Decimation (from the Latin word Deci, meaning ten), was the ancient Roman punishment in which a legion or cohort had one in every ten men beaten to death by their fellow legionaries.
The practice of Decimation is recorded to have been used as early as 471 BC, but the practice was stopped and replaced by other forms of punishment. The practice was resumed by Marcus Licinius Crassus during the Third Servile War. Historically, around 10,000 men returned to Crassus' camp. Crassus chose and decimated an entire cohort of 500 men. 50 men were killed through Decimation. The survivors were not only given less food, consisting of barley instead of wheat, but where further punished by being placed on the front lines from then on. This act was meant to both shame the legions that retreating from the enemy (in this case, an army of rebel slaves) and show the rest of his legions what awaited them if they also retreated. While not boosting morale, Crassus' troops were motivated by this possible punishment.
In the episode Decimation, Marcus Crassus punishes his son and the rest of his surviving
men of the Battle outside Sinuessa using this method. His son, Tiberius, was even ordered to prepare the stones that where going to be used as lots prepared himself. Five men, including Sabinus were killed.
- In the show, the fifty men Decimated are divided into groups of five, whereas historically they would've been divided into groups of ten.
- Historically, the tenth man killed was decided through either drawing lots, or through drawing from a bag of white painted stones, with the man executed drawing the unpainted stone. In the show however, the man executed draws the painted stone instead.