Something I'm curious about is the severity of scourging ancient Romans inflicted on their victims before crucifixion.

Numerous religious/Christian websites suggest that it was quite severe, and involved an instrument in which metal or bones were embedded in the lashes. For example:

But many of these online sites don't really reference, in my view, a reliable account, primary source, or any extant "flagra" from the ancient Roman era.

In fact, according to this article by Dr. Andrea Berlin and Dr. Jodi Magness Two Archeologists Comment on The Passion of the Christ, the scourging was just done with a reed.

What reliable evidence is there that scourging before crucifixion was as severe as most online website describe them to be?

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    The problem with many websites is that they just pick the 'juicy' bits. Also, you're asking about a time period of several hundred years (up until 337AD when it was discontinued), and what happened in one town (not to mention one province) may have been different from another. And then you probably have to consider what the crime was. Thus, it might help to set some boundaries for your question. Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 4:55
  • @Lars That's a good point. Could you help me refine my question? Perhaps, it might be worth breaking it up into several questions: What sources exist in support of a "fragrum" containing bits of metal and bones (any place/any era)? What sources exist in support of severe scourging/whipping before the crucifixion (any place/any era)? Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 5:18
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    From what I understand (which is limited without doing some serious research), scourging was a punishment in itself (scourging to death). I don't recall seeing much on scourging before crucifixion, other than the notorious case of Gessius Florus in the lead up to the Great Jewish Revolt. The only other case I can cite (off the top of my head) of a punishment before crucifixion was a mention by Cicero of someone having his tongue cut out. I'm sure there must be other cases, but perhaps you should focus on 1st century Judea (given your citations). Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 6:06
  • It may well be hyperbole, but this from Plautus' Captivi suggests that Roman floggings were not negligible! HEG. Take him where he may receive weighty and thick fetters, thence, after that, you shall go to the quarries for cutting stone. There, while the others are digging out eight stones, unless you daily do half as much work again, you shall have the name of the six-hundred-stripe man.
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 12:35
  • But can any of you please explain if the Romans whips tore through a victims skin and flesh? Did a flogging really do all these terrible things? Please also provide a reliable source.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 6:23

2 Answers 2


If we read the suffering of Jesus correctly, which I don’t believe you are considering your question. Pilate never intended to crucify Jesus. In fact he was trying to let him go, the scourging seemed to be more of a last ditch to calm the Jews and get them to back off. It was not until the Jews said “that Pilate was no fried of Ceasar if he let Jesus live”, that Pilate agreed to have him crucified. So scourging before crucifixion may not have been a common practice. Therefore, the biblical account may have been more circumstantial than standard protocol.

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    This focuses only on Jesus from biblical sources. Can you anything from more reliable historical sources about the practice in general or about someone other than Jesus? Commented Jan 24 at 6:11

In the documents of “Jewish War” a man named Jesus Ben Ananias, (NOT to be confused with Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus was quite a common name back then), was “scourged until bones were laid bare.” This man was flogged to the extent of his bones showing. Also, I have heard that certain church fathers or bishops in the early church, wrote how vicious the whips were.

Also yes, the Romans did sometimes beat criminals with rods (which is a fact) however they also lashed people with other whips too. As seen when looking at ancient stone tablet pictures. Plus, being beaten hard (which is what they did, full force blows) was pretty bad, the scratches, marks, bruises and blistering on your back/body, would cause pain and damage. Especially after a blister is struck and then begins to bleed. Not to mention the person sweat mixing with the blood, which could make it look a little worse.

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    You seem to have established scouring, but the question is specifically scourging before crucifixion. Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 12:24
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    This answer would benefit from more sources and less assertions. Could you cite the Jewish War source? Any of the other assertions? I'm not questioning them, but history is about sources, and providing citations allows others to learn from your research.
    – MCW
    Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 14:03

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