Greek: Ορειχαλκινο Ταυρο
What: A torture and execution device.
Location: Akragas, Sicily
Built: 6th Century BC
Inventor: Perillos of Athens
The brazen bull, (or the Sicilian bull) is a torture and execution device designed in ancient Greece. Perillos of Athens, a brass-founder, proposed to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, the invention of a new means for executing criminals. This was done hoping to dissuade the poor population from committing any more crimes. Accordingly, he cast a bull, made entirely of brass, hollow, with a door in the side in the 6th century B.C. The condemned were shut in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until it became yellow hot and causing the person inside to roast to death. The Brazen Bull became one of the most common methods of execution in Ancient Greece.
Phalaris commanded that the bull be designed in such a way that its smoke rose in spicy clouds of incense. The head of the ox was designed with a complex system of tubes and stops so that the prisoner’s screams were converted into sounds like the bellowing of an infuriated bull. It is also said that when the bull was reopened, the scorched bones of the remains shone like jewels and were made into bracelets.
As the story goes, when Perillos finished the brazen bull, Phalaris asked Perillos to try it out by himself. He then ordered him locked inside the brazen bull and set a fire underneath it. He was very pleased with the results. Being burned alive was a very exciting act to watch. Perilaus was then removed from the Bull before he died and Phalaris had him thrown off a cliff. The brazen bull was said to have been tossed in the ocean after the tyrant Phalaris was tossed from his thrown in 554 B.C.
Death Machines – The Brazen Bull: