25 Betrayals That Changed The Course Of History

Posted by , Updated on April 20, 2024

Many battles and wars that shaped the history of the world were concluded not only from the efforts of leaders and heroes but by spies as well. Numerous espionage and spy-hunting efforts were launched to gain information and secure victories, which many times proved successful. Because of intelligence brought by agents and double-crossers, many lives were saved or lost and history was shaped. Here are 25 betrayals that changed the course of history.

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Revenge is Sweet (Francisco Pizarro)

Revenge is Sweet (Francisco Pizarro)listas.20minutos.es

Pizarro held hostage Emperor Atahualpa after defeating an army with a limited number of men. He asked for gold and silver as ransom, but he strangled Atahualpa to death. In turn, Pizarro was executed by a son of his former military officer, Diego de Almagro, on grounds of his father not being recognized or rewarded for his efforts to win victories for Pizarro.


Satellite Spy (Christopher John Boyce)

Satellite Spy (Christopher John Boyce)bowiesongs.wordpress.com

Boyce made himself some money along with his childhood friend, Andrew Daulton Lee, by selling information on spy satellites and other official documents to the Soviet Union. After being arrested in 1977, Boyce escaped in 1980 and started robbing banks. After being captured again he was officially released in 2002 on parole.


One of the Most Famous Traitors (Judas Iscariot)

One of the Most Famous Traitors (Judas Iscariot)www.handgemalt24.de

For an amount of 30 silver, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, betrayed Christ by kissing him on the cheek to let the authorities know of his identity. His act led to Jesus’s death by crucifixion which made him the most notorious traitor in history.


Patriot and Betrayer (Simon Bolivar)

Patriot and Betrayer (Simon Bolivar)thefamous-people.blogspot.com

Bolivar, a military and political leader, is considered the betrayer of one of the greatest patriots of Venezuela, Francisco de Miranda . Simon Bolivar turned de Miranda over to Spain on questionable grounds of treason and some say it was only to get a Spanish passport. Francisco died in prison several years later.


La Malinche (Doña Marina)

La Malinche (Dona Marina)eltemplodelasculturas.com

Arguably the most reviled women in the Hispanic world, Doña Marina is known as the traitor who betrayed her people to the Spanish conquistadors. A former slave and translator-mistress of Hernando Cortes, New Spain’s (known today as Mexico) conqueror, Doña Marina played an important role in changing the course of history with her ability to translate Nahuatl (Aztec language) to the Mayan language (which can be understood by Cortes’ translator). It is said that the linguistic link between Dona Marina and Cortes’ Spanish translator proved crucial for Cortes to conquer the New World.


The First Black Double Agent (James Armistead)

The First Black Double Agent (James Armistead)www.sar.org

Armistead was an African American slave that became a double agent spy for the United States in 1781. He pretended to be a British spy and gained the confidence of Generals Arnold and Cornwallis only to gather information about the British plans for troop and arms deployment and send them to American spies. His espionage greatly helped the Americans secure victory during the Battle of Yorktown.


Napoleon’s Dog (Karl Schulmeister)

Napoleon’s Dog (Karl Schulmeister)www.armchairgeneral.com

A businessman, smuggler, and later a double-crosser, Schulmeister began as a spy for the Austrian Empire but was later recruited to be a spy for France. The information he gathered as a double agent led to the capture of the Duke of Enghien and Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. He also did spying in England and Ireland for Napoleon but ended as a tobacconist when Napoleon’s rule came to an end.


The Spy of Four Nations (Sidney Reilly)

The Spy of Four Nations (Sidney Reilly)news.kievukraine.info

Famously known as the “Ace of Spies”, Reilly allegedly spied for at least four nations and worked for the Scotland Yard, the British Secret Service Bureau and the Secret Intelligence Service. He was responsible for numerous accomplishments like the surprise attack on Port Arthur, a German plane crash and theft of German weapon plans among others. His allegiance played among the countries United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Russia.


