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Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Statue of Roman emperor Claudius. Photo Credit: Isogood_patrick/Shutterstock


  • Assassinated By: Likely Aggripina The Younger
  • Year: 54 AD
  • Cause of Fatality: Poisoned Via Mushrooms
  • Motive: To Put Nero On The Throne

Claudius is considered by most to be one of the best Roman Emperors in history. Yet no one ever saw him as a potential Emperor. This was mostly due to having a bad limp and slight deafness. His family even kept him from power until he was made co-consul with his nephew, Caligula. Once he was gone, Claudius was installed as the new ruler. As great a ruler as he was, Cladius seemingly fell for women who obviously just wanted power. He divorced his first three wives, all of which took advantage of him and committed adulterous acts.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Claudius poisoned. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

His fourth wife, Agrippina the Younger, was also terrible and thirsted for power. Her son Nero would be adopted by Claudius, leading her to want to end Claudius. This led her to poison him via mushrooms, committing one of the most notable assassinations in history. Mushrooms like the ones they used will disable enzymes that make new proteins, causing cells to not function and result in liver failure. If not treated quickly, beyond the liver, several other organs will begin to shut down too.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Statue of Agrippina & Nero. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Agrippina The Younger

  • Assassinated By: Unknown Assassin On Orders From Nero
  • Year: 59 AD
  • Cause of Fatality: Stabbed In Abdomen
  • Motive: Assumed Overthrow Of Nero

Agrippina The Younger was one of the most notable assassinations in history herself. As we know, Agrippina also sought power for herself when trying to end Claudius and put her son, Nero, on the throne. Nero was too young to rule Rome on his own at first, allowing his mother to become the Empress and rule alongside him. Of course, Nero eventually became of age to rule on his own, but his mother was still recognized as Empress. Eventually, his mother attempted to overthrow her son with his political rival. But this did not “technically” happen, so she acted as if nothing had changed, but Nero knew the truth.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
“The Shipwreck of Agrippina” by Gustav Wertheimer. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

His mother wanted to go back to her home in Misenum after visiting Rome. Nero kindly had her take his boat back, which had been sabotaged to self-sink on the orders of Nero himself. It was widely assumed Agrippina and many other nobles could not swim, but even if they could, crocodile-infested waters were tough to survive. Once the boat sank, Agrippina swam back to shore. It is stated that Nero sent an assassin just in case his mother did survive. It is said that Agrippina requested the assassin stab her in her stomach, stating to stab her “in the womb that had born such an unnatural son.”

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Thomas Of Woodstock. Photo Credit: National Photo Gallery

Thomas Of Woodstock

  • Assassinated By: Unknown Assassin On The Orders Of Richard II
  • Year: 1397
  • Cause of Fatality: Suffocation
  • Motive: Retaliation For Overthrowing King

King Richard II was known for being a horrible human and his uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, knew it. Some of his close advisors were only part of the problem, and Thomas felt they needed to be removed. This led him to form the “Lords Appellant,” a group of powerful nobles. They actually led a successful rebellion against Richard and some of the King’s favorite advisors were sent into exile or executed. The Lords then ruled the Kingdom for a while. Richard did not take kindly to this and managed to regain control in 1397. He sent his uncle to a prison in Calais where he was to await trial for the crime of treason.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
The murder of Thomas of Woodstock. Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

It is stated that Richard ordered the assassination of Thomas in his cell. Some claim he was choked by a cloak but others state he was suffocated by a mattress. When air is cut off for an extended period, it becomes hard to get proper oxygen. This will naturally make us work harder to get it, only making us use up more air and energy within us. After a few minutes, our brain will force us to pass out and we will eventually suffocate. This still ranks as one of the most notable assassinations in English history.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
The Brazen Bull of Phalarus. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


  • Assassinated By: Telemachus of Acragas
  • Year: 554 B.C.
  • Cause of Fatality: The Brazan Bull
  • Motive: To End His Tyrannical Rule

Phalaris was known for being absolutely horrible to people, and one heck of an evil man. Historians claim he was a cannibal who ate human babies. He is also known for using the “brazen bull.” This was a torture and execution device used to end anyone Phalaris felt like removing. That even included its inventor, Perilaus of Athens. Due to being such a tyrant, many people wanted him to be ended by someone.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Brazen Bull torturing method. Photo Credit: Flickr

The man to do it was Telemachus of Acragas. When Telemachus decided to take out Phalaris, he knew he needed to lead a major uprising as Phalaris still had an army. Telemachus succeeded and decided to end Phalaris the same way he ended others, via the Brazen Bull. Within it, one is trapped inside the bronze bull and a fire underneath cooks the person on the inside. Literally, Phalaris would have been melted inside it with his screams being heard the whole time.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
An illustration from the early 20th Century depicts Nebuchadnezzar surveying the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Artaxerxes III and Artaxerxes IV

