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  • As one story goes, Peter the  Apostle, one of the 12 apostles,  

  • is walking at a quick pace down the  Roman Road known as the Appian Way.  

  • The reason he's in a bit of a rush is that the  Romans want to crucify him, enough to make any  

  • man wear out the soles of his sandals. As he gets farther away from the city,  

  • he sees something and can't quite believe  his eyes. It's Jesus, walking towards him,  

  • carrying a wooden cross over his  shoulder. The same cross that he died on.

  • Jesus, with the woven crown of  thorns still attached to his head,  

  • looks determined as he marches on. Peter  almost falls back in shock at seeing him,  

  • but manages to get out the words, “Where are you  going?” Jesus turns back for a moment and says,  

  • “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter then thinks, “Well, if he's going,  

  • so am I. Damn the Romans. I shall  carry on teaching the good word.” 

  • If that actually happened is up for debatebut it's been written this decision Peter  

  • made eventually led to his arrest and  subsequent execution by crucifixion. But,  

  • according to the legend, he wasn't executed like  Christ was. Instead, he was crucified upside down

  • We'll come back to why that happened  and how that went down later

  • First of all, we need to knowlittle bit about normal crucifixion

  • The reason the Romans did it was because for  one it was dreadfully painful. The English  

  • wordexcruciatingcan be understood to mean  something like torment coming from the cross.  

  • They weren't the first to do it, thoughAlexander the Great executed thousands of  

  • his enemies by way of crucifixion, which  kind of paved the way for the Romans

  • There were quite a few types of  crucifixion throughout history,  

  • but the one you all know quite well consists of  a person's arms spread wide against a horizontal  

  • beam and their body connected to a vertical beam. There are a few things you might not be familiar  

  • with in regard to crucifixion, even if you've  attended bible class or watched movies about  

  • the life of Jesus Christ. Firstly, when the  Romans stuck someone on a cross they didn't  

  • think, “Hmm, we better cover his genital area and  show some decorum here.” They were killing someone  

  • they deemed a threat to society. They didn't cover  up the naughty bits. Far from it, crucifixion was  

  • supposed to be humiliating as well as painful. It's hard to say how long a person would last up  

  • there. Another thing we tend not to think  about is the number of things that can go  

  • wrong with the body when someone is strung up  like that. Just think about how it would feel,  

  • the full weight of your body dangling up  there, either nailed or tied to the wood

  • The most common question regarding  crucifixion is, how did Jesus die

  • It is possible that if Jesus' hands were nailed  to the cross he had some kind of footrest,  

  • otherwise it's unlikely the nails driven  through either the palms or the wrists  

  • could have supported his full body weight. If so, death might have come later than  

  • if his feet were simply tied with rope or  nails were driven through them. Nonetheless,  

  • there are numerous interpretations as  to exactly how he was crucified, but  

  • scientists usually agree about the cause of death. It's generally thought that a person crucified  

  • with their arms spread would not last longer than  a day. But, if there was no footrest it would be  

  • over in possibly a matter of minutes or perhaps  a couple of hours because the position the person  

  • was in would make it almost impossible to breathe. The Romans would sometimes break a person's legs  

  • if they wanted it to be over quickly. Without  support from the legs and feet, the effort of  

  • straining upwards to draw breath would eventually  be too much and the person would quickly die

  • What would eventually kill a victim  of crucifixion would be heart failure,  

  • hypovolemic shock, acidosis, asphyxia, and  arrhythmia. One scientist explained why  

  • these things would happen, saying, “The resultant  lack of oxygen in the blood would cause damage to  

  • tissues and blood vessels, allowing fluid  to diffuse out of the blood into tissues,  

  • including the lungs and the sac around the heart.” That in itself is a worst way to die, even though  

  • the death was kind of fast-tracked. Still, we  can't repeat enough that it all depended on  

  • how a person was positioned on the cross. For  instance, one ancient historian wrote this

  • They were first whipped and then tormented  with all sorts of tortures, before they died,  

  • and were crucified before the wall of the city...  the soldiers, out of wrath and hatred they  

  • bore the Jews, nailed those they caught to the  crosses in different postures, by way of jest.” 

  • The great Roman Stoic philosopher, Senecanot a big fan of crucifixion, wrote this

  • “I see crosses there, not just of one  kind but made in many different ways:  

  • some have their victims with their head  down to the ground, some impale their  

  • private parts, others stretch out their arms.” Seneca witnessed all kinds of terrible tortures  

  • some Romans seemed to enjoy, including watching  a person being torn apart after being tied to two  

  • chariots that sped off in different directionsStill, he said crucifixion was the worst of them  

  • all. He once wrote, “Anyone facing such a death  would plead to die rather than mount the cross.” 

  • Let's say a person didn't die in minutes or  a few hours from what we have already talked  

  • about. Maybe the person had a foothold and  could breathe ok, but they still had other  

  • ways to die before dehydration got them. After being vigorously whipped and nails  

  • being hammered into them, they could die within  hours from a blood infection that resulted in  

  • sepsis. Sepsis is when your body releasestorrent of chemicals to fight an infection,  

  • which leads to hyper inflammation. The person on the cross would first  

  • start to feel very faint, then develop a fever  with confusion and breathing difficulties  

  • following. The end result would be organ failure. But let's say the person dodged that bullet, too.  

  • Maybe they were even given a little seat  to sit on while they were on the cross,  

  • which did happen from time to timenot  as a treat, but to keep them alive longer

  • First of all, prior to going up there they very  likely had to carry the cross, which might have  

  • weighed as much as 300 pounds (135 kg). Maybe that  Scottish bloke who just won the world's strongest  

  • man could cope with that, but your average scrawny  guy back in the day wouldn't have stood a chance.  

