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Some of the evilest people in ancient history were rulers who had millions at their mercy

Ian Harvey

History abounds with tales of vile people executing evil acts.  Sadly, there are so many in number that there are numerous lists of evil humans featuring men, women, and even children. The following list contains ten people in history who were especially cruel and, in many cases, are remembered only for that reason.

Due to the complexity of human personalities, developing this list was not an easy task because judging whether an act is evil or not depends on the perspective of the time. On the evilness scale, additional weight was given to those people who actually enjoyed and personally participated in the utter horror they produced. Throughout the history of mankind, there have been many cruel people that use terror to gain control over the public. They lord over others with an iron fist and an unrelenting thirst for power and recognition. Unfortunately for society, there were far too many evil-doers for them all to fit on one list, so here’s one random take on the worst of the worst.

10. Nero, the 5th Roman Emperor

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus Photo Credit

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus Photo Credit

Nero ruled Rome from 54-68 AD and is known as the Emperor that ruined the Roman Empire.  He was responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands, including members of his own family, which he systematically murdered.  He liked to burn cities to the ground.  He liked to kill in different ways such as searing hot baths, stabbing, crucifying, poisoning, and beheading.  He was known to have raped many women and enjoyed defacing their bodies.  A fire tore through Rome which killed many and left thousands homeless; Nero blamed it on the Christians.  Thousands of Christians were tortured and killed in horrific ways, such as being fed to lions or used as living torches.  Many Christians at the time believed Nero was the Antichrist.  His behavior sparked a rebellion that he soon realized he was losing; at this point, he killed himself.

9. Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China

The first Emperor of China from 221 BC to 210 BC, Qin Shi Huang was not a nice man.  In his first year of power alone he made 120,000 families relocate elsewhere.  He was known for his paranoia, and this made him cruel, sadistic, and brutal towards his subjects.

His people grew poorer under his reign as he kept raising taxes.  Nearly all writings and books were destroyed, and scholars became his target; many died from being buried alive or beheaded.

Qin Shi Huang Photo Credit

Qin Shi Huang Photo Credit

He had 4,700 roads built using forced labor, and thousands were worked to death.  He wanted to be immortal and set his fearful scientists and scholars to the task; 480 of them were buried alive when they failed.   Even paranoid about his safety in his death, he created a 3-mile-wide mausoleum.  Nearly 700,000 people were needed to build it, and most of them died during the construction.

8. Genghis Khan of the Mongolian Empire

He was Khan from 1206 to 1227, and he was thought to be a bloodthirsty, vengeful man.  In his rule, he conquered nearly all of China and the land all the way to the Caspian Sea.  He and his army massacred people from cities whether they were soldiers or civilians or even children.

His victims died in many ways, the most gruesome was by having liquid hot silver poured into their eyes and ears.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

Women were raped in front of their families, poor people were decapitated, and the rich were often tortured for knowledge of the whereabouts of their riches.  It was thought that he and his army killed 700,000 people in just one massacre.  He often used his enemies as human shields and thousands became slaves under his reign.  He is known to have killed three-fourths of the 10 million people of the Iranian Plateau at the time.  Over his reign, he and his army killed a staggering 20-60 million people.  He died of natural causes in 1227.

7. Herod, the Great King of Judea

King of Judea back in 37-4 BC, Herod is best known for the Massacre of the Innocents wherein he ordered the killing of every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two.

He was known for his paranoia and for committing many atrocities.

Herod the Great

Herod the Great

Anyone he distrusted and believed was a threat he had killed; this included his in-laws, wife, uncle, and three of his sons.

Any rivals were soon slaughtered as was the high priest at the time.  He died in 4 BC of illness, and before he died, he ordered that all the foremost men in Judea to be killed, and so created an enormous outpouring of grief.  Luckily he was able to be ignored by this stage.

6. Wu Zetian, the Ruling Empress of China

She ruled China from 690 to705 and is the only woman who ruled in Chinese history.  She was known for being cruel, sadistic, and ruthless.

She was a murderess who ordered tortures and executions daily.  All rivals were executed or exiled.

Empress Wu (Wu Zetian)

Empress Wu (Wu Zetian)

Her family wasn’t exempt from her murderous purges; she executed her nephews, a niece, and even her own newborn daughter.  She even forced people to kill themselves, one of whom was her son.  Over her rule, thousands of people were mutilated, strangled, poisoned, boiled alive, or burnt.  She lived until she was 81.

