Historical figures who died from poisoning

Historical figures who died from poisoning

We compiled some prominent historical figures whose bitter end came from poisons such as arsenic or cyanide.

Historical Figures Who Died Poisoned

It is often said that at least statistically, poison is the weapon of choice for women to kill. That is, we repeat, statistically. But if one searches a bit, it won’t take long to find dozens of curious and interesting cases in which a toxic substance ended the life of this or that person. Maybe it was by accident, someone ate what he shouldn’t have, or maybe it was all part of a lattice plan in the shadows to remove those who were in the way; the fact is that history is plagued with poisonous endings.

Historical figures who died from poisoningMidjourney/Sarah Romero

If we analyze the word ‘poison’ relatively quickly and painlessly and even as a medicine against other diseases.

In this gallery we will find the names of great leaders in history, thinkers, artists and soldiers for whom life took a different course than expected. They may have been at the height of power when their enemies decided to finish them off by poisoning them at a banquet or in their sleep. It is possible that something had taken away the will to live and to continue fighting and it was they themselves who, tired or trapped, decided to end their lives before leaving it at the mercy of their enemies. Even It could be the case that taking the poison was accidental and involuntarysuccumbing these people to a cruel joke of fate.

Some of these characters present more than reasonable doubts as to whether they were really poisoned or if it is just a popular legend, but in all of them the suspicions seem well-founded enough to include them in the list.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


He was one of the greatest philosophers that Ancient Greece left us and a teacher of another brilliant mind such as Plato’s. Socrates’ teaching method was based on maieutics (‘midwife’ in Greek): the thinker believed that people kept all their knowledge inside but that they had forgotten it and that the best way to recover it was by helping them to remember from of questions that made them reach logical conclusions. Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth with his teachings and sentenced to death by the court. His disciples and friends prepared an escape plan but he refused to carry it out and ended up taking his own life by drinking a hemlock-based concoction.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


The last queen of Ancient Egypt is one of the most popular and fascinating characters that the Ancient Age has left us. She ascended the throne at just 18 years old and began ruling as the wife of her brother Ptolemy XIII but he conspired to seize power and Cleopatra resorted to the force of Rome, which was on her side thanks to the fact that she was Julius Caesar’s lover. After the death of the divine bald man, he paired up with General Marco Antonio and they ruled together for a while, until Octavio defeated them in the battle of Actium. Legend tells us that, defeated and alone, Cleopatra decided to take her own life, letting herself be bitten by a aspis snake. This version has a notable dramatic charge that could indicate that it is not historically correct. It is much more likely that Cleopatra ingested some liquid containing aspis or belladonna venom.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


He was called the ‘father of strategy’ and few would doubt that he became one of the best soldiers of his time. Hannibal was the strong man of Carthage during his war against Rome, he accomplished feats as important as crossing the Alps and standing with his armies before the very Eternal City. Unfortunately, his efforts were not enough, Carthage lost the war and Hannibal was relegated to political positions from which he earned the enmity of the Carthaginian aristocracy. The brilliant general fled the city and sold his mind and sword to anyone who wanted to take up arms against Rome. Hannibal ended up fighting alongside the Prussian King of Bithynia but, when the war was lost and Rome closed in on him, he he found out that his ally planned to hand him over to his mortal enemy and preferred to commit suicide rather than be taken prisoner. It is said that he ingested a poison that he had kept for a long time in a ring.

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Imagen: Getty Images


Tiberius Claudius rose to the position of emperor in AD 41, to the surprise of almost all of Rome. He was the uncle of the Emperor Caligula, an unattractive man who had spent his entire life studying and cooped up in his palace, and his rise to power was largely due to the support of the Praetorian Guard. But as unlikely as it was, the truth is that Claudius was a great emperor who achieved victories in both the military and economic spheres and strove to curry favor with the people by improving their standard of living. Tiberius Claudius died of poisoning in the year AD 54 by order of Agrippina the Younger, his second wife, who did not hesitate to do what she considered necessary to ensure that her son Nero would become emperor.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Philip the Handsome (?)

