Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed

Khalid Elhassan - April 24, 2021

Most of us pine – especially in our youth – for a bit of adventure to spice up our lives. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately since adventure often imperils life and limb, we are usually denied that wish. As consolation, though, we get to enjoy the vicarious – and safe – thrill of reading about the adventures of others. Following are thirty things about some of history’s more adventurous people and events.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Ancient mosaic depicting the decisive moment when Alexander the Great’s charge at the Battle of Isus sent Persia’s King Darius III fleeing. Wikimedia

30. Few Deserved to Have “The Great” Attached to Their Name More Than Alexander III of Macedon

Of all the people to get “the Great” added to their name, few have deserved it more than Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC), one of history’s most amazing figures. He demonstrated his military chops at age eighteen when he led a decisive charge at the Battle of Chaeronea, which secured Macedon’s hegemony over Greece. He became king at the age of twenty, swiftly suppressed uprisings by those who underestimated the young monarch, then set out to conquer the known world. What followed was a military whirlwind that took him from Europe to Asia Minor, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Central Asia, and India.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Alexander the Great’s adventurous careen through the Ancient World. Pinterest

Alexander usually led his armies from the front, was in the thick of the fighting, was wounded many times, and never lost a battle. His wild careen only ended when his veterans, after tramping behind Alexander for years and across thousands of miles, finally had enough and refused to march any further. By then, he had conquered what was arguably history’s greatest empire to date. He capped it off by dying young, aged thirty-two, forever cementing his place in romantic lore. It is perhaps fitting that adventure followed Alexander even after death, as seen below in the adventurous fate of his corpse.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
The death of Alexander the Great. The Irish Sun

29. What to Do With Alexander the Great’s Corpse Became a Huge Headache to His Successors

When Alexander the Great died unexpectedly in Babylon, in 323 BC, there was no clear-cut successor capable of taking over his empire. So his chief generals began jockeying for slices of the dead conqueror’s power and territory. In the ensuing struggle, the deceased monarch’s mortal remains became valuable chips in a deadly power game. Alexander might have been dead, but in the political context of the time, his corpse was a valuable item. Burying a king was a royal prerogative, so possession of King Alexander’s body symbolized legitimacy.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
The giant catafalque bearing Alexander the Great’s body was hijacked en route to Macedon, and taken to Egypt. Alexander’s Tomb

As a result, the corpse stayed in Babylon for over a year, while people figured out what to do with it. Alexander, who came to believe that he was the son of the god Ammon, had wanted to be buried in the Temple of Zeus-Ammon in the Egyptian desert. That was unacceptable to Alexander’s generals, who eventually decided to send his body to the dynasty’s traditional burial ground. The corpse was placed in a giant coffin, that in turn was placed in a ginormous funerary carriage and sent on a stately procession from Babylon to Macedon. However, Alexander never made it back home: his corpse got hijacked along the way.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
‘Augustus at the Tomb of Alexander the Great, by Lionel Royer. Pinterest

28. The Adventurous Journey of Alexander the Great’s Corpse

By the time Alexander the Great’s corpse began its journey back home, his chief generals had worked out a preliminary rough division of his empire amongst themselves. One of them, Ptolemy, ended up with Egypt as his share. He decided that the prestige of his new realm would be greatly enhanced if it hosted the body of Alexander. Specifically in the city of Alexandria, founded by and named after the great conqueror. So Ptolemy set out to hijack the great conqueror’s corpse. In 321 BC, he intercepted Alexander’s funerary procession, seized the body, and took it back to Egypt.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Ancient bust of Alexander the Great. Flickr

Ptolemy and his successors built and maintained an impressive mausoleum for Alexander in Alexandria, which became one of the city’s biggest attractions. Over the centuries, powerful figures such as Julius Caesar, Augustus, and other Roman emperors, stopped by to pay their respects. Augustus accidentally broke Alexander’s nose, while other emperors pilfered mementos from the coffin. Over time, however, interest in the mausoleum waned. In 400 AD, a visitor noted that the Alexandrines did not know where Alexander’s tomb was. In the centuries since, there were scattered reports by visitors claiming to have seen Alexander’s tomb, but nothing specific enough to allow archaeologists to pinpoint a location. As of 2021, the final resting place of Alexander the Great is one of history’s unsolved mysteries.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Ptolemy I Soter. Flickr

27. The Guy Behind Alexander the Great’s Corpse Adventure Led an Adventurous Life Himself

The guy who stole Alexander the Great’s corpse, Ptolemy I Soter, Greek for “Ptolemy the Savior” (367 – 282 BC), led an adventurous life in his own right. Ptolemy was a Macedonian general and a close companion of Alexander the Great. After Alexander’s death, Ptolemy was one of the three Diadochi, or successors, who carved up Alexander’s empire. He took Egypt as his share. Ptolemy founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled Egypt for three centuries until Cleopatra’s suicide and Rome’s annexation of Egypt in 30 BC.