5. King John of England

Brother to King Richard the Lionheart, John was a nasty man.  He was a self-indulgent king who was known to have betrayed not only his friends and family but his country as well.  During his reign from 1199 to 1216 he managed to nearly bankrupt the country.  He was violent, malicious, greedy and lecherous.  He is known to have produced 12 illegitimate children and had their parents and relatives exiled.  Anyone who threatened him or was his rival was killed or imprisoned.

He stole the revenues of the Church and ordered that all the clergy leave England.  He declared wars on France and lost tens of thousands of men.  On his behalf a campaign was waged on every Jew in England; they had all their belongings stolen and were imprisoned and tortured.

King John in Worcester Cathedral

King John in Worcester Cathedral

Taxes were increased as he tried to squeeze every penny from his subjects.  During his reign, he starved, blinded, tortured, hanged, and beheaded many thousands of people.  By the time he had signed the Magna Carta, he had lost all but England in long battles.  Luckily he died in 1216 before he could launch a full scale attack that may have lost England to France.

4. Tamerlane the Great, founder of the Timurid Empire and Dynasty

Also known as Timur, he was a fourteenth-century ruler that conquered Western, Central, and South Asia.  He believed that Genghis Khan was his ancestor.  He was a heartless conqueror that was cruel and bloodthirsty.

He ordered the deaths of thousands, including 200,000 surrendered soldiers and civilians in India.  In Aleppo, he had 20,000 of the citizens there beheaded, with 70,000 in Ifshan, 70,000 in Tikrit, and 90,000 in Baghdad all suffering the same fate.

Portrait of Timur

Portrait of Timur

It pleased him to have the skulls of his enemies piled into huge towers.  It is thought he ordered the deaths of between 15 and 20 million people during his reign.  His reign thankfully ended in 1405 on his death.

3. Caligula, the 3rd Roman Emperor

Emperor Caligula Photo Credit

Emperor Caligula Photo Credit

Ruling the Roman Empire from 37 to 41 AD, Caligula was known to be sadistic, wild, and extravagant.  In just the first three months of his reign, he had 160,000 animals sacrificed.  Later he caught a brain fever, and he was known to be mentally ill, believing he was a god.  He felt prisoners should know a very painful death and he began to kill his rivals over many hours or days, causing them as much pain as possible.

Children were strangled or beheaded, and families were forced to watch.  Many prisoners were fed to the caged wild panthers, lions, and bears.  If he disliked a gladiator, he would beat them over days until they died.  He was known to be so cruel that people would kill themselves rather than face him and his slow lingering deaths.  He forced husbands to give him their wives, and he himself practiced incest with his sisters.  Many people died of starvation under his rule.  Finally, in 41 AD Casius Chaerea, a man from the court, killed Caligula.

2. Attila the Hun, the Scourge of God and leader of the Hunnic Empire

The Hunnic Empire stretched from the Ural River to the Baltic Sea and the Danube River.  Attila ruled from 434 to 453.  He was a barbarian who was ruthless, cruel, and bloodthirsty.  His goal was to destroy the Roman Empire.  He couldn’t abide surrender or mercy and killed anyone in his way.  He not only threatened the Romans but also the Teutonic tribes.  Attila and his hordes believed that everyone was below them and those lives didn’t matter.

He ravaged Roman cities, killing thousands of people as he moved around; he thought nothing of killing the entire population of a city.  He liked to have people torn limb from limb while he watched.  In 453 he died coughing up blood, Listverse reported.

1. Frankish Knight Godfrey of Bouillon

He led the first Crusade, which was a Western Christian military expedition to try to regain the Holy Lands from Muslim hands.

He also wanted to avenge Jesus against the Jewish people.  When he arrived in Jerusalem in 1099, he and his army went through it like a storm.  Anyone that was in their way was slaughtered, no matter who they were.  Jews were burnt alive while they hid in a synagogue.

Godfrey of Bouillon

Godfrey of Bouillon

His men hunted down anyone who fled the city.  Gruesome sights of piles of feet, hands, and heads littered the streets.

Read another story from us: In the Middle Ages, devil-fearing Christians killed cats, which carried the unintended consequence of increasing the rat population and the spread of the Black Death

It is said that he stripped to his underwear and waded barefoot through the running blood that reached to his ankles.  He died of the plague in 1100.