Were there really terrible torture devices – iron maidens

(ORDO NEWS) — Iron maidens are one of the most famous torture devices. But did they really exist? Answer: yes and no.

The widespread medieval use of iron maidens is an 18th-century myth reinforced by notions of the Middle Ages as an uncivilized era. But the idea of ​​iron maiden-like devices has been around for millennia, even if the evidence for their actual use is shaky.

The Iron Maiden was described as a human-sized case studded with spikes on the inside. The unfortunate victim of torture was pushed inside and the door was closed, driving spikes into the body. It is assumed that the spikes were short and positioned so that the victim did not die quickly, but bled out over time. Creepy, right?

And, in fact, fiction. The first historical mention of the iron maiden appeared much later than the Middle Ages, in the late 1700s. The German philosopher Johann Philipp Siebenkis wrote about the alleged execution of a counterfeiter by an iron maiden in 1515 in the city of Nuremberg.

Around the same time, iron maidens began to appear in museums in Europe and the United States. Among them was the Iron Maiden of Nuremberg, probably the most famous, which was built in the early 1800s and destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944.

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However, Ziebenkis was not the first to come up with a scary box full of nails as an instrument of torture. The City of God, a Latin book of Christian philosophy written in the fifth century AD, tells of the torture of the Roman general Marcus Atilius Regulus, who was locked in a box studded with nails.

However, Marcus did not die from being pierced by thorns; he was forced to stay awake to prevent the nails from piercing his skin, and eventually died from lack of sleep.

The Greek historian Polybius, who lived around 100 BC, circulated a similar story. Polybius claimed that the Spartan tyrant Nabis constructed a mechanical likeness of his wife, Apega. When a citizen refused to pay taxes, Nabis brought an artificial wife on wheels.

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It is difficult to say how true all this is – ancient historians tend to exaggerate – but the idea of ​​\u200b\u200bdevices similar to iron maidens clearly did not originate in the Middle Ages. According to historians, this period is unfairly associated with other sophisticated torture devices.

The Pear of Suffering, for example, is a kind of device that was supposedly inserted into the orifices of the human body and then expanded to cause pain. There is no information about the use of such a device in the Middle Ages. Perhaps it was a device for stretching socks.

And what about the rack? There are some records of use in the Middle Ages, but this device (which supposedly tore the victim’s joints) was invented during the time of Alexander the Great.

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Torture was indeed used in the Middle Ages. Sometimes they were used to knock out a confession of guilt before execution, motivated by the fact that the confession of sin before death would save the soul of a person from eternal stay in hell.

In the Middle Ages, there was an idea that you are really honest when you are being punished a lot, when you are in great pain. That the truth comes out when it hurts.

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But the torture usually wasn’t all that sophisticated.

A more common form of torture was simply tying people up with rope. But myths about elaborate torture devices are still popular.

In 2013, for example, local journalism website Patch reported that the San Diego Museum of Man’s “History of Torture” display saw a 60 percent increase in museum attendance compared to the previous year, helping to lift the institution out of its financial rut.

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Most of the myths about medieval torture originated in the 1700s and 1800s, when people were motivated to think that the people of the past were more cruel than the people of today.

They propagated the idea that the people of the past were much more violent in the Middle Ages, simply because they wanted to show their society as less violent. It’s much easier to find fault with people who have been dead for 500 years.

Exaggerations tend to accumulate over time, leading to 18th-century myths that continue to be facts today.

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These myths are not limited to torture; for example, the ball and chain weapon was not really a staple of the medieval battlefield at all.

Many museum samples belong to later eras, and the only evidence of such weapons in manuscripts is illustrations of fantastic battles; they are not found, for example, in the catalogs of the weapons workshops of that era.

A similar exaggeration took place with regard to the siege of Baghdad in 1258. For example, historians claimed that millions of people died during the capture of the city by the Mongols. However, in reality, we are talking more about tens of thousands of dead, and not about millions.

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This is a kind of “spoiled phone” of history. The Mongols captured Baghdad and everyone knew how many of its defenders were killed, but 20 years pass and one Mongol leader begins to spread information about how he captured Baghdad and killed 200,000 people. His goal is to glorify himself and intimidate his enemies.

Fifty years later, on the basis of this story invented by the leader, they begin to talk about 800,000 dead, simply exaggerating what is recorded in historical sources, and then, over the next two centuries, the numbers grow to a million or more.


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