This Spartan Torture Device Probably Inspired The Iron Maiden

History is riddled with some sensationally barbaric and malicious tools of death. Seriously, most of these medieval torture devices could hardly be conceived in the most vivid of nightmares, and the fact that they were actually put to use is enough to churn one's stomach into a ball of hot, quivering knots. 

The breaking wheel, for instance, was an actual wheel to which the victim was bound spread-eagle style. Up until they finally perished (it often lasted days), he or she was viciously beaten and had their limbs shattered to bits while stretched across the circular apparatus. Perhaps you've heard of rat torture or seen it depicted in movies or TV shows. Those doomed to this grueling fate were tied down with a rat perched atop their belly. In turn, a bucket was set against the person's body to trap the animal. By holding a torch against the bucket, the rat would tear through the flesh of the victim in a frenzied panic and burrow itself in their guts by means of escaping, according to the King Richard Visitor Center website, RIII News. 

Mankind's penchant for sadistic torture and unabashed cruelty speaks volumes about the dark underbelly of our species. How, for instance, could we ever subject someone to the abominable demise brought on by the infamous and legendary iron maiden? No, we're not talking about the heavy metal band. If you're not familiar, the iron maiden was allegedly a coffin-like enclosure with spikes on the inside. According to Medieval Chronicles, the victim was placed inside and, well... you get the idea. 

The iron maiden was likely a myth

It is widely believed that once inside the iron maiden, the unfortunate individual was impaled by spikes protruding from the surfaces on the inside. Their spurting jets of blood would then collect at the bottom of the enclosure and drip through holes cut into the base, producing a vermillion shower of grisly red fluid that splattered upon the floor. Pretty brutal, huh? While the idea of the iron maiden may seem enticing in a really sick way, it most likely never existed. Rather, it was a 19th-century myth that has been accepted as fact for generations (via RIII News). 

Tangible evidence to support the actual use of an iron maiden is rather feeble. The ones that appear in museums and historical facilities across the world have no residue or markings of blood that would suggest anyone ever having died in one. However, don't get too reassured. While the iron maiden as we describe it may not have ever been used throughout history, there was in fact a similar device that elicited the same degree of anguish and suffering for those subjected to its horrors (per Today I Found Out). 

Iron Apega, the OG iron maiden

The year was 200 BC (roughly), and the place was Sparta. Under the tyrannical rule of king Nabis, life was difficult. It didn't take much to awaken the malice within the ruler's heart, and many died during the years of his harrowing reign. Those who didn't pay their taxes, posed a threat to his political standing, or simply looked at him the wrong way could easily find themselves in the grip of his savagery (via We Are The Mighty). 

Nabis had a wife whose countenance and general attributes inspired the aesthetic of his favorite torture device: a statue shaped like a woman with spikes adorning its surface at the chest and arms — spikes that fatally pierced the body of the unlucky person being pressed against it. The device was aptly called the "Iron Apega" after his wife's namesake. Though it's tough to say for sure whether or not Nabis' monument of torture really existed, it was likely the prototypical inspiration behind what people would eventually describe as the infamous and iconic iron maiden (per Today I Found Out).