Ptolemy was born out of wedlock to a concubine presented by a nobleman to King Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father. Ptolemy’s father is unknown, and some ancient sources claim that his mother was already pregnant when she was gifted to Phillip II. Others assert that it was Phillip who impregnated her – which would make Ptolemy Alexander’s half-brother. Whatever his parentage, Ptolemy was born in Phillip’s household, and was educated as a royal page in the Macedonian court. That gave him a huge leg up in life.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Ptolemy I as an Egyptian pharaoh. British Museum

26. From a King’s Trusted Sidekick to a King in His Own Right

In the court of King Philip II, Ptolemy met and befriended the crown prince, Alexander. The duo remained close companions until the latter’s death. When Alexander became king, Ptolemy was made one of his seven somatophylakes – trusted Macedonian nobles who served as the king’s bodyguards, and also as generals holding command positions. Ptolemy served Alexander well during his conquests and adventurous careen through the Ancient World. Among his notable achievements were the capture of the assassins of the defeated Persian king Darius III, meritorious service in the subjugation of Persia, and command of the Macedonian fleet in the Indian campaign.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
The division of Alexander the Great’s empire among his generals. Wikimedia

Alexander held Ptolemy in high esteem, and the great conqueror praised, rewarded, and decorated him on various occasions. When Alexander died in 323 BC, Ptolemy realized that nobody could control the vast empire the conqueror had left behind. So he convinced Alexander’s generals to divide it amongst themselves, and ended up with Egypt and the surrounding Libyan and Arabian regions. A capable and shrewd ruler, Ptolemy adopted policies that won over the native Egyptian population. After consolidating his power at home, he methodically seized Cyprus, Syria, and parts of Asia Minor, and transformed his domain into a powerful Hellenistic kingdom.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Ptolemy I’s image on a coin. Encyclopedia Britannica

25. After an Adventurous Life, Ptolemy Settled Down to Establish the Longest-Lasting Hellenistic Dynasty

As seen previously, Ptolemy also intercepted and hijacked the corpse of Alexander the Great while it was being transported for burial in Macedonia. He took it to Alexandria, to enhance his capital’s prestige by building a magnificent mausoleum in the city center. There, the preserved corpse of the great conqueror was put on display for visitors. Not long afterward, Alexander’s generals fell out amongst themselves and went to war against each other. The Nile Valley’s isolation was a great advantage to Ptolemy during those turbulent decades.

From his relatively secure power base in Egypt, Ptolemy alternated between war and diplomacy to expand or protect his domain. However, he suffered a major naval defeat in 306 BC that forced him to give up on expansion and abandon any ventures beyond his realm. For the final decades of his life, Ptolemy relied on diplomacy and marriage alliances to secure what he already had. At his death in 282 BC, he left behind the most secure and stable of the newly created Hellenistic powers, and the Ptolemaic Dynasty established by him outlasted all of its Hellenistic peers.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Robert Guiscard, the Weasel. Getty Images

24. The Adventurous Weasel

Robert Guiscard (1015 – 1085) was the medieval version of an action figure come to life. He led one of the era’s most adventurous lives. Widely known as the Wily or the Weasel, Guiscard was a Norman knight who settled in southern Italy about 1047. After a series of exploits, the Weasel made himself Duke of Apulia in 1059. He then transformed southern Italy into a Norman domain by extending his rule over Calabria, Naples, and Sicily, and laying the foundations for the Kingdom of Sicily.

Guiscard was a descendant of Vikings who had settled in northwest France. There, they learned French, intermarried with the locals, and became Normans. In 911, the French made a face-saving agreement with their leader, Duke Rollo. He was recognized by the King of France as feudal lord of Normandy, in exchange for the Normans’ conversion to Catholicism and undertaking to protect Paris from other Vikings. Their presence in Italy began in the early eleventh century when some Norman pilgrim knights passed through en route to Jerusalem.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
The pope crowning Robert Guiscard. Spiegel

23. The Weasel Who Split Christianity

The Norman knights who experienced Italy on their way to Jerusalem found the sunny peninsula a welcome change from the rain and cold back home. Liking what they saw, they decided to stay. They found employment as mercenaries for Italian lords who were impressed by the Norman lancers’ cavalry charges. Their sons, of whom Robert Guiscard, the Weasel, was one, eventually formed an independent army. In 1047, Guiscard used them to make himself Duke of Apulia, and from there, he led an invasion of southern Italy in 1053.

