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Discover the “Brazen Bull,” the Ancient Greek Torture Machine That Doubled as a Musical Instrument
History is replete with brutally imaginative torture and execution techniques. The list of cruelties includes crucifixion, where victims were left to die on the cross the rack, where torturers would place the victim on a wooden frame to be slowly pulled apart and hanging, drawing, and quartering—the official English punishment for high treason from 1351 to 1870—where men would be drawn by horse to their place of execution, hung until near-death, and then emasculated and disemboweled before being decapitated and cut into quarters. The most intricately sadistic form of torture, however, originated with the Greek tyrant Phalaris.
Phalaris, the despot of Acragas (now Agrigento, in Sicily), was infamous for his callousness and reputedly “devoured” suckling infants. The video above describes how Phalaris, keeping to his character, asked the craftsman Perilaus to construct a bronze bull for the execution of criminals. The bull housed a hollow chamber where victims were deposited through a trapdoor. A fire was kindled beneath the bull, turning the statue into an oven.
As Phalaris supposedly admitted himself, the most savage aspect of this brazen monstrosity was its musical nature:
A countryman of my own, one Perilaus, an admirable artist, but a man of evil disposition, had so far mistaken my character as to think that he could win my regard by the invention of a new form of torture the love of torture, he thought, was my ruling passion… He opened the back of the animal, and continued: “When you are minded to punish any one, shut him up in this receptacle, apply these pipes to the nostrils of the bull, and order a fire to be kindled beneath. The occupant will shriek and roar in unremitting agony and his cries will come to you through the pipes as the tenderest, most pathetic, most melodious of bellowings. Your victim will be punished, and you will enjoy the music.”
It is doubtful that the tyrant so known for his barbarism would cringe at this novelty nevertheless, Phalaris claims to have been sickened by Perilaus’ cleverness:
‘His words revolted me. I loathed the thought of such ingenious cruelty, and resolved to punish the artificer in kind. “If this is anything more than an empty boast, Perilaus,” I said to him, “if your art can really produce this effect, get inside yourself, and pretend to roar and we will see whether the pipes will make such music as you describe.” He consented and when he was inside I closed the aperture, and ordered a fire to be kindled. “Receive,” I cried, “the due reward of your wondrous art: let the music-master be the first to play.”
Upon hearing Perilaus’ shrieks, the content tyrant removed the craftsman from bull, and then threw him off of a cliff. “Mistaken my character,” indeed.
Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.
Bronze Bull from Sam'al - History
Arturo Di Modica first conceived of the Charging Bull as a way to celebrate the can-do spirit of America and especially New York, where people from all other the world could come regardless of their origin or circumstances, and through determination and hard work overcome every obstacle to become successful. It’s this symbol of virility and courage that Arturo saw as the perfect antidote to the Wall Street crash of 1986.
Arturo worked on the now world-famous Charging Bull for over two years at his studio on Crosby Street in the Soho district of Manhattan. It was his most ambitious and massive work of sculpture to date, so large that the Bull had to be cast in separate bronze pieces and then laboriously welded together and hand finished. Once completed at the end of 1989, it weighed over three and a half tons and measured 18 feet long.
Of course, only one place would do for this gift of encouragement to New York and the world.
In the early morning hours of Friday, December 15, 1989, Arturo with a few friends dropped the Charging Bull on Broad Street right in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The previous night he’d gone to the location with a chronometer to check – noting that every 5 – 6 minutes the police patrol would come by, so he saw he’d have to drop the bull and get away within 4 ½ minutes. But on the actual morning of the operation, Arturo and his crew discovered that during the day the NYSE had installed a large Christmas tree, blocking the way. Arturo couldn’t even turn the truck around. So on the spot Arturo decided to place the Charging Bull right under the tree, as a gigantic Christmas present for the City and the World. The next day the Charging Bull was news all around the world, and enormous crowds of excited onlookers and media surrounded the mysterious sculpture that had come from no one knew where.
The sculpture was removed at the end of the day by the NYSE, but thanks to then Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, Mayor Ed Koch and Arturo Piccolo of the Bowling Green Association, a permanent home was found for the Charging Bull close by at Bowling Green. The Charging Bull stands there to this day, visited by millions of tourists, a talisman for Wall Street traders, and a source of pride for all New York City residents.
Craziest Torture Methods of All-Time
5. Ling Chi - Death by 1000 cuts
Also known as “Slow slicing” or “Death by 1000 cuts”. The convict was tied to a post and small slices are carefully made, ensuring that vital organs and arteries are not cut. Then, bits of skin and limbs were removed one at a time, slowly to ensure that they suffer through the process.
Some records state that salt is poured on the wounds to make it worse for the convict. Used in China from as early as the 10th century and was banned in 1905 - a thousand years later.
4. Crocodile shears
Sharp, hot teeth ready to rip parts of the human body
Yeah, as the name suggests. Note the shears with crocodile-shaped head and teeth, those are first heated up until they are glowing red. Then they’ll be used to clamp the unlucky man’s genitals, where they’ll be snatched with brute force.
Rarely do the men die because of this alone, death was often a slow one due to the infection. They’ll also rip off the finger, toes, ear or other body part that can be ripped apart. This punishment was specifically for those who had attempted to assassinate the king.
3. Brazen Bull
Screams inside turned into the sound of a raging bull heard from the outside
The next torture methods came around in Greece in which was designed to torture criminals. It is a huge bull with a hollow inside that can fit a person in it. The bull was made out of bronze and has a door at the side - to shove the unlucky criminal inside.
Fire is then lit under the bull, cooking the person inside, alive. It is interesting to note that the contraption was fitted with pipes in such a way that the screams of the dying person would resemble the bellowing of an angry bull as onlookers will be hearing the person inside scream till he’s cooked - we mean, dead.
2. Rat Torture
As the rats chew and find its way out… the victims suffer and die.
