Throughout our history, there have been many great men and women who accomplished many great things that have benefited humankind. However, it is not suprising to find that a lot of these people where also thundering douchebags.
Known for being the single most fearsome general in the U.S. army during WW2. Hitler described him as "The Most Dangerous Man (The Allies) have. So feared was he that his presence was used as a psychological weapon against the Nazis. Eisenhower would send him to Sicily, Calais and Cairo; causing chaotic distribution of Nazi troops as they struggled to shore up their defences against what they believed would be Patton's seemingly unstoppable 3rd Army.
Famous for breaking the Seige at Bastogne and ending the bloody 'Battle Of The Bulge' - an act which saved countless lives, he was also considered to be an egomaniac- riding around in an elaborately decorated tank bearing his name, wearing an immacualte uniform with added pimpitude in the form of highly polished cavalry boots and a gleaming helmet. (Stop sniggering.)
It saves on ammunition AND tread grease, see?
But Patton's career was littered with a special blend of ignorance, bigotry, and general jackassery that ultimately tainted his glittering combat record.
Having served in a tank battalion during the First World War, Patton took part in the 1916 Punitive Exposition to Mexico, also known as-
"The 'Angry Mexicans attacked us in response to our sustained mistreatment of them, they have killed around two dozen military personnel-let us raze their entire country to rubble and kill as many civilians as possible' War." (See 'Iraq War 2001-Present' for further details.)
The aim of the exposition was to apprehend General Pancho Bin Laden, sorry, Pancho Villa, an admittedly violent guerilla, who was responsible for several terrorist attacks on American soil, and was, as a result, a folk hero in Mexico. Having failed to locate Villa, Patton did manage to find and kill 2 of his generals, triumphantly strapping them to the hood of his vehicle like a poached deer and parading around Mexican villages like, well, an arrogant thug.
Patton had been awarded the Purple Heart in WW1, having been wounded in a tank battle, and pulled to safety by his orderly, a Pfc. Joe Angelo. Angelo was awarded "The Invisible Medal of Nothing." for rescuing Patton, and in fact, his contribution to the war in general. This situation continued once he arrived home to the Depression, where soldiers arrived to try and pick up their back pay, and were instead presented with a photo of Calvin Coolidge flipping them the middle finger. Eventually Joe became part of the 'Bonus Army', a group of veterans who, having been royally dicked by the government they had given lives, limbs and eyes for, set up camp in front of the Capitol building in Washington, hoping to be able to redeem the 'certificates' they'd been issued. (Certificates were issued in place of pay, and did not mature for 20 years, during which time, blind quadraplegics were expected to survive on patriotism and quiet dignity.)
In a characteristic display of empathy, one of whom had literally saved Patton's own life, he led the charge against the demonstrators, and set upon them with bayonets and Arsenic gas. They burned the camp and launched more than one fresh attack against the fleeing civilians. Government figures are predictably vague on the incident, recording only "somewhere between one, and 'a number' of casualties.)
Hoping to build a career in politics once the war was over, Patton had campaigned in the senate to have the U.S. Army's tank production shelved in favour of far cheaper horses. Unfortunately, as well as being cheaper to run and maintain, horses have a striking tendency to turn into flying chunks of equestrian chum when faced with small arms and anti-personnel munitions.
The Great Depression in the InterWar years had made materials scarce- so, with a heroic disregard for the wellbeing of his compatriots, and a desire to see himself elected to some cushy Washington position, Patton thought 'Screw Tanks.' Coincidentally, once assigned to the tank battalion of the 3rd army in North Africa, Patton's support for the giant metal box around his soft organs returned, and he was somehow less keen to charge toward German machine guns with a half-ton of whinnying dog food between his knees.
The most famous incident in Patton's career was depicted in the George C. Scott movie bearing his name. Upon meeting Charles H. Kuhl, a shell-shocked soldier in an army hospital, harrowed and riddled with malaria to the point of catatonia by the horrors forced before his young eyes, Patton showed his characteristic humanity by savagely beating the young man, only stopping when a teenage nurse took a swing at him. He continued his tour of the hospital for a few minutes until the crowd cleared, then returned to continue verbally harrasing the stricken Kuhl. Clearly not satisfied, Patton repeated the incident around a week later with a different patient.
Patton was severely reprimanded for the incident, and it was a contributing factor in the end of his active career. After this point, Patton's career consisted of being shipped to various cities in Europe, with news of his arrival terrifying the Nazis into rapidly restructuring before he moved onto the next city.
