The victim would be trapped between two boats, or other hollow objects, and their exposed head, arms and legs covered in honey. They would then be force fed nothing but milk and honey, before being left in the sun, or in a stagnant pool. Flies, other insects and rodents would be attracted to the victim, and would slowly eat them from both within and without.
A Horrific Form of Execution
Back in days gone by, death was no stranger to people, so they needed to think up some pretty horrible methods of execution to really make a point when they needed too. Scaphism aka 'the boats' fits that bill perfectly.
After being found guilty of a crime befitting this punishment, the victim would be stripped naked and measured for a pair of boats, or some other hollowed out object (we will however stick with boats from here on in).
The boats were made so that when the victim was sandwiched between them, (with the two boats facing each other) their head, arms and legs would be protruding from the sides. The two boats would be fastened together, so the victim was trapped and the process then began.
A mixture of honey and milk was force fed to the condemned. They would then develop severe diarrhea, which would not stop them from being force fed.
The victim, who would be wallowing in their own faeces, would have honey thickly smeared on their exposed arms, legs and face.
They would then be left out in the sun or taken to a stagnant pool/pond, where soon flies and other insects would arrive, attracted by the sweet honey, and the smell of faeces.
A Slow and Torturous Death
Insects and rodents quickly found gaps along the sides of the boats and made their way inside. A veritable feast of milky/honey faeces awaited, and they would gorge themselves.
The parts of the victim’s flesh that had made contact with their own sewerage, would start to rot, and the flies and other insects would lay their eggs... the maggots would start to make work on the dying flesh.
Rodents meanwhile attacked the living flesh, and in some cases would burrow their way into... ummm.... certain cavities. Soon the feeding of the insects would begin on the inside.
But probably the most horrific part of all, is that you were not allowed an easy death. Sure, being eaten by insects and rodents is horrible enough, but sitting exposed to the elements, surely you would die in a few days from dehydration?
Unfortunately for you, if your crime was grave enough, the guards would continue to force feed you the milk and honey, day after day and, in some cases, week after week.
Eventually you would die, generally of septic shock, as your body becomes severely infected and your organs shut down.
A Soldier Defies a King
Cyrus the Younger had just had a great victory and as he made his way through the enemy lines he called "Clear the way, villains, clear the way". During all this, his tiara dropped off his head and Mithridates struck him and killed him without realising who he was.
King Artraxerxes rewarded Mithridates, as now it was one less claimant to the throne and the King’s position was secured. Mithridates was rewarded, but only on the condition that all would think it was Artraxerxes who had killed Cyrus.
All was well until a while later. At a banquet, Mithridates boasted that he was the one to kill Cyrus the younger and not the King. This was his doom and to the boats he went.
Plutarch (Greek Biographer and Essayist) wrote about Mithridates execution in his work 'Life of Artraxerxes':
[The king] decreed that Mithridates should be put to death in boats; which execution is after the following manner: Taking two boats framed exactly to fit and answer each other, they lay down in one of them the malefactor that suffers, upon his back; then, covering it with the other, and so setting them together that the head, hands, and feet of him are left outside, and the rest of his body lies shut up within, they offer him food, and if he refuse to eat it, they force him to do it by pricking his eyes; then, after he has eaten, they drench him with a mixture of milk and honey, pouring it not only into his mouth, but all over his face.
They then keep his face continually turned towards the sun; and it becomes completely covered up and hidden by the multitude of flies that settle on it. And as within the boats he does what those that eat and drink must needs do, creeping things and vermin spring out of the corruption and rottenness of the excrement and these entering into the bowels of him, his body are consumed.
When the man is manifestly dead, the uppermost boat being taken off, they find his flesh devoured, and swarms of such noisome creatures preying upon and, as it were, growing to his inwards. In this way Mithridates, after suffering for seventeen days, at last expired.
An absolutely horrible death for Mithridates. To survive being eaten alive for 17 days is absolutely horrendous, and all for making the king look bad.
It is no longer a form of punishment.