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Mutilation (alternative, rarer notation: mutilation ) describes the radical change in shape due to external influences , which is considered disadvantageous . The term can stand for both the process and the result. Mutilation can result in loss of function or vital parts.


The word mutilation is the noun of mutilate , in the older form mutilate , mutilate . In these forms, the root words, mute and dull , which can touch each other in meaning, flow together. The term refers to living beings (animals and plants) and, figuratively, to communication (mutilated sentence, mutilated message).

Body mutilation

The body mutilation , also physical mutilation called, is a permanent Reviewed as limiting or adversely breach of the biological, in particular human body by the external force and leads to loss of physical integrity . As a rule, the term describes the damage to the body through the loss of one or more body parts (without intent to kill), but sometimes also other body modifications such as B. Deformations . Mutilation can result in disability .

If the person concerned deliberately damages their own body, one speaks of self-mutilation .

Mutilation as a method of torture and punishment

In many cases, physical mutilation was and is used as a method of torture or punishment .

In late Roman criminal law, the mutilation penalty was considered economical and popular, also because it stigmatized the punished person without breaking the taboo of killing. The imposition of corporal punishment was left to the discretion of officials. The excessive use of mutilation prompted Justinian I to write a novella (134.13) in which abuse was forbidden, but punishment was not abolished.

The early medieval Frankish law provided for the addition of mutilation as a form of corporal punishment. Mutilation was imposed in addition to the death penalty and as a separate punishment. Mostly they were reflective punishments : the perjurer's hand was chopped off or his tongue was torn out, the offender was castrated . The mirrored mutilation penalty still lived on in the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina .

In the Byzantine Eclogue ( 741 ), mutilation played an important role as a punishment: the law provided for the amputation of a hand in the event of theft, counterfeiting and serious bodily harm; the perjurer's tongue was removed. The punishment for blasphemy was blinding , fornication with animals was punished with castration, adultery with cutting off the nose . Here, too, a reflective application of the punishment in the sense of the Talion can be observed. Although the penalty of mutilation is in obvious contradiction to Christian morality, some scholars have justified it as a humanitarian act and as a substitute for the Roman pagan death penalty.

Cutting off the nose was not used as a punishment in the strict sense of the word to exclude people from the imperial dignity. However, this function came to an end with the renewed accession of the so mutilated Justinian II , as their uselessness became obvious.

The chopping off of the hand of people who have been found guilty of theft , which is practiced in some Islamic countries, is relatively well known (see also: Sharia ).

Individual evidence

  1. a b mutilate / mutilation . Meriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
  2. Cf. mutilate In: Duden - The dictionary of synonyms : “a) unfold, distort, bad / badly prepare; (Med.): Mutilate. b) shortening, distorting, distorting; (educational): pervert; (educationally derogatory): quiver. "
  3. mutilation . In: Duden - German Universal Dictionary , Bibliographisches Institut & FA Brockhaus AG, Mannheim 2007.
  4. mutilate / mutilation . In: Concise Oxford English Dictionary . Oxford University Press 2004.
  5. mutilation . In: The Digital Dictionary of the German Language of the 20th Century (DWDS) .
  6. Maim. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 25 : V – Verzwunzen - (XII, 1st division). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1956 ( ).
  7. Self-mutilation In: Brockhaus Enzyklopädie 2002 digital . Bibliographical Institute.
  8. Self-mutilation In: Meyers Lexicon in 10 volumes. Bibliographical Institute.
  9. ^ Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm : German legal antiquities. 2nd edition. Göttingen 1854, pp. 705-710. ( Online in Google Book Search)
  10. ^ R. Hoke : Austrian and German legal history . 2nd Edition. Böhlau 1996.
  11. Mutilation . In: Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium .

See also