A leader of a nation or people is respected by their peers. However some leaders are feared for their overwhelming ambition, iron-fisted rule or cruel personality. The 20th century has seen its share of such kind of leaders who practically flaunts every human right and dignity with impunity. Hitler, Stalin, Idi Armin and Pol Pot are just some of the world’s dangerous leaders in the 20th century. Our focus however will be the world’s dangerous leaders before the coming of the 20th century.
A person who is one of the world’s dangerous leaders need not be a cruel one. That leader because his army and nation are too powerful, the leader has big plans to unite everything under his rule or the leader is considered dangerous to his enemies while his people see him as their champion. At most the leaders who are considered the world’s dangerous leaders are just plain cruel and at the least they just have big ambitions.
5. Gaius Julius Caesar
Rome has no shortage of capable generals who are willing to fight for Rome’s conquered territories. Gaius Julius Caesar was one of these. One of Rome’s territories was Gaul (modern-day France and Belgium) which had an outbreak of strife in 58 BC thanks to the restlessness of the various Gallic tribes. This would be known as the Gallic Wars and Caesar would spent 8 years fight these wars.
The various campaigns that Caesar fought in this was against the mass migration of the Helvetti tribes, the Suebi who was along migrating and was encroaching on the lands of Rome’s Gallic ally the Sequani, the alliance of Belgic tribes who also attacked another Roman-allied tribe, Caesar’s invasion of Britain along with his expedition against the Germans and finally a large-scale revolt led by Ambiorix and Vercingetorix which culminated in the Battle of Alesia ending the Gallic Wars.
Ceasar’s handling of the Gallic War marked him as a man a dangerous man among Gaul’s tribes. Even his peers among the Romans like Pompey and Cato who already were resentful of Ceasar’s glory view him as this and it would led to another war.
4. Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia
During the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of the Balkans one noble or viovode from Wallachia would inspire fear not just from the Ottomans, but also from his fellow nobles and subjects due to his cruelty. His name is Vlad III or Vlad Dracul Prince (viovode) of Wallachia. During his youth Vlad and his brother were held as political hostages by the Ottoman Turks. The ascension of Stephen of Moldavia to the throne of Moldavia and his reign would ignite the fiercest anti-Ottoman resistance. Vlad who helped Stephen ascended the throne would play a part in this conflict. Vlad who was now viovode of Wallachia was approached by envoys of Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottomans to remind him of paying the tribute. Vlad who had hated his time as a political hostage refused to pay and using the excuse that the envoys refused to raise their “hats” to him killed them by nailing their turbans to their head. The sultan decides to “make peace” with Vlad by sending an army, but this army also suffered the same fate as the first. All of the Ottomans caught and subjected to his favorite means of killing that would earn him then name “Tepes” or impaler. The Ottoman Turks were all impaled. Sultan Mehmed would later invaded Wallachia with a large army, but this army was also defeated. Vlad would fight the Ottomans many times often seesawing between defeat and victory. Vlad final battle was his death though some disagree as to what caused his death.
Vlad has a darker reputation in Western Europe compared to Easter Europe. His signature method of execution impaling was used on his enemies. Even Mehmed II was sickened by his methods when he saw 20,000 impaled corpses of Turkish soldiers.
Romania and Bulgaria considers him a folk hero for his resistance against the Turks. He is the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous vampire Dracula.
3. Attila the Hun
From the east of the Volga came a group of Eurasian nomads who migrated into Europe. These nomads who are extremely mobile people with mounted archers would have a leader who would later be one of the Western and Eastern Empire world’s dangerous leaders who assaults them. His name is Attila. The Huns in spite of being newcomers to Europe attacked and occupied Germania causing it’s in habitants to flee westward while some invaded Roman Gaul just to acquire new territory. The territory of Huns is vast and the various ethnic people in it were either assimilated or acknowledging the rulership of the Huns. For the Romans they used and pay the Huns as mercenaries, an act that would later bite them in the rear. The Eastern Roman Empire during Attila’s reign were still paying the Huns (this “paying” can considered also as tribute depending on each side’s perspective)and for while the Huns turned their attention to the Sassanid Empire. In the year 440 they reappeared in the borders of the Roman Empire. The cities of Illyricum along with the Danube city-states, Carthage and Constantinople fell before the onslaught of the Huns. Emperor Theodosius was forced to pay a very, very, huge amount of money to the victorious Attila.
Attila was on good terms with the Western Roman Empire, but due to the emperor’s sister Honoria machinations Attila moved against them. It seems that Honoria asked the Hunnish for help concerning her betrothal and she also sent an engagement ring which Attila choose to interpret as marriage proposal. This chain of events led to the Hun’s invasion of the Empire culminating in the Battle of Chalons that finally repulsed the Hunnish army. Later Attila invaded Italy, but due to starvation and disease affiliating his army as well as Italy’s famine forced him to retreat. He had plans to attack Constantinople, but died during the celebration of his latest marriage.
2. Alexander the Great
King of Macedonia and one of history’s great military geniuses. Alexander’s father Philip II was conquering the city states of Greece making him one of the world’s dangerous leaders (the Grecian world to be precise) little did the Greeks know that the son would be more feared and considered more dangerous than his father. With Greece conquered, Philip turned his attentions to the Persian Empire, but was assassinated before he can start, leaving his son Alexander as ruler. With Philip’s death the Greeks started a series of rebellion forcing Alexander to mount a campaign to crush the insurrection. It was here that Alexander showed the Greeks that he is a man to be feared and considered dangerous. With Greece’s rebellion subdued Alexander turned his attention to the Persian Empire while conquering Tyre, Syria, Phoenicia and Egypt. It was at the Battle of Gaugamela that the Persians was finally broken culminating in the occupation of Babylon, Susa and Persepolis. The Persian Empire was officially destroyed. Alexander would later push into India, but eventually stopped at the banks of Hydaspes and Indus River. After his return his to Susa contacted a fever that was eventually fatal to him. With his death and no designated successor his Empire was divided by his generals.
1. Genghis Khan
Born under the name “Temujin” there was little indication that the baby, who would one day unite the Mongol tribes, unleashes a wave of destructive conquest and create the largest empire that the world has seen would actually do these things except the blood clot in his hand that is a sign of a leader. Losing a father to rival tribes, denied leadership of his clan and the killing of his half-brother gave little indication of the man he would become one day, but all of that was to change for him. Marrying into another clan and building an army of 20,000 men Temujin would use military tactics and merciless brutality to unite the Mongol clans. With the Mongols united under his rule he took the Genghis Khan meaning “universal ruler “and proceeded to invade and conquer Northern China.
The one event that made that set-off the Mongol invasions and made Genghis Khan one of the world’s dangerous leaders at that time was diplomatic faux pass by the Khwarizm Dynasty who ruled an empire to the East. The Khan sent a diplomatic mission to the Khwarizm, but the Khwarizm violated diplomatic protocol twice which prompted the Khan to invade the Dynasty. After the Dynasty’s defeat the Khan turned his attentions to the Kingdom of Georgia, Volga Bulgaria, and Central Europe. Circumstances however forced the Mongols to go back eastwards, but not before inflicting destruction and violence on a scale not seen until the 20th century.
The ancient world’s dangerous leaders were certainly badass in their own right regardless of what their reason for being dangerous is. Sadly even into the modern world these kinds of leaders still keep showing up.