If the world seems like a more violent and brutal place these days, well, that's because your history class left out a bunch of shit, probably due to your teacher not wanting to give you PTSD. Oh sure, you know that history is full of wars and oppression and such. We're not talking about that -- we're talking about powerful and wealthy people who did things so nightmarish that if you saw them in a movie, you'd think the writer was a psychopath. For example ...
5 Phalaris of Acragas Roasted People Alive In a Hollow Bull Statue
Phalaris of Acragas was a pretty effective leader; he built his city-state into a prosperous, well-equipped place to raise a family. In theory, this makes his dominion one of the best spots to crash-land when your homemade time machine inevitably breaks down and leaves you stranded in the 6th century BCE. In practice, it would take roughly 0.2 seconds for Phalaris to give the order to roast your ass alive in a metal torture chamber shaped like a bull.
Phalari (the elected dictator of Acragas - now Agrigento - Sicily between 570 and 554 BC) is a perfect example of mankind's oldest dilemma: do you tolerate a capable leader if said leader also enjoys doling out sadistic torture every now and then? His favorite method was known as the brazen bull. This hollow bull statue was presented to him by a Greek artist named Perillos. The bull had a trapdoor installed in the belly, so the condemned could be shut inside the statue, and a roaring fire would be lit underneath. As the metal heated, the person trapped inside would be gradually roasted to death. To literally add insult to injury, the bull's mouth featured an acoustic device that would convert the victim's screams to a low, drawn-out sound not unlike the mooing of Satan's own livestock.
As depicted here:
Unfortunately for Perillos, he failed to realize that personally handing a new, ingenious torture/execution device to a bloodthirsty dictator with weak impulse control might be a poor life decision. As soon as Phalaris was given his new toy, he demanded a demonstration from the artist himself -- and by that, we mean he locked Perillos within the contraption. As its maker's screams would soon demonstrate, the bull worked exactly as advertised, so Phalaris had Perillos rescued from the bull ... only to have him immediately thrown off a cliff to his death.
This incident kick-started a long string of fatal roastings. For the remainder of his reign, Phalaris stuffed victim after victim inside the brazen bovine, to the hearty enjoyment of none but himself. Meanwhile, his subjects were presumably turned off of barbecue parties forever.
"What smells delicious in here? Oh, it's me!"
Fortunately, this nasty situation was not destined to last, and Phalaris eventually found out that citizen roasts tend to come with a huge side order of karma. The tyrant was eventually overthrown by the inevitable uprising of the people, and according to some historians, his successor saw no better punishment than to stuff Phalaris himself in his prized metal cow.
4 Emperor Tiberius Enjoyed Dick-Themed Executions and Fish Attacks
Emperor Tiberius ruled Rome before his great-nephew Caligula took over. As a result, Tiberius' time in power is generally overshadowed by the horse-worshiping reign of batshittery that followed. It's unfair, really, because ol' Tibe was a perfectly capable insane supervillain himself. In order to establish this, let's consider a torture technique he pioneered: he had people's dicks tied with lute strings so they couldn't pee, then forced them to drink copious amounts of wine until their bladder eventually burst.
Yeah, Tiberius was that kind of guy.
Angelo Minghetti/Wiki Commons
Looks nice enough.
As such, making an enemy out of the emperor was generally seen as even worse news than usual. And anyone could make an enemy out of him -- when Tiberius noticed that his grandsons Nero (not that Nero -- the Romans just had, like, four possible male names) and Drusus were gaining popularity, Tiberius started a smear campaign that culminated in him declaring them enemies of the state. According to some historians, he then started dropping tactful hints in the form of a goddamn executioner standing outside Nero's window with a noose and a bunch of nasty hooks, until the grandson got the message and committed suicide to avoid inevitable dick-bondage. Well, that or they straight up executed him. Either way, Grandfather of the Year awards all around, Tiberius.
Drusus had even less luck. After a lengthy imprisonment, Tiberius simply stopped feeding him, until the starving man was forced to eat his own bedding to ward off death for a few more hours. He lasted nine days.
Andersen Ross/Blend Images/Getty Images
Who doesn't love breakfast in bed?
Even the Emperor'sactual friends weren't any safer. Once, Tiberius invited a friend from Rhodes to hang around, only to completely forget the invitation by the time the guy arrived. Not being the kind of man to bother remembering faces, Tiberius' reaction was to mistake the friend for a random informant and put him to torture.
Random acts of wanton cruelty were also par for the course. During one of Tiberius' visits to the countryside, a humble fisherman got the idea to show his affection for his leader by presenting him with a large, freshly-caught carp. The emperor responded by ordering his guards to seize the poor man and scrub his face raw with the fish's sharp scales, because Emperor Tiberius damn well prescribes to the cartoon notion that faces can simply be erased if you don't like them, thank you so very much. When the battered fisherman remarked that he was glad he hadn't offered the emperor a giant crab he'd caught earlier, Tiberius promptly ordered his guards to fetch said crab from the man's house.
Jeffrey Hamilton/Photodisc/Getty Images
It's, uh, probably for the better that the story abruptly cuts off there.