Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Brazen bull

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The brazen bull, bronze bull, or Sicilian bull, was a torture and execution device designed

in ancient Greece. According to Diodorus Siculus, recounting the story in Bibliotheca historica,

Perillos of Athens invented and proposed it to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily,

as a new means of executing criminals. The bull was made entirely of bronze, hollow,

with a door in one side. The bull was in the form and size of a real life bull and had

an acoustic apparatus that converted screams into the sound of a bull. The condemned were

locked in the device, and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until the person inside

roasted to death.

Reign of Phalaris

Phalaris commanded that the bull be designed in such a way that its smoke rose in spicy

clouds of incense. The head of the bull was designed with a complex system of tubes and

stops so that the prisoner's screams were converted into sounds like the bellowing of

an infuriated bull. According to legend, when the bull was reopened, the victim's scorched

bones "shone like jewels and were made into bracelets."

Perillos said to Phalaris: "[His screams] will come to you through the pipes as the

tenderest, most pathetic, most melodious of bellowings." Disgusted by these words, Phalaris

ordered its horn sound system to be tested on Perillos himself. When Perillos entered,

he was immediately locked in, and the fire was set, so that Phalaris could hear the sound

of his screams. Before Perillos could die, Phalaris opened the door and took him away.

Perillos believed he would receive a reward for his invention; instead, after freeing

him from the bull, Phalaris threw him from the top of a hill, killing him. Phalaris himself

is said to have been killed in the brazen bull when he was overthrown by Telemachus,

the ancestor of Theron. Possible link to Carthaginian Sacrifice

Scholars link the design of the Brazen Bull to statues of Moloch in which infants were

sacrificed alive within a bronze, calf-headed statue of the deity by being placed on the

hands of the statue and sliding down into the bronze furnace. The noises of the child's

screams were often drowned out by drumming and dancing, since the sacrificial altars

did not have the pipes system that the Brazen Bull had. The practices of the city of Tophet

are also cited by scholars to be the inspiration for the Brazen Bull because of Akragas' Carthaginian

roots. The story of the bull cannot be dismissed

as pure invention. Pindar, who lived less than a century afterwards, expressly associates

this instrument of torture with the name of the tyrant.

Carthaginian capture and Roman restoration

Roman persecution of Christians The Romans were reputed to have used this

torture device to kill some Jews, as well as some Christians, notably Saint Eustace,

who, according to Christian tradition, was roasted in a brazen bull with his wife and

children by Emperor Hadrian. The same happened to Saint Antipas, Bishop of Pergamon during

the persecutions of Emperor Domitian and the first martyr in Asia Minor, who was roasted

to death in a brazen bull in AD 92. The device was still in use two centuries later, when

another Christian, Pelagia of Tarsus, is said to have been burned in one in 287 by the Emperor

Diocletian. The Catholic Church discounts the story of

Saint Eustace's martyrdom as "completely false".

Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse According to the Chronica caesaraugustana,

Burdunellus, a Roman usurper, was roasted in a brazen bull by the king Alaric II in

497. See also

Iron maiden Torture chamber

References Notes


External links Media related to Bronze Bull at Wikimedia

Commons Phalaris

The Description of Brazen bull