You've got to love the underdog. It doesn't matter who they are or whether or not they're good at all, we just want the little guy to win--because in the real world, he usually doesn't.
So today we celebrate these tiny, underdog countries, the Rocky countries, who kicked ass against all odds.
6Albania Cheats at War... and Kicks Extraordinary Amounts of Ass
If you're not familiar with the Balkans, here's a fun experiment that'll give you a quick education. Go to YouTube, and find any video from the region (Albania, or Greece, etc). Scroll down to the comments and lay witness to the terrifying spectacle of violent, unrestrained Balkan hate contained within.
Something along these lines.
That's the Balkans. So when we hold up Albania as an example of a badass underdog of a country, well, you can see what kind of neighborhood they're from.
And it's been that way for a long time. More than 500 years ago, the small, mountainous, fiercely independent country was under attack by the Ottoman Empire, at the time a hugely powerful nation that had just torn through the whole of the Balkans like paper mache. Only tiny Albania stood in its way of total regional domination. The Ottomans promptly high-fived each other, said something about how "this was going to be fun," and prepared for a route.
Waiting for them was a man named Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg--the name alone is so incredibly badass that it will make you shit yourself--who lead a hardened, patriotic army of Albanian resistance warriors all across the countryside, basically fucking up the Ottoman's shit every opportunity he got.
In one battle, he killed 22,000 Turks while losing a mere 2,000 of his own men. While defending the castle of Kruje, his 8,000 man army beat 160,000 Turkish troops, who were led by the legendary Sultan Mehmet II.
Shit, those are feats we can't even replicate in Age of Empires.
Pictured: Albanian resistance leader Gjergj Skanderbeg, tattooed onto the arm of a man who
we are going to assume will kill you just to see if his gun is still working.
Gjergj Skanderbeg was what many consider the world's first guerrilla leader, using the mountains to his advantage and striking at the Ottomans in ways that would make any strategy game-playing nine-year-old cry out, "GAY! HAX!"
What was it that finally ended Albania's stand? Fucking malaria. Skanderbeg died in 1467, and though the memory of his name was enough to inspire Albania for another 10 years of resistance, they eventually fell.
That's right, it took mosquitoes to do what the most feared army on Earth at the time could not.
5The Knights Hospitaller Killed in the Name of God. A Lot.
Founded after the First Crusade, the Knights Hospitaller were an order of mainly German knights that quickly evolved into pretty much the only reason why the Catholics didn't get utterly mauled during the Second Crusades. Along with other famous orders like the Knights Templar, the Hospitallers fought off Muslim hordes, and really any horde they could get their hands on (these were easy to come by in those days) for nearly two centuries. Their secret? A combination of maniacal religious fervor and insanely badass suits of armor.
Even if there's an asthmatic 12-year-old under that armor, we're still scared shitless.
Once the numbers became too much for even the Hospitallers to handle, they high-tailed it to Cyprus. They were there for about 20 years until they realized that dicking around in Cyprus involved way less killing than they were used to, and took the island of Rhodes from whatever poor fool was controlling it.
While in Rhodes, the Knights fought off invasions from both the Sultan of Egypt in 1444 and from the Ottoman Empire in 1480 (the latter was coming off their own conquest of Constantinople, the single most difficult-to-invade city on the planet.).
Finally the knights' reign ended, when the aptly-named Ottoman Suleiman the Magnificent invaded the island with nothing less than 200,000 troops. Despite the fact that the knights only had 7,000 men to defend their holdings, it still took six freaking months for Rhodes to fall.
The knights abandoned Rhodes and moved to Malta and, sure enough, the Turks sent another massive army to besiege it. Historians rank the Siege of Malta as one of the most epic, transformative moments in military history, pretty much the Citizen Kane of sieges. It was one of the most celebrated events in its time, known throughout the corners of Christendom.
Why? Because the knights managed to fight off a massive horde of nearly 50,000 Turks with a few thousand men and absolutely zero room to retreat.
The Turks had lots of room to retreat, however, and after four months of watching the knights laugh off the 130,000 cannon balls they fired at them, the Turks turned and ran. It was the first time they had been beaten in 100 damned years.