16 Dramatic and Impactful Assassinations from History

Concept art for Shaka Zulu. Ancient Origins

2. Shaka Zulu Was Assassinated by His Own Brother

Shaka Zulu (circa 1787-1828) was a Zulu warrior who rose to become chief of his tribe, then launched a ruthless campaign of conquest against other Southern African tribes. A military visionary, he revolutionized tribal warfare in the region, bringing it to a hitherto unprecedented pitch of destructiveness. By the time he was done, he had established a Zulu Empire.

When Shaka came to power, tribal warfare in Southern Africa was a low intensity affair, dominated by rituals and display, with relatively little actual fighting, and thus few fatalities. Shaka was of a bloody minded bent, and he set about changing that. He introduced fighting formations, organized his men into regiments known as impis, and transformed the Zulus into a disciplined army.

Shaka abandoned the throwing spears used in the region for centuries. Instead, he trained his men to use short stabbing spears, emphasizing shock tactics and decisive close combat. Zulu tactics and training made them unstoppable, triggering a catastrophe known as the Mfecane, meaning the “crushing” or “forced migration”. Tribes forced to flee Shaka’s onslaught were forced to encroach upon their neighbors, who were then forced to fight or become refugees, encroaching upon their neighbors in turn, in a cascade of violence that claimed the lives of millions.

Shaka’s reign finally came to an end in 1828. That year, he sent a regiment raiding up to the borders of the Cape Colony, but when it returned, rather than allow it the customary rest, he ordered it on yet another raid. That and increasingly megalomaniacal behavior led to widespread grumbling. Taking advantage of that, Shaka’s half brother Dingane organized a plot, and at a signal one day at camp, he and his coconspirators fell upon Shaka and stabbed him to death.