Historical Villains Who May Not Have Been That Bad

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History is meant to teach us about the past since people are bound to repeat it. However, history has a tendency to be rather subjective since it was written so many years ago so it’s not without bias since people aren’t perfect. Not to mention, history has a tendency to be written by the victors as well as be adapted to certain dramatic media that may not have much account for facts or cares more for entertainment. As a result, some historical villains may end up with undeserved reputations or may seem to be worse than they actually were. So here I have a list of those whose reputation as a villain was based on accounts that were heavily biased or exaggerated. However, this doesn’t include bad guys who deserve their reputation even though they did great things, except in special cases or people considered a hero in one culture but villain in another.

1. King Richard III

You know him as: The villain protagonist in Shakespeare’s Richard III who locks the two princes in the Tower and later kills them just to get the throne of England, drowns his brother in a vat of wine, killed Anne Neville’s father and first husband, and poisoned his wife. He’s also said to be a hunchback and have a limp arm as well as a creepy old man.

Why he may not have been that bad: This is perhaps the most famous case of history being written by the victors since Shakespeare wrote about Richard III during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I whose grandfather defeated the guy at the Battle of Bosworth Field that ended the Wars of the Roses. Not to mention, Richard III was the last ruler of a royal dynasty and it’s almost always the last ruler of a royal dynasty is stuck with the bad historical reputation (Queen Elizabeth I is an exception since she had arranged James VI of Scotland to succeed which made the transition of power rather peaceful, ruled for over 40 years, helped England on its way to becoming a world power, and was called “The Virgin Queen” even after her death). Oh, and there’s the fact he seized power from his own nephews (who were children but still). Still, though Richard III may have been a ruthless ruler but he not much unlike most rulers of his day, especially during the Wars of the Roses. As for taking the throne, yes, he probably did put the Princes in the Tower but we really don’t know what happened to them. However, Richard III just simply had them declared illegitimate on account that their dad was engaged to another woman before he ended up marrying their mom, which was perfectly legal at the time. He also had their sisters and his other brother’s kids declared illegitimate as well and he didn’t do anything with them. Besides, when Richard took the throne, he was already running the country as regent for a child king and England already had two child kings who didn’t turn out that great so many probably would’ve preferred to see an adult on the throne anyway. Not to mention, Henry VII would’ve done the same thing. Still, Richard III probably didn’t betray his older brother Edward, murder any family members, didn’t kill Anne Neville’s father and first husband or forced her to marry him nor poisoned her, and wasn’t as deformed as portrayed even though he had a mild case of scoliosis. And he certainly wasn’t a creepy old man for he died at only 32.

2. Macbeth

You know him as: The villain protagonist in Macbeth whose wife berates him into killing King Duncan after it’s imminent that he will become king of Scotland. Yet, once he does kill Duncan and becomes king him and his wife not only become driven mad with guilt but also he starts a killing spree of his own before he’s killed by a guy who was born via c-section.

Why he may not have been that bad: Believe it or not, Macbeth was a real king of Scotland but he’s nothing like the guy in that Shakespeare play that bears his name. Not to mention, Shakespeare wrote him like to appeal to King James I who was a descendent of King Duncan. And Shakespeare couldn’t depict Duncan as the weak, ineffective, and/or tyrannical ruler he really was which was tantamount to treason in 1606. Also, this was to echo King James I’s belief in the notion of the Divine Right of Kings (despite his succession in England being prearranged). The only thing the play gets right is that  Macbeth killed Duncan, became king of Scotland, and was later killed in battle. However, the real story was that Macbeth killed King Duncan after defeating him in battle who was encroaching on his lands. Though he was eventually killed  in battle himself by the future King Malcolm III, by that time he had ruled Scotland successfully for 17 years as well as known for his charity toward the poor and had even visited Rome during that time. So Macbeth was probably a good king. Not to mention, Malcolm III was even gracious enough to have the guy’s stepson succeed him. Sure Macbeth was an usurper but he wasn’t much of a tyrant. As for Lady Macbeth, we don’t know much about her except she was real, she had at least one child from a previous marriage, and her name was Gruoch (though how much of a role she did have in Macbeth killing Duncan might be debated.)

