Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold
Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold

Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold

Khalid Elhassan - August 21, 2022

Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold
The Castelo Nuovo. Flickr

4. This King Never Tired of Coming Up With Ways to Ruin His Enemies

King Ferdinand I of Naples was not a turn-the-other-cheek type, but a man who really liked to ruin his enemies. As one historian put it: “his pleasures were of two kinds: he liked to have his opponents near him, either alive in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime“. In 1465, he defeated a rebellion by his barons. In the guise of forgiveness, he invited several former foes and their families to a celebration, then arrested them when they showed up. Some were locked up for decades, and others were killed.

One of his captives fell to his death after Ferdinand pushed him out of a window. One would assume that afterwards, nobody who had ever angered Ferdinand would accept an invitation from him. If so, one would be wrong. On another occasion, some who had offended Ferdinand attended a wedding celebration at the king’s residence, the Castel Nuovo. At the height of the merriment, they were suddenly arrested, and whisked to the dungeons for torture, a death sentence at a quick trial, and execution. As seen below, Ferdinand liked to put his dead enemies on display.

Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold
Ferdinand I’s mummified enemies propped up for a banquet, as depicted in ‘The Borgias’. Showtime

3. King Ferdinand I Kept His Enemies’ Remains in a Museum

Ferdinand I of Naples did not want to simply kill his enemies. He wanted to turn them and their fates into public examples and cautionary lessons to deter others from even thinking about betrayal. After he had them murdered, Ferdinand had the bodies of his enemies mummified. He then put them on display in an exhibit hall in the Castel Nuovo, which he referred to as his “Black Museum”, and which came to be commonly known as the “Museum of Mummies”.

As a contemporary historian described the exhibit: “these dried cadavers were displayed, pickled with herbs, a frightful sight, in the dress they wore when alive and with the same ornaments, so that by this terrible example of tyranny, those who did not wish to be similarly served might be properly afraid“. Ferdinand liked to conduct personal tours of his macabre museum, which often served as an effective deterrent to those contemplating treason. To mix things up and keep them interesting, the king’s mummified enemies were sometimes propped up in mock banquets.

Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold
Cyrus the Great. Pinterest

2. The Warrior Queen Who Told a Great Conqueror to Stick it Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine

Queen Tomyris (flourished 500s BC) was ruler of the Massagetae, a nomadic confederation that stretched across the Central Asian Steppe from China’s borders to east of the Caspian Sea. A formidable warrior queen, she defeated King Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Dynasty that ruled the first Persian Empire. Tomyris brought the illustrious career of the King of Kings, as Cyrus came to be known, and his brilliant career of uninterrupted conquests to a screeching halt in 530 BC.

Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold
Bas relief of Cyrus the Great. Wikimedia

The Massagetae were nomads who led a hardy pastoral life on the Eurasian Steppe. To make ends meet, they tended their herds, and from time to time, raided the settled lands that bordered the Steppe. Their predation eventually grew too bothersome for Cyrus, who had recently founded the Persian Empire. His realm now encompassed many of the territories victimized by Massagetae raids. So he led an army into the Steppe to bring the nomads to heel. He little knew that his expedition would end in disaster, and that the nomads would ruin him big time.

Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold
Tomyris with Cyrus’ severed head. Caspian News

1. This Queen Certainly Kept Her Promise to Ruin Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great won an initial victory against nomads commanded by the son of Queen Tomyris, after a ruse in which he “forgot” a huge stock of wine in an abandoned camp. The Massagetae captured the wine, and unused to it, royally drunk. Cyrus then turned around and fell upon the inebriated nomads. Among the many killed was Tomyris’ son. She sent Cyrus a message, in which she called him out and challenged him to a second battle. The overconfident Cyrus accepted. She personally led her army this time, and as described by Herodoutus: “Tomyris mustered all her forces and engaged Cyrus in battle. I consider this to have been the fiercest battle between non-Greeks that there has ever been….

Brutal Moments in History Where Justice Was Served Ice Cold
Tomyris and the head of Cyrus the Great. Ancient Records

They fought at close quarters for a long time, and neither side would give way, until eventually the Massagetae gained the upper hand. Most of the Persian army was wiped out there, and Cyrus himself died too“. The Persian army was virtually wiped out. After the battle, Tomyris, who really wanted to humiliate Cyrus, even after his death, had him beheaded and crucified. She then threw his severed head into a vessel filled with human blood. According to Herodotus, she addressed Cyrus the Great’s head as it bobbed in the blood: “I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood, and so I shall“.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Aldhouse-Green, Miranda Jane – Boudica Britannia: Rebel, War Leader, and Queen (2006)

Ancient Origins – Tomyris, the Female Warrior and Ruler Who May Have Killed Cyrus the Great

Atlantic, The, November, 1996 – India’s Bandit Queen

Atlantic, The, October 24th, 2012 – ‘Time Me Gentlemen’: The Fastest Surgeon of the 19th Century

Atlantic, The, August 8th, 2015 – What Made This Man Betray His Country?

Burkhardt, Jacob – The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1878)

Central Intelligence Agency – Tolkachev, a Worthy Successor to Penkovsky

Collector – Scourge of the Inner Sea: The Pirates of the Ancient Mediterranean

Davis, Burke – Sherman’s March (2016)

Devi, Phoolan – I, Phoolan Devi: The Autobiography of India’s Bandit Queen (1996)

Drees, Clayton J. – The Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1500: A Biographical Dictionary (2001)

Dudley, Donald R. – The Rebellion of Boudicca (1962)

Encyclopedia Britannica – The Time Julius Caesar Was Captured by Pirates

Foote, Shelby – The Civil War: A Narrative, Vol. 3, Red River to Appomattox (1974)

Guardian, The, February 4th, 1999 – Zinoviev Letter Was Dirty Trick By MI6

Hanson, Victor Davis – The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny (2001)

History Collection – America’s First Serial Killers and Other Deadly Historic Figures

Hoffman, David E. – The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal (2015)

Independent, The, February 4th, 1999 – Official: Zinoviev Letter Was Forged

Johnstown Pennsylvania Information Source Online – Archived New York Times Coverage of the Johnstown Flood, June 1 – 7, 1889

Mayor, Adrienne – The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World (2014)

McCullough, David G. – The Johnstown Flood (2004)

Museum of Health Care – The Story of Robert Liston and His Surgical Skill

Plutarch – Parallel Lives: The Life of Julius Caesar

Ranker – Some of the Biggest ‘Screw You’ Moments in History We’re Glad Didn’t Happen to Us

Sherman, William T. – Memoirs of General William T. Sherman (2019 Wentworth Press Edition)

Spartacus Educational – Zinoviev Letter

War is Boring – The Man Who Ruined the Soviet Warplane Industry

Weapons and Warfare – The War Against Terror

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