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"Cain kills Abel", a fratricide illustrated by Gustave Doré (And Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him[1]).

Fratricide (from the Latin words frater "brother" and cida "killer," or cidum "a killing," both from caedere "to kill, to cut down") is the act of killing one's brother.

It can either be done directly or via use of either a hired or an indoctrinated intermediary (an assassin). The victim need not be the perpetrator's biological brother. In a military context, fratricide refers to a service member killing a comrade.

Religion and mythologyEdit

The Abrahamic religions recognize the biblical account of Cain and Abel as the first fratricidal murder to be committed. In the mythology of ancient Rome, the city is founded as the result of a fratricide, with the twins Romulus and Remus quarreling over who has the favour of the gods and over each other's plans to build Rome, with Romulus becoming Rome's first king and namesake after killing his brother.[2]

The Mahabharata And The RamayanaEdit

In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, Karna was killed by Arjuna who was unaware that Karna was his eldest brother. Though not exactly fratricide, the otherwise meticulously pious Arjuna's actions - where he slayed an unarmed Karna pitilessly and against the rules of honourable warfare - are nevertheless considered utterly deplorable and heinous. However, the context of the crime becomes markedly different when seen from the following angle: 1. Arjuna was oath-bound to avenge the death of his only son and heir apparent Abhimanyu who had been mercilessly slaughtered by a group of bloodthirsty warriors which included Karna. 2. While Arjuna was blissfully unaware that Karna was his own biological brother, the latter was apprised of the same by their common mother Kunti. And hence, even though he was privy to the bond of brotherhood, Karna still wholeheartedly (due to his allegiance to prince Duryodana) and readily elected to indulge in fratricide. The 13th century poet, Kavi Kabila, while commenting broadly on the Ramayana and on Rama's killing of Raavan with the active support of the latter's estranged younger brother Vibhisan - upon whom Raavan had vowed black vengeance and on the killing of Bali (again by Rama) with the ready contrivance of his younger, disgruntled and banished, sibling Sugreev, has succinctly expressed this in a couplet: "Irony? What Irony?! If not that the seed of destruction carried in the heart of one brother was sowed and reaped to the full by the hand of another!"

Roman EmpireEdit

The only known fratricide in the Roman Empire is the fairly well-known murder of Geta on the orders of his brother Caracalla in 211. The brothers had a fraught relationship enduring many years; upon their father Septimius Severus's death in February 211, the brothers succeeded him as co-emperors. Their joint rule was embittered and unsuccessful, with each of them conspiring to have the other one murdered. In December of that year, Caracalla pretended to be holding a reconciliation in their mother Julia Domna's apartment, with Geta was lured to come unarmed and unguarded. Upon Geta's arrival, a group of Centurions loyal to Caracalla ambushed him, with Geta dying in his mother's arms.[3] It is said that the fratricide would often come back to haunt Caracalla.

Persian EmpireEdit

There are many recorded fratricides in Persia, the most famous of which involving Cyrus the Great's sons Cambyses II and Bardiya, the former killing the latter. There are also stories about the sons of Artaxerxes I, Xerxes II, Sogdianus, and Darius II, all of which concern competition for the throne. In addition, there were many fratricides recorded during the Parthian and Sassanid Empires.

Ottoman EmpireEdit

In the Ottoman Empire a policy of judicial royal fratricide was introduced by Sultan Mehmet II whose grandfather Mehmet I had to fight an extended and severe civil war against his brothers (which brought the empire much closer to destruction) to take the throne. When a new Sultan ascended to the throne he would imprison all of his surviving brothers and murder them by strangulation with a silk cord as soon as he had produced his first male heir. The largest killing took place on the succession of Mehmet III when 19 of his brothers were killed and buried with their father. The aim was to prevent civil war. Reflecting public disapproval, his successor Ahmed I abandoned the practice, replacing it with life imprisonment in the Kafes, a section of the Ottoman palace.

