What appears to be a suspension on a Roman execution pole.
Note at this angle the sedile / acuta crux would be discreetly hidden.The suspended male would be damn lucky to be able put his legs together.
(Part 7g of the series: Crucifixion the Bodily Support)
Justin Martyr on the Acuta Crux (Part 6)
In the first part previous I’ve shown how Justin Martyr brings up the figure of the σταυρός (staurós) or τρόπαιον (trópaion) and how it related to a flurry of cross and ‘T’ shaped objects, one of which definitely had an attachment that could be relate to the σκόλοψ (skólops) or acuta crux that was attached to the front of the execution pole. In the second part I showed Justin telling Antoninus Pius how the Jews sat Jesus in proper position on what he, Justin, called a βήματος (bêmatos), that is, a judgment seat, although it’s impossible to tell if that seat was also the sedilis excessu of the execution pole that turned it into a Priapus stake. In the third part I noted the peculiarity of Justin's comparison of a person who is undergoing the suspension of the σταυρός and the roasting of the Passover Lamb: because the Lamb was suspended by its front paws from a horizontal wooden beam, and impaled on a wooden spit from the hindquarters right up to the mouth, as if the acuta crux Jesus was subjected to was a regular impaling stake! In the fourth I showed how early Christians took a verse of overthrowing Jeremiah’s tree and the fruit thereof into a prophecy about how wood was caused to go onto the body of Jesus, or into his body, or both. And in the fifth I showed how Justin’s accusation to the Jewish Trypho that the Jewish religious authorities extirpated the words “from the wood” out of the 96th Psalm works in favor of the Cross of Jesus Christ having had a short impaling spike meant for the crucified to sit on.
Horns of the Unicorn
Now this is a coup de grâce in favor of what type of σταυρός (staurós) / crux was typically used in the Second Century CE. For Justin Martyr talks of one that is “assembled” out of the “horns” of a “unicorn.”
And God by Moses shows in another way the force of the mystery of the cross, when He said in the blessing wherewith Joseph was blessed, 'From the blessing of the Lord is his land; for the seasons of heaven, and for the dews, and for the deep springs from beneath, and for the seasonable fruits of the sun, and for the coming together of the months, and for the heights of the everlasting mountains, and for the heights of the hills, and for the ever-flowing rivers, and for the fruits of the fatness of the earth; and let the things accepted by Him who appeared in the bush come on the head and crown of Joseph. Let him be glorified among his brethren; his beauty is [like] the firstling of a bullock; his horns the horns of an unicorn: with these shall he push the nations from one end of the earth to another.' (Deuteronomy 33:13-17)
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 91 (emphasis mine) 1
In the cited passage, the Septuagint renders “unicorn” as μονοκέρωτος (monokérôtos) and the Latin Vulgate returns rhinocerotis “of a rhinoceros”. 2 Ah! Now we are getting somewhere. For Pliny makes mention of a monoceros or unicorn in his treatise on the terrestrial animals of India (NH 8.18.31). He notes that it appeared to have the body of a horse, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a wild boar, and the head of a stag where from the middle of the forehead, rises a single black horn, 2 cubits (3 feet or 90 cm) in length. 3 Now this description does not come close to the unicorn of Medieval myth, but comes closer to the Indian rhinoceros (rhinoceros unicornis), although apparently through a 4,000 mile long game of Chinese Whispers (Telephone). 4 So, then, Justin Martyr appears to be dealing with a rhinoceros here.
|Rhinoceros unicornis. Credit: Krish Dulal, Wikipedia.|
And of course, Justin Martyr uses these examples as figures of the typical Roman execution pole! For he says the horns of the unicorn can be not found anywhere except in the figure of a σταυρός (staurós):
Now, no one could say or prove that the horns of an unicorn represent any other fact or figure than the type which portrays the cross. For the one beam is placed upright, from which the highest extremity is raised up into a horn, when the other beam is fitted on to it, and the ends appear on both sides as horns joined on to the one horn. And the part which is fixed in the centre, on which are suspended those who are crucified, also stands out like a horn; and it also looks like a horn conjoined and fixed with the other horns.
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 91 (emphasis mine) 1, 5
“And that part which is fixed in the centre” (καί τό ἐν τῷ μέσῳ πηγνύμενον (kaí tó en méso pêgnúmenon)) (1) indicates there was a part of the Roman execution pole which was fixed onto the middle of the apparatus as an attachment.