3. King George III

You know him as: If you’re from the United States, he’s the tyrannical king who raised all those taxes after the French and Indian War that got the colonists rattled up into declaring independence and raging the American Revolution.

Why he may not have been that bad: King George III was actually said to be a decent king who had absolutely nothing to do with those policies that brought on the American Revolution since he was a constitutional monarch who wasn’t really running the country. It was Parliament who saw no problem with instilling taxes without the colonists’ consent and was unwilling to see their American counterparts as equals. George was just a convenient scapegoat who the colonists can blame these policies on since he was head of state as well as the fact that news didn’t travel so fast in those days. I mean the colonists may know that Parliament was running the country but they probably didn’t have any idea who the prime minister was but they certainly knew who was the king. Besides, he very interest in politics. Not to mention, there’s a city in North Carolina named after his wife, Queen Charlotte. In England, George III is remembered as one of the best members of the Hanoverian Dynasty as well as grandfather to Queen Victoria and the king who went nuts near he end of his life (probably senility or dementia).

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4. The Spanish Inquisition and Co.

You know them as: The fanatical religious hit squad that tries and burns people at the stake for heresy, witchcraft, and anything else that challenges the status quo or goes against the Catholic Church. Real frothing at the mouth types and agents of persecution you know.

Why they may not have been that bad: Sure the Inquisition may have been a tool of oppression but they weren’t really living in more enlightened times where it wasn’t unusual for secular governments to persecute people either, especially during the Reformation. I mean until very recent times, there wasn’t really such thing as freedom of speech or religion while torture was considered a standard method of interrogation until the 18th century. Every system of authority tortured people at the time of the Inquisition whether it be a king or a local sheriff. The Spanish Inquisition preferred a psychological method of torture by imprisoning people without letting them know who denounced them and the charges against them until the actual trial. Not to mention, heretics weren’t really much enlightened folks either since there many of them who aren’t much different than radical anarchists. And Protestants also had their own system of persecution of heretics that included other Protestants of different sects and Catholics alike. Still, the Catholic Church may have used the Inquisition to root out heresies in Europe, but they didn’t really execute or harshly torture anyone because clergymen were forbidden to shed blood and usually turned their convicts to the secular authorities to execute them (even though they could still confess and repent before sentence was carried out via auto de fe). As with witchcraft, the Inquisition just saw it as superstitious nonsense and since the 7th century the Catholic Church explicitly forbade belief in witchcraft and persecution of people accused of it and merely investigated witchcraft cases to relieve the witchcraft hysteria. Still, witchcraft was considered a crime under secular law, accused witches were more likely to be executed under the Protestants since the witch craze was more of a Protestant thing, and that the Spanish Inquisition actually ended witch burning in Spain a whole century before the witch-hunts began to wane in the rest of Europe. They also held that allegations of witchcraft be backed by solid evidence and if you were accused as a witch in a case that involved the Inquisition, your chances of surviving the accusation were pretty good. And in some ways, the Inquisition was more progressive for it’s time since it introduced the legal concept of presumption of innocence, had inquisitors provide the accused with legal counsel, considered confession without factual corroboration an unfit grounds for sentence, and was forbidden to accept accusations from ex-convicts or people who could benefit from the sentence. Secular courts at the time observed none of that. Also, most of what we hear about the Inquisition came from Elizabethan Era writings that basically greatly exaggerated them and not all Inquisitions were religiously motivated either. For instance, the Spanish Inquisition was more of a state ministry started by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to convert the Moors and Jews, reform the Church, punish heretics, and correct superstitions. But mostly the Inquisition was more or less after heretics and didn’t have as many killed as many would think. By our standards the Inquisition may only seem like notorious villains in history but by the context of the day, not so much, especially given the events of the day.

