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Title: Fratricide  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Siblicide, Homicide, The Brothers (novella), Avunculicide, Gendercide
Collection: Familicides, Homicide, Men and Death, Violence Against Men
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


"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 a person, directly or via use of either a hired or an indoctrinated intermediary (an assassin) that ultimately results in the killing of their brother.

Related concepts are sororicide (the killing of one's sister), Child homicide (the killing of an unrelated child), infanticide (the killing of a child under the age of one year), filicide (the killing of one's child), patricide (the killing of one's father), matricide (the killing of one's mother), mariticide (the killing of one's husband) and uxoricide (the killing of one's wife). See also siblicide (the killing of an infant individual by its close relatives, full or half siblings).


  • Religion and mythology 1
    • The Mahabharata And The Ramayana 1.1
  • Military terminology 2
  • Ottoman Empire 3
  • Antigone 4
  • Ashoka's Empire 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Religion and mythology

According to the story of Cain and Abel, fratricide was the first type of murder to be committed. In the mythology of ancient Rome, the city is founded as the result of a fratricide, when the twins Romulus and Remus quarrel over who has the favor of the gods, and Romulus becomes Rome's first king and namesake after killing his brother.[2]

The Mahabharata And The Ramayana

In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, Karna was killed by Arjuna who didn't know that Karna was his eldest brother. Though not exactly fratricide the otherwise meticulously pious Arjuna's actions - where he pitilessly and against the rules of honorable warfare slayed an unarmed Karna - 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 gang of bloodthirsty warriors which included Karna. 2. While Arjuna was blissfully unaware that Karna was his own blood-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) 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 - on 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!"

Military terminology

Fratricide may also be used to refer to friendly fire incidents. It also refers to the possible destruction of one MIRV warhead by another. Targets may be arranged deliberately to increase the likelihood in a strategy called dense pack.

Ottoman Empire

In the Ottoman Empire a policy of judicial royal fratricide was introduced by Sultan Mehmet II whose grandfather Mehmed I had to fight a long and bloody civil war against his brothers (which brought the empire near to destruction) to take the throne. When a new Sultan ascended to the throne he would imprison all of his surviving brothers and kill 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 Mehmed 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.


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 Empire

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

See also

  • Suicide, the killing of one's self
Familial killing terms:
Non-familial killing terms from the same root:
  • Deicide is the killing of a god
  • Ecocide is the killing of the ecology of planet Earth
  • Genocide is the killing of a large group of people, usually a specific and entire ethnic, racial, religious or national group
  • Genucide is the killing of the human species by the human species
  • Homicide is the killing of any human
  • Infanticide, the killing of an infant from birth to 12 months
  • Regicide is the killing of a monarch (king or ruler)
  • Speciacide is a term for the potential mass suicide of the human species by overpopulation or global warming
  • Tyrannicide is the killing of a tyrant


  1. ^
  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.
In the game made by Valve, Portal, you earn an achievement called "Fratricide" when you need to destroy a Companion Cube, with a description of: Do whatever it takes to survive in Portal. This makes you think that the Cubes in Portal, are Chell's dead brothers and sisters. If that's not enough, sound files are found of a cry of, "Help me...".

External links

  • Fratricide in Ottoman Law
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