortures. The only people who were present during the process were the executioners and torturers. Some stated that there were alleged cases wherein the individuals affected by the accused person’s crimes were also there to witness the punishment.