There's nothing like the vaguely sadistic pleasure of a good revenge movie, from Uma Thurman hacking the limbs off the entire Japanese mafia to any of the 36 vengeance-crazed madmen Mel Gibson has played. But it's all fantasy, right? Real people don't go on a Payback-style path of destruction when they're wronged.
Well, maybe you should consider...
#6. The Trung Sisters' Kung Fu Rebellion
Trung Trac and Trung Nhi were simple-living sisters in a small village sometime in first century Vietnam, who by the way had been trained from childhood in martial arts. This will become very important later.
The area at the time was ruled with an iron fist by the Chinese, who had a kind of zero tolerance policy when it came to their subsidiaries acting like they were all unique and independent. So when Trac's husband broke with convention and took a stand, the Han warlords decided to respond with a display of brutality that would have done the Roman Empire proud.
They executed the outspoken rebel, and then went ahead and raped his widow Trac because why not.
OK, see this? This is my ass kicking face.
We now take it as pretty common knowledge that you just don't mess with Vietnam, even if you're an immensely powerful and technologically superior nation. They know kung fu, or something, and apparently every time they get invaded they simply level up.
Due to their traditional Confucian teachings, the Han Chinese considered women to be pretty useless. So they didn't realize that Trac and Nhi had been schooled in badass martial arts since they were little girls and thus weren't prepared to take any of Confucius' shit.
To avenge her lost husband and restore freedom of her people, Trac and Nhi paired up to go Bruce Lee on Han China. They raised an army of 80,000 pissed off women who proceeded to crack open a can of Vietnamese-flavored whoopass on the foreign invaders, treating an army of men like a troop of boy scouts.
After liberating their home village, the sisters took their war further afield, ultimately driving the Chinese right out of Vietnam with their tails between their legs (or at least those of them who had somehow retained the use of their legs).
Although the sisters and their uprising were eventually defeated by the Han, their epic, final battle became the stuff that legends are made of. One tells of Phung Thi Chinh, a pregnant noblewoman in their army who gave birth on the battlefield, and fought the Chinese with her baby on her back. Another that the Chinese surprised the women by attacking them bare-ass naked, which may explain why China to this day refuses to acknowledge that any of it happened at all.
Among other things.
#5. Boudicca Takes a Bloody Chunk Out of Rome
The Roman Empire never really earned a reputation for fair play. In fact, if you ask a historian about the Roman Empire, they will describe something that sounds like a mash-up between the Star Wars Empire and Mordor.
So, when King Prasutagus of the Celtic Iceni tribe died, leaving his kingdom to his wife Boudicca and their two daughters, Rome had other plans: They invaded the Iceni and enslaved them. Boudicca and her daughters were flogged and raped. Unfortunately for Rome, they didn't understand who they were fucking with.
All we have to know about Boudicca comes from Roman records, and they described her as "tall and terrible, with a great mass of red hair to her hips... she carried a spear to instill terror in all who saw her." The Celts weren't just another tribe of pushovers for Rome to trample. Turns out they were one of the most terrifying civilizations in the history of the world.
With an army of William Wallace's angriest ancestors in tow, Boudicca plowed a fucking airport of destruction through Roman Britain. Their first target was Camulodunum, the nearby Roman outpost that also doubled as a country club for soldiers like the ones who raped Boudicca's daughters. The entire city was destroyed in a brutal siege so horrific that Camulodunum's statue of Victory collapsed "with its back turned as though it were fleeing the enemy."
It took three Roman legions to bring her down. But before she'd been stopped, Boudicca had obliterated three Roman cities, burned Roman London to the ground and massacred 80,000 Roman squatters in a manner that only the Celts can appreciate.
There's nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from killing tens of thousands of Italians.
#4. Dante Alighieri Writes The Divine Comedy as a Literary Fuck You
The Republic of Florence was long divided when it came to Pope Boniface VIII. Half the country would have gladly gone down on him, while the other half hated him and probably called him "Pope Bonerface" behind his back.
Shit got real in 1301, when the Pope appointed a Charles de Valois as peacemaker for Tuscany. A local politician named Dante Alighieri figured old Bonerface was up to something ugly (as per usual), so he decided to travel to Rome to talk it out. In a dick move worthy of the Guinness Book of Records, the Pope invited Dante to stay a while as his personal guest while he secretly ordered de Valois to march into Florence with an armed militia to overthrow and execute the government and install a more Pope-friendly regime.
To top it off, Boniface then slapped a huge fine on Dante, as punishment for being in Rome. The new council of Florence passed a declaration that Dante could never return to the city by punishment of death. This order wasn't repealed until 2008, about seven hundred years after this punishment would have ceased to be effective.
Fortunately, Dante's one-piece had shoes built into them.
The Pope probably should have just killed him instead of being such a smartass, because Dante went on to personally vilify him in what became one of the most widely read and influential works of literature in the Western world, the Divine Comedy.
Even without the aid of a printing press, Dante's brilliant rhyming style and use of the common Italian language assured that everyone would hear his side of the story. He put everyone who ever messed with him in his whole life in an ironic literary interpretation of Hell, reserving a special spot for Pope Boniface VIII.
In the epic poem, St. Peter himself denounces his papacy as "a blood-filled sewer," and his papal throne on Earth "vacant." The burn was so delicious that some families had to build entire churches to offset the damage Dante had done to their names and businesses. These days, the equivalent would be if Eminem released a 40-track album in which he personally named you and called you a fuckhead in every single song, and it went triple Platinum.
The sweetest plum in the up-yours basket is the fact that, since Dante became a superstar, Florence decided they weren't too good for him after all, and spent the next seven hundred years begging the city of Revenna, where he died, to return his bones to the city who screwed him. They refuse even to this day. Burn.
Almost as epic as this burn.