700 years ago, one of the best ways to get rid of a member of the royal family or a political figure was either the traditional knife in the back or a tiny drop of poison in their drink.
When it comes to murder by poisoning, you might wonder how these ancient assassins managed to get close to queens and kings without being caught. The answer is quite simple. All they needed was a poison ring; a simple ring with a secret compartment to contain poisonous liquid.
A few years ago, Bulgarian archaeologists discovered such an item that was used by assassins to inconspicuously kill their targets.
Believed to be about 700 years old, this poison ring has a tiny hole at the bottom for expelling a drop of poison in a plate of food or a glass of wine. This particular design is quite clever and it seems to have worked many times.
This ring with secret compartment to hold poison was found in 2012. It features a tiny hole in a place where you would usually find the ring setting and stone. The secret compartment is big enough to hold a few drops of liquid and archaeologists suggest that it may have served its purpose to poison kings by dispensing the poisonous liquid into their drink or food.
The ring is thought to be the first of its kind found in the region. It was located in an area that was home to the local aristocracy and this led to speculation that it was used in 14th century politically-motivated murders. There was unrest between Dobrotitsa, the ruler of the independent, and Ivanko Terter, his son, a feud that was responsible for the death of many royalty members at the time.
Even though this is the first poison ring found in Bulgaria, it’s definitely not the first ring designed for this specific purpose. It is said that the original use of these rings was for people to commit suicide in order to escape humiliation or torture. Hannibal is thought to have used such an item to escape from the Romans. It is also recorded that Demosthenes used one to commit suicide after escaping capture and arriving on the island of Calauria.
The use of a ring with a secret compartment to get rid of an enemy and the use of poison as a weapon in general was given a great boost in the 8th century thanks to the innovation by Arabic chemists. The tasteless and odorless version of poison made it a very attractive options for the assassins. By the Renaissance, many were selling poison lipsticks, letters, knives, and poison rings. In this way, the ability to kill in a relatively risk-free way was made available to the masses.
Although the era of using poison rings as a murder weapon is a thing of the past, these unique types of rings are still in fashion.
Nowadays, you can find a wide range of modern versions of these rings. Prices range from about $50 to thousands of dollars.