Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/97

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
78
 
PERSIA.

revenge an injury; but there were none of those murderers by profession, of whom Europe exhibits but too many example. The rarity of the evil has inducted a neglect of the remedy: it has fared with these crimes as with those severe diseases for which medicine has no fixed rules—the operator in both is obliged to act according to circumstances.



CHAPTER V.

OF THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF PUNISHMENTS.

It is not without feelings of pain and disgust, that we enter upon this subject, which we would gladly have entirely omitted, were it not necessary to complete the portrait of a nation. Death, the idea of destruction, presents itself to man under an aspect so alarming, that there is no occasion to present it with all the circumstances which render it still more cruel. We should imagine, it is true, on considering the number of crimes committed in countries where executions are very frequent, that it could not be accompanied with too many horrors to deter man from guilt, since reason alone is incapable of recalling him to his duty: but the most consummate villain, enduring the horrid torments of a lingering death, ceases to be viewed as such: we forget his crimes, and behold in him only a fellow-creature suffering excruciating agonies. The emotions of the heart are not to be controlled either by reason or circumstances.

The kinds of punishment are numerous in the East, and vary according to the nature of the crime, and the quality of the culprit. The bastinado is the most common. The legs of the sufferer are tied together, and raised by means of a cord fastened to a tree or stake: the soles of the feet are then beaten with a stick. The rule is to give at least thirty strokes, but never more than three hundred. When a person is convicted of perjury, his throat is crammed with tow or rags, and melted lead poured into his mouth. Swindlers are branded on the forehead with a red-hot iron; house-breakers and coiners of counterfeit money have a hand cut off. Tradesmen using false weights, are put into a kind of walking pillory. A thick plank, with a hole in the middle to admit the head, rests upon the shoulders of the culprit; to this plank is fastened a bell: a straw cap is placed on his head, and thus accoutred he is paraded through the streets of the town.

The most common capital punishment, called shekeh kerden consists in cutting the body in two lengthwise with a sword, beginning between the legs and terminating on the side of the