In ancient Rome, the general rule was that slaves could be tortured freely. In fact, it was strongly suggested that any free man accused of a crime should have his slaves tortured, often executed, at his place before a verdict could be reached. But that didn’t stop the Roman elite from torturing the free men and women of their country. Roman law always had loopholes, and the elite rulers took advantage of every loophole.
If you’re looking for cruel and unusual forms of torture, you don’t have to look any further than ancient Rome. Take, for instance, a torture that was described by both Apuleius (The Golden Ass) and Lucian (Lucius, or the Ass):
A donkey would be killed, its belly sliced open, and the entrails removed. The accused was then stripped of clothing and stuffed into the animal’s belly. The belly was stitched closed, leaving only the accused’s head outside, preventing suffocation but prolonging suffering.
The donkey’s body was kept in the sun. It would begin to decompose—with the living victim inside being cooked by the heat. Maggots would crawl all over the accused, and vultures would peck at the animal’s decaying flesh. Death, while welcomed, came slowly for the victim of this torture.