  • Assassinated By: Bagoas
  • Year: 338 and 336 B.C.
  • Cause of Fatality: Poison
  • Motive: To Gain Power

The Persian Empire is legendary, and the empire was filled with several notable assassinations. Firstly, Artaxerxes II was a tremendous ruler that expanded the empire even more than his father. He was the one who came in contact with the Spartans, for those unaware. After he passed, his son Artaxerxes III landed on the throne. He actually ordered that all the rest of the royal family be ended to secure his throne. He ruled on the Persian throne for quite a while until being poisoned. In 338 B.C. the eunuch and chiliarch known as Bagoas managed to poison him through his Artaxerxes’ own doctor.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Artaxerxes IV. Photo Credit: Pinterest

This was done to put his son, known as Arses at the time, on the throne. Arses then became Artaxerxes IV and took the throne. He only held it for 2 years, as he became wise to Bagoas trying to control him. He actually tried to unsuccessfully poison Bagoas, but the eunuch realized this and poisoned him and his entire family first. The poison used is unknown but it was said to have worked relatively soon, as it shut down organs and made people bleed from their mouths. These life-endings rank as some of the most notable assassinations ever, as they led to the eventual end of the Persian Empire.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Bagoas Pleads on Behalf of Nabarzanes. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


  • Assassinated By: “Technically” Darius III
  • Year: 336 B.C.
  • Cause of Fatality: Poison
  • Motive: Attempting To Poison The King

Bagoas had been successfully acting as a king-maker in the Persian Empire and everyone knew he had a role in what happened to the Artaxerxes line. He would install Darius III on the throne. Bagoas knew that he could be on the throne himself but that would make him a target. Acting as a “man behind the man” allowed him to be out of the spotlight but still have ultimate power through advising. He took out Artaxerxes III and IV due to both no longer caring for his advice and power pull.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Bust of Aeschylus, ca. 1st-2nd century CE, Cornell University Library; with The Death of Aeschylus, Tobias Verhaecht, 1576. Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Darius III could be installed and allow Bagoas to yet again have a chance to hold ultimate power as a major advisor for him, but Darius saw through what was going on. Bagoas plotted to poison Darius, but the Persian King found out. He then made Bagoas drink his own poison which ended him. This is one of the most notable assassinations in history due to how much power Bagoas tried to take. When he did not get his way, he ended kings and installed others. That needed to be stopped.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Portrait of Leon Trotsky. Photo Credit: The Kaiserreich Wiki [CC-BY-SA]

Leon Trotsky

  • Assassinated By: Ramón Mercader (on orders from Joseph Stalin)
  • Year: 1940
  • Cause of Fatality: Ice Pick To The Skull
  • Motive: To End His Opposition Of Stalin

Leon Trotsky was a powerful opponent to Joseph Stalin during the 1920s. This resulted in his deportation from the Soviet Union, causing him to end up in Mexico. He still spoke out against Stalin and continued his influential writings as well as teach Marxism. Now that World War I had passed, World War II began to slowly involve Russia and Stalin. Trotsky yet again was an unchecked problem for Stalin that needed to be ended. A man named Ramón Mercader, an undercover agent for Stalin, was sent to permanently silence Leon.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Leon Trotsky in Russia. Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

In August 1940, he met with Trotsky on the guise to speak with him about an article he wrote. When Trotsky looked down to read the article, Mercader pulled out a literal ice pick and struck Trotsky in his skull. Once his guards heard the commotion they ran in to help. Leon told his guards to not end the assassin, for “this man has a story to tell.” Trotsky passed a day later due to severe brain damage. On an interesting note, ice picks were used in brain operations by this point. They were very effective in lobotomies but were better life-ending weapons. Trotsky likely passed from a hematoma (brain bleed).

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Tiberius et Gaius Sempronius Gracchus. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Tiberius Gracchus

  • Assassinated By: Roman Senate
  • Year: 133 B.C.
  • Cause of Fatality: Beaten With Clubs
  • Motive: To Avoid His Re-Election

Tiberius Gracchus was a politician in the second century B.C. within Rome and became one of the most notable assassinations in Roman history. He was popular with many Roman citizens as his agrarian reform law took land from wealthy landowners and given to poorer citizens. Tiberius was obviously disliked by the Senate, some of the most wealthy people in Rome. Tiberius served as the “Tribune of the Plebs.” This was an elected position, and their power was pretty impressive. Tribunes could even veto Senate decisions.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Death of Tiberius Gracchus at the hands of the mob. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 133 B.C. Tiberius actually vetoed ALL Senate decisions when they opposed his agrarian reform law. The People’s Assembly still had to vote for him each election. On election day Tiberius actually showed up in a mourning costume saying his defeat would mean prosecution and his end. The Senate decided to beat him until he no longer breathed right there, then tossed him in the Tiber River for good measure. Being beaten like this is not always fatal, but for Tiberius, it was due to the likely internal bleeding and potential TBI he would have sustained. Plus, if he did not pass from that, he would have drowned in the river.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Painting of King Edward II. Photo Credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

