What methods were used to execute people in the Ancient Near East if someone broke a law punishable by death?

Expert Answers
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To find an answer to this question in part, we can look at a very old set of laws, Hammurabi's Code. While not necessarily reflecting objective laws that were to be obeyed by the letter, they did prescribe some capital punishments for transgressions. These punishments likely could have been negotiated, but their mention suggests that they were not unheard of in ancient Near Eastern society. Execution methods specifically mentioned or alluded to include:

  • drowning (being "thrown in the water")
  • impalement
  • burning

Many offenses in Hammurabi's code carried a death sentence, but it is not made clear just what method of execution would be used. Other records, particularly the Bible, mention stoning as a form of public execution, and no doubt other methods, such as beheading and strangulation were used as well. 

trishanne | Student

Methods used for punishment in many ancient cultures were truly brutal in comparison to today’s methods. Victim’s who faced any of these punishments were more surely filled with so much fear. The countries of the ancient Near East was the beginning of civilization. However, the following four execution styles described are examples of methods used in ancient Near East.
First, an ancient Near East punishment considered to be very brutal was “death by boiling”. Archeologists have discovered cooking pots in China believed to be around 500,00 years old that contained human bones. Also, this form of punishment was also used during the 1500’s in England, which was a very common practice and legal as well. Victim’s who faced this execution were punished for their crimes by being immersed into boiling oil or tar until they died.
Secondly, another ancient method of execution was known as “flaying”. This method was practiced in the Middle East and Africa. Victims were criminals, captured soldiers, and witches. The victim’s skin was removed from their still living body and was nailed to the wall as a warning to others.
Thirdly, the method of punishment was known as “impalement” practiced by the Greek, Turks, Romans, and Chinese. This method was the favorite of these cultures. Asia and Europe also practiced this method during the Middle Ages. The execution of Impalement was to pierce the victim through the rectum, vagina, mouth or side which caused deep bleeding as well as painful wounds. They were then tossed into their grave and left to die. Also, they were often made to dig their own grave.
Lastly, crucifixion was a form of punishment in the 6th century BC and 4th century AD. One country that used crucifixion was the Romans . The victim or condemned were hung and nailed or tied to the cross until their untimely death. They were also hung naked to humiliate them and often had to carry their own crossbeam to their place of execution.
In conclusion, many methods of punishment have been used through history, but one thing is for sure, these are indicative of what happens to those who did not follow the laws of their land.