The Brazen Bull: One of History’s Most Notorious Punishments

Last updated on January 27th, 2023 at 08:02 pm

The brazen bull was a horrifying torture device that originated in ancient Greece. It was essentially a hollow metal sculpture of a bull, with an entrance at the top for the victim’s head. 

Supposedly, the victim would be locked inside and burned to death. The brazen bull was used to execute criminals and political opponents, and its gruesome history has earned it a place in infamy.

Sounds pretty horrifying, right? 

The only problem is that, by all accounts, the Brazen Bull was likely a fictional device. So let’s take a look at where this mythical torture device originated.

Depiction of the Brazen Bull

The History of the Brazen Bull

The legend of the Brazen Bull begins with Perillos of Athens, who supposedly presented the device to Phalaris, the ruler of Acragas in Sicily. 

Perillos claimed that the Brazen Bull was a more humane way to execute criminals, but in reality, it was even more brutal than traditional methods of execution.

Phalaris was said to be so impressed with the Brazen Bull that he ordered Perillos to be the first to test it. Perillos was placed inside the bull, but he quickly realized that the device was not as humane as he had claimed. 

He begged to be released, but Phalaris refused. Perillos was eventually cooked to death inside the Brazen Bull, becoming the first victim of this brutal execution device.

Phalaris being forced in the Brazen Bull

How did it work?

The Brazen Bull was essentially a giant, hollow bronze statue in the shape of a bull. It had a door on one side, where the victim was placed. The door was then sealed, trapping the victim inside. 

A fire was then lit beneath the bull, heating the bronze until it became red-hot. The victim’s screams inside the bull were supposed to be channeled through a series of tubes, making it sound like the bull was bellowing.

Origins of the story

Diodorus Siculus was the first to write of the Brazen Bull, centuries after Perillos supposedly died in his own creation.

It was supposedly used to execute many other people over the years and was supposedly popular among the Sicilian tyrants, who used it to eliminate anyone who posed a threat to their rule. This included political opponents, rebels, and even innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Later, in Ancient Rome, some sources claim several emperors used the Brazen Bull on Christians, like Saint Eustace and Saint Antipas.

Depiction of many types of torture

Brazen Bull: Fact or Fiction?

Despite these gruesome stories, there is no concrete evidence that the Brazen Bull existed. Siculus wrote of the device centuries after its invention, and any contemporary sources do not back up any use in the Roman Empire.

Some historians believe it may have been based on an actual device, while others argue that it is a purely mythical creation.

The lack of hard evidence makes it impossible to say whether the Brazen Bull was real. In all likelihood, it wasn’t, much like other fictional twisted torture devices like the Pear of Anguish. 

1 thought on “The Brazen Bull: One of History’s Most Notorious Punishments”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top