Most of us would have heard about gruesome punishments that existed in ancient times such as the right hand being cut off for theft and being burnt alive or stretched on the rack for committing treason. Thanks to the United Nations for passing the Human Rights Law, openly denouncing the use of any torture for any reason by any nation state. There were specific punishments for various crimes. This blogpost focuses mainly on adultery - having voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse.
Today, committing adultery might bring humiliations or a divorce. Celebrities such as Princess Diana, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna who cheated on their spouses should be thankful that they were not born in ancient times because if they did, they would most probably be dead now. If you were born in ancient times, you wouldn't want to cheat your spouse as the punishments are extremely gruesome. Adultery is known to be one of the biggest crime back in ancient civilization.
Before you scroll down to read, you might want to watch this video to gain some knowledge about the concepts of sex, adultery, guilt and sins.
Let’s take a look at Ancient China’s Adultery Punishments.
In ancient China, a woman’s chastity is considered a very important virtue. If one committed such crime, it will be an embarrassment for that particular household. If she is not married, she will be betrothed immediately. However, if she is married and had sex with other men, drowning is one of the most common way to punish both of them.
In villages, when one is accused of committing adultery, she would be brought to the village’s community center. The issue will usually be brought up to the Head of the village who will then decide on an appropriate sentence for the one found guilty.She will be forced to identify her partner, and both will deserved punishments.
It involves being tied up and lock in a “Pig Cage”, whereby both of them would be drowned in the nearby river. They will be bound with rope to limit their mobility, and be placed into strong bamboo-woven cages. They use cylindrical cages that were used to transport pigs, also known as “Pig Cages”.
Villagers would then carry the cages and cast the couple into the river. After a considerable lapse of time, their bodies would be retrieved and buried. This drowning verdict is applicable to married women or women soon to be engaged alongside with their adulterers.
For married man, they will not be committed with this crime. Princess Diana, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna are very lucky women for being born in the 21st century. Imagine a famous celebrity being tied and drowned in supposedly “Pig Cages”- unimaginable.
You think this the most painful death? Wait till you see Ancient Athens’ adultery punishments.
Moving on to Athens
Adultery, was seen unacceptable and offensive in Greek. The reason is that it had a direct effect on the family, the institution where Athenian society valued highly. Also, Greek is one of the very few civilizations which punishes the men for adultery.
If the adulterer was caught in the act, the protector was allowed to kill him on the spot . Moreover, the husband is allowed to shove foreign objects such as spiky scorpionfish or a large radish into the wife’s seducer’s anus to teach him a lesson.
The rationale behind this method of punishment was to make the men feel “less manly”. Such sex acts did nothing to harm the husband's reputation, however as for the wife's seducer, he would be ruined and embarrassed for the rest of his life. As for the wife, the husband could decide if he wanted to forgive and accept her back or chase her out of the house.
Punishment for adultery in the Medieval Era
The Breast ripper was an instrument used to punish
unfaithful women in the Medieval Era. The claws were sometimes heated before being placed on the woman’s exposed breasts after which the breasts will be ripped of by the torturer, leaving a permanent scar for life. Most women would eventually die due to excessive blood loss.
Another similar tool would be “The Spider” which is attached to a wall. The lady’s breasts would be fixed to the claws of the tool and the torturer will pull the woman away from the wall causing the breasts to tear apart.
The Pear of Anguish also known as the “vaginal pear” was another tool used in the Medieval Era to punish unfaithful women. The pear-shaped instrument which contained four leaf-like extensions which opens up when the torturer turned the screw at the top of the instrument was believed to be inserted into the woman’s mouth or vagina causing the skin to tear and the vagina to expand, thus causing extreme hurt and devastation.
At this point, we would like to emphasise that in most civilisations treated men and women differently even though they were guilty of the same crime. It does not matter which gender initiate the adultery, women would always suffer the most painful and dreadful punishments as compared to man in ancient times. In fact, women who are raped are also blamed and punished for cheating on their spouse as they were expected to put on the chastity belt to prevent it from happening.
Majority of men were left unpunished whereas women had to endure so much of pain and sufferings for committing adultery because they were seen as bringing shame to their husband, family and their society. In some occasions, women were shaved bald and brought around the village to be humiliated and was also used to warn other women. Women were expected to be faithful to their husbands, however a man could have many concubines. Moreover, men of the upper class could get away without being punished at all while other men bribed the leaders in their village so that their crimes will be overlooked. This double standards clearly shows that women were treated unfairly and also how justice favoured only the men.
You can watch this documentary to have a better understanding of how gruesome punishments were and also see many other ancient torture devices used in ancient times. IT IS UNBELIEVABLE!!!