Also called The Boats, Scaphism is a form of torturous execution. The most famous account of Scaphism is the story of Mithridates.

In 401 BC, Mithridates, a Persian soldier, killed Cyrus the Younger. The king was pleased by this because Cyrus had claim to the throne. Mithridates had killed a threat to the king and was told that he would not be punished for the murder if he allowed everyone to believe the king had killed Cyrus.

Mithridates couldn’t keep his fool mouth shut and boasted at a party that he was, in fact, the murderer of Cyrus. The king sentenced him to The Boats.

Two boats were made to fit both each other, creating a cocoon like structure when put together, and Mithridates’s body so that just his head, arms and feet were left protruding from the structure.

Update: I posted the wrong credit for this image on my sources page. I have corrected this and linked the image to the artist’s page. Thank you to the artist for correcting my mistake!

Mithridates was force-fed milk and honey which caused explosive diarrhea inside his tomb. When Mithridates as so full that he vomited, the milk and honey mixture was poured over his extruding limbs, particularly his face. He was then left, face up, in the sun for flies, bees and other bugs to land on his exposed body parts. Meanwhile, rats and other small creatures burrowed into the boats and feasted on his excrement covered body.

Once the condemned was dead, the top boat was removed and maggots were seen feasting on his corpse. Mithridates survived this torture for 17 days. This form of punishment was reserved for what was considered the worst crimes, murder and treason.

Victims could be kept alive longer by continuing to feed them so that they wouldn’t starve. Often, the cause of death would exposure and sepsis or gangrene from infection in his open wounds.

A video summary of this week’s post can be found at

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