Anal Impalement

One of the more gruesome - and therefore fun - parts of writing crime is learning the different ways you can die. So, today's post is going to be about: anal impalement. Warning: this post may be upsetting to some.

If you got here on a Google search for a more salacious type of anal impalement, you're going to be disappointed. Anal impalement was not a good way to relax. It was a popular means of state execution across the middle east. The Hittites, Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians all practiced it.

The picture is a detail from a neo-Assyrian frieze in the British Museum, which shows Judaeans being impaled after a siege.

There were several variations of impalement. The pole might be pushed through someone's body, as appears to be the case in the picture on the left, or through the vagina, or anus. Going through the body was generally a fast death, so that version was probably only used for displaying a corpse. The vagina system was only available for half the populace, and therefore the most common system was probably anal impalement.

You're probably imagining a sharpened wooden spike being pushed up, but you'd be wrong. You wanted the pole to be blunt, to avoid piercing any organs and killing the victim too quickly. The entire point was to give the victim plenty of time to regret his or her crimes. Here's how it worked:

A smooth, thick pole with a narrowed, but blunt, top end would be embedded in the ground. If you think of a width you can barely get the fingers of both hands around, you're probably about right. The height of the pole is carefully adjusted so the top is slightly higher than the victim's behind, when standing on tiptoes. It's a bit like hanging, where you adjust the rope length for the weight of the victim, but in this case we adjust the pole for height.

The pole and the entry point are then smeared with fat or grease. The victim is held above the pole and placed down on it. If the width doesn't quite fit, that's not a problem; simply use a knife to slit from the anus towards the genitals until we have a snug fit. Now the victim is lowered down until they can stand on their own feet on tiptoes.

You see why the pole height varies per person. The pole is in, and the victim can't step off because even on tippy toes, too much of the pole is inside, but to keep it from going further in, the victim has to stand there, and stand, and stand. For days. They can't keep this up forever. Eventually their feet slip a trifle, or they sag, and the pole slips further in. Because it's blunt, it pushes organs to the side as it penetrates. With every slippage, there's a tear and a little more blood loss, weakening the victim, making it harder to stand, so the pole pushes further in, and so on in a vicious cycle. The grease and fat and blood trickling down the pole would have attracted flies and other insects, which would have eaten their way into the wound to add to the torture.

Whingey, bleeding heart, soft-on-crime liberals began to complain that anal impalement was too cruel. (I can't imagine why). So they introduced the soft option of crucifixion. Crucifixion was an instant hit and eventually replaced anal impalement altogether, until it was revived centuries later by that well known traditionalist, Vlad the Impaler.

There is no record of the Greeks ever using impalement, though their mortal enemies the Persians were certainly using it in Classical times. However, the father of Pericles, a man called Xanthippus, did crucify a particularly obnoxious Persian officer during the wars. (The officer had it coming: he'd robbed a temple sanctuary, and when he was captured, tried to bribe his way out of trouble).

It's interesting to think that if Jesus had been born just a few hundred years earlier, today's most common Christian symbol would be missing its cross-beam, and much more wince-worthy.

31 comments:

kathulhu said...

That is freaking SICK! It gives me cold chills just thinking about it! Uggghhh...I'm so glad I'm not a criminal or enemy living in those times!

Emma Larkins said...

:cringe:

Now THIS is something to think about whenever your life doesn't seem to be going according to plan. "Things might be bad right now, but at least I'll probably never have to worry about being anally impaled!"

Sounds like quite a motivator! And by the way, however gruesome it is, the research does sound quite interesting.

Jeanie W said...

Yecch! Glad I don't write murder mysteries. I can take gruesome in small doses, but I'd hate to have to think about this stuff all the time.

Bill Cameron said...

Well, Jeanie, I don't know about other crime writers, but I only think about this sort of thing part of the time. I spend a lot more time on the why than on the what or the how.

But, yeah, this one ... shudder.

Dana Fredsti said...

It was a favorite of Vlad Tepes, as well as a few Polish rulers, especially during the Cossack uprising... I definitely need to get your book for a friend of mine who just wrote her first mystery, a Roman noir!

Janet Reid said...

If you send me a manuscript with something like this, I'm going to fly to Australia and hit you with it!

YIKES!!!!!!!

Josephine Damian said...

I too have read about this method in my own research for my WIP, and was planning on using it as well.

First read about it on BRIDGE ON THE DRINA - graphic stuff.

Rowena Cherry said...

How thoroughly edifying. What prevented the condemned persons' friends from rescuing him or her?

Gary Corby said...

Ahh, good question Rowena! That would be the equivalent of assisting in a modern jail break. I leave it to your imagination what the penalty would be if you got caught.

Jim Vaughan said...