King Edward II

  • Assassinated By: Unknown
  • Year: 1327
  • Cause of Fatality: Internal Organ Burning
  • Motive: To Avoid Potential Escape and Coup

King Edward II was the King of England from 1307 to 1327 and is ultimately remembered as a failure. Historians claim he was indecisive in major moments while also being lazy and incompetent. Any small issue resulted in outbursts and overreactions by King, and everyone could see problems. Soon, Edward II’s wife Isabella with her lover Roger Mortimer invaded England in the hopes of removing him from the throne. Edward was captured and forced to abdicate the throne in favor of his son, Edward III.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Hot poker in a dark workshop. Photo Credit: Pexels

Edward II was then locked up in Berkeley Castle. He would pass away the following year but the way he did has been passed down via stories for 700 years. Apparently, an assassin was sent to end Edward in a gruesome way. The assassin used a red-hot poker and inserted it up into Edward’s hindquarters. This ended up burning his internal organs, yet leaving no markings to show it was an assassination. Many believe it is just propaganda, but it does make sense due to his early passing.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Archduke Franz Ferdinand Of Austria Este And His Wife Sophie, Duchess Of Hohenberg. Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

  • Assassinated By: Gavrilo Princip
  • Year: 1914
  • Cause of Fatality: Gunshot Wound
  • Motive: Sought To End Austro-Hungarian Rule Over Bosnia and Herzegovina

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Of course, this was a major empire at the time and Franz remaining alive would only lead to this empire continuing. A Serbian society called the Black Hand wanted to put an end to it in 1914. A man named Danilo Ilić sent six assassins via motorcycle to end the Archduke while on his motorcade route in Sarajevo. Two assassins got cold feet and bowed out.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Another assassin threw a bomb but it bounced off a convertible and blew up the car behind Franz. Knowing he’d be caught, he swallowed a cyanide pill and jumped into the Milijack River. Sadly for him, the pill was out of date and did not end him and the river was not deep so he was beaten by a crowd. One of the other six assassins, Gavrilo Princip, was getting a sandwich when he saw Franz’s car reversing. He took the opportunity to run up and shoot Franz, triggering World War I. Talk about notable assassinations, right? It’s unlikely Princip thought he’d start a World War doing this.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Bust of the emperor Commodus dressed as Hercules. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


  • Assassinated By: Narcissus
  • Year: 192 AD
  • Cause of Fatality: Strangulation
  • Motive: To End His Rule

There are many reasons people wanted to get rid of Commodus. Most Roman rulers were chosen and adopted by the Emperor. They felt using biological sons or daughters would not be best, but it was hard to question such a wise Emperor like Marcus Aurelius. He was the last great Emperor of Rome, and many thought his son would continue the greatness. Marcus made Commodus co-ruler with him, but Commodus became sole ruler upon his father’s passing.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Atleta Narcissus strangling the emperor Commodus. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Soon, Commodus became a tyrant and dictator who saw himself as God-like. By November of 192 AD, he was becoming a problem for everyone, and his wife Marcia felt he had gone mad. She poisoned his food but he upchucked to rid himself of it. Those behind ending Commodus sent his wrestling partner, Narcissus, to end his life. He would do just that by strangling Commodus in his bath. Resulting in one of the most notable assassinations in history.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Portrait of Grigori Rasputin. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Grigori Rasputin

  • Assassinated By: Prince Felix Yusupov, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and Vladimir Purishkevich
  • Year: 1916
  • Cause of Fatality: Assumed To Be Gunshot Wound To Head
  • Motive: To End His Influence On Russian Emperor and Empress

Grigori Rasputin was a weird dude, who gained power once he met the Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra. Their son, Alexei, suffered from hemophilia and Rasputin helped to “heal” him. The major part of his career happened when Nicholas left Russia to fight in World War I, leaving Rasputin and Alexandra alone. It is widely assumed the two had an affair as Rasputin’s power began to increase with the Emperor away.

Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
Grigori Rasputin & Nicholas. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Eventually, many felt that Rasputin was overplaying his hand and developing too much power. He might be whispering in the Empress’ ear but that was a critical role. So Russian nobleman plotted to end him. This is what led to one of the most notable assassinations in history. First, the assassins attempted to poison him with cyanide tea and cakes, as well as poisoned wine but none affected him. He was then shot in the chest and left to pass, but once the men came back he rose up and attacked them. Rasputin was then shot in the head and wrapped up in cloth, and thrown into the Malaya Neva River.