5. Cardinal Richelieu

You know him as: One of the villains in the Alexandre Dumas story The Three Musketeers and subsequent adaptations. Said to be pretty devious guy. Has awesome red robes and a cool mustache to boot.

Why he may not have been that bad: Cardinal Richelieu actually ran France while King Louis XIII was still a child and even though he was a devious man, is considered one of the greatest statesman of France who helped make the country a superpower later in the 17th century. There’s even a painting of him that depicts him standing proudly in armor. Dumas probably thought that shiny red robes and awesome mustache would make him a great villain. Not to mention, many of those adaptations were British and American after all and Britain was an enemy of France at the time. Ruthless leader, yes, but what kind of person in power wasn’t in the 17th century?

6. Emperor Nero

You know him as: The Roman Emperor who fiddled when Rome burned and blamed it on the Christians even though he set the city on fire deliberately to make room for a palace extension. The one who killed his mother and first two wives as well as an arrogant and insane megalomaniac who forced people to attend his performances and locked them in the auditorium so they wouldn’t leave. Saw himself as the greatest artist who ever lived. Not to mention, eventually committed suicide.

Why he may not have been that bad: Most of what is written about Nero that survives to this day was by people who personally knew and hated him (an exception would be his friend Senectus who praised him). So there’s a question of historical reliability here and some of the bad things he did might have been exaggerated. Sure he may not have been a pleasant man and he probably was a great lover in he arts yet as an emperor, he probably was not much worse than those who ruled in his day. He might have blamed the Great Fire of Rome on the Christians but he most definitely didn’t set fire to the city and when he heard the news of the fire while in Actium, rushed back to the city to oversee the relief efforts and paying out of his own pockets quite generously. As for his second wife, she might have died due to a difficult pregnancy and it’s said he had a good reason for killing his mother. Was also said to have great affinity from the common people which doesn’t really look good for the aristocratic Roman historians.

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7.  Grigory Rasputin

You know him as: The “Mad Monk” and evil sorcerer and madman who had the Russian Imperial family under his supernatural spell and took advantage of them because it was said to be able to heal the Czar’s hemophiliac son.

Why he may not have been that bad: Rasputin wasn’t an evil sorcerer and though he did enjoy great perks for his close relationship with the Royal family, he certainly didn’t have an affair with the Czar’s wife Alexandra and might have helped Czarevitch Alexei by not giving him aspirin. At worst he was probably a harmless and eccentric religious figure that many of the Russian aristocracy was jealous of him as well as a convenient scapegoat for Nicholas II’s failed policies in Russia. I mean Russia was an absolute monarchy so Nicholas II might have had the aristocrats executed if they blamed him. Rasputin was no saint but he wasn’t a monster and certainly didn’t kill the Imperial family since he was dead before the Russian Revolution ever took place.

8. Catherine de’ Medici

You know her as: The French queen who instigated the Saint Batholomew’s Day Massacre in which tens of French Protestants were killed. Said to be a “Catholic bigot” who washed  her hands in the blood of innocent Protestants. She was an admirer of Machiavelli and used The Prince as a self-help manual to ensure that her husband and sons ruled France. Hundreds of noble and wealthy Frenchmen died by her hand or otherwise. She even arranged to have her son Charles to be sexually abused by courtiers in an unsuccessful attempt to turn him gay so that he died childless and his younger brother Henry (who she adored) would become king (Charles died childless anyway).