As much as you would cross the street to avoid the guy, he did one thing exceptionally well, and that was bringing horror and ruin to the front doors of his enemies, which ultimately, is what you want from a military leader, that and the ability to make a rousing speech -
- "When we meet the enemy we will kill him. We will show him no mercy. He has killed thousands of your comrades and he must die. If your company officers in leading your men against the enemy find him shooting at you and when you get within two hundred yards of him he wishes to surrender-oh no! That bastard will die! You will kill him. Stick him between the third and fourth ribs."
Pretty rousing, eh?
"OK boys, Germany's that way, so head over there and blow up anything with a Swastika on it."
On the other hand, Patton had a tendency to direct that attitude to the people on his own team -
"A colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor." Ah, maybe you wanna reign that stuff in a little bit, George.
"We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinese or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand them except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them...The Russian has no regard for human life and they are all out sons-of-bitches, barbarians, and chronic drunks."
OK George! That's enough! -Cut his mic!
Revisionism is the one of the Historian's worst enemies. When a ruler is overthrown or assassinated, it usually falls to the people who deposed them to write the history of why, as a result, these are generally not the most reliable sources, generally riddled with inaccuracies and pages of crackin' wise about the former leader's mama.
Qin Shi Huang - Big, Fat slow-witted Mama not pictured
Qin, the First Emperor of China, is a prime example of this, there is a Confucian essay called "The Crimes Of Qin" solely dedicated to how much of a chump he was. Hailed as a masterpiece, it basically outlines that a good leader, earns the respect and love of his subjects through compassion and reason. Qin, it says, was a paranoid maniac who compusively consolidated power and covered his own ass at the expense of millions of his subject's lives.
He 'unified' the 7 warring states of China, which sounds great, only he went about 'unifying' them in much the same way Hitler went about 'unifying' Europe; with a great deal of genocide, warfare, oppression and slavery. Having brought China together under his rule, making him one of the most powerful men on earth, with practically unlimited funds and manpower at his disposal, Qin promptly went crazy and started being an enormous douche.
Having become king at 13, he had been the target of almost half a dozen coup or assassination attempts by the time he reached his 30th birthday, so he was understandably a little paranoid. Probably not helping was his personal physician, who was administering massive daily doses of mercury and other heavy metals, a practice which over time, can result in erratic behaviour such as, well-, building huge walls and terracotta armies apparently.
The Great Wall of China, built at Qin's behest, is one of the wonders of the world, it can be seen from space. Admittedly this is not such an acheivement now -since the advent of Google Earth, which allows me to see my local Chinese takeout from space- co-incidentally it is also called 'The Great Wall Of China.'
However, if you were a subejct of Qin in ancient China, the Great Wall was a pain in the ass visible from space. Your options were twofold. Attempt to avoid building and risk torture and execution, or agree to build and basically agree to get worked to death. Your only other option was to join the Qin army, which was considerably less rad than the Kiss Army.
Pictured: Significantly more Rad than an ancient Chinese Slave Army.
Warriors of the Qin army were beaten daily to toughen them up, except when they were accidentally beaten to death, which actually made them significanly less tough, squishy even. This did however, help to inspire the other soldiers to do exactly as they were told.
Qin's other great project was, somewhat unsurprisingly, his own tomb. Qin was obsessed with death, and quite frequently sent ships of explorers out with the instructions "Bring me back some immortality." Unfortunately the explorers generally had to make do with a portion of "Watery Grave" instead, but this didn't deter Qin, he just kept sending them.
Legend says they discovered Japan and colonised it, presumably because living on an uninhabited island was preferable to going home to the murderous, lunatic king who would probably have them tortured to death for failing to retrieve something that didn't exist.
Aside from the famous terracotta army, guarding its entrance, the as-yet-unopened tomb of the emperor is said to contain thousands of objects of untold insanity. Early design documents and recent probings suggest a huge scale map of China, with mountains made of their native stone, moving stars and planets, and 100 rivers of mercury (presumably Qin wanted to keep himself good and crazy in the afterlife too.) Nobody knows for certain as Qin (predictably) had everyone who worked on it killed - even after his death he was responsible for some meaningless executions - it's what he would have wanted.
Famously known as the navigator who "Discovered" America while trying to find a back door into the lucrative spicy goodness of Asia. Only he didn't discover it, as there were already people there, and it had already been visited by several other groups of varying nationalities. He's also hailed as the man who proved the earth was round, only this fact had been known for hundreds of years already.
So what was Columbus? He was a slave trader, a tyrant, an incompetent moron with a penchant for putting hundreds of sailor's lives at risk, and most of all, a collosal ass.
"So, you live here, eh? That's impossible since I ONLY JUST GOT HERE - and put some damn pants on would you?"
