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The Brazen Bull: The True Story Behind the Horrifying Medieval Device

The Brazen Bull is a terrifying device that was constructed for one of the most horrendous tortures possible
The Brazen Bull is a terrifying device that was constructed for one of the most horrendous tortures possible

The brazen bull is a chilling testament to the creativity and cruelty of humanity. This ancient Greek torture device is known for inducing terror and horror in those who hear its tale. The bull was designed to transform its victims’ screams into the sound of a bull’s bellowing.

With every agonizing moment, the metallic echoes would pierce through the air, sending shivers down the spines of all those who heard them. The brazen bull was a masterpiece of torture, a device so malevolent in its design that it still haunts the imagination.

What Exactly Was a Brazen Bull?

The brazen bull, a monstrous machine of death, was crafted in ancient Greece to strike fear and terror into the hearts of all who saw it. Known by several names, including the bronze bull, Sicilian bull, and bull of Phalaris, this torture device was born out of the twisted imagination of Perilaus, a sinister Athenian inventor.

He proposed the idea to the ruthless tyrant Phalaris of Akragas, Sicily, as a novel way of executing criminals. The hollow bull, made entirely of bronze, was designed in the likeness of an actual bull and equipped with an acoustic device that amplified the screams of its hapless victims, transforming them into the bellowing of a beast.

The unfortunate condemned were locked inside the contraption, subjected to searing heat from the flames beneath, and roasted alive until their screams were silenced forever. Pindar, a renowned poet who lived within a century of this dark chapter in history, explicitly linked the brazen bull to the name of the brutal Phalaris.

The Terrifying Origins of a Brazen Bull

Long ago, in the dark recesses of ancient Greece, the tyrant Phalaris held the seaside city of Akragas in his merciless grip. He wielded absolute power over the wealthy and beautiful metropolis, ruling with an iron fist that crushed any who dared to challenge him. But even the depths of his depravity were not enough to satisfy his twisted desires.

During this time, his court sculptor, Perilaus, revealed to him a new creation – a brass bull that glistened in the flickering light of a roaring fire. This was no mere statue, however. It was a macabre masterpiece, designed with pipes and whistles that transformed the screams of its victims into a haunting melody.

The hollow interior of the bull was a chamber of death, where the condemned were trapped and slowly roasted alive. This brazen bull was a diabolical torture device, a thing of nightmares.

The brazen bull in use

The brazen bull in use

As the flames consumed the body of the doomed victim, their screams echoed through the hollow belly of the brazen bull, emerging as eerie snorts and growls like some perverse symphony of death. Perilaus had designed it to delight the tyrant Phalaris, whose twisted sense of pleasure was fueled by the suffering of others.

And indeed, the brazen bull served its purpose well – becoming the instrument of untold horrors inflicted on countless hapless souls. But the tales of its use are shrouded in mystery and legend, and the truth may never be fully known.

Some say that the first victim of the infernal device was none other than its creator, Perilaus himself – a fitting end to a man who reveled in the agony of others. But the true facts of this monstrous machine of death may be forever lost to time, leaving only the echoes of its victims’ screams to haunt us.

The infamous brazen bull was not just a mere legend but a reality so cruel and barbaric that even Cicero, the great philosopher, and poet, recounted its horrors in his speeches In Verrum. In vivid detail, he described how the tyrant Phalaris delighted in subjecting his victims to the bull’s fiery embrace, burning them alive within its metallic confines.

Cicero even used the symbol of this monstrous device to represent the tyrant’s unfathomable cruelty and pondered whether the people would have been better off under foreign domination than suffering under his brutal reign.

As with any historical account, there are differing perspectives and interpretations. In his speeches, Cicero, an aspiring politician, could have used the brazen bull to portray Phalaris as a despicable villain. Diodorus Siculus, another historian, offered an alternative version of events.

A depiction of how the brazen bull works

A depiction of how the brazen bull works

According to him, Perilaus himself made a dark quip when presenting the brazen bull to Phalaris, stating that it would serve as a suitable punishment for the tyrant himself should he ever be overthrown. While the veracity of both accounts may be questioned, what is clear is the sheer horror of the brazen bull and the twisted minds that conceived of such a torturous device.

Legend has it that upon presenting the brazen bull to Phalaris, Perilaus boasted that the screams of the condemned would be converted into the sweetest, most musical bellowing ever heard. He expected to be rewarded for his invention, but his creation turned against him instead.

Disgusted by Perilaus’s sickening words, Phalaris had him tricked into testing the horn sound system of the bull himself. As soon as Perilaus was locked inside, the flames were kindled, and the tyrant reveled in the sound of his screams.

Just before Perilaus was burnt alive, Phalaris opened the bull’s door and took him out. But he was far from finished. Phalaris then took the doomed sculptor to the top of a hill and pushed him off, ensuring his demise.

As for Phalaris himself, it is said that he met his end in the same brazen bull when Telemachus, the ancestor of Theron, eventually overthrew him.

As history unfolds, there are grim accounts of the brazen bull’s continued use beyond Phalaris and his tyranny. In the hands of the Romans, the infamous torture device was used to extinguish the lives of Christians.

