Under Roman rule, anyone found guilty of a capital offense was scourged (verberatio) with a flagrum before being crucified. The flagrum was made up of several leather thongs with pieces of bone and metal dispersed throughout the strips. Small lead dumbbells were tied to the leather ends. As the victim was whipped by the Roman lictors, the bone and metal tore into his body, ripping and shredding his flesh.

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Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea (A.D. 263–339) writes that a scourged victim's “veins were laid bare... The very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure” (Epistle of the Church in Smyrna). The highly respected Roman leader Cicero (106–43 B.C.) said the threat of crucifixion oppressed the people. “Even the mere word, cross, must remain far not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts, their eyes, their ears” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Rabirio, V.16).

After the Jewish religious leaders found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, they insisted that Pilate order his crucifixion. According to the Bible, Jesus was stripped of his clothing, and then tied to an upright post. He was beaten by one Roman lictor from his neck to the waist and by another, striking backhanded, from his waist to his ankles. Lictors were expert torturers who beat their victims to near death. They didn't want the victim to die, though, since the terror of crucifixion awaited. Jewish law demanded that no one was to be beaten more than forty times. The Jewish leaders took this very seriously and allowed thirty-nine strikes just in case they miscounted. But the Romans didn't follow any such constraint.

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