Today we’re going to take a look at some of the most evil leaders in history, from the modern age all the way back to ancient Rome. From idealists trying to build their own vision of a utopia at any costs, to the greedy only interested in furthering their own fortunes and egos, to the outright insane, here are some of the most evil people to have ever ruled.
Before we start, let’s again point out, that this video is called SOME of the most evil leaders in history. We’re not going to mention some of the more obvious candidates – like Hitler, Stalin, or Mao Zedong – but rather focus on some of the less obvious tyrants. Now, let’s start our tour of evil with a household name from our own recent past- Saddam Hussein. The former President of Iraq held the country in his iron grip for nearly a quarter of a century, and during that time exercised absolute power without checks. Known for executing or exiling political opponents, Saddam fittingly got his start by staging a palace coup that removed then-President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr from power.
In what became known as the Ba’ath Party Purge of 1979, Saddam ordered an emergency meeting of the party’s top council, and then after breaking a senior member with days of physical torture and threats of violence against his family, had that senior party official confess to a plot by the Syrian government and traitors within the party to overthrow the government. The official was then forced to point out other ‘conspirators’ who were summarily tried for treason and executed.
Saddam would go on to rule Iraq and exercise torture, extortion and exile to control his government, ordering the murders of rivals and even going so far as to order the rape of their spouses and children. Not even his own family was spared his sadism though; in 1995 two of his daughters fled the country with their husbands. He lured them back home with promises of forgiveness. Both of his sons-in-law were immediately arrested upon their return and tortured before being executed.
Perhaps Saddam’s most heinous and well-known act of evil however was the 1982 massacre of 148 Iraqi Shiites. On a tour of his country, Saddam and his motorcade stopped in Dujail, just north of Baghdad. While leaving, a group of gunmen surrounded his motorcade and opened fire, killing several bodyguards but sparing Saddam himself. After a four hour firefight, his security forces managed to kill most of the attackers, apprehending a few. In the following days, an enraged Saddam ordered the rounding up of 400 additional suspects and family members of suspects. After days of torture, 148 relatives of the shooters and alleged suspects in the plot were executed for the attempt on his life, with the rest exiled into Iraq’s deepest desert regions.
Saddam would meet his end in 2006; after being captured by American forces, an Iraqi tribunal sentenced him to hang for the 1982 massacre. Though Saddam no longer rules Iraq, the spectre of his brutality still haunts the nation, and the relationship between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims remains strained to this day.
From the modern deserts of Iraq to the heights of the Italian Renaissance, our next evil ruler comes from a time before the separation of church and state. Pope Alexander VI was a wealthy businessman who in 1492 bribed his way into the papacy, becoming Pope and God’s direct link between himself and the Catholic masses of Europe- or at least that’s what the job description says. In reality Pope Alexander was far from a godly man, and in fact publicly shirked from any religious duties or ceremonies, interested only in two things: expanding his personal wealth and indulging his lecherous appetites.
A thoroughly morally bankrupt man, Pope Alexander VI engaged in an incestuous relationship with his beautiful daughter Lucrezia, and also used her to ensnare wealthy merchants into marrying her after paying a hefty dowry. As the head of the church, Pope Alexander would then annul the marriage, keeping the dowry and leaving Lucrezia free to marry the next highest bidder. When that wasn’t enough to satisfy his greed, he would also confiscate land and financial holdings from Europe’s rich and elite via the proclamation of various religious decrees- mostly stating that the church- and by proxy God- had great need of that wealth. The Vatican’s coffers would thus be enriched, but not before Pope Alexander siphoned off a generous amount for himself.
History shows that the only thing the Pope loved more than money however was lechery. Known for propositioning the wives and daughters of those around him, the Pope was also an infamous whoremonger, throwing lavish parties with upwards of fifty prostitutes at a time. Pope Alexander VI greatly admired machismo and virility, and during these decadent parties he would order servants to track the number of orgasms achieved by each man in a sort of competition.
Eventually the Pope’s greed and lechery would grow to be too much for European nobles, and Pope Alexander VI would finally meet his end in 1503. The Vatican would struggle to rebuild its image after his reign and the damage he caused financially and morally to the church would be lasting- but because most clouds have a silver lining, Pope Alexander VI’s abuses would help shape public consciousness and eventually lead to our modern democratic systems separating church and state.
