Who was executed in a sack with a snake, a monkey, a rooster and a dog

Posted on Mar 11, 2022      343

One of the most ancient public executions comprised sewing the executed in a leather sack together with a live snake, a monkey, a rooster and a dog and then drowning the sack in a reservoir. In ancient Rome, it was called Poena cullei, which in Latin means “execution in a sack”.

This punishment was usually used for killing relatives, especially the father (parricidium), and had a sacred and symbolic character, as the criminal subjected to poena cullei was likened to the corresponding animals.

According to Cicero, the same punishment was inflicted on sacrilege (“Whoever steals or steals an object sacred or entrusted to the sacred guard, let him be a ‘parricidium’”).

With the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire, this punishment did not disappear. For example, it was confirmed by the laws of Constantine the Great, although the latter extended the penalty to infanticide as well.

The Poena cullei was preserved in Byzantium as well. In particular, it is stipulated by the Code of Justinian. Thus in Digesta there were specified some procedural features of execution of this execution: the executed was preliminary beaten with a stick, and the person was cast in a sack with animals in the sea only if the sea was near, but if the sea was not near, the criminal was given to be torn to pieces by wild beasts.

Somewhat later the execution based on the poena cullei appeared in Germany, where it was applied as hanging the criminal (thief) upside down (sometimes hanging by one leg) together (on one gallows) with a dog (or two dogs hung on the right and left of the executed). This execution received the name “Jewish execution” as with time it was applied only to the criminals-Jews (it applied to Christians in the rarest cases in XVI-XVII centuries).

The “Jewish execution” was used in Germany until the New Age. A Jew sentenced to this type of punishment could avoid it by converting to Christianity. Here, he was pardoned, or his torturous “Jewish execution” was replaced by beheading.