Throughout history, human civilizations have come and gone. Some provided peace and prosperity, while others reigned down brutal and crushing tyranny. Whether lasting centuries or only a few years, these evil empires showed little mercy to their own people or their enemies. Their ruthlessness suppressed civil liberties, spread human suffering, and tragically lead to the deaths of millions. But who were the most nefarious civilizations? Here are the 25 Most Unbelievably Evil Empires In History.
The Comanche Empire was one of the largest Native American tribes in America. Their empire spanned most of the middle American plains, and they were known for their incredibly brutal raids…brutal raids that included the slaughter of children. It was because of their horrific reputation that the Spanish and the French rarely wanted to explore the territory. From 1868 to 1881, the systematic hunting of 31 million buffalo by American settlers caused the Comanche Empire to fall.
In the ancient world, the Celts ruled most of modern day France, Belgium, and England. Even Rome had a tremendously hard time conquering the Celts. Why? Because the Celts were incredibly fierce and also kinda crazy. In battle, they’d fight completely naked to show you they weren’t afraid to die, and if they won a battle, they’d cut off all the heads of their kills, take them home, and show them off like trophies.
The Viking Empire
Starting in 793 AD, the Viking Empire of the Scandinavian Peninsula started to pillage and plunder surrounding countries such as England, the Frankish Empire, Spain, and Russia. Their tactics were brutal; they’d raid unprotected villages, killing, raping, and stealing all goods before local defense units could stop them. As time went on, they became increasingly good at this and grew more brazen in their attempts to raid surrounding areas. It only lasted so long, however, and better defenses against their tactics made surprise raids more difficult. By 1066 AD, the Viking Empire lost steam when Norwegian King Harald Hardrada was defeated by the English at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
The Maori, the local tribe in New Zealand, were brutal warriors, cannibals, slave traders, and hunters. Their reputation was so fierce that even British Colonists, who were also quite brutal as we’ll see later, didn’t like to go near them. When Colonist James Cook arrived, things were fine at first, but when one of his men, James Rowe, angered the Maori, they cannibalized him and his men. Once the Maori got a hold of muskets, things got even worse. Tribal warfare broke out and some 18,000 people were slaughtered. Warfare between the British and the Maori continued for years, increasing the horrific bloodshed until the Maori were essentially conquered.
Confederate States of America
Starting in 1861, the Confederate States of America was a group of eleven states that broke off from the United States of America. While not technically recognized by foreign nations, the Confederacy had a president, a flag, printed their own money, and created a cultural identity that still lingers to the present day. However, they’re mostly known for the brutal practice of enslaving, beating, and raping millions of African Americans and their inhumane treatment of prisoners at Andersonville. Fortunately, their empire was short lived and ended in 1865.
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The Belgian Colonial Empire
The Belgian Colonial Empire consisted of three African colonies in the Congo. The territory was 76 times larger than Belgium and was the third largest colony in Africa. It was considered the private property of King Leopold II, and he became known there as the “Butcher of the Congo” for murdering millions of Congolese people by forcing them to work on rubber plantations. Those who failed to meet quotas were flogged, or their hands were cut off.
The Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire from 1206 to 1405 was the largest contiguous empire in history. Started by Genghis Khan, their army was a well-organized killing machine and used brutal war tactics to subdue largely populated cities. If the city complied with their wishes, they’d be spared and allowed to live, but if they didn’t, their city was destroyed and everyone inside was killed. It’s estimated 30 million people were killed during their reign.
Ancient Egyptian Empire
Ancient Egypt practiced human slavery and had brutal ways to deal with its laborers. Research shows if a worker got out of line, they would be whipped 100 times, stabbed five times, and then immediately sent back out to work. On top of that, malnutrition and disease were prevalent among commoners, including joint diseases from carrying heavy loads all day.
The Ottoman Empire
While the Ottoman Empire ruled for hundreds of years, in its decline from 1914 to 1922, it sanctioned genocide against Christian Greeks. Under the rule of the Young Turks and Mustafa Kemel, 3.5 million Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians were killed. The empire was dissolved in 1922.
In 1962, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) was taken over by a military Junta. The Junta imprisoned critics, took over the parliament, and suppressed any form of democracy. Due to their brutal military dictatorship, they became a hermit state closed off to the rest of the world. This seriously impoverished most of its people. Only members of the regime and their families profited from their rule.
From 883 BC to 627 BC, the Neo-Assyrian Empire ruled all over Mesopotamia and Egypt. Their military was efficient and brutal. After conquering nearby civilizations, they would trade their people into slavery and exile them out of their homelands. They’d impale people on spikes, dismember their bodies, and stack multiple heads on top of each other like a totem pole outside cities they conquered. Many of their writings talk proudly of gouging out eyes, burning children, and hanging heads on trees around a city.
The Portuguese Empire
Beginning in 1415, the Portuguese Empire stretched from Europe, Africa, India, and all the way to Japan and Brazil. Under their long colonial rule, they exploited the local inhabitants, raided African villages, and was a huge contributor to the African slave trade. At the end of their reign in 1961, the Angolan laborers revolted, resulting in a brutal fourteen-year war which included a massacre of 500 men, women, and children by the hands of Portuguese soldiers. In 1999, the Portuguese Empire was dissolved.
The Macedonian Empire
Alexander the Great is considered one of the greatest military geniuses in history. Starting in Macedonia, he formed an army and began conquering Greece, Syria, Egypt, Persia, and went all the way to India. However, his conquests were not without horrific and barbaric practices. This included crucifying thousands, burning cities to the ground, and slaughtering thousands of innocent people. He also was a paranoid ruler who had many people put to death for fear they might overthrow him. The Macedonian Empire died with him and was divided up into three seperate countries.
