Crucifixion was a violent execution involving being suspended from a cross, stake, or tree by either ropes or nails. Crucifixion was used throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East in various forms throughout antiquity. By the Roman Republic, crucifixion was the form of execution reserved for slaves and traitors, due to its torturous degradation of the condemned. The condemned was stripped naked and secured to the gibbet in a variety postures, all intended to immobilize the condemned and render him a helpless object of contempt and revulsion. The proximate cause of death varied from case to case, depending on the precise method of crucifixion. The condemned might linger for hours or even days before ultimately succumbing to asphyxia, cardiac arrest, thirst, or exposure.

Although the exemplary purpose of crucifixion was best served by permitting the condemned to linger in agony as long as possible, in some cases, in order to speed death, the legs of the condemned would be broken, increasing the agony of suspension but causing internal bleeding leading more swiftly to shock, embolisms in the bloodstream, asphyxia, and death.

During the Third Servile War, while being trapped by Marcus Licinius Crassus in Bruttium, Spartacus decided to crucify one of his Roman captives, Lucius Olidus infant of Crassus' camp, as a way to both intimidate Crassus and his men as well as send a message to the other rebels of what awaits them should they fail.

After Marcus Crassus ended the Third Servile War, he crucified 6000 rebel slaves under Spartacus' command who he had taken prisoner during the battle at the Silarus River. Stretching 150 miles, there would have been a crucified slave every 30 yards or so, sending a powerful, fixed message to all other slaves.

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