A torture method that is considered both ingenious and disgusting due to its simplicity and effectiveness. A steel bucket containing rat(s) is placed on the exposed torso of the victim, and heat applied to the base of the bucket.
What happens next is, the rat, going crazy from the heat and trying to escape, will gnaw their way into the victim’s abdomen, clawing and ripping through their skin and organ trying to run away from the heat.
You might be thinking that a rat is just as harmless, but Possessing the most powerful biting and chewing motion of any rodent, rats are able to make short work of a human stomach. Victims will suffer unimaginable pain and horror as they die from the rats writhing in their guts.
And for the last one, one that is considered by many to be the worst torture method of all time. A Persian method of execution where victims are forced to eat milk and honey until they throw up. They are then stripped naked, their bodies covered in honey - especially the eyes, nose, mouth, genitals and anus. They will then be tied between two boats with holes so that the limbs can pass through.
What happened was the victim will throw up, and defecate inside the boat. which will attract insects that will feast on the victim’s flesh. They will then be left in stagnant shallow water to die of either starvation, dehydration, septic shock or all of those 3. Incredibly painful.
There you have it, the craziest methods that were once used to torture people. Modern torture methods are also crazy, but we’ll leave those for another day.
“When you prepare for the worst that humanity can do, you’re not easily surprised”
"Taking the bull by the horns" . it's a terrifying metaphor. It's how politicians are meant to tackle crises. It's what we're all meant to do with the big moral problems of life. Though most of us, I suspect, hope to avoid doing anything of the sort. But about four thousand years ago, we have serious archaeological evidence of a whole civilisation that seems to have been collectively fascinated by the idea of confronting the bull.
"I have seen many paintings of people leaping or cutting the bulls. There always has been a kind of game between men and bulls . always." (Sergio Delgado)
It's one of the many mysteries of a society at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe, that played a key role in shaping what we now call the Middle East.
"Out in the middle of the wine-dark sea, there is a land called Crete, a rich and lovely land washed by the sea on every side and in it are many peoples and 90 cities. There, one language mingles with another . Among the cities is Knossos, a great city and there Minos was nine years king, the boon companion of mighty Zeus."
That was Homer, singing the praises of Crete, prosperous and cosmopolitan, and of its great king Minos. Now in Greek myth, Minos had a very complex relationship with bulls. He was the son of Zeus, king of the gods, but in order to father him, Zeus had turned himself into a bull. Minos's wife in turn had conceived an unnatural passion for a very beautiful bull and the fruit of that obsession was the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull. Minos was so ashamed of his monstrous stepson that he had him imprisoned in the labyrinth, and there the Minotaur devoured a regular supply of maidens and youths sent every year by Athens - until, that is, the Greek hero Theseus succeeded in killing him. The story of Theseus and the Minotaur, of man facing down his monstrous demons, has been told and re-told for centuries - by Ovid, Plutarch, Virgil and others - and it's part of the high canon of Greek myth, of Freudian psychology and of European art.
Archaeologists were captivated by these tales and, just over a hundred years ago, when Arthur Evans explored the island and decided to dig at Knossos, the bulls and monsters, palaces and labyrinths of Crete, familiar from Greek myth, were still very much in his mind. So although we have no idea what the people of this rich civilisation around 1700 BC actually called themselves, Evans, believing he was uncovering the world of Minos, called them quite simply Minoans, and Minoans they've remained ever since. In his extensive excavations, Evans uncovered the remains of a vast building complex finding pottery and jewellery, carved stone seals, ivory, gold and bronze, and colourful frescoes, often depicting bulls. Evans was eager to reconstruct the role that the animals might have played in the island's economic and ceremonial life, so he was particularly interested in a discovery - made somewhere else on the island - of a small bronze sculpture of a bull with a figure leaping over it. It's now one of the highlights of the British Museum's Minoan collection.
The bull and the leaper are both made of bronze, and together they're about six inches (or 150mm) long and four or five inches (or 100 - 130mm) high. The bull is in full gallop - legs outstretched and head raised - and the figure is leaping over it in a great arching somersault. It's probably a young man. He's seized the bull's horns and thrown his body right over, so that we see him at the point where his body has completely flipped. The two arching figures echo each other - the outward curve of the boy's body being answered by the inward curve of the bull's spine. It's the most dynamic and beautiful piece of sculpture, and it carries us at once into the reality - but also the myth - of the history of Crete.
It's thought to have come from Rethymnon, a town on the north coast of the island, and it was probably originally deposited as an offering in a mountain shrine or in a cave sanctuary. Objects like this are often found in these holy places of Crete, suggesting that cattle had an important role in religious ritual. Many scholars since Evans have tried to explain why these images were so important. They've asked what bull-leaping was for, and even if it was ever possible. Evans thought it was part of a festival in honour of a mother goddess. Others disagree, but bull-leaping has often been seen as a religious performance, possibly involving the sacrifice of the animal, and even the accidental death of the leaper. Certainly, in this sculpture, both bull and human are engaged in a highly dangerous exercise. Being able to vault the animals would have taken months of training. We can say this with some confidence, because the sport in fact still survives today in parts of France and Spain. We talked to Sergio Delgado, a leading modern-day bull leaper - or to use the proper Spanish term 'recortador':
"There always has been a kind of game between men and bulls, always. There is not a proper school for 'recortadores'. You just learn how to understand the animal and how he will react to the arena. You only get this knowledge with experience. There are three main techniques we had to learn: first the 'recorte de riñón' (the kidney cut) second it's the 'quiebro' (the break or the swing) the third one is the 'salto' (or leap), which is mainly jumping right over the bull in a different variety of styles.
"Remember that the bulls are not injured before the match like in the bullfighting. The bull never dies in the arena. We are risking our lives here, we get butted and gored as frequently as bullfighters. The bull is unpredictable. He is the one in charge . We never lost a respect for the bull."
I think what Sergio Delgado says is quite fascinating, because it confirms scholars' suggestions that bull-leaping on Crete at the time of this little statue would probably have had a religious significance. Even the bronze it's made of suggests an offering to the gods.