The Weasel’s chief opponent was the Pope. He felt no religious compunctions about fighting, defeating, and capturing the Holy Father. He then made the Pope bless him as King of Calabria – the toe of the Italian boot. That papal blessing angered the Byzantines because the Weasel had designs on Bari, their chief naval base in Italy. An already existing rift between Rome and Constantinople widened. It ended with the Pope excommunicating the entire Eastern Church in 1054. The Weasel had thus triggered a schism between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches that endures to this day.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Coin of Robert Guiscard. BnF

22. The Adventurous Weasel Married an Adventurous Amazon and Fathered an Adventurous Son

In 1060, Robert Guiscard, the Weasel, sent his younger brother Roger to wrest Sicily from the Arabs. In the meantime, the Weasel seized Bari from the Byzantines, then took the war to Constantinople by invading Greece in 1081. He won a hard-fought victory in which the Normans suffered heavy losses and was forced to return to Italy to raise more men and supplies. He found the men but had no money for supplies. So to raise the funds, he sacked Rome harder than it had been sacked since the barbarian invasions centuries earlier. His machinations finally came to an end when a sudden illness took him in 1085.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Robert Guiscard. Pintrest

At some point, while roiling the Mediterranean world, the Weasel fell in love with a six-foot Amazon who was just as adventurous as he was. Named Sichelgaita, she went into battle, armed and armored at his side. So the Weasel divorced his wife, married Sichelgaita, and to please his new woman, disinherited his oldest son by his first wife, Bohemond. That compelled Bohemond to join the First Crusade in search of his own fortune and set him on the road to an adventurous life as grand and rollicking as that of his father.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Pope Urban II’s gathering of the faithful at Clermont to preach the First Crusade. Google Art Project

21. The Weasel’s Son Became a Middle Eastern Prince

Medieval adventurer Bohemond I (circa 1055 – 1109) was the eldest son of Duke Robert Guiscard, the Weasel. The apple did not fall far from the tree, and Bohemond took after his father as a gifted warrior and capable diplomat. He also took after the Weasel as a treacherous, ambitious, and duplicitous man of action. Bohemond’s disinheritance in favor of the offspring of his father’s new wife forced him to seek his own fortunes. He found them in the First Crusade.

In the late eleventh century, the Byzantine Empire faced a serious threat from the Seljuk Turks. The Muslim nomads had defeated the Byzantines decisively at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, and wrested their heartland of Anatolia. So the Byzantines, despite the Great Schism between their Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic one, appealed to the pope. In 1095, Pope Urban II organized a gathering of thousands of notables at Clermont in France, where he issued a call to arms to defend the Byzantines and seize Jerusalem from the Muslims.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Marriage of Bohemond I and Constance, daughter of King Philip I of France, circa 1106. British Library

20. The Weasel’s Son Went From the Byzantines’ Sworn Enemy to Swearing to Help the Byzantine Emperor

Pope Urban II’s appeal at Clermont was wildly successful. Thousands took the cross and took to arms, and kicked off centuries of warfare that came to be known as the Crusades. After an early disorganized mob of religious enthusiasts led by an eccentric named Peter the Hermit was massacred, a more disciplined force of knights and men at arms, led by great lords such as the Weasel’s son, Bohemond, arrived at Constantinople. That put the Byzantine emperor in a quandary, because the new arrivals had divided loyalties, to say the least. Some, like Bohemond who had fought the Byzantines for decades at his father’s side, had been sworn enemies until quite recently.

So the emperor made Bohemond and the others swear an oath to return to his empire all territories recaptured from the Turks. Bohemond, who saw the Crusade merely as an opportunity to win himself a realm, swore. The Crusaders were then ferried across the Bosporus into Anatolia, and marched south. In October, 1097, Bohemond and his Normans were the first to arrive at Antioch, which they immediately besieged. He played a leading role in the siege and in beating back Muslim attempts to relieve the city. Bohemond eventually contacted a Muslim commander inside the city, who helped him and his men scale the walls at night and seize Antioch.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Bohemond and his nobles scale the walls of Antioch, in an engraving by Gustave Dore. Wikimedia

19. The Weasel’s Son Went From Byzantine Enemy, to Vassal, to Enemy, and Back to Vassal Again

Bohemond held Antioch for the Byzantine emperor, on the condition that the latter come to the Crusaders’ aid against an expected Muslim counterattack. The Byzantines sent reinforcements, but halfway to Antioch, they received false reports that the city had already been recaptured by the Muslims. So they turned back. That forced the Crusaders to withstand a Muslim siege on their own. They survived, and Bohemond reasoned that he was relieved of his oath to the Byzantines since they had failed to fulfill their part of the deal. So he kept Antioch for himself, while the remaining Crusaders continued on to capture Jerusalem.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Bohemond I. Wikimedia

