It is certain, however, that it was absolutely forbidden to inflict this degrading and infamous punishment on a Roman citizen (Cic., Verr.Act., I, 5; II, 3, 5; III, 2, 24, 26; IV, 10 sqq.; V, 28, 52, 61, 66); moreover, an illegal application of this punishment would have constituted a violation of the ) were declared subject to the punishment of the cross (Paul., "Sent.", V, xxii, 1; Sueton., "Galba", ix; Quintil., VIII, iv). According to Roman custom, the penalty of crucifixion was always preceded by scourging (, Prudentius, "Enchirid.", xli, 1); after this preliminary punishment, the condemned person had to carry the cross, or at least the transverse beam of it, to the place of execution (Plut., "Tard.He was then, as Plautus tells us, fastened with four nails to the wood of the cross ("Lact.", IV, 13; Senec., "Vita beat.", 19; Tert., "Adv.
It appears on a cinerary urn of Chiusi, and on the fibula found in the famous Etruscan tomb at Cere (Grifi, Mon. In later times the Egyptian Christians (Copts), attracted by its form, and perhaps by its symbolism, adopted it as the emblem of the cross (Gayet, "Les monuments coptes du Musée de Boulaq" in "Mémoires de le mission française du Caire", VIII, fasc. de Mortillet, "Le signe de la croix avant le christianisme", Paris, 1866; Letronne, "La croix ansée égyptienne" in "Mémoires de l'académie des inscriptions", XVI, pt. This more precise characterization coincides with a corresponding general change in customs and beliefs.
This custom, exceptional among the Romans, was common with the Jews.
In this way it was possible to take down the corpse on the very evening of the execution (Tertullian, "Adv. Among the Romans, on the contrary, the corpse could not be taken down, unless such removal had been specially authorized in the sentence of death.
The sign of the cross, represented in its simplest form by a crossing of two lines at right angles, greatly antedates, in both the East and the West, the introduction of Christianity.
It goes back to a very remote period of human civilization.