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Woodblock print of Vlad III Dracula attending a mass impalement.
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Impalement is a term that refers to situations in which objects are driven through the body, causing deep stabbing wounds. It can refer either to accidental events or to deliberate wounding used as a method of torture or execution. In stage magic, the illusion of impalement is employed to simulate the real thing.


Torture and execution

Impalement as a method of torture and execution involves a person being pierced with a long stake. The penetration could be through the sides, through the rectum, through the vagina, or through the mouth. This method leads to a painful death, sometimes taking days. The stake would often be planted in the ground, leaving the impaled person suspended to die.

In some forms of impalement, the stake would be inserted so as to avoid immediate death, and would function as a plug to prevent blood loss. After preparation of the victim, perhaps including public torture and rape, the victim was stripped and an incision was made in the perineum between the genitals and rectum. A stout pole with a blunt end was inserted. A blunt end would push vital organs to the side, greatly slowing death.

The pole would often come out of the body at the top of the sternum and be placed against the lower jaw so that the victim would not slide farther down the pole. Often, the victim was hoisted into the air after partial impalement. Gravity and the victim's own struggles would cause them to slide down the pole.[citation needed]


Impalement of Judeans in a Neo-Assyrian relief.

The use of impalement as a form of execution in civilizations of the Ancient Near East, such as the Neo-Assyrian empire, is evidenced by carvings and statues from the ancient Near East. According to Ancient Greek historian Herodotus (3.159), Darius I impaled 3,000 Babylonians when he took Babylon: their execution is also recorded in the Behistun inscription.

In ancient Rome, the term "crucifixion" could also refer to impalement. Ancient authors also report the use of "crucifixion" (which may have meant impalement as well) in Carthage, where it was used for extreme cases of treachery and failure on the battlefield, usually combined with other forms of torture.

Impalement was frequently practiced in Asia and Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Vlad the Impaler and Ivan the Terrible have passed into legend as major users of the method. From the 14th to 18th century, impalement was a traditional method of execution for high treason in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Impalement was used in Sweden during the 17th century, particularly as a death penalty for members of the resistance in the former Danish provinces[citation needed], the Scanian lands (the so-called "Snapphane)", where the stake was inserted between the spine and the skin of the victim. In that way, it could take four to five days before the victim died.

In Malay Adat law, the traditional punishment for adultery before the modern age was that of impalement, known in Malay as Hukum Sula. A pole was inserted through the anus and pushed up to pierce the heart or lungs of the condemned, the pole thereupon being hoisted and inserted into the ground.

The Zulu of South Africa used impalement (ukujoja) as a form of punishment for soldiers who had failed in the execution of their duty, people accused of witchcraft or who had exhibited cowardice.[1]

The Araucanian chief Caupolican suffered this death as a prisoner during the Spanish conquest of Chile. The method used was to make him sit on a stake while his wife was forced to watch.[2] In 1578 the chief Juan de Lebú would be executed by the same manner.

The French occupiers of Egypt resorted to this method of execution towards Suleiman al-Halabi, the Syrian Kurdish student who assassinated the general Kléber.

Athanasios Diakos, a Greek military commander during the Greek War of Independence, was impaled and burned by the Ottoman army.

In the Indian subcontinent impalement is often referred to in folk tales and fairy tales as punishment for the wicked — usually imposed by a good king at the end of the story. In the Bengal region, it is known as Shul (Bengali: শূল).

In ancient Tamilnadu India impalement was referred as "KAZHUVETRAM",It was done in public,cause for this punishment is commonly royal treason.


  1. ^ Bourquin, S. "the Zulu Military Organization and the Challenge of 1879." The South African Military History Society, Military History Journal, Volume 4, Number 4 (Last Modified on 9 December 2007).
  2. ^ de Vivar, Jerónimo. "Crónicas de Los Reinos de Chile, Ficha Capítulo CXXXVI." artehistoria.

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