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Breaking Down the World’s Most Iconic Assassinations
[Image via Lapham’s Quarterly]

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
[Image via Encyclopedia Britannica]
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
[Image via Brewminate]

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
[Image via History Cooperative]
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
[Image via The Times]

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
[Image via Medium]
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
[Image via Encyclopedia Britannica]

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
[Image via Wikipedia 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
[Image via Thoughtco]


  • 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
[Image via Pinterest]
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
[Image via Wikipedia 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
[Image via Wikipedia 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.