The Bloodiest Dynasties in History

Oct 2018
What are some of the bloodiest dynasties in history, when we consider them in terms of intra-dynastic murders and executions?

The topic is on my mind because I've been reading about the bloody history of the Constantinian dynasty (AD 293-363). Note the following murders and executions orchestrated by members of the Constantinian dynasty against fellow family members:

307: Constantine's brother-in-law Maxentius executes Severus II, the adoptive son of Constantine's father Constantius I.
310: Constantine executes his wife's father/his own grandfather by adoption Maximian.
312: Constantine overthrows his wife's brother Maxentius, who dies in battle.
313: Constantine's brother-in-law Licinius overthrows Maximinus, who commits suicide and who is the nephew of Licinius' metaphorical brother Galerius. (Note: Metaphorical fraternity is a link valued among the Tetrarchs)
313: Licinius executes Maximinus' wife, who is possibly the daughter of Licinius' metaphorical brother Galerius.
313: Licinius executes Maximinus' son Maximus.
313: Licinius executes Maximinus' daughter.
313: Licinius executes Candidianus, the son of his metaphorical brother Galerius.
313: Licinius executes Severianus, a grandson by adoption to Constantine's father Constantius I.
314: Licinius executes Galeria Valeria, the daughter of Diocletian/wife of his metaphorical brother Galerius.
314: Licinius executes Prisca, the wife of Diocletian/mother of Galerius' wife Galeria Valeria.
316: Constantine executes his half-sister's husband Bassianus.
317: Constantine executes his half-sister's husband's brother Senecio.
325: Constantine executes his half-sister's husband Licinius.
326: Constantine executes his eldest son Crispus.
326: Constantine executes his half-sister's son Licinius II.
327: Constantine executes his wife Fausta.
337: Constantius II executes his uncle Dalmatius the Elder.
337: Constantius II executes his uncle Julius Constantius.
337: Constantius II executes his cousin Dalmatius Caesar.
337: Constantius II executes his cousin Hannibalianus.
337: Constantius II executes anonymous cousin 1.
337: Constantius II executes anonymous cousin 2.
337: Constantius II executes anonymous cousin 3.
337: Constantius II executes anonymous cousin 4.
337: Constantius II executes anonymous cousin 5.
337: Constantius II executes Ablabius, the father of his brother's betrothed.
340: The troops of Constans kill his brother Constantine II.
354: Constantius II executes his cousin Gallus Caesar.
= 29 deaths

During the first few decades of the fourth century, the Constantinian dynasty was a sprawling network of close familial relations. Both Constantius I and Constantine I had produced many offspring, and the Tetrarchic system of Diocletian and Maximian (r. 285-305) meant that there were other adoptive, marital and metaphorical relations still in play. Indeed, the dynasty was perhaps too large for its own good, there being too many potential claimants to imperial power. By 355, when Constantius II required a male relative to be his Caesar (junior emperor) in Gaul, he had only one male relative left, his cousin Julian. By 361 the two were at war, but Constantius II died before they could fight one another in battle. Both he and Julian died without a male heir.
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Oct 2018
As for the Julio-Claudians, there are quite a few instances of actual and alleged intra-dynastic executions and murder, but they fall short of the Constantinians.

Off the top of my head, I can think of the following (I'm including alleged cases that have the possibility of constituting slander against Livia):

1. Marcellus
2. Gaius Caesar
3. Lucius Caesar
4. Augustus
5. Postumus Agrippa
6. Julia
7. Germanicus
8. Drusus the Younger
9-12. Sejanus, his wife and his children (I've included him since he was betrothed to Livilla)
13. Livilla
14. Agrippina the Elder
15. Nero Caesar
16. Drusus Caesar
17. Tiberius
18. Tiberius Gemellus
19. Messalina
20. Claudius
21. Britannicus
22. Agrippina the Younger
23. Claudia Octavia
24. Poppaea Sabina
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Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
These examples make me think of my old joke that "dynasty" comes from "die nasty", from the nasty types of deaths the dynasty members tend to die.

