I also thought I’d share an interesting tidbit I came across. My father deals in antiques, and he found a miniature, 4-inch-tall iron maiden, complete with spikes, just like this one pictured below.
What makes this relevant to this blog is the weird history of the iron maiden. Routinely described as a medieval torture device, the spiked cabinet does not exist in any medieval manuscript or as any genuine medieval artifact. The first iron maiden reports were created as a hoax in 1793, derived from two possible sources. The first is the Carthaginians’ torture of Regulus as described in Augustine’s City of God (1.15):
They shut him up in a narrow box, in which he was compelled to stand, and in which finely sharpened nails were fixed all round about him, so that he could not lean upon any part of it without intense pain; and so they killed him by depriving him of sleep.
Following the 1793 literary hoax, German hucksters cobbled together iron maidens from various medieval artifacts and spare parts to display to the public for cash. The Nuremberg maiden, for example, probably used a medieval cast-iron head of the Virgin Mary as its face.
Such fabricated historical artifacts remind us how important it is to carefully examine sources and critically think about not just what we know about history but how we know it. This also reminds us that there have always been those who were willing to fabricate and falsify history for profit.