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A Torturous Reputation


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#1 Ricker

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Posted 05 January 2005 - 10:28 AM

The medieval period has a reputation for torture and the creation of torture devices. Many would think, for example, that the Iron Maiden was invented during the medieval period, even though it was not invented until much later.

Why do you think that the Middle Ages has this association with torture?


#2 Dawn

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 02:07 PM

Because there is so little that is common knowlegdge about the time and because most of what is has been supplied by Hollywood - not the most reliable source

#3 Tzimisces

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 05:33 PM

Dawn is right, of course.
We all have a highly romanticised view of the Middle Ages and we tend to imagine medieval life as a sequence of either heroic or abominable deeds, knights in shining armour fighting the evil, or hooded monks in dark dungeons torturing the innocent.
Popular culture enforces this view, and films and books will only tell us about the “exiting” bits of life in the Middle Ages, and the gory and gothic atmospheres of medieval torture chambers make good story lines.
But most everyday life was probably as boring and profane as ours is now, and torture was only one aspect of it, as it is now.
Ask anybody in Western Europe or North America, what comes to mind when speaking of torture, and surely the answer will be the Spanish Inquisition, Iron Maidens and dungeons, something that happened centuries ago.
But I’m sure if you ask people in South America, Africa or Asia, he might tell you about the atrocities committed by the current military dictator or warlord, and about electrodes on testicles or cigarette burns and so on, something that happens here and now.
We in the Northern hemisphere seems to have that incredibly arrogant view of our age as so more civilized and enlightened as the Middle Ages, when all the evidence speaks against it.
Let’s take a country like Iraq, I’m sure there is a uninterrupted history of torture from the Sumerian civilization, via the Persians, Arabs, Turks, Saddam Hussein right up to the American occupying forces (to name only a few rulers of this unlucky country). Methods might have changed slightly, but I’m even not sure about this.
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#4 hobilar

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 04:04 AM

Historically. In England (at least) torture during the early medieval period was mainly used to ensure that Witnesses would actually turn up before the magistrates to give their evidence. Seems a bit odd today that the victim of a crime should be tortured to give evidence against a criminal, but there was so much absenteeism that the Norman Lords found this to be the best way to ensure justice.
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#5 Brasko

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 12:39 PM

The reason is spanish inquisition. An institution that nas neither spanish nor medieval.

#6 jones89

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 07:12 AM

I'll re-start this discussion too!

The Christian Saint Dominic essentially founded the Inquisition (from what I understand) in his battling of the Cathar heresy in France through preaching. He was the founder of the Dominican religious order too. The Church at the time allowed torture in order to get information from heretics or to get them to confess. They could use any torture instrument as long as it did not draw blood or endanger life, although they occassionaly did both of these things.

So associating torture with the medieval period is fair enough, but the founding of torture is as old as time, and the oldest forms of torture are actually far worse than the medieval methods - some methods taking days or weeks, which was not very common in the medieval era at all.

The Spanish Inquisition came after this, which I will admit I know nothing about...
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#7 Erik

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Posted 20 January 2008 - 11:51 PM

Because there is so little that is common knowlegdge about the time and because most of what is has been supplied by Hollywood - not the most reliable source

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I think that we give Hollywood too much credit. Before movies, there was a prejudice that classical [Roman] civilisation was an ideal condition that degenerated into barbarous northern savagery only to be redeemed by the rebirth [Renaissance] of classical culture. This overlooks Roman enslavement of every population they could reach and Roman roads lined with people nailed to crosses. It overlooks the mass burnings of religious dissenters in the early years of the reformation which was also the beginning of the Renaissance. The Inquisition with its torture chambers went into high gear under the patronage of Queen Isabella of Spain in the year of the discovery of America. The mediaeval experience, that included the burning alive of Cathars, the torture of Saxons by Normans to gain access to hidden treasure, and the occasional burning of heretics is still small potatoes in comparison.
Incidentally, the burning and torture of witches was quite rare in the Middle Ages but terrorized whole populations in the Renaissance and 'the Age of Reason.

In our own time, waterboarding was torture when the Inquisition practised it and when the Gestapo practised it but suddenly, under the Bush administration, it isn't torture any more.

Edited by Erik, 20 January 2008 - 11:53 PM.


