OJCL Torch Winter 2019 | Page 21

Whips Whip: noun, an instrument consisting usually of a handle and lash forming a flexible rod that is used for whipping (Merriam Webster). The whip evolved from a humble spiny branch to a meticulously crafted leather work of art, thanks to the Romans. Used for torture and displays of strength, the ferula, scutica, and flagrum (also called flagellum) were all specialized for physical punishment and known as the standard whip. The ferula, literally rod, was the most basic of the three, just a short leather strap. Then, there was the moderate whip, the scutica, made from twisted parchment thongs. Finally, the flagrum, the most wicked whip was a ghastly melding of lashes and sharp metal points or bone shards. All three were short whips. However, despite how deadly these whips could be, none were used to kill. Flagrum were also known as scorpia because the effect of its blows was similar to being bitten by a scorpion. A strike would deal permanent damage, leaving wicked scars. The most well-known flagrum of today is the cat-o-nine-tails, a whip made of nine leather lashes each boasting its own cutting weight at the ends crafted from various metal balls and bone shards. To use it, one needed to possess considerable strength, extensive skill, and a showman’s flair. Technically, no Roman citizen could be tortured or whipped unless found guilty of treason. However, Romans found many Alicia Luo, Sycamore excuses to whip people. Some tutors even beat their students when they couldn’t answer questions correctly. Punishment by whip was also divided into three levels: fustigatio, flagellatio, and verberatio. Fustigatio was for minor offences, a mild beating followed by a warning. Flagellatio, where we get the word “flagellation,” was for criminal acts, and involved more severe beatings. Verberatio, the highest degree of beating, was commonly a prelude to crucifiction. By law, flogging had to precede an execution though women, senators, and soldiers who weren’t deserters were exempt. Lictors would tie up stripped men to a post and, usually in pairs, whip from the back to legs. Full force strikes tore through skin, painstakingly making their way to skeletal muscles transforming them into bleeding, quivering chunks of flesh. Pain and blood loss led to shock, so many people fainted before their executions, and victims were often taunted. There was also a law that stated that people could not be given more than 40 lashes though it often was not followed. Whips, according to Martial, also made great Saturnalia gifts. So, whether by beautiful, decorative rarely used whips or simple, cruel and effective whips giving out punishment in the names of discipline and justice, Romans enhanced a legacy of whips and whipping that continues to today.