It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).

Oct 25, 2008

Emperor Galienus Roman Punishment Hoax

Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus was born in about AD 213. Compared to other Roman emperors of the age, Gallienus was an exception, as far as he was not a soldier-emperor. He was rather a thoughtful, intellectual ruler, possessing sophisticated Greek tastes. However, this made him deeply unpopular with the gritty Danubian generals, who very much understood it as their right to choose a leader among their own ranks to rule the empire.

In the case described in the post, the emperor Gallienus rendered justice by bloodcurling hoax, rather than by the more common bloodletting, which was generally accepted at this time.

The emperor learned from his wife, Salonina, that she has been cheated by a jewel dealer who had sold her imitation gems (the guy definitely has had guts to play jokes with emperor’s spouse). Determined to punish the dishonest jeweler in a manner befitting his crime, Galienus ordered the culprit to be sent to the arena, with the royal couple and a full audience in attendance.

The jeweler, half-dead already with fright, was dumped into the empty arena, with the sounds of lions to be heard from behind a closed door. For the very long time, the emperor did nothing, letting the tension mount for the jeweler and the spectators. Finally, the door swung open - and out pranced a tiny chicken. The emperor then signaled a herald to proclaim the royal message: “He practiced deceit, and has had it practiced on him”.

The jeweler, tottering still in fear, was sent home, perhaps certain that he had suffered a punishment worse than death.

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