The agonizing death of Saint Eustace, along with his wife and children, was said to be the result of the emperor Hadrian’s use of the brazen bull. Later, during the persecutions of Emperor Domitian, Saint Antipas, the Bishop of Pergamon, was also roasted to death in the bull in AD 92, becoming the first martyr in Asia Minor.

And it’s said that even in AD 287, Emperor Diocletian used the same instrument of terror to burn Pelagia of Tarsus to her death. Though disturbing and gruesome, these accounts serve as a haunting reminder of the depravity that humans can inflict upon each other.

How Were Brazen Bulls Made?

Making a brazen bull was a laborious and intricate process requiring skilled metalworkers and sculptors. The first step in the process was to create a clay model of the bull, which would serve as the template for the bronze casting.

The sculptor would then carefully carve out the details of the bull, such as its muscular body, the intricate patterns on its hide, and the sharp horns.

Once the clay model was complete, it created a mold for the bronze casting. The mold was made by carefully pressing the clay model into a bed of sand or plaster, which would create an impression of the bull. The impression was then filled with molten bronze, which would take on the shape of the bull as it cooled and solidified.

After the bronze casting, the bull would be carefully removed from the mold, and the sculptor would begin refining the details. This involved removing any rough edges or imperfections, polishing the surface to a high shine, and adding additional details, such as the brass pipes and whistles that would create the sound effects.

The inside of the bull was hollowed out to create enough space for a human being to fit inside. The bull needed to be large enough to accommodate a person but not so large that the heat from the fire would be dissipated too quickly.

A Christian being forced into a Brazen Bull

A Christian being forced into a Brazen Bull

The bull was designed to have a door on one side that would allow the victim to be placed inside and locked in.

The final step in constructing the brazen bull was to create a fire pit underneath the bull. This was done by constructing a brick or stone enclosure around the bottom of the bull, leaving enough space for a fire to be built.

The fire would heat the metal of the bull, causing it to become red-hot and turning it into an oven in which the victim would be roasted alive.

In addition to the gruesome design of the brazen bull, it was also equipped with pipes and whistles strategically placed to create sound effects that imitated the bellowing of a real bull.

As the victim was roasted alive, their screams would be amplified and distorted by the pipes and whistles, creating a haunting and terrifying spectacle for the onlookers.

In conclusion, making a brazen bull was a painstaking process that required both technical skill and artistic vision. While it was undoubtedly a masterpiece of engineering and design, its true legacy is horror and cruelty.

The brazen bull remains a chilling reminder of the depths to which humanity can sink when given the power to inflict pain and suffering on others.

Were Brazen Bulls Actually Used in History?

Several historical sources suggest that the brazen bull was a real device used for torture and execution:

  1. The ancient Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote about the brazen bull in his work “Library of History,” written in the 1st century BC. He describes the device’s invention by Perilaus and its use by Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas.
  2. The Roman orator and philosopher Cicero also wrote about the brazen bull in his speeches against Verres, a corrupt Roman governor of Sicily. Cicero used the story of the brazen bull to illustrate the cruelty of Verres and his predecessors, including Phalaris.
  3. The Christian hagiography “The Golden Legend” includes stories of Christian martyrs being burned alive in brazen bulls during the Roman persecutions.
  4. The historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BC, wrote about a similar device used by the Persians called the “brazen vessel.” While not exactly the same as the brazen bull, it was a similar execution device.
  5. The Greek geographer and historian Strabo also wrote about the brazen bull in his work “Geography,” describing it as a “bull of bronze, made with great art and hollow inside, to serve as a receptacle for the victims.”

These historical sources and archaeological evidence of similar devices suggest that the brazen bull was a real invention and was likely used for torture and execution in ancient times.

Are There Any Functioning Brazen Bulls Today?

There are no known surviving examples of brazen bulls in the world today. The Syracusans reportedly destroyed the original brazen bull constructed by Perilaus during their revolt against Phalaris in the 5th century BCE.

Additionally, the brazen bulls reportedly used by the Romans to execute Christians were likely destroyed or lost over time.

A depiction of the brazen bull in the Torture Museum in Bruges, Belgium

A depiction of the brazen bull in the Torture Museum in Bruges, Belgium

There have been some modern recreations of the brazen bull for educational or artistic purposes. Still, these are not functioning torture devices and are typically made from materials other than bronze.

It should be noted that the creation and possession of functioning torture devices are illegal and immoral and should not be attempted.

A Conclusion

As we conclude our exploration of the infamous brazen bull, it is essential to remember the tragic history associated with this gruesome instrument of torture. While the stories of its use may be difficult to verify, the very existence of such a device speaks to the inhumanity that has plagued our past.

But despite the horrors of the past, we can take comfort in the fact that society has evolved and progressed in ways that make such atrocities unthinkable in the modern world.

Our focus today is on creating a more peaceful and just society where human rights are protected, and dignity and respect are upheld for all individuals, regardless of race, religion, or background.

The brazen bull stands as a grim reminder of the cruelty that once existed in the world, but it also serves as a reminder of the progress we have made and the potential for a brighter future.

By educating ourselves about our history and remaining vigilant against past injustices, we can continue to build a better world for ourselves and future generations.

RIP Victims

Next, read about the Story of Joyce Vincent, a woman who wasn’t found dead for three years. Then, about Josef Mengele, the Horrifying Devil Doctor of Auschwitz!


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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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