Why she may not have been that bad: As one of the cruelest rulers of the early Renaissance, Catherine de’ Medici certainly deserves her bad reputation as a ruthless power behind the throne of France as well as an abusive mother not above using her children as political pawns. Though to be fair, she was running the country during a very unstable time such as the Reformation which put France in almost complete chaos with a significant Protestant population. Not only that but three of her sons succeeded to the French throne at a very young age so it’s pretty understandable why she’d rule through her kids. However, calling a “Catholic bigot” is a bit much for she probably wasn’t as much of one as English contemporaries make her out to be. Sure she was pro-Catholic and certainly no friend to the Huguenots, yet she wasn’t the most anti-Protestant ruler in Europe out there. Yet, she was more of a pragmatist than anything who was willing to at least try to make peace with the Protestants and was only willing to enact hard line policies against them and only out of anger and frustration because she failed to grasp the theological issues that drove the movement. Even so, she was willing to let her daughter marry one who did (who would later become Henry IV of France by the way and issue the Edict of Nantes). As for the St. Batholomew’s Day Massacre, though she probably does bear the brunt of making the whole thing an honest to goodness massacre, it’s very unlikely that she was totally responsible for it (actually most modern historians think the Guises instigated it out of fear of the marriage between Margaret of Valois and Henry of Navarre, but it was only Henri, Duke of Guise who went around placing Huguenots under his own protection and was one of the few Catholic participants to apologize for the whole affair) and was certainly more of a spur of the moment event (might have been kicked off by accident with the killing of Admiral de Coligny). However, if she was partly responsible, it had more to do with preventing a Huguenot insurrection over the death of de Coligny more or less acting on Machiavelli’s advice to kill all enemies in one blow. Still, accounts of the slaughter are pretty much a tangled mess and soon spiraled out of control of Catherine or any other leader. Also, there were even some Catholics like the Guises whose attitude against Protestants Catherine found too extreme. In turn, the Guises thought she was letting the Huguenots have it too easy. Still, though Catherine de’ Medici was the de facto leader of France, her authority was always limited by the effects of the French Civil Wars of Religion. Cruel and ruthless she certainly was but she seemed to have a good reason to be.

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9. Antonio Salieri

You know him as: Contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as well as his chief rival and discreet murderer who poisoned him while he requested the Requiem Mass, which would be the younger composer’s last. Always had a inferiority complex toward Mozart, though he did have talent. Also said to be a celibate pervert who lusted after students. This perception was popularized by Amadeus.

Why he may not have been that bad: Of course, Salieri wasn’t nearly as talented as Mozart was, he was still a fantastic composer and would later end up mentoring later composers like Ludwig von Beethoven, Franz Lizst, and Franz Schubert along with plenty of others. Heck, it could be said that Salieri’s legacy is one of the greatest in European music so he was no mediocre talent by any standards. Besides, he could listen to a music composition in his head while reading the manuscript which is quite a feat of musical ability in itself. Still, Salieri and Mozart weren’t rivals but friends and collaborators though Mozart was said to be pretty annoying that it was even remarked by Franz Joseph Haydn that he made a hundred enemies at a single party. Sure they were competitors on a professional basis but the two greatly respected each other (though they had one major dispute over The Marriage of Figaro) as well as attended each other’s operas. Salieri actively helped to bring about the premieres of several of Mozart’s later works as well as arranged concerts celebrating Mozart’s work after his death. And when Salieri was given the chance to set up a production in Vienna, of anything he wanted, he chose The Magic Flute. He even taught one of Mozart’s sons. Still, Salieri certainly didn’t kill Mozart (it was said to be an epidemic of rhuematic fever), didn’t commission the Requiem Mass (though Mozart never knew who did but we know it was Franz von Walsegg), didn’t try to sabotage his career behind the scenes, didn’t go nuts and try to kill himself, and wasn’t a celibate pervert (he had a wife). Actually, the rivalry between Salieri and Mozart was made up in the 19th century to represent the musical rivalry between Germany (well, Austria’s a separate country, but they speak German there, too) and Italy.

