From Academic Kids

Missing image
Woodblock print of Vlad III attending a mass impalement.

Impalement is an act of torture and/or execution whereby the victim is pierced by a long stake. The penetration can be through the sides, from the rectum, or possibly through the mouth. The stake would be usually planted in the ground, leaving the victim hanging to die.

In some forms of impalement, the stake would be inserted so as to avoid immediate death, and would function as a plug to prevent blood loss — thus extending the victim's agony for many hours.

The term impalement is also used to describe deep stabbing wounds that occur in accidents where objects are driven through the body, for example by falling onto a spike, or being driven onto one in an automobile accident. Removing these objects presents a severe surgical challenge.


The use of impalement as a form of execution in Ancient Persia is evidenced by carvings and statues from the ancient Near East. According to the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus (3.159), Darius I impaled 3,000 Babylonians when he took Babylon: this is recorded in the Behistun inscription. In Ancient Rome, impalement was superseded by crucifixion.

Impalement was used in Sweden during the 17th century, particularly as a death penalty for members of the resistance in the former Danish province Terra Scania (the so called "snapphanar)", where the stake was inserted between the spine and the skin of the victim. In that way, it could take four to five days before the victim died.

From the 14th to 18th century, impalement was a traditional method of execution for high treason in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Impalement is said to have been frequently practiced in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Vlad III Dracula and Ivan the Terrible have passed into legend as major users of the method.

Impalement in heraldry

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Banner of the arms of Cardinal Wolsey as Archbishop of York, impaling his personal arms (right) with the arms of his office as Archbishop of York (left)
Impalement in heraldry is the practice of joining two coats of arms side by side in one shield. Per pale is a vertical division in heraldry, and an impaled shield is divided straight down the middle vertically, top to bottom, with the two coats of arms arranged on each side of this division.

Impalement is used in heraldry to denote union. Usually, this is the union of a man and his wife, with the husband's arms placed to the left (or dexter, since the left as we look at it will be to the right of the person notionally holding the shield) and the wife's arms placed to the right (or sinister). However, other unions are possible, notably the union of a bishop to his diocese or see, so that the arms of the see are to the left (dexter) and the personal arms of the bishop for the time being are to the right (sinister).de:Pfählung nl:Spietsing pl:Nabicie na pal pt:Empalamento


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