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Oddest Ways to Die: Ancient Saints

Not even religious figures are safe from the tortuous deaths that victims of ancient times experienced. In this article, you will learn of how Saint Peter and Saint Antipas met their end , both with unusual methods of punishment.

Saint Peter , Death by an Inverted Crucifixion

The Romans were behind the execution of Saint Peter, who requested a different method of death that strayed from the tradition of his time. Peter was set to die by crucifixion, but was put to death on an inverted cross. According to Origen of Alexandria, Peter requested the change because he felt he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.  

Saint Peter (or Simon Peter or Simon Cephas) was an early Christian leader who is mentioned in the New Testament and the Acts of the Apostles. He is also regarded as the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Peter spent his early days working towards building a church of Antioch and serving as the bishop of the city. He preached to Jews and Hebrew Christians in the surrounding communities and after seven years, he traveled to Rome.

In the New Testament, Peter is one of the 12 Apostles who were chosen by Jesus out of his first disciples. Peter was a fisherman at the time, who was assigned a leadership position by Jesus. He was also with Jesus when significant events took place, such as the Transfiguration, which was only witnessed by a handful of the Apostles. In art, Peter is often depicted with the Keys of Heaven, holding a book or scroll, with a bushy white beard, and as a man being crucified head downwards.

It is said that Peter worked in Rome during the last days of his life and become a martyr after his death. He was crucified with his head downwards, which later became a symbol of Peter , the upside down cross.

Saint Antipas , Death by a Brass Bull

In the Book of Revelation, Saint Antipas is mentioned as the “faithful martyr” of Pergamon , an ancient Greek city situated close to the Aegean Sea this is found in what is now known as Turkey. The Christians state that John the Apostle ordained Antipas as bishop of the Pergamon when the Roman emperor Domitian was the ruler of his time. Saint Antipas died around 98 AD when he was roasted to death in a brazen bull during the days of persecutions that Emperor Domitian ordered. This was a death that he also shared with Saint Eustace, who was killed in a similar manner under the rule of Hadrian, along with his wife and children.

The brazen bull was a form of torture and execution that was designed in ancient Greek times. The hollow bull was constructed solely of brass and had a door at each side. A victim was placed inside the bull and the doors were shut. A fire was set under the bull, which caused the metal to heat up until it turned a yellow color. The condemned sealed inside the bull was roasted to death.

Legend states that the creator of the brazen bull, Perillos of Athens was the first to experience his own invention when he went to demonstrate it to Phalaris , a tyrant of Agrigentum. He was taken out of the bull before he died. Tradition states that Antipas was martyred in 92 AD when he was burned in an altar shaped like a brazen bull that was meant for casting out demons that the locals had worshipped. Interestingly, some Catholics have prayed to Saint Antipas when they have concerns for medical issues involving the teeth.