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HISTORY TALKS...

The Pillory

WAYS of handing out punishment have often been inventive as well as cruel. Public shaming has been practised since time immemorial, and in Slovakia continued right up to the early 20th century, as we see in this postcard of a stone pillory from Piešťany.

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WAYS of handing out punishment have often been inventive as well as cruel. Public shaming has been practised since time immemorial, and in Slovakia continued right up to the early 20th century, as we see in this postcard of a stone pillory from Piešťany.

Other tactics included beheading, impaling or being tied to a wheel. Many punishments were designed to degrade and shame the offender, not cause permanent injury or death.

A baker who offered his customers foul bread might be tied up and dunked in the river. Gossips and prostitutes would have their heads shaved and be beaten with broomsticks.

Public squares would often have pillories, where convicts would be tied and left at the mercy of passers-by. They would be teased, tickled, spat at or people might even throw rocks at them.

In some cities, "cages of shame" were built, where convicts would be undressed and smeared with honey in order to be stung by insects. Such a cage can still be seen in Levoča.


By Branislav Chovan,
Special to the Spectator

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