Poena cullei

Poena cullei

The bizarre ancient Roman punishment reserved for parricide

Poena cullei, roughly translating to ‘penalty of the sack’ in Latin, entailed the guilty party to be sewn up in a leather sack or bag, along with other live animals, and then thrown into the river. Now historically, the first punishments reserved for crimes like parricidium (the blanket Latin term that covered the murdering a parent or close relative), documented from circa 100 BC, probably only involved the criminal to be shoved into a sack, while his feet were weighed down by wooden clogs, and then thrown into the water. However by the early phase of the Roman Empire, the practice of including live animals into the grotesque scope was initiated. One of the famous examples hark back to the time of Emperor Hadrian (circa 2nd century AD), when the accused was tied up in a sack with an assortment of animals, including a rooster, a dog, a monkey and a viper.

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