Styling himself Bohemond I, Prince of Antioch, he had to defend his principality against his Muslim neighbors as well as the Byzantines. In 1100, he was captured by the Turks in an ambush, but was released in 1103 and returned to Antioch. In 1107, he launched a Crusade against… the Byzantines. He landed in the Balkans, but things did not go well. He was eventually forced to accept terms that allowed him to continue as ruler of Antioch, but as a vassal of the Byzantines. It was a humiliating climb down for the adventurous Bohemond, who then faded from history. Little is known about him from then until his death in 1119.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Image from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting William, center, and his brothers Odo, left, and Robert, right. Imgur

18. The Adventurous Rise of History’s Most Successful Bastard

England’s King William I (circa 1028 – 1087) began life as was one of two illegitimate children of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, fathered upon the pretty daughter of a local tanner. During the first half of his life, Duke Robert’s illegitimate son was widely known as William the Bastard. He led an adventurous life, that saw him grow up to become one of the Middle Ages’ most formidable warriors and rulers. In 1066, the bastard led a successful invasion of England and became its king.

William the Bastard’s success in England got him a name change: from then on, he became William the Conqueror. It was a welcome change for a man who had been mocked for his illegitimate birth since childhood. Understandably, that gave him a chip on his shoulder from early on. When he was eight years old, William’s father named him his heir, then went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but died en route. Since Duke Robert had no legitimate offspring, the Norman barons agreed to accept his eldest biological son, William, as their new Duke.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
William the Conqueror. Getty Images

17. A Child Duke Who Had to Deal With Unruly Barons

When he became Duke of Normandy, the underage William the Conqueror – then still known as William the Bastard – was unable to control his unruly barons. They took advantage of his tender years to defy his authority. Nobles built private castles, usurped the ducal power, and turned to private warfare to settle scores and enrich themselves. Before long, the duchy was plunged into anarchy. In that atmosphere, William’s early reign was precarious in the extreme, and he faced the threat of getting deposed at any moment.

Three of Williams’ guardians were murdered, and as a child, he witnessed his steward get his throat slit by a Norman rebel. He hung on, however, and that hard and dangerous childhood turned William into a hard and dangerous man. He combined daring with prudence and knew when to strike, and when to withdraw if he found himself at a disadvantage. By his early twenties, William had emerged as a ruthless warrior and ruler – just to survive to adulthood had entailed adventurous feats worthy of a novel.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Williams lands, in pink, in 1087. University of Texas Library

16. Duke William of Normandy Capped Off His Adventurous Life by Becoming King William I of England

William the Bastard finally got his turbulent barons under control by resorting to exemplary brutality, calculated to make clear to all and sundry that he was not somebody to mess with. Salutary punishments including chopping off the hands and feet of rebels. The message was heard loud and clear. His greatest accomplishment came in 1066, when William, a cousin of England’s King Edward the Confessor, claimed the throne after the latter’s death without issue. His claim was contested by Harold Godwinson, who was crowned king by England’s Anglo-Saxon lords. So William gathered an army, secured the pope’s blessing for his cause, and sailed to England in September 1066.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
William the Conqueror. DK Find Out

On October 14th, William met and defeated the Anglo-Saxon army at the Battle of Hastings, during which King Harold was killed. After his victory, he conquered England and crowned himself King William I. The consequences were momentous. Centuries of Anglo-Saxon independence came to an end, to be replaced by Norman rule. For generations, England had been oriented towards the Germanic world from whence the Anglo-Saxons came, and after the Viking Era began, to the North Sea and Scandinavia. William and the Normans reoriented England towards France, the Western European mainstream, and the Mediterranean world.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Antoine Lasalle. Painting and Frame

15. The Adventurous French Cavalryman Who Tricked a Prussian Fortress Into Surrender

In 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte dealt Prussia a crushing defeat at the twin battles of Jena-Auerstedt. He then ordered a vigorous pursuit of the retreating Prussians and the rounding up of their garrisons. A key worry was that Prussian remnants would link up with and reinforce their Russian allies, who were still under arms and contesting the issue. The once-proud Prussian army, less than two decades removed from its glory days under Frederick the Great, was demoralized. It was against that backdrop that a French cavalry brigade approached the port city of Stettin.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Antoine Lasalle. Wikimedia

