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The ferula. scutica and the flagrum are all commonly known as the standard whip. However, these specialized Roman whips were used by the Romans for physical torture. The Roman whip arsenal ranged from the ferula, a leather strap, to the scutica, a whip constructed of twisted parchment thongs, and finally the gruesome flagrum, a whip of lashes and sharp metal points.

The Romans employed three levels of physical punishment. These levels are fustigatio, flagellotio, and verberatio. Fustigatio was generally sentenced to minor offenses. This beating was adjoined with a warning and was not serious. The flagellotio was a more severe beating. This was merited by criminal acts. The verberatio was the highest degree of beating, commonly associated with crucifixion. This is the beating Jesus Christ received. Jesus received this beating as result of the last effort for Pontius Pilot to spare him from crucifixion. The tradition of whipping as a form of punishment was also carried out by many different cultures through most periods.

Two of the main cultures that used whips as punishment and as a measure of strength were the Spartans and the Jews. Spartans were famous for testing the strength of a man through the use of a whip. This is concurrent with their gladiator life style of in the Roman Empire at that time. In addition, the Romans were not afraid to whip any non-citizens. This whipping would continue until the brink of death. The Jewish people also used the whip as punishment for misconduct. An important Jewish rule was to limit the whipping to forty lashing. However, they would only give thirty-nine to avoid breaking the law. The Roman lashing is believed to have an important role in the torture of Jesus.

Based on the Holy Shroud of Turin, the bloodstains that are thought to have been from Jesusí body are concurrent with the pattern of two Roman lictors using flagrum whips on his back and torso. The reason that this theory has evolved is due to the pattern of blood left behind on the shroud that would be the result of the sharp metal points on the flagrum in two different slash patterns. This evidence has also given great incite into the process by how one may be whipped by the Romans.

In conclusion, the worst whip, the Flagrum, was not used to kill, but only for intense torture. The verberatio was used mainly as a prelude to crucifixion, but could also have been used for severe punishments. The whip has evolved from a spiny branch to a meticulously made piece of leather art and has been used in many of the millions of merciless whippings in the Roman Empire during Jesusí time.

 

Sources:

The Roman Whips

The Point of the Passion, 1stholistic.com, Holistic Living

Roman History - Key Stage 2 educational interactive Roman history for children.

Trade Guilds of the Latter Roman Empire

A Closer Look at the Crucifixion - He Is Risen, chapter 3

The Faith of an English Catholic, by Darwell Stone

Flagellation

The Experience

Roman Whips

C.O.A.T. Homepage

Biblical Archaeology

Roman Whips

The House of Peter

Crosses of Ancient Times

Sketches

Bibliography

Pictures