Thursday, 3 September 2015

brazen bull

Despite the relative profusion of medieval torture museums and the odd device displayed in a cellar or alcove—settings that lend an air of authenticity, it is interesting to think how an inflated idea of savagery has been perpetuated, and in fact torture and public gatherings to watch an execution were exceedingly rare occurrences.
Such spectacles did happen from time to time to seed the imagination and set an example, of course, but these were in the main orchestrated to assert legitimacy for new regimes—to suppress revolts and to claim a divine right of republic when dynastic orders were pushed aside. The artefacts, often shameless reconstructions cannibalised from other less exciting machine parts, planks and ploughshares from an appropriate age with no disclosure to the visitor—real or imaginary, are sort of a caprice, an idyll of hobbyists that I am not sure from what tradition of urban legends originate—though it seems rather Victorian to cultivate such diversions. Whatever the compulsion was to begin with, it seems that the historically selective and seldom practices carry the same forces of propaganda, though inverted, by suggesting that the same contemporary lexicon is hyperbole and drawing on the brutality of an uncivilised past, which was probably much more restrained.