The French were led by an adventurous general named Antoine Lasalle (1775 – 1809). His forces consisted of about 500 hussars and a pair of light field guns. Stettin was a well-fortified port city with a garrison of nearly 10,000 men, protected by 281 cannons. In charge was Prussian General Friedrich von Romberg, a veteran with over 50 years’ experience. Romberg’s career stretched back to the Seven Years’ War, during which he had fought under Frederick the Great. Stettin was well-provisioned by the British Royal Navy, whose supply-laden ships sailed in and out of the port with no hindrance. So Lasalle set out to bluff the garrison into surrendering to his small force.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Antoine Lasalle leading a charge. Wikimedia

14. A Ruse That Got 10,000 Men to Surrender to 500

On the afternoon of October 29th, 1806, Antoine Lasalle sent a subordinate under flag of truce to demand Stettin’s surrender, with a promise to treat its garrisons with all the honors of war. The garrison’s commander, Friedrich Von Romberg, refused and vowed to defend the city to the last man. An hour later, the emissary returned, this time with a more ominous message: “If by 8 AM you have not surrendered, the town will be bombarded by our artillery and stormed by 50,000 men. The garrison will be put to the sword, and the town will be plundered for 24 hours“. An alarmed von Romberg consulted with the town leaders, who urged capitulation. The details of the surrender were negotiated and finalized that night.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
The Stetting garrison discovering that they had been tricked into surrendering to a smaller force. Pinterest

The following morning, the garrison marched out in perfect order and filed past the French to throw their arms down at their feet in a steadily growing pile. When von Romberg discovered just how tiny a force he had surrendered to, it was too late, and he had little choice but to stick to the negotiated agreement. Lasalle became a national hero, while von Romberg became a laughingstock. The Prussian general was tried by court-martial in 1809. He was found guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment for surrendering without a fight. He died two months later.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
T.E. Lawrence, right, at a dig site in 1912. Dead Towns and Living Men

13. The Adventurous Archaeologist

The adventurous life of British archaeologist Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888 – 1935), particularly during the years 1915 – 1919, is worthy of the Indiana Jones treatment. Indeed, it was the subject of a 1960s hit movie, Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence was the fifth illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Chapman, a married baronet who left his family for his daughters, Lawrence’s mother. Assuming the mother’s surname, the couple lived together and raised a family as “Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence”, without marrying.

The family eventually settled in Oxford, were Thomas Edward, who preferred going by his initials T.E., attended college. Lawrence was a history buff from early on, with a particular fondness for medieval and military architecture. He also loved traveling, so he combined his two interests by spending much of his youth exploring old churches and castles. He traveled to France to study medieval fortifications, and to Syria and Palestine to study Crusader castles. He submitted a thesis on the subject that earned him a history degree with honors from Oxford University in 1910.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
T.E. Lawrence, center, with a Hittite artifact he dug up before WWI. Photos of War

12. Excavating and Exploring in Future Enemy Lands Came in Handy for T.E. Lawrence

After graduating from Oxford, T.E. Lawrence secured a traveling fellowship and went to get some hands-on experience in the field. From 1911 to 1914, he was part of an archaeological expedition that excavated Hittite settlements near the Euphrates River. During his free time, he traipsed around the Middle East and got to know the region and its people. The lands in which he worked and traveled were part of the Ottoman Empire, of whose leanings in case of a general European war the British were unsure.

Because of that uncertainty Lawrence, under the guise of scholarly pursuits, also undertook map-making reconnaissance missions in Ottoman territories. The resultant maps and experience of the local ground and peoples came in handy during Lawrence’s adventurous WWI years. When that conflict began in 1914, he joined the British War Office as a civilian employee, and was tasked with preparing militarily useful maps of the Middle East. He was sent to Cairo, where his knowledge of the region and fluency in Arabic proved valuable to the war effort. Lawrence interviewed Turkish prisoners of war, and agents operating behind enemy lines. He thus became highly knowledgeable of Turkish military positions and strengths.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
T.E. Lawrence in Arab garb. Encyclopedia Britannica

11. An Archaeologist Who Discovered an Untapped Adventurous Streak Within

T.E. Lawrence was sent to Arabia in 1916. There, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali, the ruler of Mecca and the surrounding region, had raised an Arab revolt against his Ottoman Turk overlords. Lawrence urged his superiors to back the Arabs, and to make use of their aspirations for independence in order to further the British war effort. His advice was heeded, and Lawrence joined the Arab Revolt as a political and liaison officer. That was when his legend took off, and he was transformed from T.E. Lawrence to Lawrence of Arabia.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
T.E. Lawrence, left, during the Arab Revolt. Colorado Public Radio