It was made around 1700 BC in the middle of what archaeologists call the Bronze Age, when huge advances in making metals transformed the way humans could shape the world. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, is much harder and cuts much better than copper or gold, and once discovered, it was widely used to make tools and weapons for over a thousand years. But it also makes very beautiful sculpture, and so it was quickly used, as you can see from this bull leaper, to make precious, probably devotional objects.
The British Museum bull sculpture was cast using the lost-wax technique. The artist firstly models his vision in wax, then he moulds clay around it. And this is then put into the fire, which hardens the clay and melts the wax. The wax is then drained off and, in its place, a bronze alloy is poured into the mould, so that it takes on the exact form the wax had occupied. When it cools, the mould is broken to reveal the bronze which can then be finished - polished, inscribed or filed, to produce the final sculpture. The bull leaper is quite badly corroded. It's now degraded to a greenish-brown colour. It would never of course have been as sparkling as gold but, originally, it would have had a powerful, seductive gleam.
It's the bronze that makes sculptures like this one gleam, and it's the bronze that lets our bull move from myth into history. At first sight, it's surprising that it's made of bronze at all, considering that neither copper nor tin - both of which are needed - are found on Crete. Both came from much further afield, with copper coming from Cyprus - the very name means the 'copper island' - or from the eastern Mediterranean coast. But tin had an even longer journey to make, travelling along trade routes from eastern Turkey, and sometimes even from Afghanistan. It was often in short supply, because those trade routes were frequently interrupted, on occasion by pirates.
Here with the sculpture itself, you can actually see something of that struggle to secure the tin supplies. There hasn't been quite enough in the alloy, which explains why the surface is rather pock-marked, and also why the structure has been weak, so that the hind legs of the bull have broken off over time.
But even if the proportions of the alloy were less than ideal, the very existence of the tin and copper - both from outside Crete - tells us that the Minoans were moving around and trading by sea. Indeed, Crete was a major player in the vast network of trade and diplomacy that covered the eastern Mediterranean - often focused on the exchange of metals, and all linked by maritime travel. We asked the maritime archaeologist, Dr Lucy Blue of Southampton University, to tell us more:
"The small bronze statuette from Minoan Crete, unique as it is, is also a very good indicator of this key commodity, bronze, that was sought after throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, we have only a limited number of shipwrecks to substantiate these trading activities, but one of the shipwrecks that we have is that of the 'Uluburun'. This was a vessel that was found off the Turkish coast. The 'Uluburun' was carrying 15 tons of cargo, 9 tons of which was copper, copper in the form of ingots. In addition, the 'Uluburun' was carrying a very rich cargo - amber from the Baltic, pomegranates, pistachio nuts . there were also a wealth of manufactured goods, including bronze and gold statuettes, beads of different materials, large numbers of tools and weapons that were being carried on board. There's a wooden diptych, or essentially the first form of filofax, that would have been carried on board with wax inside, where they would have kept a note of the different cargoes that were being exchanged."
Despite the filofax, there are still many unanswered questions about Minoan civilisation. The word 'palace', which Evans used to describe the large buildings he excavated, suggests royalty, but in fact these buildings seem to have been religious, political and economic centres. They were architecturally complex places, housing a great variety of activities, one of them the administration of trade and produce, organising the large population of skilled artisans who wove cloth and worked the imported gold, ivory and bronze.
Frescoes in the palace at Knossos show large gatherings of people, suggesting that these were also ceremonial and religious centres. Despite over a century of excavation, the Minoans remain enticingly enigmatic. Objects like this little bronze statue of the Bull Leaper tell us a lot about Crete's key historic role in the mastery of metals which, in a few centuries, transformed the world. And it also asserts the enduring fascination of mythical Crete as the perpetual site where we confront the most disturbing links between man and beast in ourselves. When Picasso in the 1920s and 30s wanted to explore the bestial elements that were shaping European politics, he turned instinctively to the palace of Minoan Crete, to that encounter between man and bull that still haunts us all . the Minotaur.
The transcript for this programme will be published when the programme is broadcast.
10 Most Horrifying Torture Methods In All of History
In a world where criminal offenses are becoming more complicated by the minute and the strict laws that protect us becoming more concrete, there isn’t much need for torture methods. However, before all these rules and principles were established, there were some really horrifying torture methods that were used on criminals, people who were to be interrogated, and even innocent people who refused to be oppressed. Well, either way, these torture methods are a part of our history and are often brushed off as fiction. So, here are the ten most horrifying torture methods of all time!
Warning: NSFW Content!
It was a method of torturous execution where you die from your insides rotting out, and being eaten alive by insects.
Image source: nishan.org
Scaphism was a Persian torture method. The name comes from the Greek σκάφη, skáphe, meaning “anything scooped (or hollowed) out”. In scaphism, a person was stripped naked and was tied down inside two empty boats, one on top of the other. Next, they were forced to ingest milk and honey. The milk and honey gave the person diarrhea and the feces attracted insects. Insects feed and breed on the victim while he was tied down and rotting in his own feces. The infections would become extremely torturous. Therefore, it led to a slow excruciating death.
In an ancient description Life of Artaxerxes, Plutarch talks this method. The writing was about the king who decreed that Mithridates should be put to death in boats by scaphism.(source)
2. Judas cradle
In this torture method, a pyramid-shaped seat was slowly forced up the anus/vag*na until the victim died of shock or infection.
The Judas cradle or the Judas chair was a medieval torture device which had a pyramid-shaped seat and a waist harness on top. Strangely enough, the victim would be placed in the harness and lowered on the pyramid with the pyramid being inserted into their anus or vagina very slowly. Gradually, the pain would increase and due to the pressure, the muscle tear would increase. Finally, the victim would die of infection, pain, septic wound, or by being impaled.
