Poena cullei (from Latin ‘penalty of the sack’) under Roman law was a type of death penalty imposed on a subject who had been found guilty of parricide. The punishment consisted of being sewn up in a leather sack, with an assortment of live animals including a dog, snake, monkey, and a chicken or rooster, and then being thrown into water.
The punishment may have varied widely in its frequency and precise form during the Roman period. For example, the earliest fully documented case is from ca. 100 BCE, although scholars think the punishment may have developed about a century earlier. Inclusion of live animals in the sack is only documented from Early Imperial times, and at the beginning, only snakes were mentioned. At the time of Emperor Hadrian (2nd century CE), the most well known form of the punishment was documented, where a cock, a dog, a monkey and a viper were inserted in the sack. At the time of Hadrian poena cullei was made into an optional form of punishment for parricides (the alternative was being thrown to the beasts in the arena).
During the 3rd century CE up to the accession of Emperor Constantine, poena cullei fell out of use; Constantine revived it, now with only serpents to be added in the sack. Well over 200 years later, Emperor Justinian reinstituted the punishment with the four animals, and poena cullei remained the statutory penalty for parricides within Byzantine law for the next 400 years, when it was replaced with being burned alive. Poena cullei gained a revival of sorts in late medieval and early modern Germany, with late cases of being drowned in a sack along with live animals being documented from Saxony in the first half of the 18th century.