Scaphism also called as “The Boats” was an ancient form of punishment used in the Persian Empire around 5th century B.C.
This form of penalty was meant to impose severe pain and discomfort as long as the victim remained alive. It was kept only for people accountable for serious crimes such as murder and treason.
The Most Gruesome Torture Technique:
The technique consisted of trapping the victim in the space between two small boats or two hollowed-out tree trunks.
The sufferer would be tied inside the space between the boats in such a way that the head, hands, and feet remained outside.
A mixture of honey and milk was force-fed to the condemned person until it led to diarrhoea.
The victim would be forced to vomit, spreading the mixture all over the face, chest and leg, threatening to abolish the criminal.
The target person would then be left out in the sun or taken to a pool/pond. Later, flies and rats, would show up and start attacking the victim, eating the mixture of milk and honey.
Scaphism Is A Horrific Form of Execution:
To make things worse, additional honey was drizzled onto the body to attract insects and breed maggots. They would start eating the dead skin around the lower part of the body.
After that, insects and other vermin would go up inside the body and start to feast on the organs internally. The victim would eventually yield to the slow, painful death caused by several bites and infectious wounds.
Milk, honey and sometimes the water was splashed repeatedly on the person’s body. Hence the sufferer had little chance of dying of thirst or hunger.
If the crime were severe, the guards would continue to force-feed the milk and honey, day after day to the victim.
The most horrific part of all is that you were not allowed a natural death.
The Execution Of Ancient Persian Soldier:
The most famous story of scaphism is the execution of Mithridates. Around 401 BC, Mithridates, a Persian soldier, killed Cyrus, the younger brother of King Artaxerxes II.
Cyrus wanted the power, so he had challenged his brother Artaxerxes. The war was held between the two brothers at the Battle of Cunaxa and an arrow by Mithridates accidentally hit Cyrus.
Artaxerxes promised to reward the soldier, but only on one condition. Everyone must think it was King Artaxerxes II who had killed his brother so that he could secure his power.
Later, Mithridates forgot about the deal, and at a banquet, Mithridates boasted that he was the one to killed Cyrus and not the current king.
Artaxerxes immediately punished his treachery by sentencing him to death by scaphism.
According to Plutarch, the Greek essayist and biographer, Mithridates survived this torture for 17 days before he died.
Scaphism death penalty was meant for the worst crimes such as murder and treason in Persia. It was a horrible way to die.