The ancient Romans used a variety of horrific methods to execute those condemned to death for crimes ranging from rape and murder, to adultery, libel, and treason. One method called poena cullei, or “penalty of the sack”, involved sewing up the thoroughly beaten but still alive accused in a leather sack along with an assortment of live animal, most commonly a cock, a dog, a monkey and a serpent, and then throwing the sack into water. Another method of execution, reserved for the worst criminals, runaway slaves, and Christians, involved throwing the accused in a pit to be devoured by wild animals. The Colosseum was often used for this type of execution, known as damnatio ad bestias, or “condemnation to beasts”.
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