10 ancient Persian punishments beyond your worst nightmares

10 ancient Persian punishments beyond your worst nightmares
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(4), tearing people apart with trees

In the later years of Persia, thieves had to deal with horrifying punishments. Anyone caught stealing or harassing a rider on the roads of the empire was sentenced to death by being torn in half. The executions would pull the tops of two trees as close to one another as they could and tie them together. They would drag the convict over and tie one leg to the top of each tree. Then they would cut the cord holding the trees together.

The two trees would spring free, pulling apart at incredible speed and shooting back upright with the criminal still tied to them. His body would tear in half from the force. Within a seconds, two halves of what was once one man would hang from the trees.

His body would be left there, hanging over the road where had robbed an innocent person. Anyone who passed through these parts, the Persians believed, would get a harsh reminder of just what would happen if they followed the lives of thieves.


(5), crushing your servant’s heads with stones

As much as Persia tried to be fair about its crimes, they didn’t exactly ignore class status. The king could get away with anything. And as long as they were in his good books, his family could, too. When king Artaxerxes ills own mother murdered his wife, he couldn’t bring himself to execute her so he killed her servants, instead.

Paysatis, Artaxerxes mother, hated her daughter in law stateira and stateira hated her right back. They had to pretend to be civil in public. But the tried to kill each other so often that artaxers had set up rules to keep them from pulling it off. When they dined together, he ordered that everything they ate had to be cut in two and shared so that they couldn’t poison each other.

It didn’t work. Parysatis had poison put on one side of a knife and had her servant use it to cut the meat, poisoning the half that went to stateira and keeping her half untainted. It worked, and the kings mother murdered the queen

It was obvious, of course, who was responsible, but Artaxerxes couldn’t bring himself to kill his mother. He had all her servants tortured until they confessed in with a rock. Parysatis, though, was just sent into exile.

(6), chaining dismembered people to gates

It was fairly common in Persia and the nation around it to torture rebels by cutting off their noses and ears. That kind of brutal torture, though, wasn’t always a death sentence. Sometimes, the kept you alive. And sometimes, that was worse than death.

When the people revolted against king Darrius, he made sure everyone knew what would happen if they turned again him again. He rounded up the rebel leaders and cut off their noses, ears and tongues and plucked out one of each of their eye- but he didn’t kill them. Not yet.

The rebel leaders were chained up and bound to the front gate of his castle so that everyone who walked by it would see their mutilated bodies. Their lieutenants meanwhile, were decapitated, and their heads were hung from the top of the city citadel.

They were left there for weeks, being jeered and beaten by everyone who walked by. Staring at the remains of their friends and suffering in excruciating pain. Then when they couldn’t take anymore, they were allowed to die.


(7), making the slaughter your people an annual holiday

In Persia, Zoroastrian priests were called the magi. This didn’t necessarily mean that they had magical powers, they were religious leader. And often one of them got a little overambitious, their jobs became hell.

A magi named smerdis tricked the people into believing he was the son of cyrus the great and got himself crowned as king of Persia. He was actually a great king loved by his people. He introduced tax reforms that made life easy and relaxed the laws on military conscription-but he stole the throne, so naturally, he had to die.

When the people found out, they didn’t stop at murdering smerdis. They ran through the streets of the kingdom, spreading the word and murdering every member of the magi they could find.

When the massacre was over, the people decided to make it an annual event. Once every, the Persians celebrated a holiday called “the slaughter of the magi.” On the anniversary of smerdis death, they would run through the street, and if they caught any magi outside, they would brutally murder them.

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4 Comments on “10 ancient Persian punishments beyond your worst nightmares”

  1. Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a
    sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She
    put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it
    pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know
    this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

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