A Tale of Two Tubs

Plutarch, Artaxerxes (§16):

The torture known as scaphism works something like this. They take up two tubs and make them congruent with each other, and place the person to be punished in the first of them. Then, they place the second tub on top of them and arrange it such that their head, hands, and feet are jutting outward while the rest of the body remains hidden. The person is forced to eat even if they do not wish to, and this compulsion is effected by stinging their eyes. They pour honey mixed with milk into their mouths and spill it all over their face. Then, they permanently fix their eyes toward the sun, and a mass of flies completely blots out the person’s countenance. Inwardly, they are forced to do what people who eat and drink must all eventually do. Various types of worms come to life under the wounds, putrefaction, and the excrement, and under their influence the body of the enclosed is eaten away to the innards. When it is clear that the person is dead, they remove the upper tub and see the ravaged flesh and the swarms of little beasts eating and growing around their guts.

τὸ δὲ σκαφευθῆναι τοιοῦτόν ἐστι· σκάφας δύο πεποιημένας ἐφαρμόζειν ἀλλήλαις λαβόντες, εἰς τὴν ἑτέραν κατακλίνουσι τὸν κολαζόμενον ὕπτιον· εἶτα τὴν ἑτέραν ἐπάγοντες καὶ συναρμόζοντες, ὥστε τὴν κεφαλὴν καὶ τὰς χεῖρας ἔξω καὶ τοὺς πόδας ἀπολαμβάνεσθαι, τὸ δ’ ἄλλο σῶμα πᾶν ἀποκεκρύφθαι, διδόασιν ἐσθίειν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ, κἂν μὴ θέλῃ, προσβιάζονται κεντοῦντες τὰ ὄμματα· φαγόντι δὲ πιεῖν μέλι καὶ γάλα συγκεκραμένον ἐγχέουσιν εἰς τὸ στόμα καὶ κατὰ τοῦ προσώπου καταχέουσιν. εἶτα πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον ἀεὶ στρέφουσιν ἐναντία τὰ ὄμματα, καὶ μυιῶν προσκαθημένων <ὑπὸ> πλήθους πᾶν ἀποκρύπτεται τὸ πρόσωπον. ἐντὸς δὲ ποιοῦντος ὅσα ποιεῖν ἀναγκαῖόν ἐστιν ἐσθίοντας ἀνθρώπους καὶ πίνοντας, εὐλαὶ καὶ σκώληκες ὑπὸ φθορᾶς καὶ σηπεδόνος ἐκ τοῦ περιττώματος ἀναζέουσιν, ὑφ’ ὧν ἀναλίσκεται τὸ σῶμα διαδυομένων εἰς τὰ ἐντός. ὅταν γὰρ ἤδη φανερὸς ᾖ τεθνηκὼς ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἀφαιρεθείσης τῆς ἐπάνω σκάφης ὁρῶσι τὴν μὲν σάρκα κατεδηδεσμένην, περὶ δὲ τὰ σπλάγχνα τοιούτων θηρίων ἑσμοὺς ἐσθιόντων καὶ προσπεφυκότων.

Leave a Reply