The Bull of Falaris: Unveiling the Chilling Legend of Ancient Torturee

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
December 20, 2023

Thanks to Lucian, the 2nd century AD satirist, we know quite a bit about the torture machine known as “the brass bull of Perilaus” or “the bull of Phalaris”.

The sculptor Perilaos between 570-560 BC.
he made to the order of the tyrant Phalaris, a brass bull that could fit an entire man inside. When they lit a fire under the bull, the one inside was roasted alive and his voices were heard, through a special mechanism, like the bellowing of the bull.

In the annals of human history, there are stories that remind us of the darkness that can reside within the human soul. One such tale is that of the Bull of Falaris, also known as the Brazen Bull. This ancient Greek instrument of torture and execution is a chilling testament to the cruelty and ingenuity that mankind is capable of.

  1. Origins and Design: The Bull of Falaris was allegedly commissioned by Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, during the 6th century BCE. Designed by Perillos of Athens, a skilled brass worker, it was intended to inflict unimaginable suffering upon its victims. The bull itself was made entirely of brass, with a hollow interior.
  2. How It Worked: The victim would be placed inside the bull through a door on its side, after which it would be sealed shut. A fire would then be lit underneath the bull, slowly heating the metal and causing the person trapped within to endure a horrific death. The design of the bull was such that the screams of the victim would be transformed into sounds resembling the bellowing of a bull.
  3. Psychological Impact: The psychological impact of the Bull of Falaris cannot be understated. Not only did it cause immense physical pain, but the transformation of screams into animalistic sounds added an additional layer of terror. The sight and sound of a person being slowly roasted alive would undoubtedly have a profound effect on those witnessing such a gruesome spectacle.
  4. Symbolism and Infamy: The Bull of Falaris has come to symbolize the depths of human cruelty and the abuse of power. It serves as a chilling reminder of the capacity for evil that exists within society. The tale of the bull has been immortalized in literature and art, often used as a cautionary tale against tyranny and oppression.
  5. Legacy and Impact: Although the historical accuracy of the Bull of Falaris remains debated, its legacy as a symbol of torture and suffering endures. It serves as a reminder of the atrocities committed in the name of power and control throughout history. Today, the bull serves as a stark reminder of the importance of human rights and the need to guard against the reemergence of such brutal practices.

The Bull of Falaris stands as a haunting testament to the darkest corners of human history. Its design and purpose demonstrate the extremes to which human cruelty can reach. While we may recoil in horror at the thought of such an instrument, it is important to remember the lessons it teaches us about the fragility of human rights and the need to foster compassion and empathy in our societies. Let the tale of the Bull of Falaris serve as a chilling reminder of the depths to which humanity can sink, and as a call to ensure that such horrors are never repeated.