Lawrence helped organize the Arab tribesmen into an effective guerrilla force that operated behind Turkish lines in hit and run attacks. The raiders blew up vital rail lines, demolished bridges, and destroyed enemy supplies. Lawrence, the historian, archaeologist, and scholar, found within himself a hitherto undiscovered adventurous streak, and a knack for guerrilla warfare. Between setting an example with his own courage when the tribesmen’s spirits flagged, and bribing their cynical leaders with gold when they lost heart, he kept the rebellion going.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
T.E. Lawrence in British uniform, 1918. Wikimedia

10. T.E. Lawrence Survived Capture and Torture, to Escape and Lead His Guerrillas to Victory

The Turks captured T.E. Lawrence in November 1917, while the adventurous archaeologist, disguised in Arab garb, was spying out one of their positions. His captors flogged, tortured, and sodomized him before he managed to escape. The experience left physical scars, as well as psychological wounds that never healed. It did not stop Lawrence from returning to the revolt, however. With his assistance, the Arab forces discomfited the Turks, tied down a significant part of their military strength behind the lines in security operations, and helped bring about final Turkish defeat. However, the victorious Entente betrayed the Arabs, and reneged on their promises to grant them independence.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
T.E. Lawrence and his motorcycle. Wikimedia

Instead, Britain and France divided up most of the Middle East amongst themselves. Disillusioned, Lawrence returned to Britain, where he lobbied in vain for Arab independence. He also wrote his memoirs, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. They flew off the bookshelves, became international bestsellers, and transformed an already famous Lawrence into a bona fide legend. He tried to escape the public glare by enlisting under an assumed name as an ordinary airman in the Royal Air Force, and then as a private soldier in the British Army, from 1922 to 1935. He left the service in 1935, planning an early retirement to his dream home, only to die soon thereafter in a motorcycle accident.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Wreck of HMS York, a British heavy cruiser destroyed by Italian naval commandos. Wikimedia

9. The Italian Frogmen Who Struck Into the Heart of a British Port

Italy’s WWII military is often derided – usually for good reason. However, one group of Italian fighting men earned the respect of friend and foe alike: Italy’s naval special forces. They were gathered into the Decima Flottiglia MAS, or “10th Assault Vehicle Flotilla”, Italy’s surface and underwater commandos. Decima Flottiglia took part in numerous daring raids during the war. During the war, the adventurous unit participated in over a dozen operations, sank or damaged five warships totaling over 72,000 tons, plus 20 merchant ships totaling over 130,000 tons.

Their exploits included the use of speedboats to sink a British heavy cruiser, the use of frogmen to attack ships anchored in Gibraltar, and the use of manned torpedoes to raid Alexandria harbor. The last was the Italian naval commandos’ most successful feat of arms. It began on December 3rd, 1941, when an Italian submarine left La Spezia, Italy, carrying three manned torpedoes. It stopped at the island of Leros in the Aegean to pick up three two-man crews for the torpedoes, then headed to Alexandria, Egypt.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Launch of Italian manned torpedoes from a submarine on the outskirts of Alexandria’s harbor, by Ivan Berryman. World Naval Ships

8, Italian Naval Commandos Went After One of WWII’s Most Heavily Defended Harbors

Alexandria harbor was the British Royal Navy’s Mediterranean headquarters and main base. That made it one of WWII’s most heavily protected sites. In 1941, Italy’s naval commandos transformed it into the site of one of the war’s most daring attacks, which was carried out with great skill and courage. The Decima Flottiglia’s manned torpedoes were 22-feet-long, battery-powered, and could do 2.5 miles per hour. They had a range of 10 miles, a submersible depth of about 100 feet, and a detachable 660-pound explosive charge.

On December 19th, 1941, an Italian submarine got to within a mile and a half of Alexandria’s harbor, and launched three manned torpedoes. From aerial reconnaissance and agents in Alexandria, the Italians had an accurate picture of the harbor’s defenses. They included shore artillery and machinegun emplacements, minefields, net barriers, and intense patrolling on the water as well as ashore. The sole entrance was sealed with an antisubmarine net, that was only removed to allow authorized vessels to enter or exit the harbor.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Alexandria harbor at the time of the Italian naval commandos’ adventurous raid. Defense Media Network

7. Italy’s Frogmen Gave the British Royal Navy a Black Eye

The Italian raiders of the Decima Flottigla lurked underwater near the entrance to Alexander harbor, and waited for the right moment. They snuck in when the barrier nets were temporarily removed to allow three British destroyers to enter. Quietly, the frogmen followed the destroyers in. Steering their manned torpedoes, the crews separated to their assigned targets. They were the battleships HMS Valiant and Queen Elizabeth, and an aircraft carrier that turned out not to be present. So the crew assigned to attack the carrier went after the tanker Sagona, instead.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Italian manned torpedo. Wikimedia

