CRUCIFIXION – a quick history
Crucifixion, contrary to what many people think, was not original to the Romans. They just made it vastly more popular, or unpopular might be a better way to put it.
Historians are actually not sure who invented crucifixion. It is perhaps derived from the ancient Assyrian practice of impalement where criminals or captured enemies were pierced through the body by upright rods and left to die.
Crucifixion is first mentioned among the Persians. About 519 BC Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political opponents in Babylon. It was later employed by the Greeks, especially Alexander the Great. In 332 BC Alexander had 2,000 survivors from the siege of Tyre crucified along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
Crucifixion was unheard of among the Jews during Old Testament times, and the Jews themselves never practiced it, although in the Old Testament the corpses of blasphemers or idolaters who were punished by stoning might be hanged “on a tree” as further humiliation (Deut. 21:23). Crucifixion was not introduced into Palestine until Hellenistic (Greek) times.
The Romans picked up the practice and used it as a punishment for slaves and non-citizens. One of the many benefits of citizenship was that you could not be crucified, with the exception of those who had committed treason and therefore lost their citizenship privileges. That’s why the Apostle Paul was beheaded and not crucified–he was a citizen of Rome. During the time of Emperor Caligula, from AD 37-41, Jews were tortured and crucified in the amphitheater to entertain the inhabitants of Alexandria. Christians met the same fate during their times of persecution. Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, finally put an end to crucifixion in 337 AD.