A similar device was said to be used in Prussia to discipline soldiers. This device was not designed to break the skin but instead cause damage to the genitals.(source)
3. Brazen bull
This was a method in which victims were shut in and roasted alive by a fire kindled beneath, while their screams mimicked the bellowing of the bull.
Image source: glengreen.com
The brazen bull, bronze bull, or Sicilian bull was a torture and execution device designed in ancient Greece. According to Diodorus Siculus, recounting the story in Bibliotheca Historica, Perillos of Athens invented and proposed it to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, as a new means of executing criminals. In this method, the victim would be kept in a bronze, hollow bull with a door on one side. This life-size bull also had a mechanism which converted the screams of the victim into bull noises. This bull would then be set on a fire which would heat the metal up roasting the victim to death.
Also, in ancient texts, the Romans were reputed to have used this torture device to kill some Christians. Notably, it was Saint Eustace, who, according to Christian tradition, was roasted in a brazen bull with his wife and children by Emperor Hadrian.(source)
4. Rat torture
This method of torture consisted of a pottery bowl filled with rats placed open side down on the naked body of a prisoner. When hot charcoal was piled on the bowl, the rats would “gnaw into the very bowels of the victim” in an attempt to escape the heat.
Image source: discoverinformation.com/
There are various forms of rat torture. The earliest mention of rat torture is by Roman Catholic writers of the Elizabethan era. According to them, the Tower of London featured “Rat Dungeon” or “Dungeon of the Rats”. It was also used during the Dutch Revolution. Diederik Sonoy has documented a method in which a pottery bowl filled with rats was placed on the naked body of a prisoner. The open side of the bowl faced downwards. Next, hot charcoal was piled on the top of the bowl. In order to escape the heat, the rats would “gnaw into the very bowels of the victim”.
The rat torture resurfaced recently on October 16, 2010, in Lakewood Township, New Jersey when David Wax used it to threaten a kidnap victim to give his wife a divorce.(source)
5. Peine forte et dure
In this method of torture, if a defendant stood mute and refused to plead guilty or innocent, they would be subjected to having heavier and heavier stones placed upon their chest until a plea was entered, or they died.
Image source: executedtoday.com
Peine forte et dure was a torture method which translates in French to “hard and forceful punishment”. In this method of torture, the victim would be tied down naked with their back on the floor and interrogated. If the victim would stand mute, they would put heavy weights made of stone and iron on their chest. Thus, this method was also known as being “pressing to death”.
The most famous case in England was that of Roman Catholic martyr St Margaret Clitherow. It was done in order to avoid a trial in which her own children would be obliged to give evidence and could be tortured. Hence, she was pressed to death on 25 March, 1586.(source)
This torture device was used to fasten the victim’s ankles to a roller and the wrists were chained to another. Next, a handle and ratchet mechanism were attached to the rollers and were used to very gradually increase the tension on the chains, inducing excruciating pain.
Image source: howstuffworks.com
The rack was first used in antiquity and it is unclear exactly from which civilization it originated, although some of the earliest examples are from Greece. The Greeks may have first used the rack as a means of torturing slaves and non-citizens as far back as 356 BC when it was applied to gain a confession from Herostratus who was later executed for burning down a monument. The rack torture method consisted of a rectangular, usually wooden, frame, slightly raised from the ground, with a roller at one or both ends. The victim was then tied to the frame between two rollers. As the interrogation progressed, a handle was used to increase the tension on the chains. This directly increased pressure on the ankles and wrists of the victim inducing a lot of pain.
This was explained by Tacitus a senator of the Roman empire. He explained the rack was to be used to extract the names of conspirators. It was also used to assassinate Emperor Nero in the Pisonian Conspiracy by the freedwoman Epicharis in 65 A.D.(source)
7. Glasgow smile
This torture was created by making small cuts on each side of the mouth and then beating/stabbing the person until muscular contractions cause the cuts to extend.
Image source: youtube.com
This torture method originated in Glasgow, hence, the name. It is also known as the “Chelsea grin”. In this torture method, the victim was given wounds on the corners of their mouth leading up to their ears making the cuts seem like a big, broad smile. Nothing about this method is smile-worthy, but what makes it worse is that the victim was then stabbed so that the wound opens wider and induced more pain. Although, this method didn’t cause many deaths, it was one of the most common torture methods in Scotland. The cuts were usually performed by shards of glass or just a utility knife.
The practice is said to have originated in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1920s and s. It became popular with English street gangs, and hence, the name “Chelsea grin” was born. William Joyce, aka “Lord Haw-Haw,” a British fascist who made propaganda broadcasts from Germany during World War II (and was executed for treason after the war), received a Glasgow smile while stewarding a Conservative Party meeting.(source)
8. Death by sawing
It was an ancient execution method that involved hanging the victim upside down from the ankles with their legs spread and sawing them in half from the crotch down to the head, with some victims surviving up until the belly button.
Image source: blogspot.in
Death by sawing was a rather famous torture method used in parts of ancient Rome, Spain, and Russia. This torture method was done using several different procedures, but the one that we found to be the most horrifying was this one. Here, the victim was hung upside down by their ankles and sawed from the groin to the head. Sometimes they were also sawed just to the belly button to let them live the last part of their lives in torture. Moreover, the reason for the upside down hanging has been documented. It is so that the blood flows to the brain and keeps the victim alive until the very last part.
One of the earliest recorded uses of this torture was documented in St. Tarbula. Accused of practicing witchcraft and of causing sickness to befall the wife of the ardently anti-Christian, Persian king, Shapur II, she was condemned and executed by being sawed in half in the year 345.(source)
9. The blood eagle
In this torture method, a cut was made in the abdomen between the ribs and the ribs were then pulled open to pull the lungs out resembling the wings of a bloody eagle.
The “blood eagle” is referenced by the eleventh-century poet Sigvatr Þórðarson, who, some time between 1020 and 1038, wrote a Skaldic verse named Knútsdrápa that recounts and establishes Ivar the Boneless as having killed Ælla by cutting his back. The blood eagle is a very detailed torture method written in Skaldic poetry. The procedure consists of cuts made on the ribs through the vertebral column of a person. These cuts are then used to rip out the lungs through the opening to create a pair of “wings”. Thus, it makes the person look like a bloody eagle. The person is alive for the most part of the entire process if done correctly.
