Death in the ancient world was rarely a dignified prospect. While this was certainly true for ordinary people, kings and religious leaders died horribly as well - often from illnesses brought on by excessive eating and drinking. Sometimes, they were just murdered, either by their own people or their enemies.
Many of the weird deaths of the ancient world, such as the Roman emperor forced to drink molten gold, or the gruesome executions used by the Vikings, are the stuff of legends. Little proof exists that these actually took place, or that they were anywhere near as bizarre as the stories say. But if these killings truly were even half as disgusting as the legends, a lot of really powerful ancient people died in really bad ways.Here are some of the strangest and most brutal deaths that befell leaders of the ancient world.
Woseribre Senebkay, the Pharaoh Hacked to Death with Axes
Likely reigning around 1650 BCE, Woseribre Senebkay died a brutal death in battle. His tomb was found in 2014, and when exhumed his skeleton had at least 18 deep wounds on its arms, legs, and back. It's likely that he was stabbed while on horseback, then hacked to death when he hit the ground.
Emperor Galba's Head Was Used as a Soccer Ball
Taking the throne of the Roman Empire during a period of extreme strife (he died in 69 CE, known as the "year of the four emperors"), Galba reigned for just seven months, during which he massively increased taxes and demonstrated cruelty to the people. In January of that year, he was beheaded by rebellious troops, who brought the head to the camp of his foes. It was mocked and kicked around before finally being buried.
Sicilian Tyrant Phalaris Was Roasted Alive in His Own Bronze Bull
One of the most tyrannical leaders of the ancient world, Phalaris ruled the small kingdom of Acragas (now in Sicily) with not just an iron fist, but a bronze bull. He would lock his foes in a giant bronze statue of a bull, then set a fire underneath it, roasting the poor soul alive.In 556 BCE, after 16 years of cruelty, Phalaris's own generals organized a coup, took power, and burned Phalaris alive in the same brazen bull the dictator used.
Sigurd the Mighty Was Killed by a Severed Head
Sigurd the Mighty was the second Viking Earl of Orkney, and led the Viking conquest of what is now northern Scotland. Bizarrely, he was killed by the severed head of one his enemies, Máel Brigte, who he had killed in arranged combat. The pair agreed to meet for battle, each with 40 men. But Sigurd showed up with twice that many, and slaughtered the Scots.
Sigurd the Mighty was the second Viking Earl of Orkney, and led the Viking conquest of what is now northern Scotland. Bizarrely, he was killed by the severed head of one his enemies, Máel Brigte, who he had killed in arranged combat. The pair agreed to meet for battle, each with 40 men. But Sigurd showed up with twice that many, and slaughtered the Scots.Eager to make the Scottish leader an example, Sigurd strapped Máel Brigte's head to his saddle as a trophy of conquest. But as he rode, Máel Brigte's distinctive buck teeth grazed against Sigurd's leg, opening up a wound. The gash became infected with pestilence from the head, and Sigurd died in agony.