The word dungeon comes from the French "Donjon" which means tower. This means that, contrary to popular belief, dungeons were not located in the dark and cold basement of a castle, but regularly on the castle's highest tower. The reason for this is obvious - while hundreds of guards would be needed to properly defend a complete underground dungeon, only a dozen would be needed to protect a high tower since the narrow stairs made it possible.
Those who were confined in an underground dungeon, usually stayed there for their whole lifetime. Whilst the space in the high tower was limited and prisoners in a tower would be either executed or set free.
Castles, having been built so resistant, were frequently turned into prisons. Both the French Bastille and the English Tower of London served for that purpose over the years.
Dungeons were frequently host to many torture devices in which inmates would be either killed or heavily tortured. This was especially frequent after the XII century and even more during the inquisition.
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