“On which are suspended those who are crucified” (ἐφ᾽ ᾧ ἐποχοῦνται οἱ σταυρούμενοι (ef’ w epoxountai oi stauroúmenoi) ). (2) It should be noted here that the Greek ἐποχοῦνται and σταυρούμενοι are both in the famous / infamous medium, and this alternative infamous meaning, “on which ‘ride’ those who are ‘crucifying’ themselves” is just as valid as the famous meaning rendered in the New Advent translation quoted above. And the riding was not like riding a horizontal or slightly-upwards turned peg like one rides horse or a bicycle, as Victorian-era scholars thought 6, 7, 8 and many of those since then think, but ‘riding’ the way a bottom would in same-sex anal intercourse – epigraphy proves it.
|Pozzuoli Graffito. This poor bugger was literally riding a thorn!|
Notice he says “those who are crucified.” Of course, the Greek verb includes impalement as well (see FdVR post Σταυρόω), so to any non-Christian reader back then, like Trypho, would understand that Justin Marytr sees this sort of crucifixion-impalement as the typical means, or the Roman ‘standard’ of executionary suspension.
It “also stands out like a horn.” (ὡς κέρας καί αὐτό ἐξέχον ἐστιν (ôs kéras kaí autó exéchon estin)) (3) The Greek translates literally as, “and the same is standing out / projecting as a horn.” Well what kind of horn? The horn of the monokeros plinii or rhinoceros unicornis, that’s what. And when one is forced to ‘ride’ one, it is frightful and nasty!
It should be noted here that the New Advent English translation has the above two phrase out-of order: in the Greek and Latin the phrase “and the same is projecting like a horn” precedes “on which are suspended / ‘ride’ those who are crucified / pile-driving themselves.” 5
“And it also looks like a horn conjoined and fixed with those other horns.” (καί βλέπεται ὡς κέρας καί αὐτό σύν τοῖς ἄλλοις κέρασι συνεσχηματισμένον καί πεπηγμένον (kaí blépetai ôs kéras kaí autó sún tois állois kérasi sunêschematisménon kaí pepêgménon)) (4) Actually, since the participle πεπηγμένον covers the sense of having been assembled and conjoined, as well as fixed, the word συνεσχηματισμένον should refer to its other meaning, to avoid being redundant: “having been altogether, completely formed, fashioned, shaped in accordance with a horn” because that is what the extant epigraphy indicates.
Vivat Crux Graffito, Pompeii, 79 CE.
Note the horn – this is no evidence of Christianity!
Brought out from an on-line image of the Pozzuoli. (See n. 9)
So the last sentence, which is the critical one to determine what sort of σταυρός (staurós) / crux Justin Martyr assumed Jesus was suspended on and was typically used in the Second Century CE. And properly arranged and translated, the English would read as follows:
And that which is fixed in the middle, and itself is projecting out just as a horn, on which are carried those who are crucified / impaled (or: on which ‘ride’ those who are ‘crucifying’ / pile-driving themselves). And it even looks like a horn, having been skillfully shaped and conjoined / fixed with those other horns.
And so Justin Martyr understands the typical Roman gear of executionary suspension of the mid Second century CE to be a Priapus stake! And it was called a σταυρός (staurós), a crux, by the Ancients. But when Constantine made Christianity a state religion in 325 CE and abolished the penalty of the Priapus stake in 337 CE, it quickly mutated into a simple two-beam Latin cross, or tropaeum.
Next: Line-by-line breakdown of Justin Martyr’s description of the cross, with three Latin translations!
Greek and Latin Word Definitions.
1. μονοκέρωτος (monokérôtos) noun singular nominative genitive of μονοκέρως (monokérôs) “with but one horn.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
(1) "and that which is fixed in the centre."
2. καί (kaí): conjunction, “and, also.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
3. τό (tó): article singular neuter nominative, “that one.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
4. ἐν (en): preposition, c. w/ dat, “in, upon, onto.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
5. τῷ (tw): article singular masculine or neuter dative, “the.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
6. μέσῳ (mésô): noun singular masculine or neuter dative, “centre, middle, midpoint.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
7. πηγνύμενον (pêgnúmenon): participle singular present passive masculine nominative, “being fixed, attached.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
(2) "upon which are suspended those who are crucified."
1. ἐφ᾽ (ep’): preposition, c. w/ dat., “upon, onto.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
2. ᾧ (w): pronoun singular masculine or neuter dative, “which.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
3. ἐποχοῦνται (epoxountai): verb third person plural indicative middle, of ἐποχέομαι (epoxéomai) “be carried, ride,” which appears to be the first person medium-passive counterpart of the active verb ἐποχεύω (epoxeúô) “of the male animal: spring upon, cover, (in the medium) couple with.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, ἐποχέομαι, ἐποχεύω; BGI Verb Ending Chart, Link. (Note: medium = middle)
4. οἱ (oi): pronoun plural masculine nominative, “those.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
5. σταυρούμενοι (stauroúmenoi): participle plural present middle-passive masculine nominative, “being fenced with pales, pile-driven, impaled, crucified [or actively doing the same to themselves!].” IBG Verb Ending Chart, Link. Perseus Word Study Tool, Link. See also FdVR post Σταυρόω.
