What was really disturbing was the depiction of the Brazen Bull. In the movie three of the Oracle Priestesses are put inside a Brazen Bull and roasted alive while their screams are channelled through a series of pipes, to mimic the painful cries of a bull.
Initially I thought that the concept of the brazen bull was something thought up by a very disturbed screenwriter. (In other words: WTF, what kind of sick person thought of this?)
But 5 minutes on the internet and I found out that the Brazen Bull was a torture device designed and used in Ancient Greece. So this time it was not Hollywood who thought of this, it was the Ancient Greeks.
According to the information on the public domain (i.e. Google which referred me to Wikipedia and a host of other sites. This was not really an in-depth study of reputable academic sources) a metal worker by the name of Perillos of Athens designed the Brazen Bull. Excitedly he ran to Phalaris, the ruler of Akragas, Sicily and suggested that Phalaris use the Brazen Bull as a new way of executing criminals. One of the selling points he used was that Phalaris would be able to hear the tortured screams of individuals put inside the Brazen Bull.
According to some sources, Phalaris was so disgusted by the device that he instructed that the Brazen Bull be tested and that Perillos would be the test subject. Perillos was put inside the Bull and a fire was lit underneath it.
We do not know how long Perillos was inside the Brazen Bull. One can only imagine what thoughts went through his head, but the major ones probably had to do with Karma and what a bitch she can be .(This was Ancient Greece though so Karma most likely had a different name or was personified as one of the plethora of deities that were worshipped.) After a while, we do not know how long, Perillos was taken out and became one of the few to survive this method of torture. Phalaris then threw Perillos from a hill, killing him.
Perillos should have known that fraternising with tyrants usually leads to unpleasantness. Not that I have a lot of sympathy for either of them. It is good to know that when Telemachus overthrew Phalaris’ rule he executed him...in a Brazen Bull,
The sterile words of history leave the casual reader of Wikipedia with a couple of questions:
- What moved Perillos to design such an inhumane and gruesome way of executing criminals? What happened to him to make him descent into probably the darkest caves of human depravity to design the Brazen Bull? It sounds as if he was a lone crusader and a mad inventor. A man on a mission to right real or perceived wrongs. Did righteousness motivate and inspire him?
- Why was Phalaris, who according to some accounts was a tyrant, so disgusted by this invention? Surely a tyrant would welcome new ways to torture criminals or political opponents or enemies? And if he was so disgusted, how did it happen that the Brazen Bull became a widely used torture device in the Mediterranean? Or did some of the scribes of ancient history have a soft spot for Phalaris and tried to portray him as a tyrant with a heart of gold, in a manner of speaking? Did the scribe add this story to garner sympathy for a devil?
But even more interesting for me is the need for humans to be so utterly cruel? Although some may argue that humans have become more civilised, more tolerant and more compassionate, one only has to look at the news to find enough evidence to dispel that argument: A woman shot dead on the way back from dropping her child at school, people set alight in their houses during a farm attack, suspected "witches" stoned, burnt and killed, corrective rape and the rape of toddlers, genocide, concentration camps. The list goes on and on.
We as the human race do have to admit that we are not really that different from the ancients who committed such horrendous atrocities. But we have better PR and publicists and in the end that makes a huge difference in how our deeds will be perceived by historians in the year 2064. Or not. Who knows?