Son of Emperor Maximilian I, Felipe de Habsburgo married Juana de Castilla as part of the agreements that their respective parents signed to isolate France and strengthen their positions on the European scene. The Flemish prince is known under the nickname of ‘the Handsome’ and it is said that it was the almost obsessive love that her wife felt for him and her constant contempt and deceit towards her that led to her madness. The enmity between Felipe and his mother-in-law, Fernando el Católico, is well known and almost from the beginning they began a political struggle in which neither of them gave up ground or managed to take it away from the other. After the death of Isabel la Católica and a clash with the Aragonese king, Felipe and Juana were crowned kings of Castile with full rights. But the joys would not last long for the new monarch since, just two months after the coronation, Felipe the Beautiful died mysteriously. He presented a picture of pneumonia with high fevers since he drank cold water after a game of the game of the ball and, a week later, he passed away. One theory states that he could have caught the plague but another (more than feasible) defends that he could have poisoned one of his enemies. Fernando el Católico is the first suspect on the list.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Rodrigo Borgia

There have been many bad pontiffs over the years, but Rodrigo Borgia’s period is considered the greatest exponent of the darkest and most corrupt face that the Vatican can offer. The nephew of Pope Calixto III, he took advantage of his family contacts to rise through the ecclesiastical ranks and end up occupying the throne of Saint Peter in 1492. The idea of ​​having a Spanish pope was not liked by the main houses of Italy or France, which were not long in pouring accusations against Rodrigo (many of them true). Alexander VI, the name he adopted in office, was famous for his bribery and corruption, for placing his relatives in high positions and for having numerous mistresses and illegitimate children with them. At the beginning of August 1503, the pope and his son Caesar were invited to a picnic at the residence of Cardinal Adriano da Cornetto. Within a few days, several guests became ill and Rodrigo Borgia suffered from high fevers and severe pain until his death less than two weeks later. Although the possibility that the food was in poor condition is not completely ruled out, the most widespread hypotheses defend that one of the Borgia’s enemies (perhaps Cornetto himself) poisoned the banquet or that it was the Borgia themselves who wanted to get rid of it. in the middle of their rivals and ended up poisoning themselves by mistake.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Mozart (?)

The premature, sudden and mysterious death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been the subject of discussion since the moment it happened in 1791. The precocious musical genius had a meteoric career that, surely, raised many blisters among his rivals and competitors for what it would not be strange to think that one of them had made the decision to get rid of him. Mozart himself told his wife Constanze that he believed he had been poisoned during his last moments of agony. Among the possible causes that would explain Mozart’s death are poisoning (the main suspect was Antonio Salieri), an epidemic infection by streptococci like scarlet fever or rheumatic fever.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Ivan the Terrible

He is one of the most sinister characters in Russian history, famous for his violent and erratic behavior. After the death of his father, he lived a very hard childhood in which the Russian nobles locked him up, manipulated and tortured him, and it is believed that it was during this traumatic time that his psychopathy arose. Already established as tsar, he carried out great reforms and expanded Russia’s borders further than any of his predecessors, but the death of his wife made him suspicious. His rages, his purges, and his cruelty in punishing those he thought had betrayed him built his own dark legend. Ivan the Terrible died in severe pain from prolonged mercury consumption. Interestingly, this character was not poisoned on purpose to get him out of the way or end his tyranny. Mercury was part of the treatment he took for various venereal diseases he had contracted over the years, including syphilis.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon Bonaparte (?)

The little great Corsican was one of the most powerful men in all of Europe and lived an intense and upward military career that led him to conquer the continent and become emperor of post-revolution France. Of course, all that goes up must come down and the defeat at Waterloo put Napoleon in serious trouble and ended up confining him to the island of Saint Helena, where he died in 1821. The official cause of death was a peptic ulcer derived from intestinal cancer that had been dragging on for years but there were always rumors of poisoning that, in fact, seemed to be confirmed when a study found very high levels of arsenic in his hair. Other subsequent studies have refuted this theory since, although it is true that his body It had high levels of arsenic, these were at normal levels for a 19th century person who was exposed to this substance through paints, glues or dyes.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

John William Polidori

Polidori was born in London in 1795, into a wealthy family that gave him a good education and allowed him to become a doctor at a very young age. His true passion was letters and he published numerous stories and plays that had mixed success. By fate, he became the personal physician of the poet Lord Byron during his trip to Europe, but they did not have a good relationship and Byron used to make fun of him and ridicule his work. His most successful text was The Vampire, a story that was originally published without his permission and in which we see the first modern interpretation of this fantastic monster (even before Bram Stoker’s). John William Polidori committed suicide in 1821 by ingesting acid prussic.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Grigory Rasputin

