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Brazen bull

From Academic Kids

Perillos of Athens, a brass-founder, proposed to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum, the invention of a new means for executing criminals; accordingly, he cast a brazen bull, made totally of brass, hollow, with a door in the side. The victim was shut up in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until it became "red hot" and causing the victim inside to slowly roast to death. So that nothing unseemly might spoil his feasting, Phalaris commanded that the bull be designed in such a way that its smoke rose in spicy clouds of incense. The head of the ox was supplied by a clever system of tubes and stops so that the prisoner's screams were converted into sounds not unlike the bellowing of an infuriated ox. It is also said that when the bull was reopened, the victims' scorched bones shone like jewels and were made into bracelets.

Phalaris commended the invention, and ordered its horn sound system to be tested by Perillos himself. When he did enter, he was immediately locked in and the fire was set, so Phalaris could hear the screams of the victims who would be locked inside it.

Phalaris didn't kill Perillos, though. Before Perillos could die, Phalaris opened the door and took him away. Perillos believed he would receive something in exchange for his invention; however, not only was he put inside the bull to test it, but after being freed from it he was thrown from the top of a hill by Phalaris; Perillos died. Phalaris himself is said to have been killed in the brazen bull when he was overthrown by Telemachus.

The Romans were recorded to have used this torture device to kill some Christian martyrs, especially Saint Eustace, who according to Christian legend was roasted in a brazen bull with his wife and children by the Emperor Hadrian.

Another Christian martyr, Saint Pelagia of Tarsus, was said to have been burned in a brazen bull in 287 by the Emperor Diocletian.

According to Herodotus, roasting inside a brazen bull was the most common form of torture known to the Greeks.

The satirist Lucian in the 2nd century BC is said to have given the first detailed description of the creation and use of the Brazen Bull.

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