Foto Marburg/Art Resource, NY

The ax-bearer trudges behind the bull in this sacrificial procession from an early first-century A.D. Roman relief in the Louvre.

The presence of ax-bearers in Roman imperial processions may have inspired Mark to include in his gospel the story of Simon of Cyrene, whom the Roman soldiers forced to carry the cross for Jesus. Like the bull slaughterer, Simon walked beside the victim, carrying the instrument of his death.