Our next evil ruler is another household name and revolutionary icon- Fidel Castro. After seizing power from a corrupt President Fulgencio Batista and establishing free education and healthcare for Cubans, Castro came to be championed as a hero of the people and an icon that stood up against corrupt American-style capitalism. However, a closer look reveals that Castro was in fact far from the heroic figure some have painted him to be, and rarely if ever held the interests of his people over his own desire to rule.
Immediately upon assuming power in 1959, Castro solidified his grip on Cuba by executing 582 supporters of the former President Batista. Others would flee Cuba in a mass exodus to the US and South America, fearful of Castro’s revolutionary courts which almost inevitably ended in sentences of execution. In order to squash public dissent, Castro would then go on to abolish freedom of the press, replacing private press services with propagandist state-run outlets. Along with the press, Castro would go on to abolish the freedom of assembly and religion as well so as to better control his people.
A world-renowned revolutionary, Castro was himself ironically terrified of the possibility of a revolt against his own rule, and along with the abolishment of various civil liberties he would also establish a secret police tasked with conducting surveillance of the population and arresting and interrogating political opponents and dissidents. Many would endure torture and prison sentences. Castro would go on to expand his list of “undesirables” to include members of the lgbt community and the clergy, tasking his secret police with the rounding up of homosexuals and priests who alongside his political enemies would be interred into labor camps for their own “re-education”. Though figures have been difficult to verify, Castro himself admitted in 1964 to holding 15,000 political prisoners.
Though directly responsible for the deaths of thousands in Cuba, Fidel Castro would also be indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands more as refugees would for decades try to reach Florida’s coast on makeshift rafts and boats. Castro’s total death count may thus never really be known, but one thing is for sure: the man celebrated as a “people’s revolutionary” would in fact be responsible for the mass-murder and torture of the people he was supposed to have saved. Upon his death from heart failure in 2016, thousands of Cuban refugees and exiles flooded the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami in celebration, with hope in their hearts for a reconciliation between America and Cuba and the reconnection of thousands of broken families.
Typically, evil never really believes it is in fact evil- men fool themselves into thinking they are serving some ‘greater good’, or that their Machiavellian agenda is worth sacrificing for. Ancient Rome’s Caligula though held no such pretenses, going so far as to boldly proclaim about his people: “If they hate me, let them hate me- so long as they fear me.”
Easily one of the most infamous evil figures in history, the truth may be a bit more tragic than originally thought with modern historians theorizing that Caligula may have suffered from the onset of severe mental illnesses including paranoid schizophrenia. As evidence, they point to the first two years of his reign which were relatively quiet and prosperous, after which Caligula seemed to slip into a depraved and cruel state.
One of his earliest acts of cruelty was directed at his own nephew. Annoyed by the youngster’s persistent cough, Caligula beheaded his young nephew and declared the juvenile ‘cured’. Seemingly driven by an insatiable bloodlust, Caligula reveled in such acts of violent cruelty, even going so far as to enjoy his dinners while watching prisoners sentenced to death sawed in half in front of him.
Violence was only one of his appetites however, and today his name is synonymous with sexual hedonism for a reason. As Caesar, Caligula would often force other men’s wives and daughters into bed with him, killing any who protested or refused him. He would also hold lavish orgies, going so far as to force people into sex acts with animals for his amusement.
Lending credence to the theory that Caligula suffered from extreme mental illnesses, he was well known to dress as various roman gods and force people to worship him, a practice he may have picked up on from the ancient Egyptians. Entire temples were built for his worship, and perhaps thinking himself as equal to the gods, he once declared war against Neptune himself- ordering the Roman navy to form a line across a stretch of ocean while soldiers hurled their spears into the sea.
Evil takes many shapes, but it is never as empowered as when it is allowed to reign unchecked over the masses. Yet as revolutions throughout history have shown us, the real power always rests with the people. The Reverend Charles F. Aked once said: “For evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.”, and as many tyrants throughout history have discovered, the strength of no king or despot can stand against the might of a people unified by their yearning for freedom and righteousness. Our history should serve to remind us of that fact, and empower us.
So, why do you think that even today we continue to be plagued by evil rulers? Have we really progressed as a civilization, or have we merely been lulled into a sense of complacency by our modern conveniences? Let us know your thoughts in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Most Evil Kids In the world! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!