Most people relate the practice of crucifixion with the death of Jesus Christ. We also understand that crucifixion was something that was a fairly common practice in the times of Jesus Christ and prior to Jesus Christ, but we can hardly imagine the historical reality of the practice. In the following paper we will look at Roman crucifixion and crucifixion in general, in terms of its historical importance and its beginning in theology.
There is no doubt that crucifixion is one of the most humiliating forms of punishment in the ancient world according to ancient sources. The Jewish historian Josephus best described it following the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans as “the most wretched of deaths.” The origins of crucifixion are unknown as is the case with many historical practices. Zias states that “While its origins are obscured in antiquity, it is clear that this form of capital punishment lasted for around 800 years and tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals were subject to this cruel and humiliating death. Mass executions, in which hundreds and thousands died, such as the well known crucifixion of 6,000 followers of Spartacus, appear in the literature.”(Zias, 2002) From this research we can possibly understand that Roman crucifixion was not something that was limited to only criminals. People of all types were put upon a cross, or a tree, or any other device that would serve as a crucifix. Zias suggests that the literature clearly points out that these types of individuals were not the only ones subjected to this ultimate fate. “Alexander the Great had 2,000 survivors from the siege of Tyre crucified on the shores of the Mediterranean.” Jews were tortured and crucified. There is also lots of information that suggest that women were not immune to being sacrificed by crucifixion also. Knowing this, “one can assume that, in the ancient world its use was thus not limited by gender but mainly by class.” (Zias, 2002)