Brazen Bull: Gruesome Ancient Greek Torture Device Turned Screams into “Music”

As its name suggests, the Brazen Bull was a bronze object in the shape of a bull

The Brazen Bull (known also as the ‘Bull of Phalaris’, the ‘Bronze Bull’ or the ‘Sicilian Bull’) was a type of ancient torture and execution device from ancient Greece. The story of the Brazen Bull is connected with Phalaris, the tyrant of Acragas (known today as Agrigento, on the southern coast of Sicily), and Perillos (sometimes spelt as Perilaüs), an Attic bronze-worker. The Brazen Bull was an extremely cruel instrument, and its story is a renowned example of an invention that caused the death of its inventor.

Meet the Maker

The story of the Brazen Bull seems to have been well-known in the ancient world, as it has been mentioned by writers such as Lucian of Samosata, Pindar, “and countless besides them”. One version of the story can be found in Diodorus Siculus’ Library of History . According to this ancient historian, the Brazen Bull was invented by a man by the name of Perillos, who was a “well-known Attic worker in bronze”. Diodorus indicates that Perillos brought the Brazen Bull to Phalaris as a gift. Phalaris was known in the ancient world for his cruelty, and perhaps the bronze-worker was hoping for a reward from the tyrant for his ingenuity.

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