Historians of the time note that Columbus read a lot of literature about navigation, he acquired vast quantities of books and made dozens of notations in the margins, though based on those notations, it appears he didn't have a damn clue what he was reading about. As a result, Columbus had a tendency to go beserk at anyone who questioned anything he said, in the hope of masking the fact that he had no idea what he was talking about - much like a first-year political science student with an untouched collection of Karl Marx tracts.
Upon arriving in the Bahamas, Columbus writes that the native Bahamans were frequently attacked by visitors from a nearby island, looking to take them as slaves. Columbus quickly reasons that they must make good slaves, due to their eloquent descriptions of their horrific ordeal.
He notes in his writings of the time - "I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart,"
- In reality, he kidnapped twenty five island people, but as only seven survived the journey home, he apparently did a bit of editing in his diary afterward. Ultimately though, none of his slaves were introduced to Christianity, Columbus' supposed noble reason for heading out there in the first place. He refused to allow baptisms of the slaves he captured. A devout Catholic, dogma forbade the enslavement of Christians. Weighing up the options, Columbus would rather a few extra savages go to hell than him having to scrub his own floors.
Upon returning home he was arrested for the barbaric torture and cruelty he used to rule the lands he had conquered, sorry, "discovered" - and 23 witnesses, from his own crew, testified against him. However, back in the early 1500s, being the guy who brought the spices back from the back of beyond, made you the equivalent of an Enron exec, and Columbus recieved the lengthy sentence of six weeks in prison, for being an enormous tyrannical bastard.
At the time of his death, he still beleived he had visited the East coast of Asia. Despite the people there not being Asian, or being aware of any aspects of Asian culture. It takes a special kind of tyrant to arrive in a country and declare yourself leader, killing any who oppose you, when you don't even know where you are.
What did you say about my hat? Oh, you are SO enslaved.
As if being a despotic slave trader with a manical religious zeal wasn't enough to make you dislike Columbus, he is also thought to have brought Syphillis back to Europe and allowed its spread through the army, who then went on to spread it further around the continent, eventually thought to have resulted in 5 million deaths. Thanks, Chris.
Admittedly, being played in a movie by Colin Farrell makes it much easier to paint you as one of history's biggest assholes, but Alexander The Great didn't need the help.
Convinced by his mother from an early age that he was the son of Zeus, and half deity himself, Alexander developed something of an ego. Supernanny will probably tell you that implanting such an idea in a child's head can cause some pretty interesting delusions and behaviour. Such as attempting to conquer the entire world, for instance.
This is thought to be the most accurate likeness of Alexander, who often commissioned portraits of himself to be significantly more 'generous' with his appearance
Becoming king of Macedonia (modern day Greece) at age 19, Alexander managed to find himself ruler of most of the western hemisphere by the time of his death at 32, and I'm sure you can imagine, one doesn't get to rule half of the world in a little over a decade by sending out flowers and chocolates. No, one does it with an overwhelming quantity of murder and genocide.
His first project after ascending to the throne was to kill anyone who could also be considered to have a stake in the monarchy. His cousins and anyone else in line to his throne was burned alive, with the exception of Arrhidaeus, who was considered to be mentally disabled, from a brain injury from a previous poisoning attempt by Alexander's mother. "Good Enough" said the King.
This sudden rash of unexplained illness amongst the aristocracy, (not to mention stabbings and burnings) caused some concern in the outer reaches of the Macedonian empire. Urged by his advisors to re-assure his subjects with speeches, gifts and diplomacy, Alexander mounted an army and invaded countries he already ruled. Most surrendered immediately, probably with a baffled shrug, but the rulers of Thebes in central Greece demanded to know what the hell was going on. In response, Alexander drove the army from the town, before proceeding to raze it to the ground and execute anyone left behind- i.e. civilians.
2 years after being crowned, Alexander was invading Asia Minor (Now Turkey), he followed that with a ten-year military campaign across Syria, Egypt, Iran, and the rest of what we now refer to as the Middle East. Basically, his life consisted of killing people, then pointing at their stuff and saying "Mine." He was essentially the obnoxious kid in Pre-school who has to claim ownership of anything in his eyeline, particularly if it's currently in the possesion of someone else.
Having taken most of Persia, Alexander adopted many of their traditions, mannerisms and beliefs, specifically the ones that edify leaders as deities. Hearing that this caused offence in Greece, Alexander had some more of his peers and close friends executed. I can hear you asking for some explaination at the end of that sentence, but there isn't any, just roll with it.
Attempting to push on into India, with few of his original soldiers left, Alexander's army revolted and refused to fight on. Alexander responded by killing several of his generals, and arranging that several others marry local noble women. (Still looking for logic are we? Foolish readers.)
