Old Babylonia[ edit ] The 18th century BC law code promulgated by Babylonian king Hammurabi specifies several crimes in which death by burning was thought appropriate. Looters of houses on fire could be cast into the flames, and priestesses who abandoned cloisters and began frequenting inns and taverns could also be punished by being burnt alive. Furthermore, a man who began committing incest with his mother after the death of his father could be ordered by courts to be burned alive.
For example, Senusret I r. Under the civil war flaring under Takelot II more than a thousand years later, the Crown Prince Osorkon showed no mercy, and burned several rebels alive. Jon Manchip White , however, did not think capital judicial punishments were often carried out, pointing to the fact that the pharaoh had to personally ratify each verdict. With sharpened reeds, bits of flesh the size of a finger were cut from the criminal's body.
Then he was placed on a bed of thorns and burnt alive. A prostitute shall not be veiled. Whoever sees a veiled prostitute shall seize her Hebraic tradition[ edit ] In Genesis 38, Judah orders Tamar —the widow of his son, living in her father's household—to be burned when she is believed to have become pregnant by an extramarital sexual relation.
Tamar saves herself by proving that Judah is himself the father of her child. In the Book of Jubilees , the same story is basically told, with some intriguing differences, according to Caryn A. In Genesis, Judah is exercising his patriarchal power at a distance, whereas he and the relatives seem more actively involved in Tamar's impending execution. The imputed crime of Tamar, namely that a married daughter of a priest commits adultery, and nine versions of relationships considered as incestuous, such as having sex with one's own daughter, or granddaughter, but also, for example, to have sex with one's mother-in-law or with one's wife's daughter.
The obligatory procedure for execution by burning: They immersed him in dung up to his knees, rolled a rough cloth into a soft one and wound it about his neck. One pulled it one way, one the other until he opened his mouth. Thereupon one ignites the lead wick and throws it in his mouth, and it descends to his bowels and sears his bowels. That is, the person dies from being fed molten lead. The 3rd century jurist Ulpian , for example, says that enemies of the state, and deserters to the enemy are to be burned alive.
His rough contemporary, the juristical writer Callistratus mentions that arsonists are typically burnt, as well as slaves who have conspired against the well-being of their masters this last also, on occasion, being meted out to free persons of "low rank".
An example of this is the earliest chronicle of a martyrdom, that of Polycarp. The man would be burnt alive without the possibility of appeal, and the girl would receive the same treatment if she had participated willingly. Nurses who had corrupted their female wards and led them to sexual encounters would have molten lead poured down their throats.
Religion in Carthage Tanit with a lion's head Beginning in the early 3rd century BC, Greek and Roman writers have commented on the purported institutionalized child sacrifice the North African Carthaginians are said to have performed in honour of the gods Baal Hammon and Tanit.
The earliest writer, Cleitarchus is among the most explicit. He says live infants were placed in the arms of a bronze statue, the statue's hands over a brazier, so that the infant slowly rolled into the fire. As it did so, the limbs of the infant contracted and the face was distorted into a sort of laughing grimace, hence called "the act of laughing". Other, later authors such as Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch says the throats of the infants were generally cut, before they were placed in the statue's embrace  In the vicinity of ancient Carthage, large scale grave yards containing the incinerated remains of infants, typically up to the age of 3, have been found; such graves are called "tophets".
However, some scholars have argued that these findings are not evidence of systematic child sacrifice, and that estimated figures of ancient natural infant mortality with cremation afterwards and reverent separate burial might be the real historical basis behind the hostile reporting from non-Carthaginians. A late charge of the imputed sacrifice is found by the North African bishop Tertullian , who says that child sacrifices were still carried out, in secret, in the countryside at his time, 3rd century AD.