(3) "also stands out like a horn."
1. ὡς (ôs): adverb, “as, according as, like, just as.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
2. κέρας (kéras): noun singular neuter accusative, “a horn.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
3. καί (kaí): adverbial conjunction, “also, even.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
4. αὐτό (autó): pronoun single neuter nominative, “the same, itself.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
5. ἐξέχον (exéchon): participle singular present active neuter nominative, “standing out, projecting from, being prominent.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
6. ἐστιν (estin): verb third person singular present indicative active, “is.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
(4) “And it also looks like a horn conjoined and fixed with those other horns.”
1. καί (kaí): conjunction, “and, also.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
2. βλέπεται (blépetai): verb third person singular present indicative medium-passive, “looks, appears.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
3. ὡς (ôs): adverb, “as, according as, like, just as.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
4. κέρας (kéras): noun singular neuter accusative, “a horn.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
5. καί (kaí): conjunction, adverb, “and, also, even.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
6. αὐτό (autó): pronoun single neuter nominative, “the same, itself.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
7. σύν (sún): preposition, c. w/ dat., “with, along with, together with.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
8. τοῖς (tois): article plural neuter dative, “the, those.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
9. ἄλλοις (állois): adjective plural neuter dative, “other.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
10. κέρασι (kérasi): noun plural neuter dative, “horns.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
11. συνεσχηματισμένον (sunêschematisménon): participle singular perfect middle-passive neuter nominative, “having been given a certain form, formed, fashioned, arranged” + “with, along with, altogether, completely.” From σύν- (sún-) and σχηματίζω (schêmatízô) Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link1, Link2, IBG Verb Ending Chart, Link. Compare with conformatum “having been formed, fashioned, shaped symmetrically or skillfully,” used in the Latin translation.
12. καί (kaí): conjunction “and, also.”
13. πεπηγμένον (pepêgménon): participle singular perfect middle-passive neuter nominative, “having been fixed, compacted, planted, fastened together, fitted together, constructed, built.” Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, Link.
Text References and Notes.
1. New Advent.org, Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 91, Link.
2. New Advent.org, Bible, Deuteronomy 33, Link.
3. Pliny, Historia Naturalis 8.31, “The Terrestrial Animals of India,” portion quoted below, Link. Cf. 18.29, “The Rhinoceros,” Link.
In India et boves solidis ungulis, unicorns… (Orsaei Indi simias candentes toto corpore venantur) – asperrimam autem feram monocerotem, reliquo corpore equo simile, capite cervo, pedibus elephant, cauda apro, mugitu gravi, uno cornu nigro media fronte cubitorum duum eminente. Hanc feram vivant negant capi.
“The Orsaeans hunt down… a very fierce animal called the monoceros, which has the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, and the tail of a boar, whilst the rest of the body is like that of a horse; it makes a deep lowing noise, and has a single black horn, which projects from the middle of its forehead, two cubits in length. This animal, it is said, cannot be taken alive.”
4. Wikipedia, Indian Rhinoceros. Link.
5. Documenta Catholica Omnia, Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone Judaeo 91, PDF p. 111-112, cols. 692, 693 (Greek), cols. 691, 694 (Latin) . Link. The side-by-side Greek and Latin texts of the critical sentences are as follows:
Greek: καί τό ἐν τῷ μέσῳ πηγνύμενον ὡς κέρας καί αὐτό ἐξέχον ἐστιν, ἐφ᾽ ᾧ ἐποχοῦνται οἱ σταυρούμενοι. καί βλέπεται ὡς κέρας καί αὐτό σύν τοῖς ἄλλοις κέρασι συνεσχηματισμένον καί πεπηγμένον.
Transliteration: kaí tó en méso pêgnúmenon ôs kéras kaí autó exéchon estin, ef’ w epoxountai oi stauroúmenoi. kaí blépetai ôs kéras kaí autó sún tois állois kérasi sunêschematisménon kaí pepêgménon.
Latin: Et illud quod in medio figitur, ut ei insideant qui crucifiguntur, ipsum etiam veluti quoddam cornu eminet, et cornu speciem exhibit cum aliis cornibus conformatum et fixum.