The raiders evaded the harbor’s extensive protections, and carefully maneuvered their vessels above or below torpedo nets. They dove beneath their targets’ ships, removed the warheads from their torpedoes, affixed them to the bottom of the hulls, set timers for the explosives to go off at 6 AM, and withdrew. One crew was spotted and captured as soon as they surfaced inside the harbor, but the other two crews swam ashore and made it into Alexandria. They were captured by Egyptian police within a few days. The explosives went off on time, and both battleships suffered extensive damage that kept them out of action for a year. The tanker Sagona was destroyed, and a destroyer refueling from it at the time suffered significant damage.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Phanes of Halicarnassus’ employer, Pharaoh Amasis II. Berlin Museum

6. The Ancient World’s Most Influential Mercenary

Few people in history have led an existence as adventurous as that of Phanes of Halicarnassus (flourished 6th century BC). A Greek mercenary general of great renown, Phanes rose high in service to Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis II (570 – 524 BC). However, he turned on his employers, and during a war between Egypt and Persia, switched sides. He abandoned the Egyptians, joined the army of Persia’s King Cambyses II, and played an instrumental role in the defeat of his former employers and paymasters.

The conflict between a then-declining Ancient Egypt and a rising Persian Empire was reportedly instigated by a disgruntled Egyptian doctor in the Persian court. He was angry at Pharaoh Amasis for selecting him, out of all of Egypt’s physicians, to get dragged away from his family and sent to Persia when Cambyses wrote Amasis asking for an eye doctor. So the doctor got his payback by devising a scheme, that began with his advising the Persian king to ask for Amasis’ favorite daughter.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Cambyses II. Pinterest

5. A Disgruntled Doctor Kicked Off a Major War

The disgruntled Egyptian doctor knew that a request from King Cambyses for the hand of Pharaoh Amasis’ daughter would put the Egyptian ruler in a bind. The pharaoh could accept and grow wretched at the loss of his daughter, or refuse, and offend Cambyses. Amasis did not want to send his beloved daughter to Persia, particularly because he knew that Cambyses intended her for a mere concubine, not a wife. However, he was also intimidated by Persia’s power. So he fudged, and sent the daughter of a former pharaoh, and falsely claimed that she was his.

That backfired. Soon as she reached Persia, the former princess told Cambyses that Amasis had tried to fob him off with somebody else’s daughter. That greatly upset Cambyses – who was itching for an excuse to conquer Egypt, anyhow. So he declared war and prepared to invade Amasis’ kingdom. As Amasis gathered his forces and prepared Egypt’s defenses, he managed to offend Phanes. The disgruntled Greek general decided to switch sides, and set out to join the Persians and their king. Getting there turned out to be more adventurous than he had thought it would be.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Route of Phanes’ adventurous escape, and of his return with a Persian army. Wikimedia

4. An Adventurous Escape, and Vicious Retaliation

Pharaoh Amasis sent assassins to kill or capture Phanes before he reached Persia’s King Cambyses. However, after an adventurous flight that included an escape from captivity by getting his guards drunk, Phanes reached the Persians. Cambyses was trying to figure out the best invasion route into Egypt. Phanes recommended a route through Arab tribal lands. He advised the Persian king to seek safe passage from their rulers and to sweeten the request with generous gifts. Cambyses heeded Phanes’ advice, and the Arabs gladly granted him and his armies safe conduct through their territory.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Cambyses II capturing Pharaoh Psamtik III. Wikimedia

By then, Amasis had died. He was succeeded as pharaoh by his son, Psamtik III. Enraged at Phanes, Psamtik tricked the Greek general’s sons into meeting with him, took them captive, and had them executed. He then had their blood drained and mixed with wine, which he quaffed down and made his subordinates drink as well. Phanes got his revenge by leading the Persian army into Egypt, acting as Cambyses’ guide and military advisor. The Persians defeated Psamtik, and forced him to retreat to his capital, where they besieged and eventually captured him. Phanes then engineered the execution of his sons’ murderer by uncovering and informing Cambyses of a plot by the captive pharaoh to stir up a revolt.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Benjamin Hornigold, as depicted by Patrick Lyster in the Starz series ‘Black Sails’. Pinterest

3. The Adventurous Life of Blackbeard

The life of a pirate is more adventurous than most, but even amongst pirates, few have led a career as adventurous as that of Edward Teach. Better known as Blackbeard (circa 1680 – 1718), he is probably the best-known pirate of all time. Blackbeard’s early life is shrouded in mystery. What is known is that he started his seafaring career as a privateer – private citizens issued letters of marque by their sovereigns, authorizing them to prey on enemy shipping.

