5 Massacres Where Almost Nobody Died


This gravestone marking the Boston Massacre lists the names of the five people who were killed. See Revolutionary War pictures. © Kevin Fleming/Corbis

Massacre. The very word is chilling. For many, it immediately brings to mind hundreds or even thousands of innocent people savagely slain. With good reason. In the 1937 Nanking Massacre, for example, at least 300,000 people were brutally killed by Japanese troops [source: Nanking Massacre]. In the ancient Massacre of the Latins of 1182, Constantinople's Eastern Orthodox citizens murdered or drove out some 60,000 of the city's Roman Catholic citizens, who controlled Constantinople's maritime trade and financial sector [source: Pegg]. Yet interestingly, despite our common collective image of what a massacre is, the definition of the word is actually a bit vague. Merriam-Webster dictionary states that it's the act of killing "a number" of helpless people via atrocious means, and that the origin of the word is unknown.

Since no specific number of deaths is required to consider a group-killing a massacre, it's up to us to decide what is and isn't. Sometimes we've decided based on the number of dead, other times on the sheer brutality involved. If you pore through the annals of history, you'll find massacres of five, 25, 500, and well over 100,000. Here are five of the (thankfully) smallest massacres that have occurred.