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 p539  Flagrum​a

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp539‑540 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

FLAGRUM, dim. FLAGELLUM, (μάστιξ), a whip, a scourge, to the handle of which was fixed a lash made of cords (funibus, Hor. Epod. IV.3; John, ii.15), or thongs of leather (loris, Hor. Epist. I.16.47; σκυτίνα, Anac. p357, ed. Fischer), especially thongs made from the ox's hide (bubulis exuviis, Plaut. Most. IV.1.26). The flagellum properly so called was a dreadful instrument, and is thus put in opposition to the scutica, which was a simple whip (Hor. Sat. I.3.119). Cicero in like manner contrasts the severe flagella with the virgae (pro Rabir. 4). The flagellum was chiefly used in the punishment of slaves. It  p540 was knotted with bones or heavy indented circles of bronze or terminated by hooks, in which case it was aptly denominated a scorpion. The cut below represents a scourge taken from a bas-relief of the statue of Cybele in the Museum of the Capitol at Rome, and fully justifies the epithet of Horace (l.c.), horribile flagellum. The infliction of punishment with it upon the naked back of the sufferer (Juv. VI.382) was sometimes fatal (Hor. Sat. I.2.41), and was carried into execution by a class of persons, themselves slaves, who were called lorarii. A slave who had been flogged was called flagrio (μαστιγίας, Philemon, p415, ed. Mein.; Aristoph. Ran. 502, Equit. 1225, Lys. 1242; mastigia, Plautus passim; Ter. Adelph. V.2.6), which of course became a term of mockery and contempt. During the Saturnalia the scourge was deposited under the seal of the master. We likewise find that some gladiators fought with the flagella (Tertull. de Spect. 21),º as in the coin here introduced. The flagellum here has two lashes. (See also cut, p101).

[image ALT: A woodcut in two parts. On the left, a three-tailed whip: the tails are studded with teeth or small pieces of bone; the handle is elaborately carved, with a human head at either end. On the right, a medallion or coin showing two men fighting: each has a shield in his left hand, one man has a stick in his right, and the other a two-tailed whip. The woodcut illustrates the ancient Roman 'flagrum', a type of whip.]

Thayer's Note:

a For much more information on ancient flagellation, whether as punishment, religion, or entertainment, including details not suitable for the 19c family reference shelf, see Chapters 1 and 2 of History of Flagellation Among Different Nations (1930).

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Page updated: 2 Dec 09