Sometimes as depicted in foreign film "Banovic Strahinja" on YouTube and Arab impalement video on LiveLeak, the victim was held down and the stake was pushed deep
into the body through the anus and then hammered in further using a
sledge hammer (!). The Turks used this method to impale Athanasios Diakos in about 1846.

L. T. Host said...

LOL. I so love Janet's comment on this post.

I have to ask... did she???

Gary Corby said...

No, she didn't, I'm sorry to say. But she did make me move that scene to the middle of the book. In early drafts, I opened with it, and then flashed back to what later became the true opening.

I find it slightly odd that this has got so much attention. In Pericles Commission I disembowelled three women -- Nico even walks through their innards -- and nobody even blinked. It seems there's a hierarchy for horrible death.

DeathByFumes said...

Cracked.com told me not to come here... I didn't listen!

Gary Corby said...

Well done, DeathByFumes.

Frank said...

Cracked told me to come here as well, and now I think I'm going to track down one of your novels. I'm really keen on the idea of historical mysteries.

Konstantin said...

So what this is telling me is that if Crucifixion had not come along Jesus would have died this way. That would have made for one hell of a resurrection.

Yung Cali said...

they should do that to pedophiles...

lolcakes said...

"Whingey, bleeding heart, soft-on-crime liberals began to complain that anal impalement was too cruel. (I can't imagine why). So they introduced the soft option of crucifixion."

Hmmmmm, what if those whingey bastards were declined? Would that mean that Jesus would have been impaled? :D

I wonder how churches would look like sporting an impaled Jesus above the altar xD

Dragon's Muse said...

Cracked also told me not to come here. lol But I'm interested in history...and morbidity. Now I'm interested in reading your novels. :)

Vsin said...

"I wonder how churches would look like sporting an impaled Jesus above the altar xD"

About as sick as they do now having a tortured man nailed and hanging from 2 wooden beams as decoration.

Ela said...

Cracked.com

EricTheAtheist said...

@Yung Cali: Wow, I really hope you're kidding. Did you read the whole article? Bad as pedophilia is, it doesn't even begin to approach something like this on the cruelty scale. The human race has no hope of survival if we don't somehow suppress our proclivity for inhumane acts of retribution.

Isaiah said...

But guess how many times it would have to happen before pedophilia drastically decreased. I really don't think we would have to do it very much.

John said...

Alexander the Great is said to have had Darius III's murderer, Bessus, executed in the Persian manner: mutilation and impalement.

Malaidas said...

I don't think its accurate to say that crucifixion was the liberal soft hearted version, certainly by the time Jesus was allegedly executed the Romans had got it down to a fine art in pain and suffering (possibly worse than this one).

Also it has to added that from everything I have read, there were many different ways this execution method could be administered, the more sofisticated (if you can describe anything this barbaric as such) being to make a small incision between the anus and genitals, thus allowing a smoother incision into the body cavity through to the the top of the sternum, the blunt end of the stake would then penetrate the sternum and be locked under the victims lower jaw.

WantingMemories said...

@Malaidas:
I'm sure crucifixion hurt like hell, but I am gonna go out on a limb here (based on my own wonderful mental state after reading the above information) and say that very few execution methods would make me THINK about them the way anal or vaginal impalement would. I'd worry over the actual effects and (if you will) trajectory so much, that even negating the horrible pain from the actual procedure, I'd probably put myself through hell with my imagination. Not to mention that at least starting out, you’d have the added psychological effect of feeling like you could very nearly get off the pole if you were only a bit taller. Finally, the exhaustion setting in would be awful. You want to pass out, but know you just can’t. The idea of crucifixion (even after watching Passion of the Christ as a teen with a zealot boyfriend) has never kept me thinking like this. Not that I don’t find it fascinating.

RUNTHARPER said...

At thia moment an very very very happy I wasn't born till 20 yrs ago and that its isn't used anymore. What a horrible way to die.. those dudes were sick.. or maybe they needed television>>

Ed-M said...

Sick!

The Greeks were liberal. The romans were not.

Xanthippus was Greek, and the type of crucifixion the Greeks practiced was called apotympanismos.

The typical crucifixion the Romans practiced (tho' there were exceptions) was a modified form of anal impalement, designed so that the criminal would hang on the cross, not from it. And what happened was, as the condemned carried out his dance of the cross, the wooden spike that was attached to the face of the post travelled in and out of the anus. It was, in a word, "sexual." If you can call it that.

Elliot Ibanga said...

The thinking atheist led me here!

Melissa Noonan said...

Cracker warned me not to click the link for this site! Which of course made me click it. Now I have to find your books!

Unknown said...

Any brutal form of torture can only be offset by the bodies natural tendency to go into shock. Still a horrible way to go.