The Fustuarium was a form of military punishment used as a capital execution at the time of Ancient Rome. The word derives from the Latin fustis, a term that designates a bundle of sticks. As is known, at the time, military discipline was iron and its transgressions were often punished with severe corporal punishment or with death, the best known example of which is perhaps decimation.

This happened precisely to avoid that an episode of negligence could compromise the functioning of an entire military corps, and the punishment therefore served as a warning to the other soldiers. The fustuarium, specifically, consisted in passing the condemned man, once naked, in the midst of two rows of fellow soldiers who were supposed to beat him to death. The punishment was applied above all to the deserters, but also to the perpetrators of theft inside the camp, of false testimony and those who had committed the same offense three times.

The Greek historian Polybius also reports that it was sometimes used against homosexuals. In Ancient Rome, in fact, homosexuality was generally accepted, but only in active form was it considered compatible with masculinity. In the army, a passive sexual act for a man was assimilated to defeat (rape against defeated soldiers was a practice of which there are several evidences as a form of post-war humiliation), and practicing it was seen as something that could make it vulnerable the body of a soldier: whoever had consented to such acts, therefore risked incurring a punishment.
Polybius cites this punishment in the VI Book of Stories with the Greek term ξυλοκοπία, a word that refers precisely to woods and sticks (ξυλοκόπος in Greek means lumberjack, so to speak): this has therefore led some translators of this author to translate the word with bastinado, which, however, is a different punishment that has in common with the fustuarium of having to do with clubbing. The bastinado, in fact, consists in beating the soles of the bare feet of those who suffer them with a stick, a cane or a rod and, not secondary, unlike the fustuarium, it does not aim to kill the person who suffers it.

An important mention is the fact - typical of many Roman corporal punishment - that the condemned to the fustuarium was stripped naked: unlike Ancient Greece, in Ancient Rome clothing was a distinctive sign of one's social status. Being naked was a form of humiliation because it deprived the condemned of his status, which is why it often occurred in military punishment.

This clarification is necessary because the fustuarium is often referred to as bastinado, especially in English texts, which has contributed to the confusion between these two corporal punishment. We do not know when this type of punishment was adopted by the Roman army, but the Stories of Polybius refer to the III-II Century before Christ, and for this we know that it was used at that time. This military punishment was, with some variations, also reused by armies that existed in the centuries following Ancient Rome.

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