Special Report

The Most Famous Poisonings in History

Source: Brigida_Soriano / Getty Images

Socrates
> Died: 399 B.C.

After a court trial that found him guilty of impiety and corrupting the youth, the Greek philosopher Socrates was sentenced to death. The method prescribed by Athenian law was to drink poison hemlock, which disrupts nerve impulses to the muscles and eventually kills victims by causing respiratory failure.

Artaxerxes III
> Died: 338 B.C.

Upon becoming king of the first Persian Empire, Artaxerxes III murdered the rest of the royal family in order to secure his role. Unfortunately for him, his chief adviser Bagoas had Artaxerxes poisoned by his own doctor so he could place one of the king’s sons, Arsеs, on the throne.

Source: Three Lions / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Artaxerxes IV
> Died: 336 B.C.

After his father, King Artaxerxes III, was poisoned by the vizier Bagoas, Arsеs – dubbed Artaxerxes IV – acceded to the throne. When Bagoas found that he could not control the young king, he poisoned Arsеs along with the rest of his family.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Bagoas
> Died: 336 B.C.

After poisoning King Arsеs, the eunoch and vizier Bagoas placed a cousin of Arsеs, Darius III, on the throne. Becoming disgruntled with Darius, Bagoas attempted to poison him; but Darius forced Bagoas to drink the poison himself, finally putting an end to the conniving courtier.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Demosthenes
> Died: 322 B.C.

An Athenian politician who organized a revolt against the new Macedonian king, Alexander the Great, Demosthenes was found and captured by Macedonian forces. To avoid being taken prisoner, he pretended that he wanted to write a final letter to his family, and committed suiсide by drinking poison that was stashed in a reed pen.

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