6. Smith, William, LLD; Wayte, William, G. E. Marindin, Ed., A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), “CRUX” (Link):
It was impossible that the whole weight of the body should rest upon the nails; hence there was a piece of wood projecting from the stipes on which the sufferer sat, or rather rode (κέρας ἐφ᾽ ᾦ ἐποχοῦνται οἱ σταυρούμενοι, Just. Mart. Dial. c. Tryph. 91; sedilis excessus, Tertull. adv. Nat. 1.12; cf. Iren. adv. Haer. 1.12). The expression acuta si sedeam cruce, in the famous lines of Maecenas ap. Sen. Ep. 101, probably refers to this support, and not, as Lipsius thought, to impalement (see Archd. Farrar in Dict. of the Bible, s. v. Cross). when it was wanting, the body was probably sustained by ropes….
7. Fulda, Hermann, Das Kreuz und die Kreuzigung, Breslau (1878), p. 151, pgh. :
“4) Das Sedile.  Vielmehr hatte das Kreuz fuer starke Personen und wenn man den Verurtheilten nicht anbinden, sondern annageln wollte, zur Unterstuetzung seiner Last ohngefaehr in der Mitte des Balkens, wie schon gesagt, einen hervorragenden, starken Pflock, auf welchen der dem Gesetz Verfallene vor seiner Anheftung gehoben wurde; daher den die Ausdruecke “auf das Kreuz setzen, oder darauf sitzen” vorkommen, wenn sie nicht an vielen Stellen das Spiessen bezeichnen, was selten zu entscheiden ist. S. S 15. – Jener Pflock diente dann nicht bloss zur Erleichterung des ganzen Verfahrens, sondern er hinterte auch das allzuschnelle Herabfallen des Leichnams, wenn die Flechsen der Haende anfingen zu verderben, und der Last allein nicht mehr widerstanden; und ueberdiess konnte er noch zu einer schmerzhaften Vermehrung der Quaelereien eingerichtet warden. S. S 22. – Am wunderlichsten hat sich Lipsius geirrt, das ser aus allen mit grosser Belesenheit herbei gezogenen Stellen, so deutlich sie redden, dennoch jenen oft gebrauchten Sitz nicht merkt. Er geht dicht um die Sache herum, und quaelt und kreuzigt sich selbst mit Conjecturen. ( S. de Cr. 1, 10)
My rough translation: 4. The Sedile.  Rather the cross had for strong people and if you wanted to nail the condemned not but bind him, but rather to support his weight in the middle of the bar on an excellent, strong peg on which was lifted the one sentenced by law before his fixation; therefore the expressions "to put on the cross, or to sit on it" if they do not designate the skewers in many places, which is rare to decide. (See Sect. 15.) -That stake served not only to facilitate the entire process, but it hindered the all too fast falling of the corpse if the sinews of hands began to tear and alone no longer resisted the weight; and besides it could be a painful increase in the torments furnished. (See Sect. 22.) – most remarkably was Lipsius mistaken, that these out of all points drawn with great erudition, so clearly it reads, nevertheless he does not notice that often required seat. He beats around the bush [lit.: he is tightly around the thing], and tortures and crucifies himself with conjectures! (See de Cruce 1.10)
8. Ibid. p. 161, pgh. : Fulda is describing some kind of peg which turned upwards to some degree which had a point at the end or a sharpened ridge so that when the crucified rode the thing, it impaled his genitals or cut his perineum.
Im Fall man den Verurtheilten annagelte, musste er, wie oben gezeigt wurde, auf einem Pfahl in der Mitte des Kreuzes reitend sitzen zu seiner Erleichterung, und um der fuerchterlichen Ausdehnung durch das Gewicht seines Koerpers vorzubeugen (s. S 20.5); auch diese Linderung seiner Leiden konnte man ihm wieder verderben, indem man dem Pflock eine etwas aufwaerts gekehrte Richtung gab, und ihn spitzig zuschnitt, um so mit der Kreuzigung eine Art von Spiessen zu verbinden, und dem allerwaerts Geplagten neue, unsaegliche Pein zu bereiten.
My rough translation: In the case of the nailing of the condemned he had, as was shown above, on a peg in the center of the cross, sitting astride to his relief and to prevent the terrible racking due to the weight of his body (see Subsect. 20.5); even this relief of his suffering could destroy him again, in that one gave the peg a slightly upwards-turned direction, and sharpened it cut him, so as to connect with the crucifixion a kind of impalement and prepare the everywhere-afflicted new, unspeakable pain.
9.. Zaninotto, Gino; Savarino, P., Ed.; and Scannerini, S., Ed.; “The Shroud and Roman Crucifixion: A Historical Review;” The Turin Shroud, past, present and future - International Scientific Symposium (Turin, 2-5 March 2000); Cantalupa: Effatà Editrice (2000); pp. 285-324; Puzzuoli Graffito fig. 5. P. 305, Vivat Crux fig. 6 p. 306. On-line image of the Pozzuoli kindly provided by Antonio Lombatti.