There are two incidents and one oblique reference in Norse literature which mention the ritual. The primary versions both have some commonalities: the victims are both noblemen, Halfdan Haaleg or “Long-leg” was a princeand Ælla of Northumbria a king, and both of the executions were in retaliation for the murder of a father.(source)
10. The Wheel
This was a medieval torture method in which your arms and legs would be broken such that you could be woven through a spoked wheel which was then hung in the sun so the crows could feed on you.
Image caption: stephenliddell.co.uk
This method of execution was used in 18th-century North America following slave revolts. It was once used in New York after several British citizens were killed during a slave rebellion in 1712. Between 1730 and 1754, eleven slaves in French-controlled Louisiana, who had revolted against their masters, were killed on the wheel. This torture method is was one of the most horrifying of methods. The victim’s bones in all the limbs were broken by an iron bar. These shattered limbs were then woven through the spoked wheel. Finally, the wheel would be left in the sun so that the victim’s agony is increased, and crows that were attracted to the blood. It was a rather unpleasant and gradual death.
A historical record of this states that on 1 October, 1786, in the County of Tecklenburg, Heinrich Dolle was to be executed by being broken on the wheel for the aggravated murder of a Jew. The court had decided that Dolle should be broken von oben herab: the first stroke of the wheel should crush his chest.(source)
Documenting the American South
This statue depicts a bull, a symbol for Durham since the 1800s, and stands 10 feet tall. The monument reinforces the strong qualities of the city and its inhabitants, even in the face of negative perceptions of the area. It is located downtown Durham.
The Central Carolina Bank Plaza and "Major," the bronze bull sculpture, were given to the citizens of Durham through a grant from the Central Carolina Bank in memory of George Watts Hill. A World War II veteran, Major Hill was Bank President and Chairman of the Board for 61 years.
A visionary, business leader and philanthropist, his ideals had a profound impact on out city and the State of North Carolina. A strong support of the arts, it was his belief that through the arts he would improve the quality of life for all citizens of our state.
Although banking was his life's work, in his heart he was an architect and renaissance man - known to his friends as "Major."
Durham Non-Profit Liberty Arts, Inc.
35.995680 , -78.902070 View in Geobrowse
Gronberg, Ray. “City Rises From Construction,” The Herald Sun (Durham, NC), June 24, 2007, A1
“One Ton Bull Afoot in Durham Central Park,” Durham Bulls-Eye E-News, October 21, 2003, (accessed April 20, 2012) Link
“The Birth of a Bronze Icon,” Durham Bulls-Eye E-News, August 27, 2004, (accessed April 20, 2012) Link
Materials & Techniques
Central Carolina Bank (CCB)
The bull has been a symbol associated with the Durham area dating back to the 1800s, when in the post-Civil War era the merchant John R. Green branded his product “Bull” Durham Tobacco. At Green’s death in 1869, William T. Blackwell purchased the name and trademark. Subsequently, in 1898, James B. Duke bought the tobacco company, making it a part of his American Tobacco Company, thus increasing Durham’s national reputation as a tobacco-manufacturing center. Durham has been known as the “Bull City” ever since.
Many individuals who have observed the statue have pointed out the prevalence of the bull’s testicles.
The statue is located in downtown Durham, in the City Center Plaza.
Post Dedication Use
Since the dedication of this monument, there have a string of sculptures dedicated in the downtown Raleigh and downtown Durham areas that, much like the bull statue, are commemorations of the characters of the cities, rather than monuments dedicated to specific people or event. During the “Occupy” movement in 2011 the bull statue served as a rallying area for the Occupy Durham protests.
CCB commissioned to have the George Watts Hill Pavilion built (it was dedicated on October 24, 2003), and selected the bronze bull statue project to be the pavilion’s first undertaking.
Materials & Assembly Cost
All materials and costs were donated by CCB.Know anything else about this monument that isn't mentioned here? If you have additional information on this or any other monument in our collection fill out the form at the Contact Us link in the footer. Thank you.
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A small bronze sculpture of a bull with a figure leaping over it is now one of the highlights of the British Museum&rsquos Minoan collection. It comes from the Mediterranean island of Crete, where it was made around 3,700 years ago.
The bull and the leaper are both made of bronze, and together they&rsquore about 5 centimetres (2 inches) long and between 10 and 13 centimetres (4 or 5 inches) high. The bull is in full gallop &ndash legs outstretched and head raised &ndash and the figure is leaping over it in a great arching somersault. It&rsquos probably a young man. He&rsquos seized the bull&rsquos horns and thrown his body right over, so that we see him at the point where his body has completely flipped. The two arching figures echo each other &ndash the outward curve of the boy&rsquos body being answered by the inward curve of the bull&rsquos spine. It&rsquos a most dynamic and beautiful piece of sculpture, and it carries us at once into the reality &ndash and, no less important, the myth &ndash of the history of Crete.
The image is a literal representation of something that to most people today is just a metaphor &ndash &lsquotaking the bull by the horns&rsquo is what we&rsquore all meant to do when confronted with the big moral problems of life. But archaeology suggests that about 4,000 years ago a whole civilization seems to have been collectively fascinated by both the idea and the act of confronting the bull. Just why they were is one of the many mysteries of a society at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe that played a key role in shaping what we now call the Middle East. It was a society that Homer described in lyric terms:
Out in the middle of the wine-dark sea, there is a land called Crete, a rich and lovely land washed by the sea on every side and in it are many peoples and ninety cities. There, one language mingles with another &hellip Among the cities is Knossos, a great city and there Minos was nine years king, the boon companion of mighty Zeus.