To me the worst slaying on that list are the killings of teenagers or children.

The only Constantinian victim that I know was a child was Lincinius II (c. 315-c. 326), who was killed aged about 10 or 11. Possibly some of the others I am not familiar with were kids.

Among the Julio-Claudians listed only Tiberius Gemellus, Britannicus, and the children of Sejanus were kids.

I'm sure some dynasties could do much better - i mean worse - in the killing dynastic kids category.

What about the Plantagenet dynasty?

1. Arthur I Duke of Brittany and rightful King of England (29 March 1187-1203?) who disappeared when imprisoned by his uncle John in April 1203.

2. Edmund Earl of Rutland (17 May 1443-30 December 1460), died at the battle of Wakefield aged 17 years, 7 months, and 13 days. Edmund might have died fighting or been captured and later killed by the Lancastrians. In any case he was a victim of the Wars of the Roses. His head was displayed over the gate of York with his father's head.

3. Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales (13 October 1453- 4 May 1471), died at the Battle of Tewkesbury aged 17 years, 6 months & 21 days. He might have been killed fighting or been captured and later killed by the Yorkists.

4. King Edward V (2 November 1470-1483?) was King of England from 9 April to 25 June 1483. He and his brother Richard were seen less and less in public in the Tower of London and reportedly were not seen after the end of summer. Edward V would have turned thirteen on 2 November 1483 - if he was still alive.

5. Richard Duke of York and Norfolk (17 August 1473-1483?). The younger brother of deposed king Edward V, he was reportedly seen less and less often in public in the Tower of London and not seen after the end of summer 1483. Duke Richard would have turned ten on 17 August 1483 and eleven on 17 August 184 - if he was still alive.

If it counts to kill members of other royal dynasties the Plantagenets certainly killed a lot of other royalty.

One of the Welsh chronicles says that in about 1212 an official of King John hanged Maelgwyn ap Maelgwyn, a boy six years old. I think that Maelgwyn ap Maelgwyn would probably have been a son of Melgwyn ap Rees (d. 1231), a son of "The Lord Rhys", Rhys ap Gruffydd, Prince of South Wales (1132-1197), son of Gruffydd ap Rhys, King of Deheubarth (c. 1081-1137), descended from a long line of kings of Deheubarth.

King John forced Gwynedd to submit to him and give him hostages, and then instructed his officials to continue to advance into Gwynedd and take over more of it, bit by bit. Finally the people of Gwynedd struck back in 1212 against John's breaking of the peace terms. There is a story that when King John heard the news he rode to Nottingham Castle in a fury and ordered the hostages from Gwynedd hanged from the castles walls, 28 boys aged twelve to fourteen.

When it comes to killing people in general, not limited to members of the same dynasty, the Mongol dynasty may take the cake, killing tens of millions of people.


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Western Eurasia
The Ottomans are also a good candidate for the topic, these are the cases 61 cases listed from the book Osmanlı Devletinde Kardeş Katli (Fratricide in the Ottoman state) by Dr. Mehmet Akman:

Osman kills his uncle Dündar according to some semilegendary sources
Murad I kills his two brothers, Halil and Ibrahim beys
Murad I kills his son Savcı bey
Bayezid I kills his brother Yakub bey
Murad II kills his uncle (Düzme) Mustafa
Murad II kills his brother Mustafa
Mehmed II kills his brother Ahmed
Mehmed II kills prince Orhan
Bayezid II kills his nephew, (Cem's son) Oğuz Han
Selim I poisoning his father Bayezid II (according to some sources)
Selim I kills 8 of his nephews
Selim I kills his brothers Korkut and Ahmed
Kanuni Sultan Suleyman executes Cem's son Murad, and Murad's son
Suleyman kills his son Mustafa, and Mustafa's son Mehmed
Suleyman kills his son Bayezid, and Bayezid's 5 sons
Murad III kills 5 of his brothers
Mehmed III kills 19 brothers
Mehmed III kills his son Mahmud
Osman II kills his brother Mehmed
Murad IV kills 3 of his brothers Bayezid, Suleyman and Kasım
Osman III kills his cousin/nephew prince Mehmed

tables from the above mentioned book ( Mehmet Akman: Osmanlı Devletinde Kardeş Katli, p 39-42 about these 61 members killed inside the Ottoman dynasty:

the first table (1-16, also continues on the next image) lists those occassions who were not killed for rebellion (53 persons)osm1.png