Bursting the Fat Man (Theodore Hall)

Bursting the Fat Man (Theodore Hall)www.technewsdaily.com

Hall was responsible for developing the first and second atomic bombs during World War II for the United States. But little did the Americans know that this science genius was actually an atomic spy for the Soviet Union. After his efforts for the Manhattan Project, he gave a detailed description of the “Fat Boy” plutonium bomb and several tactics to purify plutonium to the Soviet. He confessed to his espionage to the FBI afterwards.


The Double Agent (William Sebold)

The Double Agent (William Sebold)rebelblackdot.blogspot.com

Thought to be a German spy during World War II, Sebold was actually a double agent for the United States and worked for the FBI. Because of him, the FBI was able to wire the radio station that was a main channel of communication between the Abwehr and German spies in New York, enabling the US to identify the names of dozens of these German Spies spread in America. His counterespionage also enabled the capture of the 33 German Agents of the Duquesne Spy Ring, the largest espionage case in the US that ended in convictions.


The Charming Spy (Fritz Joubert Duquesne)

The Charming Spy (Fritz Joubert Duquesne)xman.idnes.cz

Duquesne is one of the prominent members of the Duquesne Spy Ring which was dubbed the largest espionage conviction in the United States. He was a German spy that relayed significant amounts of information regarding Allied weaponry and shipping movements to Germany and was responsible for numerous murders and arson. One of his greatest achievements as a spy was the sinking of HMS Hampshire in 1916.


Dutch Professor Turned Spy (Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje)

Dutch Professor Turned Spy (Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje)voa-khilafah.blogspot.com

Snouck was one of the first western scholars to infiltrate the Islam culture and join the pilgrimage to Mecca, enabling him to gather intelligence under the name “Haji Abdul Ghaffar”. However, he used his knowledge of the Islamic and Aceh culture to quell Muslim Aceh resistance in the Dutch East Indies. Because of his espionage, the Dutch were able to devise strategies to crush the resistance and impose a Dutch colonial rule in Aceh resulting to almost 100,000 deaths.


Sleeping with the Enemy (Vidkun Quisling)

Sleeping with the Enemy (Vidkun Quisling)commons.wikimedia.org

Before his treachery against his country, Quisling served as a Norwegian Minister of Defense. He founded the Nasjonal Samling, which became a puppet government by the Nazis when they invaded Norway in 1940. He was responsible for a number of embezzlement and murders for Germany during this time. When Germany surrendered in 1945, he was executed for high treason.


A Change of Sides (Wang Jingwei)

A Change of Sides (Wang Jingwei)www.sevdaselim.net

This Chinese politician was initially a member of the left wing of anti-communist Kuomintang and became extremely rightist after his political efforts with the CCP turned ugly. When the Japanese invaded in 1937, he was offered a position, which he gladly took as head of state of the Japanese puppet government until he died.


Because of Unrecognized Efforts (Benedict Arnold)

Because of Unrecognized Efforts (Benedict Arnold)www.revolutionary-war.net

Arnold was an American general during the American Revolutionary War that immensely contributed to the success of the Americans during numerous battles. However, other officers claimed all his accomplishments, prompting him to sell West Point to the British. After the plan was exposed in 1780, Arnold fled and became a brigadier general of the British Army.


The Catholic Treason (Guy Fawkes)

The Catholic Treason (Guy Fawkes)www.sevdaselim.net

Contributing to the “largest one act of treason in English history”, Fawkes was a member of the group of English Catholics who started the failed treason plan, the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. He joined against the Protestant Dutch and fought for the Spanish in the Low Countries during the Eighty Years’ War. He was part of the plan to assassinate King James I by guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder but was found by the authorities, sentencing him to death by hanging.


The Greek Traitor (Ephialtes of Trachis)

The Greek Traitor (Ephialtes of Trachis)www.screened.com

Ephialtes became infamous in Greece after he betrayed his country to the Persians in 480 BC. During the Battle of Thermopylae, he led the Persian army to a path that gave access to behind the Spartan’s line, hoping for a reward from the Persian leader, Xerxes. However, he reaped not a reward but a bounty on his head. He was killed later on and his name became synonymous with treason and nightmare.


