a method of taking away life practised among the Egyptians (Gen. 40:17-19). There are instances of this mode of punishment also among the Hebrews (2 Sam. 4:8; 20:21,22; 2 Kings 10:6-8). It is also mentioned in the New Testament (Matt. 14:8-12; Acts 12:2).
a mode of executing capital punishment by which the head is severed from the body. The ancient Greeks and Romans regarded it as a most honourable form of death. Before execution the criminal was tied to a stake and whipped with rods. In early times an ax was used, but later a sword, which was considered a more honourable instrument of death, was used for Roman citizens. Ritual decapitation known as seppuku was practiced in Japan from the 15th through the 19th century. One symbolic consequence of the French Revolution was the extension of the privilege of beheading to criminals of ordinary birth, by means of the guillotine.
Learn more about beheading with a free trial on Britannica.com.