- Religion and Philosophy
The Origin of 'Crucifixion'
A tropaion, whence English "trophy" is derived, is an ancient Greek and later Roman monument set up to commemorate a victory over one's foes. Typically this takes the shape of a tree, sometimes with a pair of arm-like branches (or, in later times, a pair of stakes set crosswise) upon which is hung the armour of a defeated and dead foe. The tropaion is then dedicated to a god in thanksgiving for the victory.
There’s no evidence from ancient Roman artwork of ‘crucifixion’ as we generally think of it. Ancient writings mention it, but the original word being translated was actually ‘stauros’. In the Homeric and classical periods, it denoted an upright pale, pole, or stake, but by the time that Christianity appeared, it came to include a crossbeam. ‘Crucifixion’ never happened. The Romans hanged their enemies on poles, trees, etc. Not crosses. The cross (tropaion) was a symbol of victory, not torture.
The ‘crucifixion of Jesus’ is largely based off of the funeral of Julius Caesar. During Caesar’s funeral, a wax image of him was nailed to a cross shaped tropaion to display the 23 stab wounds. Caesar was deified and it was believed that his soul had 'ascended to Heaven'. His grand-nephew and adopted son Augustus would be referred to as "son of a god". The Jews mourned at Caesar’s funeral and it’s likely that many considered him to be a messiah / christus / anointed one. This event would eventually mutate into the mythical ‘crucifixion of Jesus’.
© 2017 Kevin Porter