Money Makes the World Go Round (Robert Hanssen)

Money Makes the World Go Round (Robert Hanssen)aboutfacts.net

Hanssen was a former FBI agent who willingly approached GRU, the Soviet military intelligence agency and offered his services for money. He sold the largest bulk of CIA information and assets in history to the USSR and Russia for 22 years in exchange of more than 1.4 million US dollars and diamonds. His treachery was dubbed as the “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history” and earned him a lifetime in prison.


Spending Beyond his Income (Aldrich Ames)

Spending Beyond his Income (Aldrich Ames)www.sodahead.com

Ames was a former CIA counterintelligence officer and analyst before he was convicted for espionage for the Soviet Union in 1994. His access to military intelligence, CIA assets and names of US agents against Russia enabled him to sell information to the Russian government which supported his and his wife’s luxurious lifestyle.


The Betrayer of the True Faith (Mir Jafar)

The Betrayer of the True Faith (Mir Jafar)listverse.com

Mir Jafar’s betrayal of his country was ignited by his intense desire to claim the throne and be the Nawab of Bengal. Because of his ambition, he joined forces with the British forces during the Battle of Plassey between the East India Company and the Indian Force. Jafar was the head of the Bengal army during that time and by withholding his large army from the battle, the British forces took the victory. Jafar became the Nawab in 1763 and ruled until his death.


Partners in Crime (Julius and Ethel Rosenberg)

Partners in Crime (Julius and Ethel Rosenberg)perspective.usherbrooke.ca

The Rosenbergs were a married couple who were convicted of committing espionage during the height of the Cold War. They sold information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union and also recruited spies for the Russians. Upon capture by the FBI, their co-conspirators confessed about the espionage and were not executed while the couple were sentenced with Capital Punishment in 1953.


Ettu, Brute? (Marcus Brutus)

Ettu, Brute? (Marcus Brutus)hoocher.com

Deemed one of the biggest betrayals of history, Brutus’ move against then dictator Julius Caesar led to the tyrant’s death. Even though his wife bluntly opposed his betrayal, he joined the Roman senators who savagely killed Caesar during the peak of the revolt against his tyranny. Brutus was the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was his uncle.


Three Countries, One Man (Harold Cole)

Three Countries, One Man (Harold Cole)2ndww.blogspot.com

Paul Cole was a British deputy commander during the end of World War II who helped build the French Resistance, but in the end sold it to the secret police of Nazi Germany, the Gestapo. He caused significant damaged to the Allied forces after leaking tactics to the Axis powers. When the war ended, both the French and British governments were after him so a large manhunt was created to capture him. He was shot dead by a French policeman in 1946.


Walker was able to pull off the biggest betrayal in naval history for 20 long years before he was finally arrested by the FBI in 1985. His arrest was thanks to his wife who ran off to the FBI after their divorce when he supposedly refused to pay her spousal support. His espionage gravely damaged the Navy and enabled the Soviet Union to gain significant access to naval warfare, terrorist threats, sensor data, and tactics among others.

The Austrian Alfred (Alfred Redl)commons.wikimedia.org

Responsible for the deaths of half a million of his countrymen, Austrian officer Redl was able to work for a spy for the Russian army during World War I. Apart from leaking secrets about the Austrian army, he also sold Austria’s plan to invade Serbia to Russia, who in turn leaked the plan to Serbia. His continued double-crossing eventually halted when he committed suicide after the Austrian police discovered his espionage.


The US Navy’s Espionage Leak (John A. Walker)

The US Navy’s Espionage Leak (John A. Walker)www.nsa.gov

Walker was able to pull off the biggest betrayal in naval history for 20 long years before he was finally arrested by the FBI in 1985. His arrest was thanks to his wife who ran off to the FBI after their divorce when he supposedly refused to pay her spousal support. His espionage gravely damaged the Navy and enabled the Soviet Union to gain significant access to naval warfare, terrorist threats, sensor data, and tactics among others.