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Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)


"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sex Crimes in Byzantium - Torture and Mutilation

Sex and love were much more open in a tolerant Greek and Roman world.


Byzantine Christians made sex a crime punishable by torture, mutilation and death 



Greece and Rome in many ways had more tolerant, open societies regarding sex and love.  But as Christianity took a stronger hold on the Roman Empire, and Paganism was forcibly stamped out, Puritanism became the law of the land.

If you dared to have sex then you were violating the laws of the Christian God.  The proper punishment for sex crimes were torture, mutilation or castration.

Although the frequently mentioned punishment of mutilation might offend modern sensibilities, it is important to note that such measures often replaced capital punishment and were considered to provide a time for penance, thus presumably allowing the wrongdoer to secure the forgiveness of God.

Let's see.  As you are being strapped down by government officials to be castrated or tortured you were supposed to be thankful that the Christian God was a loving God and now you had extra time to save your soul.

Right.  No wonder there was a Protestant Reformation.

The Ecloga of Eastern Roman Emperor Leo III (717-41) was meant an abridgment of the Corpus Juris Civilis, but there are several modifications to be noted in it. These have led some scholars to term the Ecloga the first law code to be influenced by Christian principles. This influence is apparent in the following list of criminal punishments, taken from the Ecloga.

The Ecloga on Sexual Crimes

1. A married man who commits adultery shall by way of' correction be flogged with twelve lashes; and whether rich or poor he shall pay a fine.

2. An unmarried man who commits fornication shall be flogged with six lashes.

3. A person who has carnal knowledge of a nun shall, upon the footing that he is debauching the Church of God, have his nose slit, because he committed wicked adultery with her who belonged to the Church; and she on her side must take heed lest similar punishment be reserved to her.

4. Anyone who, intending to take in marriage a woman who is his goddaughter in Salvation-bringing baptism, has carnal knowledge of her without marrying her, and being found guilty' of' the offence shall, after being exiled, be condemned to the same punishment meted out for other adultery, that is to say, both the man and the woman shall have their noses slit.

5. The husband who is cognizant of, and condones, his wife's adultery shall be flogged and exiled, and the adulterer and the adulteress shall have their noses slit.

6. Persons committing incest, parents and children, children and parents, brothers and sisters, shall be punished capitally with the sword. Those in other relationships who corrupt one another carnally, that is father and daughter-in-law, son and stepmother, father-in-law and daughter-in-law, brother and his brother's wife, uncle and niece, nephew and aunt, shall have their noses slit. And likewise he who has carnal knowledge with two sisters and even cousins.

7. If a woman is carnally known and, becoming pregnant, tries to produce a miscarriage [abortion], she shall be whipped and exiled.

8. Those who are guilty whether actively or passively of committing unnatural offences shall be capitally punished with the sword. If he who commits the offence passively, is found to be under twelve years old, he shall be pardoned on the ground of youthful ignorance of the offence committed.

9. Those guilty of "abominable crime" [homosexuality?] shall be emasculated.


From E. Freshfied, trans, A Manual of Roman Law: The "Ecloga", (Cambridge, 1926], 108-12.). Reprinted in Deno Geanokoplos, Byzantium, (Chicago: 1984), 78


Going from an open Roman-Greek sexual culture to Puritanism under the Byzantine Christianity.


Internet Medieval Sourcebook

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting why the eastern orthodox church still opposes gay marriage their are some today that don't many are unaware of the old legal codes

Anonymous said...

I think Roman Catholics and later protestants had harsh rules as well.

Gary said...

Everyone is frightened to death about sex. Humans are nuts.

Simon Jones said...

reminds me in some ways of law code of Hammurabi - there's progress in human civilisation for you!

Gary said...

And the search for human justice goes on.

Anonymous said...

Turkey has a long tradition of torture

The byzantine christians

The ottoman turks

The military dictatorship

.. all used torture

Gary said...

I am so sorry to say that torture is universal to man.