  • Still, they probably only carried the crossbeamwhich weighed an estimated 100 pounds (45 kg). To  

  • put things into perspective, that's about the  weight of a mildly obese male German Shepherd Dog

  • TheVia Dolorosa”, aka, “The Way of Suffering”  is the route Jesus took with the cross on his  

  • back on his way to be executed. It's said to  be about 2,000 feet (600 meters), although if  

  • he carried it all the way or got help from Simon  of Cyrene has been debated. We can't say we know  

  • what happened, but historians agree that the  Romans did make people carry their own beams

  • That almost certainly meant they were dehydrated  when they got to the crucifixion site. Once they  

  • were up on the cross, they might last  a couple of days before they died from  

  • dehydration. The hot sun would have beenkiller, never mind the wild animals visiting  

  • what looked like a tasty, injured piece of prey. That would have been awful, just as the poet  

  • William Butler Yeats described in a poem about  crucifixion, “If it were hanging or bowstringing,  

  • or stoning or beheading, it would be bad  enough. But to have the birds pecking your  

  • eyes and the wolves eating your feet!” That's why it was worse than any other  

  • execution the Romans had in their torture catalogAs the Roman statesman and philosopher, Cicero,  

  • said, it was “a most cruel and disgusting  punishment.” Ok, we think we've hammered  

  • this point home now. That's another pun. We already know thanks to Seneca that some  

  • Roman pranksters would get a thrill from  crucifying some people in various postures.  

  • This also brings us back to Peter the ApostleOne story has it that this former fisherman  

  • actually asked to be crucified upside down, but  not because he thought it might be less painful

  • He requested this because he felt unworthy to  go the same way as his master had. If this was  

  • true it's hard to say, because the story is said  to be Apocrypha. When we talk about Apocrypha,  

  • we mean religious writing that is not  accepted as a canon of scripture. There  

  • are also different takes on certain tales, such as  maybe Peter wanted to die upside down not because  

  • he didn't want to die like Jesus, but because it  symbolized how man's values were all upside down

  • TheActs of Peteris part of this Apocryphabut it doesn't mean what's in the stories is all  

  • fake news. Sure, the book talks about a flying  man, curing cripples, and how he raised a fish,  

  • but an upside-down crucifixion is believable  enough. According to the legend, the Romans  

  • granted Peter his wish. He was crucified, had  some time to deliver a speech, and then died

  • Scholars have since questioned this, saying  that there is little chance the Romans would  

  • have messed up an average day by hauling Peter's  feet up by a rope and crucifying him this way,  

  • nor would they have nailed him to a cross  while laid on the ground and gone to the  

  • effort of erecting it. Why would the punishers  have been committed to needless extra hard work

  • We've seen different representations of  the crucifixion in the form of paintings.  

  • One painted by Caravaggio around the year  1600 has Peter nailed to an ordinary cross  

  • on the floor and then the entire thing with  him on it is lifted into a vertical position

  • His arms are nailed to the cross beam and  his ankles are nailed to the vertical beam,  

  • but the whole thing is upside down. A painting by the artist Masaccio which was  

  • finished in 1426 shows it a different way, with  the cross being in the normal position but Peter's  

  • feet are splayed where arms are usually stretched. Some people say both scenarios are unlikely. If  

  • the cross was upside down, it wouldn't have  stood erect since the top of a cross wasn't  

  • usually very strong compared to the bottom. Still, if this is really how it happened,  

  • then we guess Peter's crucifixion was one of  the speedy deaths we have already discussed

  • We don't know the exact age when he diedbut it's thought he was in the mid-60s,  

  • which was pretty darn old back then. Hanging  upside down for a while at the best of times  

  • can be dangerous, but as an aging man, Peter must  have really felt that rush of blood to the head

  • All that pressure again would have made it hard  to breathe, so asphyxiation likely came pretty  

  • quickly. Maybe even faster than the regular  crucifixion because of the extra weight on  

  • the lungs in the downward position. There are variations to the story as  

  • to how long Jesus survived on the cross. One  story says after about six hours he was done,  

  • shouting out, “Father, into your hands I commit  my spirit.” But there is also an account from  

  • Saint Matthew that seems to suggest three hours: “From noon onward, darkness came over the whole  

  • land until three in the afternoon. And about three  o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God,  

  • my God, why have you forsaken me? Jesus cried out  again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.” 

  • However long it was, it must have  felt like an eternity. As for Peter,  

  • we would imagine he didn't get through six  or even three hours of agony. It's very  

  • likely that all that blood going to his head  would not only have led to huge migraines,  

  • but the blood would have started to pool in his  nose and throat, making it very hard to breathe

  • His heart would have had to work especially hardand given his age, a heart attack or stroke would  

  • have likely occurred. Even if someone much younger  and fitter than Peter was crucified upside down,  

  • we very much doubt that the person would have  lasted long enough to die from dehydration

  • If he did manage to last into the night, you  can only imagine the distress he might have  

  • felt if a wolf or pack of wild dogs approached  when he was hanging upside down. There is every  

  • possibility that he could have had his face  chewed off. So, we're going to go out on a limb  

  • here and say that the upside-down crucifixion was  even worse than your run-of-the-mill execution.

  • Now you need to watch, “Was  Jesus Actually Resurrected.” Or,  

  • have a look at, “Strangest Ways People Died.”

As one story goes, Peter the  Apostle, one of the 12 apostles,  

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Crucified Upside Down - Worst Ways to Die

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    Summer posted on 2021/08/19
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