In Greek myth, Minos, ruler of Crete, had a complex relationship with bulls. He was the son of the beautiful Europa by Zeus, king of the gods, but in order to father him and abduct Europa, Zeus had turned himself into a bull. Minos&rsquos wife in turn had conceived an unnatural passion for a very beautiful bull, and the fruit of that obsession was the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull. Minos was so ashamed of his monstrous stepson that he had him imprisoned in an underground labyrinth, and there the Minotaur devoured a regular supply of maidens and youths sent every year by Athens &ndash until, that is, the Greek hero Theseus succeeded in killing him. The story of Theseus and the Minotaur, of man first burying then confronting and slaying his monstrous demons, has been told and retold for centuries, by Ovid, Plutarch, Virgil and others. It&rsquos part of the high canon of Greek myth, of Freudian psychology and of European art.
Archaeologists were captivated by these tales. Just over a hundred years ago, when Arthur Evans explored the island and decided to dig at Knossos, the bulls and monsters, palaces and labyrinths of Crete were very much in his mind. So although we have no idea what the people of this rich civilization around 1700 BC actually called themselves, Evans, believing he was uncovering the world of Minos, called them quite simply Minoans, and they&rsquove remained Minoans to archaeologists ever since. In his extensive excavations, Evans uncovered the remains of a vast building complex, finding pottery and jewellery, carved stone seals, ivory, gold and bronze, and colourful frescoes, often depicting bulls and he sought to interpret these finds in the light of the familiar myths. He was eager to reconstruct the role that the bulls might have played in the island&rsquos economic and ceremonial life, so he was particularly interested in the discovery, some distance from Knossos, of the &lsquoMinoan&rsquo bull-leaper.
It&rsquos thought to have come from Rethymnon, a town on the north coast of the island, and it was probably originally deposited as an offering in a mountain shrine or in a cave sanctuary. Objects like this are often found in these holy places of Crete, suggesting that cattle played an important role in local religious rituals. Many scholars since Evans have tried to explain why these images were so important. They&rsquove asked what bull-leaping was for, and even if it was actually possible. Evans thought it was part of a festival in honour of a mother goddess. Others disagree, but bull-leaping has often been seen as a religious performance, possibly involving the sacrifice of the animal, and even occasionally the death of the leaper. Certainly, in this sculpture, both bull and human are engaged in a highly dangerous exercise. Being able to vault the animals would have taken months of training. We can say this with confidence, because the sport still survives today in parts of France and Spain. Sergio Delgado, a leading modern-day bull-leaper &ndash or, to use the proper Spanish term, recortador &ndash explains:
There has always been a kind of game between men and bulls, always. There is not a proper school for recortadores. You just learn how to understand the animal and how he will react to the arena. You only get this knowledge with experience.
There are three main techniques we had to learn: first the recorte de riñón [the &lsquokidney cut&rsquo] second it&rsquos the quiebro [the &lsquobreak&rsquo or the &lsquoswing&rsquo] the third one is the salto [or &lsquoleap&rsquo], which is mainly jumping right over the bull in a different variety of styles.
The bulls are not injured before the match, like in bullfighting. The bull never dies in the arena. We are risking our lives here, we get butted and gored as frequently as bullfighters. The bull is unpredictable. He is the one in charge. We never lose respect for the bull.
This continuing reverence for the bull is a fascinating contemporary echo of the suggestion made by some scholars that bull-leaping on Crete at the time of this little statue probably had a religious significance. Even the valuable bronze it&rsquos made of suggests an offering to the gods.
The sculpture was made around 1700 BC, in the middle of what archaeologists call the Bronze Age, when huge advances in making metals transformed the way humans could shape the world. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, is much harder and cuts much better than copper or gold once discovered, it was widely used to make tools and weapons for more than a thousand years. But it also makes very beautiful sculpture, so it was frequently used for precious, probably devotional objects.
The British Museum bull sculpture was cast using the lost-wax technique. The artist first models his vision in wax, then he moulds clay around it. This is put into a fire, which hardens the clay and melts the wax. The molten wax is drained off, and in its place a bronze alloy is poured into the mould, so that it takes on the exact form the wax had occupied. When it cools, the mould is broken to reveal the bronze, which can then be finished &ndash polished, inscribed or filed &ndash to produce the final sculpture. Although the bull-leaper is quite badly corroded &ndash it has degraded to a greenish-brown colour &ndash when made it would have been a striking object. It would never of course have been quite as sparkling as gold, but it would have had a powerful, seductive gleam.
The bronze that made sculptures like this one gleam lets our bull move from myth into history. At first sight it is a surprise that it&rsquos made of bronze at all, since neither copper nor tin &ndash both of which are needed to make bronze &ndash are found on Crete. Both came from much further afield, with the copper coming from Cyprus &ndash the very name of which means the &lsquocopper island&rsquo &ndash or from the eastern Mediterranean coast. But the tin had an even longer journey, travelling along trade routes from eastern Turkey, perhaps even from Afghanistan and it was often in short supply, because those trade routes were frequently disrupted by pirates.
Within the sculpture itself you can actually see something of that struggle to secure the tin supplies. There clearly wasn&rsquot quite enough tin in the alloy, which explains why the surface is rather pock-marked, and also why the structure is weak, so that the hind legs of the bull have broken off.
But even if the proportions of the alloy were less than ideal, the very existence of the tin and copper &ndash both from outside Crete &ndash tells us that the Minoans were moving around and trading by sea. Indeed, Crete was a major player in a vast network of trade and diplomacy that covered the eastern Mediterranean &ndash often focused on the exchange of metals, and all linked by maritime travel. The maritime archaeologist Dr Lucy Blue, of Southampton University, tells us more:
The small bronze statuette from Minoan Crete is a very good indicator of this key commodity, bronze, that was sought after throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, we have only a limited number of shipwrecks to substantiate these trading activities, but one of the shipwrecks that we have is that of the Uluburun, which was found off the Turkish coast. The Uluburun was carrying 15 tons of cargo, 9 tons of which was copper in the form of ingots. She was also carrying a very rich cargo of other goods &ndash amber from the Baltic, pomegranates, pistachio nuts, and a wealth of manufactured goods, including bronze and gold statuettes, beads of different materials, large numbers of tools and weapons.