For example, in Book 6, chapter 16, he writes of the Druidic sacrifice of criminals within huge wicker frames shaped as men: Others have figures of vast size, the limbs of which formed of osiers they fill with living men, which being set on fire, the men perish enveloped in the flames. They consider that the oblation of such as have been taken in theft, or in robbery, or any other offence, is more acceptable to the immortal gods; but when a supply of that class is wanting, they have recourse to the oblation of even the innocent.
Slightly later, in Book 6, chapter 19, Caesar also says the Celts perform, on the occasion of death of great men, the funeral sacrifice on the pyre of living slaves and dependants ascertained to have been "beloved by them". It is said Orgetorix committed suicide to avoid that fate. For example, Pope Gregory IX issued a papal bull denouncing an alleged practice among the Prussians, that girls were dressed in fresh flowers and wreaths and were then burned alive as offerings to evil spirits.
By the 7th century, however, those found guilty of "dualist heresy" could risk being burned at the stake. Burning heretics had become customary practice in the latter half of the twelfth century in continental Europe, and death by burning became statutory punishment from the early 13th century.
Death by burning for heretics was made positive law by Pedro II of Aragon in In , Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor , made burning a legal alternative, and in , it became the principal punishment in the Empire.
In Sicily, the punishment was made law in , whereas in France, Louis IX made it binding law in In , Parliament passed the De heretico comburendo act, which can be loosely translated as "Regarding the burning of heretics.
The Fire and Faggot Parliament met in May at Grey Friars Priory in Leicester to lay out the notorious Suppression of Heresy Act , enabling the burning of heretics by making the crime enforceable by the Justices of the peace.
John Oldcastle , a prominent Lollard leader, was not saved from the gallows by his old friend King Henry V. Oldcastle was hanged and his gallows burned in Jan Hus was burned at the stake after being accused at the Roman Catholic Council of Constance —18 of heresy. The ecumenical council also decreed that the remains of John Wycliffe , dead for 30 years, should be exhumed and burned. This posthumous execution was carried out in Burnings of Jews[ edit ] Jews burned to death in the Strasbourg massacre Several incidents are recorded of massacres on Jews from the 12th through 16th centuries in which they were burned alive, often on account of the blood libel.
In in Blois , for example, 51 Jews were burned alive the entire adult community. In , King Philip Augustus ordered around Jews burnt alive. One libel was that the Jews had poisoned the wells.
In , as panic grew along with the increasing death toll from the plague, general massacres, but also specifically mass burnings, began to occur. Six hundred Jews were burnt alive in Basel alone. A large mass burning occurred in Strasbourg , where several hundred Jews were burnt alive in what became known as the Strasbourg massacre.
He had been charged with a number of crimes, such as having impersonated a priest for twenty years, performed host desecration , stolen Christian children to be tortured and killed by other Jews, poisoning 13 people and poisoning wells.
He was lashed to a pillar in such a way that he could run about it. Then, a ring of glowing coal was made around him, a fiery ring that was gradually pushed ever closer to him, until he was roasted to death. This particular charge, well-poisoning, was the basis for a large scale hunt of lepers in France. The lepers were rounded up and burned alive.
The action against the lepers didn't stay local, though, but had repercussions throughout France, not least because King Philip V issued an order to arrest all lepers, those found guilty to be burnt alive. Jews became tangentially included as well; at Chinon alone, Jews were burnt alive. The Spanish Inquisition was established in , with the aim of preserving Catholic orthodoxy; some of its principal targets were formally converted Jews, called " Marranos " thought relapsing into Judaism, or the Moriscos , formally converted Muslims thought to have relapsed into Islam.
Estimates of how many were executed on behest of the Spanish Inquisition have been offered from early on; historian Hernando del Pulgar —c. In November , Marranos were burnt publicly at the same place, their property confiscated by the Church. If the Jew "confessed his heresy", the Church would show mercy, and he would be strangled prior to the burning. In Sicily, in —15, 79 were burnt at the stake, while from to , Maranos were condemned to be burned alive.
Its aim was to protect Catholic orthodoxy among new converts to Christianity, and retain hold on the old, particularly against "Judaizing" deviancy.
