In the middle ages torture was used to extract information, force confessions, punish suspects,
frighten opponents, and satisfy personal hatred.Historically, ancient Greeks and Romans used torture for interrogation. Until the secondcentury AD, torture was used only on slaves.. A slave's testimony was admissible only if
extracted by torture.The word 'torture' comes from the French
, originating in the Late Latin
andultimately deriving the past participle of
meaning 'to twist'. Many characteristicallyChristian tortures rely on a twisting of the limbs, twisting ligatures, or turning screwmechanisms as the Church discouraged the shedding of blood.The Norman French who came to England with William the Conqueror used torture to extracttreasure from the Anglo-Saxons in their new kingdom. During the Anarchy, the Normansupporters of both of the claimants to the throne practiced torture to extract gold and silver fromthe peasantry. As the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1139 puts it:They hanged them by the thumbs, or by the head, and hung fires on their feet; they put knottedstrings about their heads, and writhed them so that it went to the brain ... Some they put in achest that was short, and narrow, and shallow, and put sharp stones therein, and pressed the mantherein, so that they broke all his limbs ... I neither can nor may tell all the wounds or all the
tortures which they inflicted on wretched men in this land.Medieval and early modern European courts used torture, depending on the accused's alleged
crime and social status. Torture was deemed a legitimate means to extract confessions or toobtain the names of accomplices or other information about a crime. In theory, it was permittedonly if there was already half-proof against the accused. Defendants already sentenced to deathwould be tortured to force them to disclose the names of accomplices.