History of Torture:
The Romans used torture only for interrogation before judgment; officials did not regard crucifixion as torture, as they only authorized it after issuing a death sentence. In the Roman Republic, a slave's testimony was admissible only if it had been extracted by torture, on the assumption that slaves could not be trusted to reveal the truth voluntarily. Over time the conceptual definition of torture has been expanded and remains a major question for ethics, philosophy, and law, but clearly includes the practices of many subsequent cultures.
In much of Europe, medieval and early modern courts freely inflicted torture, depending on the accused's crime and the social status of the suspect. Torture was deemed a legitimate means for justice to extract confessions or to obtain the names of accomplices or other information about the crime. Often, defendants sentenced to death would be tortured prior to execution, so as to have a last chance to disclose the names of their accomplices. Torture in the Medieval Inquisition began in 1252, although a papal bull centuries later in 1816 forbade its use in Catholic countries.
In the Middle Ages especially and up into the 18th century, torture was deemed a legitimate way to obtain testimonies and confessions from suspects for use in judicial inquiries and trials. While, in some instances, the secular courts treated suspects more ferociously than the religious courts, Will and Ariel Durant argued in The Age of Faith that many of the most vicious procedures were inflicted, not upon stubborn prisoners by governments, but upon pious heretics by even more pious friars. For example, the Dominicans gained a reputation as some of the most fearsomely innovative torturers in medieval Spain. Many of the victims of the Spanish Inquisition did not know (and were not informed) that, had they just confessed as required, they might have faced penalties no more severe than mild penance; confiscation of property; and even, perhaps, a few strokes of the whip. They thus ended up exposing themselves to torture. Many conceivably clung to "the principle of the thing", however noble (or foolhardy) that torture victims may face.
One of the most common forms of medieval inquisition torture was strappado. Torturers bound the accused's hands behind the back with a rope, then the torturer suspended the accused by hauling up the hands, painfully dislocating the shoulder joints. The torturer could add weight to the legs, dislocating their joints as well. The prisoner and weights could be hauled up and suddenly dropped. This refined torture (with dropping added) was called squassation. Other torture methods could include the rack (stretching the victimâ€™s joints to breaking point), the thumbscrew, the boot (some versions of which crushed the calf, ankle, and heel between vertically positioned boards, while others tortured the instep and toes between horizontally oriented plates), water (massive quantities of water forcibly ingestedâ€”or even mixed with urine, pepper, feces, etc., for additional persuasiveness), and red-hot pincers (typically applied to fingers, toes, ears, noses, and nipples, although one tubular version [the "crocodile shears"] was specially devised for application to the penis in cases of regicide), although church policy sometimes forbade bodily mutilation. If the torturer needed stronger methods, or if a death sentence was issued, the person was sent over to the secular authorities, who had no restrictions.
Torturous interrogations were generally conducted in secret, inside underground dungeons. By contrast, torturous executions were typically public, and woodcuts of English prisoners being hanged, drawn, and quartered show large crowds of spectators, as do paintings of Spanish auto-da-fÃ© executions, in which heretics were burned at the stake.
In 1613 Anton Praetorius described the situation of the prisoners in the dungeons in his book GrÃ¼ndlicher Bericht Ã¼ber Zauberei und Zauberer (Thorough Report about Sorcery and Sorcerers). He was one of the first to protest against all means of torture.
In ancient and medieval torture, there was little inhibition on inflicting bodily damage. People generally assumed that no innocent person would be accused, so anybody who appeared in the torture chamber was ultimately destined for execution, typically of a gruesome nature. Any minor mutilations due to rack or thumbscrew would not be noticed after a person had been burned at the stake. Besides, the torturer operated under the full authority of the church, the state, or both.