There are still many unanswered questions about the rich Minoan civilization involved in this kind of trade. The word &lsquopalace&rsquo, which Evans used to describe the large buildings he excavated, suggests royalty, but in fact these buildings seem rather to have been religious, political and economic centres. They were architecturally complex places, housing a great variety of activities, one of them the administration of trade and produce, organizing the large population of craftsmen who wove cloth and worked the imported gold, ivory and bronze. Without that whole society of skilled artisans our bull-leaper would not exist.
Frescoes in the palace at Knossos show large gatherings of people, suggesting that these were also ceremonial and religious centres. Yet despite more than a century of excavation the Minoans still remain enticingly enigmatic and our knowledge remains frustratingly fragmentary. Objects like this little bronze statue of the bull-leaper tell us a lot about one aspect of Crete&rsquos history &ndash its central role in the mastery of metals which, in a few centuries, transformed the world. It also asserts the perpetual fascination of mythical Crete as the site where we confront in ourselves the most disturbing links between man and beast. When Picasso in the 1920s and 1930s wanted to explore the bestial elements that were denaturing European politics, he turned instinctively to the palace of Minoan Crete, to that underground labyrinth and to that encounter between man and bull that still haunts us all &hellip the battle with the Minotaur.
The Bull-Headed Minotaur: History and MythologyArt by Phill Simmer
Etymology and Names –Artwork depicting Minotaur being slain by Theseus inside the Labyrinth.
As succinctly described by the Roman poet Ovid, Minotaur (Ancient Greek: Μῑνώταυρος, Latin: Minotaurus, Etruscan: Θevrumineś) is a ‘part man, part bull’ – thereby pertaining to a Greek mythical creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man, as depicted during the Classical times. Now in terms of etymology, the word ‘Minotaur’ is derived from Μίνως or ‘Minos’ and the noun ταύρος or ‘bull’, thereby meaning the ‘bull of Minos’.
Interestingly enough, from the mythico-historic perspective, King Minos was associated with the island of Crete, as one of the preeminent rulers of the Minoans (whose very name is derived from Minos). Thus the myths of Minotaur are intrinsically related to the Cretan island and its labyrinth, with the creature itself being sometimes referred to as Asterion by the Cretans – named after the foster father of Minos.
The Myth of Minotaur –
Much of the myth comes down to us from various ancient Greek sources, including – the Bibliotheca (Bibliothēkē – ‘Library’), also known as the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus, a compilation of Greek myths and heroic legends, dating from circa 1st-2nd century AD writings of Callimachus, a 3rd century BC Alexandrian scholar Description of Greece by Pausanias, a 2nd century AD Greek geographer and Library of History by Diodorus Siculus, a 1st century BC Greek historian.
The Poseidon Affair –Heracles capturing the Cretan Bull. Detail of a Roman mosaic from Llíria (Spain), from the collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The mythical narratives of the Minotaur and even the bull trope itself are tied to that of King Minos. In that regard, according to Greek mythology, Minos was the son of Zeus and the mortal yet exceedingly beautiful Europa (sometimes described as a Phoenician princess, who later personified Europe). According to one version, Zeus, enticed by Europa’s beauty, took the form of a bull and carried (or abducted) her away to Crete, and their union bore three sons – Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon. All of the three brothers were adopted by Asterion (or Aseterion), the king of Crete who went on to marry Europa.
But the island soon fell into political turmoil after the death of Asterion, with all of the three brothers vying for the rulership of Crete. However, Minos (whose very name means ‘king’ in Cretan) claimed of support from the gods and followed it up by convincing Poseidon, the Greek god of seas, to present him with a snow-white bull from depths of the water. Such an act convinced his opponents of his divine ‘connection’ and Poseidon’s will, which allowed Minos to take over the throne of Crete and banish his other brothers.
Now talking of divine purposes, the bull was delivered by Poseidon on a condition – that it was to be sacrificed by Minos in honor of the sea-god in full view of the heaven. Unfortunately, for Minos, the king, impressed by the majestic nature of the beast, decided to keep the bull for himself and instead sacrificed a different animal. Poseidon, angered by such an overture, resolved to punish Minos for what was perceived as arrogance and vanity of the newly-declared king. Consequently, the sea-god goes on to instill an unnatural passion within Pasiphae, Minos’ wife, which results in Pasiphae falling deeply in love with the white bull. According to another narrative, it is Aphrodite who curses Pasiphae, while a third myth concludes that it was a divine conspiracy hatched by both Poseidon and Aphrodite that pushes forth the perverse lust within Pasiphae.
The Birth of the Monster and the Labyrinth –Pasiphae and infant Minotaur. Source: Madeline Miller
As a result of this aberrant form of desire, Pasiphae ordered the skillful craftsman Daedalus (the father of Icarus) to construct a wooden cow covered in real cowhide. Once completed, the queen concealed herself inside the structure, which was then wheeled on to the meadow grazed by the white bull. Unsurprisingly, the bull took interest in the ‘cow’, and their resultant bizarre union gave birth to the monstrous offspring – the Minotaur.
King Minos, being deeply offended by the act, decided to punish Daedalus and Icarus by enslaving them. As for Minotaur, in spite of its bizarre morphology, the creature was raised and nurtured as a calf by Pasiphae, and was given the name of Asterion (Minos’ foster father) – also meaning ‘star’ or Asterius – ‘starry one’. But over time, as it grew in strength and ferocity, the Minotaur, having no natural source of sustenance, began to devour unsuspecting humans for its nourishment. So in a bid to hide his wife’s abnormal act and to also protect his citizens, Minos consults the Oracle at Delphi. The solution comes forth in the form of a massive yet somber Labyrinth that was to hold (and hide) the bull-headed monster – and this gigantic project, constructed underneath Minos’ own palace at Knossos (the Minoan capital of Crete), was undertaken yet again by Daedalus and Icarus.