It appears after several random displays, Alexander agreed to return home, though on the way, the death of his best friend (and some say, his lover,) Hephaestion, caused him to raze a nearby town to the ground and personally execute every innocent villager as a sacrifice to his friend's ghost.
Having returned home, Alexander went on a days-long drinking binge, then apparently suffered a fatal hangover. Poisoning was suspected, but since half of the earth's population had good reason to hate the guy, there were too many suspects to successfully narrow down.
At the time of his death, Alexander ordered his successor to "conquer all non-Greek peoples."
Alexander is credited with the invention of a number of military tactics, including, according to this image- "The Leroy Jenkins"
Ah, ancient Rome. The crucible of douchebag behaviour as we know it. When it comes to preening yourself excessively, showing off your shiny baubles, and basically behaving like a spoiled, entitled sociopath, you look to the Romans.
Ancient Rome was essentially Jersey Shore, directed by Ridley Scott. If you weren't currently having sex with, or murdering someone, you were usually working on a devious scheme to transition from one to the other, all while imbibing enough psychoactive substances to kill a hippo, or make Gary Busey slightly drowsy.
...and he managed all this bastardry without the use of a nose.
Emperor Nero's father Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, was a spectacular A-Hole. He was found guilty of Murder, Adultery, Treason and Incest. He married a 13 year old girl at age 45, killed a small child for 'being in his way,' gouged out the eyes of a knight who disagreed with him, and routinely killed his own servants for amusement. He had set the bar high for Nero.
Appointed to the senate at age 14, Nero started his career of sociopathic violence early, quickly marrying his own step-sister before banishing her from Rome for the crime of being unable to bear him any huge-headed, eyeless freakbabies. Re-marrying one of his mother's former slaves, he allegedly kicked her to death, for becoming pregnant by him without his permission.
This kind of behaviour was not unique for Nero, one could even say that executing people in his own family was something of a family tradition. Nero became emperor at age 16, after his mother, Agrippina poisoned Claudius, Nero's uncle and reigning emperor.
After Agrippina became concerned by her son's increasingly psychotic behaviour, she tried to install his step-brother, 15 year old Britannicus as emperor, which would be possible as soon as he turned 16. On the morning of his 16 birthday, Britannicus was found dead, presumably next to a small mosaic of Nero winking and giving a thumbs up.
Since Nero's mother had disagreed with him more than once, and insisted on being alive, he sought to arrange an extra-special murder plot just for her. His Assassination of his mother was Rasputin-esque. Three poisonings failed after she was able to obtain antidote. He constructed a mechanical collapsing ceiling in her bedroom, but she was able to throw herself behind a couch as it fell, resulting in the deaths of several servants. Next, he tried a self-capsizing boat, when this failed to sink, he had another ship ram it. When she managed to swim to shore, he had some lackeys stab her to death. When they arrived and drew their knives, she specifically requested to be stabbed in the womb, such was Nero's popularity.
"The Remorse Of Nero After Killing His Mother" - Not actually that much remorse, considering...
You may be familiar with the story of Nero 'fiddling while Rome burned,' The common perception is of a lax and flippant emperor, more concerned with amusing himself while his people suffered, but this depiction fails to portray what a violent, coniving bastard Nero really was. He is actually suspected by several historians to have actuallly started the Great Fire of Rome, (the one he is purported to have spent jamming some DMB on his fiddle) with the intention of building himself a fancy new plaza on the destroyed districts. He then tortured a number of Christians until they confessed. Having admitted these crimes they apparently knew nothing about, he punished more Christians by having them burned, crucified, wrapped in animal skins and thrown to feral dogs- not exactly "Due Process."
In spite of his obvious insanity, Nero was considered to be a fairly compentent military strategist, he won wars, quashed rebellions and negotiated peace with several aggressive nations, howerver he did show a characteristic lack of tact when celebrating the end of hostilities.
When turning conqured lands back over to their natural inhabitants (traditionally a good will gesture), Nero would force the leaders to attend vast displays of Roman wealth and dominance. Partially to suggest that they behave as Rome suggested from now on, and partially because it was a hugely arrogant slap in the face, which was kind of Nero's style.
This degree of fanciful bastardry could only last for so long, particularly in ancient Rome, where one had to constantly revolve in place, due to the frequency of backstabbing assassins. When the worm finally turned and the death squads knocked on his door, Nero opted for a style of death popular with deranged dictators who live in preposterous opulence. He hastily commited suicide as his former subjects approached in numbers, with every intention of tearing him to pieces.
The final middle finger to a nation who really deserved to get their revenge, the populace arrived just too late to administer Nero's come-uppance in a suitably brutal fashion.