#8 Wulfwynn

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 05:31 PM

Erik:

You're right that going after "heretics" and witches was more of a Renaissance/Reformation than a medieval one, though torture, in some cases, was accepted in medieval times. It wssn't as common as a lot of people suppose, though. As for the Spanish Inquisition, which was a truly horrific institution, it, too, was more or a product of post-medieval times than medieval ones. BTW, the Spanish Inquisition, though a sort of offshoot of what the Vatican then called the Holy Office, was in fact a separate institution, and pretty much independent of Vatican control. For this reason, it was feared almost everywhere it reached(which was pretty much everywhere Spain was able to reach at the time). It was only abolished in the early 1800's(can't remember the exact date), when reform minded Spaniards decided to get "modern".
Anne G

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I think that we give Hollywood too much credit. Before movies, there was a prejudice that classical [Roman] civilisation was an ideal condition that degenerated into barbarous northern savagery only to be redeemed by the rebirth [Renaissance] of classical culture. This overlooks Roman enslavement of every population they could reach and Roman roads lined with people nailed to crosses. It overlooks the mass burnings of religious dissenters in the early years of the reformation which was also the beginning of the Renaissance. The Inquisition with its torture chambers went into high gear under the patronage of Queen Isabella of Spain in the year of the discovery of America. The mediaeval experience, that included the burning alive of Cathars, the torture of Saxons by Normans to gain access to hidden treasure, and the occasional burning of heretics is still small potatoes in comparison.
Incidentally, the burning and torture of witches was quite rare in the Middle Ages but terrorized whole populations in the Renaissance and 'the Age of Reason.

In our own time, waterboarding was torture when the Inquisition practised it and when the Gestapo practised it but suddenly, under the Bush administration, it isn't torture any more.



#9 peter

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 11:35 PM

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I think that we give Hollywood too much credit. Before movies, there was a prejudice that classical [Roman] civilisation was an ideal condition that degenerated into barbarous northern savagery only to be redeemed by the rebirth [Renaissance] of classical culture. This overlooks Roman enslavement of every population they could reach and Roman roads lined with people nailed to crosses. It overlooks the mass burnings of religious dissenters in the early years of the reformation which was also the beginning of the Renaissance. The Inquisition with its torture chambers went into high gear under the patronage of Queen Isabella of Spain in the year of the discovery of America. The mediaeval experience, that included the burning alive of Cathars, the torture of Saxons by Normans to gain access to hidden treasure, and the occasional burning of heretics is still small potatoes in comparison.
Incidentally, the burning and torture of witches was quite rare in the Middle Ages but terrorized whole populations in the Renaissance and 'the Age of Reason.

In our own time, waterboarding was torture when the Inquisition practised it and when the Gestapo practised it but suddenly, under the Bush administration, it isn't torture any more.



I also think that we have just evolved a little as human beings. We don't burn witches at the stake anymore either. But when you are trying to find a means to the end with an enemy...could get frustrating if you don't think of something.
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#10 tubalcain

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 01:47 PM

I also think that we have just evolved a little as human beings. We don't burn witches at the stake anymore either. But when you are trying to find a means to the end with an enemy...could get frustrating if you don't think of something.
:knight: :)


That would depend on the level of intelligence and awareness of the torturer and the victim. Physical torture to force a confession for example or mental torture to then reward a confession.Old versus New.Same result.

#11 Erik

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 05:18 PM

I also think that we have just evolved a little as human beings. We don't burn witches at the stake anymore either. But when you are trying to find a means to the end with an enemy...could get frustrating if you don't think of something.
:knight: :)


True. Especially frustrating when you are trying to force a population to accept foreign exploitation involving money. Torture works. A suspected terrorist in the Phillipines was made to admit blame for the Oklahoma City bombing. A curious situation in the US right now. Americans so horrified at seeing the torture of a helpless man by a Middle Eastern prince that they want to sever relations with his country, while they don't get to see even worse photographs of US torturers because it could give a bad impression of America. Hypocracy lives on.

#12 question

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 02:19 AM

I just want to check re torture in medieval England - did it exist?

Ian Mortimer's Time Travel book for Medieval England says it was ilegal!!

Pls advise!



#13 Melisende

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 05:30 PM

Torture is medieval times was prevalent.  It was more of a "last resort" as it was frowned upon by the Church - even under the Inquisition it was initially forbidden!

 

 

You can access our previous topics on the subject below:

edieval Punishment, Death & Torture: http://www.shadowedr...ure/?hl=torture

Medieval Torture: http://www.shadowedr...ure/?hl=torture

 

 

External Links:

Top 10 Gruesome Medieval Torture Devices: http://listverse.com...orture-devices/

Middles Ages Torture: http://www.middle-ag...ges-torture.htm

Medieval Torture: http://www.medievalw...nfo/torture.htm

 

Suggested Reading:

Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature: Negotiations of National Identity  By Larissa Tracy

Law and the Illicit in Medieval Europe  edited by Ruth Mazo Karras, Joel Kaye, E. Ann Matter

Medieval Law and Punishment  By Donna Trembinski

The Big Book of Pain: Torture and Punishment Through History by Mark P. Donnelly & Daniel Diehl

 

Torture and Rights  By Lisa Hajjar

The Inner Lives of Medieval Inquisitors  By Karen Sullivan


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