The skinning of a corrupt judge, Sisamnes in 1498


In the year 1498 (6th BC), there was a trial and execution of an unjust and corrupt judge, Sisamnes.

The story of the harsh judgment by the Persian King Cambyses II, who reigned 529-522 B.C., against the corrupt judge Sisamnes was preserved for posterity by a great Greek historian, Herodotus, in his fifth book of histories.

Sisamnes, Herodotus tells us, was a royal judge under the reign of King Cambyses II. Sisamnes accepted a bribe from a party in a lawsuit, and therefore rendered an unjust judgment.

King Cambyses learned of the bribe, accused Sisamnes, and had him arrested and punished, but by no ordinary punishment. The punishment was as creative as it was cruel.

King Cambyses slit his throat and flayed off all his skin and he strung the chair, on which Sisamnes had used to sit to deliver his verdicts, with these thongs.

To replace Judge Sisamnes whom he had killed and skinned, Cambyses appointed Sisamnes’s son, Otanes as the new judge.

Cambyses warned Otanes to bear in mind the source of the leather of the bench upon which he would sit to hear evidence, deliberate, and deliver his decisions. Without doubt, King Cambyses’s warning buttressed by the reupholstered seat left a lingering impression on his new judge.


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