10. King John

You know him as: That selfish royal asshole as well as greedy and ambitious Prince John in the Robin Hood stories who has desires on becoming king and is willing to seize the English throne while his brother Richard the Lionheart was away on Crusade. Known as an incompetent and idiotic king who managed to get the whole country excommunicated, losing territory to the Welsh and the French, and was forced to sign the Magna Carta. Always put himself first and would kill anyone who’d get in his way as well as willing to betray his father and brothers on several occasions to further his goals.

Why he may not have been that bad: Sure King John wasn’t one of  England’s greatest kings but he certainly wasn’t the villain the Robin Hood legends make him out to be. However, the reason why King John is depicted as such is that he could never get away from Richard’s shadow who seemed to be the pinnacle of knightly chivalry and charismatic leader. John, on the other hand, had a nasty habit of making enemies (like the nobility who basically forced him to sign the Magna Carta, but then again, Richard the Lionheart’s constant absence sort of gave the nobles too much free rein so John’s attempts to take control again were met with hostility) and like his older brother also increased taxation to incredible levels to fund wars commanders deemed hopeless. Still, except in matters in military and public relations, John wasn’t a totally incompetent ruler and unlike his brother, actually spent most of his reign running the country. He wasn’t illiterate or stupid by all accounts and  was even known to be seen as a bookish scholar who had written many books on law as well as considered one of the premier legal minds of his age, so much so that his judgement had often been sought prior to his kingship in regards to legal disputes. He’s also recognized as the founder of the modern British navy (which is a pretty big distinction since Britain basically amassed an empire with it). Many of Richard’s disastrous peacetime and his hostage situation basically bankrupt the country so there’s probably a good reason why John would scheme to become king. And though John always put himself first and would kill anyone who’d get in his way even in his own family to further his own goals, this wasn’t an uncommon characteristic of a medieval monarch. In fact, from watching Lion in Winter, you can say his whole family was like that. King John may not have been a nice guy but he wasn’t a complete idiot who just lusted for power.

11. Emperor Caligula

You know him as: That crazy megalomaniac Roman emperor known to make his horse a consul, talking to statues, locking granaries, declaring war on Poseidon (and then “winning,” then commanding his soldiers to collect seashells as war prizes), boning his sisters (or anything else that moves), having a god complex, possibly killing his uncle, and the list goes on and on with many of these deeds making even a Third World dictator blush. And since Caligula means “Bootsie,” kneel before Bootsie, you plebeians! And he hated his nickname, reportedly.

Why he may not have been that bad: Well, there’s no mistake that he probably had megalomaniac tendencies since he and his entire family were killed by his own bodyguards (everyone but Claudius who the guards thought he was too stupid to be a danger. They fell for it. And, yes, they even beat his two-year-old daughter to death, too.) I mean how crazy do you have to be killed by your own bodyguards along with your entire family? Sure he wanted to increase his authority which made him unpopular with the Senate. However, there aren’t that many contemporary sources out there and what sources we do have about him were written about 80 years after his death during another dynasty of Emperors (who always liked to demonize their predecessor). Thus, how much of those stories are true or whether there were exaggerations is up for debate. He probably didn’t make his horse a consul or bone his sisters (though one of them served as his empress but they were both married to other people. His degree of craziness is also questioned though many agreed that he probably was a decent emperor until perhaps 6-8 months into his reign when when he was struck by a serious illness that might have resulted in brain damage and altered his personality. Yet, recent archaeology revealed he may have been a redhead. Crazy megalomaniac, absolutely but we don’t know how much.

12. Captain William Bligh

You know him as: That sadistic captain on Mutiny on the Bounty. A ruthless autocrat on his ship who subjected his men to harsh punishments that caused the deaths of at least two sailors. Soon the crew grew fed up with him and committed mutiny against him after their vacation at Tahiti staged by First Mate Fletcher Christian. However, though he managed to make home despite amazing odds, he manages just to get a slap on the wrist for it.

