What were the cruelest ancient military punishments?
Answered by: Aleksa Petrovic
I will name two punishments, because I am not certain how common was the first one which is too cruel and sadistic. I wish I could talk about Breaking Wheel punishment, but this is more Medieval and Early Modern invention.
This punishment was used by Persians, altough I don’t know how common it was. It was extreamly cruel that death by gorilla in therma looks humane in compareson. I only know one soldier that was punished like this. His name was Mithradetes who fought for Arthaxerxes. He killed Cyrus, ending the civil war. However, it would look better if Arthaxerxes himself killed his brother, instead random soldier. Mithradetes recieved great sum of money to keep his mouth shut. However, during the celebration, he got drunk and told everyone the truth. For his bragging he was executed in form of shapism.
The victim was put in a boat and closed in by another boat so that only his head, arms and legs are open. Then he was forcefuly fed with honey, until he became sick. After that, his eyes would be pulled out and his entire face would be covered in honey. He would be left on the sun, idealy by the swamp. By the time he died, insects would devour his face and internal organs. It was clearly very slow and painful death.
I am not sure, if that punishment became common, but it is certanly is one of the worst. I can’t think of the crueler death, then that.
DEATH BY ELEPHANT
This was very commom punishment in Sassanid Persia. Many Greeks like Seleucid and Phonocians used this too. Victim would be put down as elephant would crush its head. This was capital punishment manly for deserters and mutaners. Naturaly, it wasn’t necessary for elephant to execute prisoner one by one. He could simply be put in small room with unarmed deserters and be crushed in a stampede. I don’t know if Medieval armies with elephants like Timurids used it, but it seems it remained popular in India.
To add what @Douglas Cox said in the comment:
A variant of the elephant execution method was often necessary, as domesticated elephants are not usually ready to tread on humans. In this method, a heavy stake was driven into the ground, to which a chain was fastened, leading to a leg anklet on the elephant. The condemned person was staked to the ground inside the reach of the chain. When the elephant was driven forward, its path described an ever decreasing, spiraling course that eventually forced the elephant to tread on the condemned. The viewing mob helped crowd the elephant inward, as well.