Minos’ Revenge on the Athenians –Aethra Showing her Son Theseus the Place Where his Father had Hidden his Arms – Painting by Nicolas-Guy Brenet. Source: Wikimedia Commons
And while the intricate Labyrinth was constructed, King Minos suffered yet another tragedy in the form of the death of his only son with Pasiphae – Androgeus (or Androgeos). According to one version of the myth, it was the Athenians who murdered Androgeus out of jealousy for his wins at the Panathenaic Games. Another version mentions how he was killed by the Marathonian Bull (the very same Cretan bull of Poseidon that was ‘shipped off’ to Marathon by Heracles) when the athlete was asked to confront the animal at the behest of Aegeus, the King of Athens.
In any case, the Athenians were held responsible for the death of Androgeus, which drew the ire of Minos, resulting in war with Athens. It is said that Minos sailed with his Cretan fleet to harass the mainland city-state. And after much conflict and losses (in one version – a plague), the Athenians and their king decided to sue for peace and appease Minos. This appeasement came in the form of human tribute comprising seven maidens and seven youths (‘young men at the same time as the best of unwed girls’) – who were to be sent to Crete every seven years (other versions mention every year to every nine years) to be devoured by the voracious Minotaur inside the Labyrinth. In essence, the tribute pertains to human sacrifice and the unfortunate Athenian victims were chosen by drawing lots.
The Deadly Mission of Theseus –Theseus about to slay the Minotaur, Athenian red-figure stamnos circa 5th B.C., British Museum
Finally, by the time of the third ‘batch’ of the tribute, Theseus, the son of Athenian king Aegeus, volunteered as one of the chosen victims. But his plan, as he boasted to his father, was to kill the Minotaur. He even promised that after slaying the monster he would return to Athens with white sails, but if he failed in his task (and get killed instead), black sails would be drawn. The myth goes on to mention how after Theseus’ arrival in Crete, both daughters of King Minos – Ariadne and Phaedra fell in love with him. But it is Ariadne who takes the initiative to help Theseus in his dangerous quest, by approaching Daedalus – the architect of the massive Labyrinth of Knossos. She convinces the architect to tell her the secrets of the navigational paths that led into the center of the structure – the lair of the mighty Minotaur. The message, in turn, was conveyed to Theseus, who was also given a ball of thread for retracing his path.
Consequently, the Athenian hero delves into the dark Labyrinth by first tieing one end of his thread string to the entrance door. He then, guided by the (divulged) secret of Daedalus, manages to discover the center and find the monster lurking at one of the corners of the obscure enclosed space. Now one account describes how Theseus successfully slew the Minotaur with help of his father’s trusty sword, while another mentions how he boisterously defeated (and killed) the hybrid monster by just using his fists. In any case, after the demise of the Minotaur, Theseus successfully retraces his steps and escapes from the complex Labyrinth by following the (unraveled) thread tied to the entrance.
The hero then proceeds on to free his fellow Athenian prisoners and takes the two Minoan princesses Ariadne and Phaedra onboard to ultimately flee from Crete. However, on the journey back home, Theseus unceremoniously abandoned Ariadne on the island of Naxos (possibly at the behest of the Greek god Dionysus) – and the princess is later wedded by Dionysus himself. Furthermore, overjoyed with the prospect of marrying Phaedra, Theseus forgets to change the color of his sails to white. Thus in a tragic turn of events, in spite of the hero’s successful mission, his father Aegeus, on viewing the black sails from afar, jumps off the cliff in despair. This unforeseen event secures the throne for Theseus, while the surrounding water body is named the Aegean Sea (after Aegeus).
Minotaur and Minos from the Historical Perspective –Cretan Bull Dancers – Restored Fresco. Source: Pinterest
Suffice it to say, many of the mainland Greece legends do not portray King Minos in a favorable light. But interestingly enough, a few other earlier mythic anecdotes depict Minos as a champion of wisdom and justice, who even went on to build the region’s first navy to defeat the local pirates. In that regard, the actual historical legacy of the mighty Minoans can be possibly derived from such tales that establish the ancient authority of the island-state, thus hinting at its cultural dominance in the areas comprising mainland Greece and Crete. In fact, the early phase of the Bronze Age Mycenaean civilization in itself (mostly based in mainland Greece) was markedly inspired by the distant Minoans hailing from the island of Crete.
As for the depictions of the Minotaur, the fight (or showdown) between Theseus and the hybrid monster is a rather recurrent theme in Classical Greek art, especially on pottery. But the origins of the myth of Minotaur is shrouded in mystery, with many potential conjectures. One of the most popular hypotheses relates to the motif of bull and the related cult of bull that were prevalent in the ancient Cretan culture. According to Classical scholar Arthur Bernard Cook, the bull may have represented the sun in Cretan (or Minoan) circles, and as such Pasiphae’s union with the bull may have alluded to the sacred ceremony between the Minoan queen and the bull-headed deity (or the horned-god).
From the socio-political angle, as we mentioned earlier, there might have been a case of cultural and trade-based dominance of Minoans (from Crete) over the Bronze Age Greeks of the mainland – at least for a particular period of time. In that respect, the story of Theseus possibly underlines the ‘breakaway’ or independence of the mainland Greeks from this ‘economic’ hegemony of the Minoans. Interestingly enough, from the architectural perspective, while there is no evidence of the labyrinth, there had been speculations in the academic circles (although some are often discredited in our modern times) that the Palace at Knossos, with its intricate planning, staircases, and spatial features, was the inspiration for the Labyrinth of Daedalus.
And lastly, in case one is interested, this video below represents the scale and scope of the massive Palace at Knossos with its intricate layout of passages and corridors, accompanied by a flurry of frescoes and pottery. The video in itself was sourced from flipped prof’s YouTube Channel.