This illiterate mystic became one of the most influential and powerful people in late Romanov Russia. His ability to assuage young Alexei’s pain made the tsarina swear by him and almost worship him as a god incarnate. do. As his weight within the court grew, the suspicion of the high officials of the Church and the rest of the nobles and aristocrats also increased. Certain that Rasputin was a nuisance, a group of nobles led by Felix Yusupov hatched a plan to put an end to the mad monk: they invited him to Yusupov’s palace and gave him cyanide-containing cream cakes. The plan did not go exactly as expected as the poison did not seem to have an effect on Rasputin. Tired of waiting, the prince struck him with his cane and shot him with a revolver several times. In the end, the body was dumped into the frozen Neva River.

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Imagen: Getty Images.

Erwin Rommel

Nicknamed ‘the Desert Fox’ for his brilliant role at the head of the Afrika Korps, Erwin Rommel was one of the best senior officers in the Nazi army during World War II. His figure continues to be the object of study and discussion for many historians, since while some portray him as a neat military man, contrary to anti-Semitism and the fascist ideology of the Third Reich and a victim of it, others see in this description an attempt to whitewash his identity. figure derived from the West German rearmament process during the Cold War. Erwin Rommel could have been one of the ringleaders of the July 1944 attack against Adolf Hitler, the so-called Operation Valkyrie, and he was arrested along with the rest of those involved. Due to his prestige and fame, the Führer decided that his end would be more discreet than the others and offered him suicide or a trial in which he would lose all military honor. Rommel chose suicide and swallowed a cyanide pill.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Iósif Stalin (?)

The historic leader of the Soviet Union died on March 5, 1953 from a cardiac arrest. He was an elderly man and had lived a life that was much higher than usual, so his death was not a surprise either (perhaps more of a relief for many). The official version defends that this was what happened, however, there is a theory that it was Lavrenti Beria who poisoned and put an end to Stalin’s life to end his purges. Nikita Khrushchev himself, in his memoirs, speaks of the responsibility of the intelligence chief in the dictator’s death and points out that he himself confessed it to him with the phrase “I killed him and saved them all.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Alan Turing

Considered by many to be the father of computing, Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician who developed the concept of an algorithm and helped bring about Allied victory during World War II by using his theories to develop a machine capable of deciphering coded messages from the Nazis. Unfortunately, all his contributions and achievements were overshadowed by the narrow-mindedness of the time, which only saw Turing as a homosexual. In 1952 he was charged with perversion and given a choice between a chemical castration process or prison, with Turing remaining on estrogen treatment. Alan Turing was found dead in his home in 1954; he had taken cyanide. The most widespread hypothesis is that he injected the poison into an apple that was found half eaten next to his body.

Imagen: Getty Images

John Paul I (?)

Albino Luciano, known as John Paul I, was only on the throne of Saint Peter for 33 days. The official version states that he died due to a myocardial infarction but the unknowns and suspicious elements are so many that it is not difficult to doubt it. His clearly reformist spirit may have frightened certain dark elements of the curia and other associations linked to them (there has been speculation about the participation of the mafia, even the CIA and the KGB or the Freemasons). According to the statements of the mafia leader Anthony Raimondi to the New York Times in 2019, there was a conspiracy to kill the pope. Archbishop Marcinkus, Raimondi’s cousin, brought a glass of water to the pope’s room with which he put him to sleep, at which time he took the opportunity to make him ingest cyanide with an eyedropper. The Vatican closed ranks around the investigation, declared pontifical secrecy and refused to allow an autopsy to be performed on the late pope.

Imagen: Getty Images

Yasser Arafat

Political leader of the Palestinian cause, Yasser Arafat is a character full of nuances. During his youth he embraced the armed struggle to confront Israel and promoted guerrilla attacks and terrorist attacks. In 1967 his struggle became more institutionalized thanks to the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and in the 1990s, with the collapse of the USSR, he redirected his efforts towards dialogue and peaceful way. However, the Second Intifada (2000) raised tensions and Israel decided to surround the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah, where Arafat remained locked up for two years. When he finally got out, he was seriously ill. Yasser Arafat was transferred to the Percy military hospital in France, where he died in November 2004. Subsequent investigations confirmed what many already suspected: he had been poisoned.


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