Mughal EmpireEdit

In the Mughal Empire, fratricides often occurred as a result of wars of succession. Shah Jahan had his eldest brother Khusrau Mirza killed in 1622. [4] Shah Jahan also had his brother Shahriyar killed in 1628. Shah Jahan's son, Dara Shikoh was assassinated by four of his brother Aurangzeb's henchmen in front of his terrified son on the night of 30 August 1659 (9 September Gregorian).


The events in the Greek tragedy Antigone unfold due to the previous war between the princely brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, who killed each other in combat. Polyneices had challenged his brother's claim to the throne of the city Thebes, and attacked the city with an army from Argos. Eteocles fought for Thebes to defend the city against Polyneices and his army. The two killed one another by each stabbing the other in the heart.

Ashoka's EmpireEdit

Ashoka, also known as Chand-Ashoka (Cruel Ashoka), killed his real brothers as punishment for the king's (his father) death and quarrel for the kingdom (war of succession). Later on, Ashoka conquered Greater India entire, before he adopted Buddhism and forsook war.

In fictionEdit


  • In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Claudius kills the elder Hamlet and marries his wife to take the throne.


  • In the animated Disney film The Lion King, Scar commits fratricide on Mufasa.
  • In the religious horror film Mother!, the older brother commits fratricide on the younger brother, which is actually the retelling of Cain and Abel.
  • In the American crime film The Godfather Part II, Micheal Corleone kills Fredo, his older brother.


  • In Shahnameh, the national epic of Greater Persia, we can see many fratricides. Most famous story is about sons of Fereydun, Salm and Tur commits fratricide on the younger brother, Iraj. also there is other stories in this book. Rustam, national hero of Greater Persia, and Aghrirat, Prince of Turan, have been killed by their brothers.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys Targaryen has her brother Viserys killed by her husband, Khal Drogo, pouring molten gold over his head. Stannis Baratheon kills his younger brother Renly Baratheon with a shadow assassin, though Renly intended to usurp the throne and kill Stannis. Euron Greyjoy admits to his brother Aeron Greyjoy that he slew their oldest full brother Balon Greyjoy, though not personally, and that he killed two of their half-brothers, Harlon Greyjoy and Robyn Greyjoy.
    • Historically, during 'The Blackfyre Rebellion' Brynden Rivers slew his half-brother Daemon Blackfyre when he rose against their mutual half-brother Daeron II Targaryen. In The Hedge Knight Prince Maekar Targaryen accidentally kills his eldest brother Prince Baelor Targaryen in a trial by combat.
    • Also, at the Dance of the Dragons, an inter-Targaryen civil war, Daenyra Targaryen was killed by her own brother by incinerating her in dragon's flame.
  • In Dante's Divine Comedy, Caina is the first of the four divisions of a Circle and takes its name from the first fratricide, the murderer Cain.
    • In Canto 32 of Divine Comedy, Alessandro and Napoleone, sons of Alberto degli Alberti, lord of Falterona in the valley of the Bisenzio are examples of fratricide.

See alsoEdit

Familial killing terms:

Non-familial killing terms from the same root:

  • Deicide, the killing of a god
  • Ecocide, the killing of the ecology of planet Earth
  • Genocide, the killing of a large group of people, usually a specific and entire ethnic, racial, religious or national group
  • Homicide, the killing of any human
  • Infanticide, the killing of an infant from birth to 12 months
  • Regicide, the killing of a monarch (king or ruler)
  • Specicide, eradicating an entire species
  • Tyrannicide, the killing of a tyrant


  1. ^ "Holy Bible 21st Century King James Version -". Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  2. ^ The political significance of the founding fratricide is discussed at length by T.P. Wiseman, Remus: A Roman Myth (Cambridge University Press, 1995) passim.
  3. ^ Wikipedia, "Caracalla"
  4. ^ Mahajan, V.D. (2007). History of Medieval India. New Delhi. pp. 126–7. ISBN 978-81-219-0364-6.

External linksEdit