Sewing Criminals Into A Sack With Some Animals And Throwing It In A River
Ancient Romans had a knack for coming up with fun new ways of drawing out human suffering. You've probably heard of a little thing called crucifixion, but then there was the punishment for killing a parent or close relative. The condemned would be thrown into a sack containing the members of the Looney Tunes. They called it the poena cullei, which roughly translates to "punishment of the sack" (admittedly, that sounds like it could be something even worse).
Carole Raddato/Wikimedia CommonsEither way, it involves cocks.
Basically, they'd sew you into a leather bag with various live animals, then throw you into the nearest and deepest body of water. Snakes were an early favorite, but documents also mention dogs, monkeys, and roosters. You'd be plunged into a struggle where, regardless of whether you or Foghorn Leghorn won the sack fight, everyone still drowned.
And no, the Romans didn't pick these animals for their comedic value. They believed these crimes "polluted" the community, and animal sacrifices were a way of cleansing it. It was more about appeasing the gods than deterring any monkey-phobic parricidal maniacs lurking about town. These sacrifices would also deny the condemned the "light of heaven and earth," with the snake even adding an infernal symbol. Which honestly makes the punishment that much more metal. Not only did the Romans force you to die a watery death while a monkey ripped your face off, but they also straight up thought they were damning you for all eternity. After a few centuries, they did eventually say, "Hey, maybe this is kind of a bit much," and call it off.
There Was A Play Where An Actor Was Crucified On Stage, Then Eaten By A Bear
Laureolus was a popular Roman play that was a mainstay for two bloody (literally) centuries. Imagine if the people of the year 2195 were still putting on showings of Cats. Of course, Cats didn't have an actor gruesomely slaughtered in front of you, unlike Laureolus.
The play follows a bandit who ends up nailed to a cross -- a plot evocative of the myth of Prometheus, and also of the fact that Romans fucking loved gore. Sometimes they performed the story's climax in pantomime, but often they actually crucified some lucky criminal. But because crucifixions are pretty long and Romans were busy people (they had other crucifixions to attend), they'd speed up the process by unleashing a bear, which would disembowel the protagonist as the audience hooted and hollered. Add an orange hoodie and it's a South Park scene.
Wikimedia CommonsNow we kinda wanna see the same plot twist in a Jesus movie.