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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 a person killing his or her brother.

Related concepts are sororicide (the killing of one's sister), child murder (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.

Religion and mythology[edit]

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]

Military terminology[edit]

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[edit]

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. The practice was abandoned in the 17th century by Ahmed I, replaced by imprisonment in the Kafes.


In the Greek tragedy Antigone the brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices kill each other in combat. Polyneices invaded Greece and Eteocles fought with Greece against his brother. The two killed each other by stabbing the other through the heart.

Ashoka's Empire[edit]

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.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

Familial killing terms:
Non-familial killing terms from the same root:


  1. ^ "Holy Bible 21-th 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.

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