In 1716, Blackbeard joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, who mentored Blackbeard and taught him the ropes of piracy. The protégé showed himself capable and rose rapidly to become the older pirate’s first mate. Soon, he rose even further, and became second in command, entrusted with his own sloop to operate in conjunction with Hornigold’s main ship. Before long, Hornigold’s fleet had grown to four ships. Operating out of the Bahamas, the pirates fell upon and terrorized the sea lanes.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Blackbeard, from a 1736 engraving. Wikimedia

2. Centuries Before Modern Advertising, Edward Teach Knew How to Build and Maintain a Brand

Blackbeard’s collaboration with Hornigold lasted until late 1717 when Hornigold retired from piracy. By then, Blackbeard had established his reputation as a fearsome pirate in his own right. In no small because Blackbeard paid great attention to establishing and maintaining his brand. He went out of his way to ensure that his appearance was both noticeable and terrifying to his opponents. His greatest defining feature, and the source of the name by which he became famous or infamous, was a thick and long black beard. Blackbeard was in the habit of plaiting his beard into braids, and decorating each braid with colorful ribbons.

His already ferocious appearance was made even more intimidating by the plethora of weapons he carried around. Blackbeard slung six pistols across his chest, thrust a variety of knives and daggers into his belt and boots, and wielded a wicked looking cutlass. To top it off, he attached slow burning matches to his beard, which sputtered and emitted clouds of thick smoke, and made him appear even more demonic. It was a psychologically effective display, and many ships surrendered as soon as they caught sight of the ferocious, crazy looking, and smoke spewing pirate.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Queen Anne’s Revenge. Art Station

1. Edward Teach’s End Was Worthy of His Adventurous Life

Blackbeard continued his piratical career after his mentor Benjamin Hornigold retired from piracy in 1717. Soon thereafter, he seized a French ship, which he remodeled. Equipped with 40 cannons, Blackbeard renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge, and made her his flagship. He then formed a pirate alliance, and used it to commit his most notorious act: a successful blockade of Charleston, South Carolina. He held the city hostage, and wreaked havoc on the seaborne trade and commerce upon which its economy depended until he was paid a ransom. Blackbeard accepted a royal pardon in 1718. However, earning an honest living did not agree with him, so he reneged on the pardon and went back to piracy.

Here are Some of the Most Adventurous People that Ever Existed
Blackbeard’s final fight. Neatorama

As a result, Virginia’s governor ordered an expedition, led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy, to hunt Blackbeard down. Maynard, commanding two sloops, tracked the infamous pirate and found him on November 22nd, 1718, at anchor on the inner side of Ocracoke Island, off North Carolina. Most of Blackbeard’s men were ashore, so he found himself severely outnumbered when Lieutenant Maynard’s expedition hove into view. Nonetheless, the notorious pirate refused to surrender and met an end worthy of his adventurous life. Blackbeard put up a ferocious before he finally went down on the deck of his ship after taking five bullets and over twenty sword cuts.


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

Archaeology Magazine, November 11th, 2004 – The Elusive Tomb of Alexander

Asbridge, Thomas – The Creation of the Principality of Antioch, 1098-1130 (2000)

Bates, David – William the Conqueror (2016)

Cracked – The Exciting Adventures of Alexander the Great’s Corpse

Encyclopedia Britannica – Bohemond I, Prince of Antioch

Encyclopedia Britannica – Ptolemy I Soter

Gonick, Larry – The Cartoon History of the Universe, Volume III (2002)

Herodotus – The Histories, Book 3

History Collection – Heroes Screwed Over by Their Ungrateful Countries

Independent, The, October 10th, 2011 – Does the Tomb of St Mark in Venice Really Contain the Bones of Alexander the Great?

Johnson, Charles – A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates (1724)

Lawrence, T.E. – Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922)

Loud, Graham – The Age of Robert Guiscard: Southern Italy and the Norman Conquest (2000)

Naval War College Review, Summer 2015, Vol. 68, No. 3: 119-137 – Frogmen Against a Fleet: The Italian Attack on Alexandria 18/19 December 1941

PBS – Lawrence of Arabia

Queen Anne’s Revenge Project – Blackbeard: History of the Dreaded Pirate

Waterfield, Robin – Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire (2011)

Wikipedia – Capitulation of Stettin

Wikipedia – William the Conqueror

Woodard, Colin – The Republic of Pirates (2007)