Why he may not have been that bad: Though Bligh might not have been the greatest captain, he certainly not the worst by 18th century Royal Navy standards. In fact, he was probably no more brutal than your average 18th century Royal Navy captain and in his time, Bligh may have been seen as fairly strict, but fair, and not as strict as he could have been. In some ways, Bligh might have been too lenient for his own good. More modern historians tend to blame the cause of the mutiny not on Bligh’s harsh disciplinary methods but on him giving the crew a nice long vacation in the tropics of Tahiti, causing them to be oversensitive to discipline. It also didn’t help that Bligh wasn’t a likeable captain who inspired loyalty and that some of the crew members began to develop relationships among the Tahitian women, including Fletcher Christian. Not to mention, there were crew members who remained loyal to Bligh after the mutiny who were in the lifeboat with him. Otherwise, he might not have been able to make it back.

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13. Marie Antoinette

You know her as: The French queen who told her impoverished French subjects, “Let them eat cake” prior to the French Revolution which cost her and her husband’s heads. Sometimes seen as an airhead but other times she’s a decadent noblewoman who spends all her time and state money on partying and dresses while callously ignoring the suffering of the people. Some say she was a slut or the real power behind the throne.

Why she may have not been that bad: Marie Antoinette might not have done anything to start the French Revolution at least intentionally. Of course, her husband Louis XVI is demonized as well but he was the one who was actually governing the country at the time and was a weak and indecisive ruler. Also, he spent way more money than she did (mostly on wars like the American Revolution). And though she was spending money on dresses and her time partying, so was everyone else at Versailles so she basically had to. Yet, Marie Antoinette didn’t much care for the Versailles party scene and even had a retreat house where she could relax once in a while. But, still, France’s problems were very much in existence even before Marie Antoinette arrived in France and it’s very unlikely that she didn’t even know anything about the country’s problems because Louis XVI didn’t consult or even inform her on matters of the state so she had no influence whatsoever on his policies. Not to mention, Marie Antoinette was really a kind young woman who was unprepared for becoming queen, and tried to cope with things the best she could. She never said, “Let them eat cake” either. Still, because she was Austrian, she was a frequent target of the pamphleteers which were the tabloids of the day. Though she was certainly extravagant, she was no more extravagant than other royal family members.

14. Niccolo Machiavelli

You know him as: The author of The Prince, a book long time considered as a go-to guide for unruly despots with its endorsements of ruthlessness and amorality, which caused such a scandal. Also, it was the first political treatise and entirely secular work during the Renaissance. Ever since his name has been associated with duplicity, ruthlessness, dishonest, and other unsavory character traits. Best known for saying, “And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”

Why he may not have been that bad: First, The Prince is really not a book that advocates selling your soul for power or endorses policies of  Third World dictators, but is merely about maintaining for the good of the prince and ultimately the state and “However, it is important above all to avoid being hated.” Thus, Machiavelli wrote The Prince with its original message being about the importance of pragmatism, one of the attributes of modern politics. However, “the ends justify the means” is more of a mistranslation and something Machiavelli  would approve of. It’s more or less “one must think of the final result” or the ultimate effect the words would have on a prince’s political image. Also, he kind of advised to avoid being hated which many people tend to forget. Second, at the time he wrote the book, Italy was in a chaotic state so to keep order, a prince had to pretty much rule with an iron fist and there was plenty of competition for power. In that time a ruler had to be ruthless, nasty, and tyrannical just to get and maintain the job. Third, Machiavelli probably wrote the book in order to ingratiate himself with the Medici family who had just taken over Florence (who promptly ignored his advice since they chose to be universally loved and ended up massively in debt for it). Then there’s Machiavelli himself whose other works (that were discovered in more recent times) mostly were about supporting republican regimes with a major emphasis on freedom (though advocated using similar means to operate and maintain). Also, he was actually more of a very sociable satirist who who also happened to be and observant historian and good rhetor. He was probably more or less the Jon Stewart of his day and friends with Michelangelo.