In 1861, Italy became a unified country and hungered to colonize other parts of the world like their European neighbors. They quickly started colonies in African countries like Somalia and Libya. In 1922, under the control of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, Italy planned to annex even more territories to its control including Greece and Albania. While in power, Mussolini created a police state, dissolved parliament, and suppressed all opposition against him.
The Spanish Empire
With the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Empire quickly sought to colonize it. Columbus, as well as many other conquistadors, pillaged, plundered, raped, and murdered the native tribes including the Aztec and Incas. They enslaved the men, hanged the women, and burned their priests. Also, the spread of smallpox wiped out hundreds of thousands of natives as well.
The French Empire
The French Empire under the rule of Napoleon lead to millions of lives lost in Europe due to his barbaric conquests. Rather than making France a democracy after the revolution, Napoleon declared himself emperor and reinstituted slavery only seven years after it had been abolished. Even more controversial, however, was a historian’s claim that Bonaparte ordered the mass execution of Haitians by gas chamber.
During World War II, Imperial Japan conquered large parts of Asia and the surrounding Pacific Islands. During that time, the Japanese army was responsible for the death of millions of civilians and prisoners of war. They experimented on, tortured, starved, and enslaved many of the people they conquered. Estimates range from 3 to 14 million people in total.
Since its creation in 1948, North Korea has been hostile towards many western nations. It has been ruled by one family, starting with Kim Il-Sung. It is totally closed off to the rest of the world and enforces indoctrination and leader worship. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are in prison camps, some of which have their entire families forced to join them. 40% of those people usually die of malnutrition. Due to the government’s erratic control of the farming industry, a famine killed 2 million people in 1990. Much of North Korea’s income comes from illegal narcotics and selling weapons to terrorists. Currently, they’re actively building ICBM’s despite consistent outcries from the United States and the United Nations.
From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany was a totalitarian movement under the leadership of Adolf Hitler that promoted German national pride, anti-Semitism, and disapproval of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler mass-murdered 6 million Jews by forcing them into concentration camps and systematically killing them. He also invaded Poland, France, North Africa, and the Soviet Union, leaving death and destruction in his wake.
The Khmer Rouge
From 1975 to 1979, the Communist takeover of Cambodia by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge lead to horrific and destabilizing conditions. In an attempt to create a classless peasant society, Pol Pot systematically hunted and killed intellectuals, religious leaders, and city residents. Of the 8 million people in Cambodia, 1.5 million were killed.
Mao Zedong's China
After World War II, China’s revolution created The People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong. By executing what he called “The Great Leap Forward,” Zedong forced farming peasants to increase their productive output. From 1958 to 1962, when the nation faced a famine, Zedong had peasants beaten, tortured, and starved. Over the short four year time period, he killed 45 million people, and the famine only grew worse.
The Soviet Union
The Soviet Union under Stalin’s leadership was one of the most notorious evil empires in history. Other than the horrific war crimes it committed during World War II and the removal of civil liberties from its people, Stalin deliberately orchestrated a mass famine in the Ukraine to squelch an independence uprising from his rule, resulting in the mass deaths of 7 million people.
At the height of its power, the Roman Empire was vast and diverse, spanning across Europe, North Africa, Egypt, and Syria. They achieved their empire through conquest and enslavement, enforcing order through fear. They used crucifixions not only as punishment but as a sign of their power. Their economy was dependent on slavery, sexual exploitation, and plundering neighboring civilizations. Many of their emperors, like Nero, Caligula, and Domitian, were insane tyrants mass persecuting large numbers of citizens.
While the Spanish Empire was brutal in their treatment of the Aztecs, the Aztecs were also brutal and monstrous in the treatment of their own people. According to Aztec beliefs, one of their gods, Huitzilopochtli, wanted to be fed freshly harvested human hearts. In 1487, the Aztecs recorded that they sacrificed 84,000 people in four days.
The British Empire
At the height of its power in 1922, the British Empire covered a quarter of the world’s land area and governed a fifth of the world’s population. While proponents of British colonialism point to the economic benefits of their empire, many others point to the atrocities that occurred. Here’s a few: They rounded up people into concentration camps during the Second Boer War. The scant rations, disease, and overall poor conditions resulted in over 27,000 Boers dead. When dividing the lines between Pakistan and India, Britain did it by religious lines, displacing 10 million people and creating sectarian violence which reportedly was responsible for 1 million deaths. Additionally, between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation due to famine when Churchill ordered tons of wheat to be sent to Britain.
Photo: 25 – 23. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 22. Alexander Klink, Maori Statue in Rotorua New Zealand, CC BY 3.0, 21 – 19. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain)l, 18. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 17. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 16. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 15. racoles, 2007 Myanmar protests, CC BY 2.0, 14 – 9. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 8. yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, Mansudae Grand Monument, Pyongyang, North Korea (2904616141), CC BY 2.0, 7. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 6. istolethetv from Hong Kong, China, Skulls of the victims of the Khmer Rouge occupation of Cambodia, CC BY 2.0, 5. © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), Mao Zedong Porträt am Eingang zur Verbotenen Stadt, CC BY-SA 4.0, 4. NuclearVacuum, Map-Flag of the Soviet Union, CC BY-SA 3.0, 3. Tataryn, Roman Empire Trajan 117AD, CC BY-SA 3.0, 2. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 1. Jonund. Author of File:London-lion.jpg is tracy (sculptor of lion is W. F. Woodlington) and of File:Union_flag.jpg Stefano Brivio (buggolo)., British lion and Union flag, CC BY 2.0