From the 17th century, Europeans were shocked at the tales of how brutal and extensive the activities of the Inquisition were. Many scholars think that the first time death by burning appeared within explicit codes of law for the crime of sodomy was at the ecclesiastical Council of Nablus in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Here, if public repentance were done, the death penalty might be avoided. The Partidas of king Alfonso "El Sabio" condemned sodomites to be castrated and hung upside down to die from the bleeding, following the old testament phrase "their blood shall be upon them".
In Venice , the first burning took place in , and a monk was burnt as late as The last case in France where a man was condemned to be burned for a murderous rape of a boy occurred in The traveller William Lithgow witnessed such a dynamic when he visited Malta in The fifth day of my staying here, I saw a Spanish soldier and a Maltezen boy burnt in ashes, for the public profession of sodomy; and long before night, there were above an hundred bardassoes, whorish boys, that fled away to Sicily in a galliot, for fear of fire; but never one bugeron stirred, being few or none there free of it.
Peter by Perlach The actual punishment meted out to, for example, pederasts could differ according to status. While both in and Augsburg two men were burned alive for their offenses, a rather different procedure was meted out to four clerics in the case guilty of the same offence: Instead of being burnt alive, they were locked into a wooden casket that was hung up in the Perlachturm and they starved to death in that manner.
A number of crimes were punishable with death by burning, such as coin forgery, arson, and sexual acts "contrary to nature". Some feet above the actual pyre, attached to a stake, a wooden chamber had been constructed, into which the delinquent was placed.
Pipes or chimneys, filled with sulphuric material led up to the chamber, and that was first lit, so that Thomas died from inhaling the sulphuric smoke, rather than being strictly burnt alive, before his body was consumed by the general fire. Some 20, people had gathered to watch Thomas' execution. They were, however, according to Gustav Radbruch , secretly strangled just prior to being burnt, namely when their arms and legs were tied fast to the stake.
The penal code known as the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina decreed that sorcery throughout the Holy Roman Empire should be treated as a criminal offence, and if it purported to inflict injury upon any person the witch was to be burnt at the stake.
In , Augustus, Elector of Saxony imposed the penalty of burning for witchcraft of every kind, including simple fortunetelling. Furthermore, it is solidly established that the peak period of witch-hunts was the century —, with a slow increase preceding it, from the 15th century onward, as well as a sharp drop following it, with "witch-hunts" having basically fizzled out by the first half of the 18th century. In Jutland , the mainland part of Denmark, more than half the recorded cases of witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries occurred after Rough estimates says about a thousand persons were executed due to convictions for witchcraft in the —s, but it is not wholly clear if all of the transgressors were burned to death.
Edward Wightman , a Baptist from Burton on Trent , was the last person burned at the stake for heresy in England in Lichfield, Staffordshire on 11 April For example, it did not exist in 14th century England, and when the bishops in England petitioned king Richard II to institute death by burning for heretics in , the king flatly refused, and no one was burnt for heresy during his reign. The jurist William Blackstone argued as follows for the differential punishment of females vs. For as the decency due to sex forbids the exposing and public mangling of their bodies, their sentence which is to the full as terrible to sensation as the other is to be drawn to the gallows and there be burned alive  However, as described in Camille Naish's "Death Comes to the Maiden", in practice, the woman's shift would burn away at the beginning, and she would be left naked anyway.
There were two types of treason, high treason for crimes against the Sovereign, and petty treason for the murder of one's lawful superior, including that of a husband by his wife. Commenting on the 18th century execution practice, Frank McLynn says that most convicts condemned to burning were not burnt alive, and that the executioners made sure the women were dead before consigning them to the flames.
The last woman to be convicted for "high treason", and have her body burnt, in this case for the crime of coin forgery, was Catherine Murphy in In this case, one account says this happened because the executioner accidentally set fire to the pyre before he had hanged Hayes properly.