List of unusual deaths
456 BC: Aeschylus, a Greek playwright, was killed when an eagle dropped a live tortoise on him, mistaking his bald head for a stone. He survived the impact but then had a heart attack then died instantly. The tortoise survived.
430 BC: Empedocles, Pre-Socratic philosopher, secretly jumped into an active volcano (Mt. Aetna). According to Diogenes Laertius, this was to convince the people of his time that he had been taken up by the Gods on Olympus.
272 BC: Pyrrhus of Epirus, the famous conquerer and source of the term pyrrhic victory, according to Plutarch died while fighting an urban battle in Argos on the back of an elephant when an old woman threw a roof tile at him, stunning him and allowing an Argive soldier to kill him.
270 BC: Philitas of Cos, Greek intellectual, is said by Athenaeus of Naucratis to have studied false arguments and erroneous word-usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death. Alan Cameron speculates that Philitas died from a wasting disease which his contemporaries joked was caused by his pedantry.
207 BC: Chrysippus, a Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after watching his drunk donkey attempt to eat figs.
162 BC: Eleazar Maccabeus was crushed to death at the Battle of Beth-zechariah by a War elephant that he believed to be carrying Seleucid King Antiochus V; charging in to battle, Eleazar rushed underneath the elephant and thrust a spear into its belly, whereupon it fell dead on top of him
4 BC: Herod the Great suffered from fever, intense rashes, colon pains, foot drop, inflammation of the abdomen, a putrefaction of his genitals that produced worms, convulsions, and difficulty breathing before he finally gave up. Similar symptoms– abdominal pains and worms– accompanied the death of his grandson Herod Agrippa in 44 AD, after he had imprisoned St Peter. At various times, each of these deaths has been considered divine retribution.
64 – 67: St Peter was executed by the Romans. According to legend, he asked not to be crucified in the normal way, but was instead executed on an inverted cross. He said he was not worthy to be crucified in the same way as was Jesus.
c. 98: Saint Antipas, Bishop of Pergamum, was roasted to death in a brazen bull during the persecutions of Emperor Domitian. Saint Eustace, as well as his wife and children supposedly suffered a similar fate under Hadrian. According to legend, the creator of the brazen bull, Perillos of Athens, was the first to be put into the brazen bull when he presented his invention to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum, but he was taken out before he died.
260: Roman emperor Valerian, after being defeated in battle and captured by the Persians, was used as a footstool by the King Shapur I. After a long period of punishment and humiliation, he offered Shapur a huge ransom for his release. In reply, Shapur had the emperor skinned alive and his skin stuffed with straw or dung and preserved as a trophy. Only after the Sassanid dynasty’s defeat in their last war with Rome three and a half centuries later was his skin given a cremation and burial. (A recent report from Iran mentions the restoration of a bridge supposed to have been built by Valerian and his soldiers for Shapur in return for their freedom).
336: Arius, a Unitarian Christian priest who precipitated the Council of Nicea, farted and evacuated his internal organs.
415: Hypatia of Alexandria, Greek mathematician and philosopher, was murdered by a mob by having her skin ripped off with sharp sea-shells and what remained of her burned. (Various types of shells have been named: clams, oysters, abalones. Other sources claim tiles or pottery-shards were used.)