Summary of the footnootes see below *

the second (1-7) shows those who were killed as punishment for the crime of rebellion (8 persons)


And it also includes a summary, father killed his son: 4 times, brother killed brother: 35, uncle killed nephew: 12, nephew killed uncle: 3, grandfather killed grandson: 6, and according to some account son killed father: once (if Selim I really poisoned his father Bayezid II)

And a 2 page table of all the murders:
padişah=padishah/sultan, idam edilen=executed, tarih=date, yakınlığı=his closeness (kardeşi=his brother, amcası=his uncle, oğlu=his son, yeğeni=his nephew/cousin, the word yeğen is used for both the son of a sibling and for the son of an uncle/aunt, babası=his father, torunu=his grandson)


*footnotes of the first page:

Alderson in his book (The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty) inludes 12 more cases without citing source and the author of this book couldn't confirm those in Ottoman sources. These 12 extra not included in the tables above:

Murad I killing his nephew Melik-i Nasır (1365),
Murad II, his rebelling son Alaaddin Ali and Alaaddin Ali's 2 sons (June 1443),
Bayezid II a nephew (son of Cem) called Eyüb (1484) and his 3 rebelling sons Mahmud (1507), Mehmed (March 1507) and Şahinşah (2 July 1511),
Selim I three of his rebell sons: Abdullah, Mahmud and Murad (20 November 1514),
Mehmed III his rebell son Selim (20 April 1597)

these are 2 nephews, 8 sons and 2 grandsons. if they are accurate and we include them, then the total is 73 murder within the family and the summary changes to: father killed his son: 12 times (10 times for rebellion), brother killed brother: 35 (4 for rebellion), uncle killed nephew: 14, nephew killed uncle: 3 (2 for rebellion), grandfather killed grandson: 8, and son killed father: 1
Jun 2017
Don't forget the Tudors.
Henry VII: 2 brothers-in-law and a cousin
Henry VIII: 2 wives, 6 cousins, 1 brother-in-law, 1 sister-in-law, 1 cousin-in-law
Edward VI: 2 uncles
Mary: 1 cousin, 1 cousin-in-law
Elizabeth 1 cousin, 1 cousin-in-law, 1 pos. lover


Ad Honoris
May 2014
Does dying in battle count for this? Or does it have to be premeditated murders?

A lot of Capetians died in battle throughout history but few were outright murdered (exceptions being Louis I, Duke of Orleans in 1407, John the Fearless in 1419, Louis de Bourbon, Bishop of Liege in 1482, and Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry in 1820).
Oct 2018
The only Constantinian victim that I know was a child was Lincinius II (c. 315-c. 326), who was killed aged about 10 or 11. Possibly some of the others I am not familiar with were kids.
There were possibly quite a few child and teenage victims. In addition to Licinius II, the son and daughter of Maximinus were children, and Candidianus was a teenager. Severianus was possibly a child or teenager, although the available sources do not care enough about him to mention his age. At least a few of the seven cousins killed by Constantius II in 337 were plausibly children or teenagers. After all, Constantius II, Constantine II and Constans were themselves 19/20, 20/21 and 14/15 respectively at the time of the massacre, and the half-brothers and half-sisters of Constantine, all born after c. 288, are not known to have married before the 310s. We are also left wondering what ever happened to the second son of Maxentius. His first son died in 309, but the second was still alive at the time of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312. This person was a child, since Maxentius himself was born in the early 280s. That said, Julian was spared on account of being a baby at the time of the massacre in 337.
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