15. Lucrezia Borgia

You know her as: The scheming, amoral poisoner who abetted her father and brother in their Machiavellian plans to dominate Europe. Her last name was a synonym in Victorian times for sadistic female poisoner. Also said to have committed incest with her father and brother.

Why she may not have been that bad: Technically, this could apply to her family since the Borgias were no more murderous than any other prominent family at the time in Renaissance Italy and mostly got a lot of flack since they were social climbers, were mentioned in
The Prince, and were Spanish. As with Pope Alexander VI, a recent biography states that there’s no evidence that he had any kids since there are no contemporaneous records of him having a wife, mistress, or children it’s unsure how he’s related to Giovanni, Caesare, and Lucrezia. Thus, it might have just have all been gossip since Savonarola criticized him on committing every sin but sexual immorality. However, I’m mostly sticking to Lucrezia since she got most of the blame even though she’s the most innocent of the bunch. She only got the bad rep by her contemporaries because she was a convenient scapegoat. Rather, there’s no evidence that she ever harmed a flea, let alone commit multiple murders. Still, she might have had it much easier if she had been a poisoner. She was more or less used as a pawn for the family to ally with powerful families through marriage, and then canceling the marriages when they weren’t useful anymore. Also, she didn’t commit incest either (for she was certainly not the mother of the mysterious baby that appeared between her two marriages) and she probably never had sex until her second marriage (though there is some speculation). However, she did have a few affairs during her third marriage but that’s just as bad as she got. Not to mention, as the respectable and accomplished Duchess of Ferrera, she managed to rise above her previous reputation and survive the fall of the Borgias following her father’s death.

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16. Cleopatra VII

You know her as: Last ruler of Egypt who was seen as a scheming femme fatale whose sins led to her death and to the destruction of Egypt as an independent nation. Known for seducing Marc Antony and Julius Caesar and killed family members like the two half-brothers she married. Killed herself via asp.

Why she may not have been that bad: Cleopatra may not have been a great beauty but she certainly wasn’t embarrassed about her looks either. She did have a bewitching voice and a strong, forceful personality. Also, she was Macedonian Greek and descendant from one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Still, though she did seduce Marc Antony and Julius Caesar, she probably saw it as a legitimate way to convince them to help restore order in a country quickly approaching lawlessness and poverty while at the same time preventing Rome from invading and enslaving the populace. Of course, she didn’t entirely succeed in the end, but neither did she entirely fail either. Oh, and the killing off family members, that was standard practice in Egyptian royalty. There are also some scholars who believe that the asp story was a cover-up and that Cleopatra was killed on the orders by Octavian. She might have been a schemer, but her aim was to keep Egypt independent and only failed because Rome was the stronger power and that Marc Antony was there who was also Octavian’s rival at the time as well as dumped his sister.

17. Queen Hatshepsut

You know her as: The wicked stepmother who stole the throne from Thutmose III and had herself crowned King of Egypt as well as ruled the country with an iron fist until her death despite her stepson being a competent adult for most of her reign and was in control of the military. Proof? After Hatshepsut’s death, Thutmose walled up all her inscriptions, tore down her statues, and obliterated her name from the histories. Also, Thutmose is said to have murdered her before becoming Egypt’s most  successful and best loved ruler.

Why she may not have been that bad: So how could a woman in ancient Egypt like 1514 BCE stage a successful palace coup while her opponent had complete control of the military? Chances are Queen Hatshepsut probably wouldn’t have lasted that long and Thutmose would’ve certainly have killed her as she done so. Yet, she was even in charge while he was an adult. Also, Hatshepsut’s obliteration from the historical records didn’t begin until twenty years after her death. Historians now think that Hatshepsut and Thutmose III were co-rulers and allies and that Thutmose III or one of his sons only began to wall up her inscriptions because even decades after her death, people saw her as a more legitimate ruler than Thutmose. Perhaps Thutmose III wasn’t ancient Egypt’s most successful and best loved ruler after all. Also, Hatshepsut more likely died of cancer than anything else.

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