These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got

Khalid Elhassan - March 9, 2022

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
Crassus. Pinterest

8. A Quest for Military Glory

Military glory was one thing that Crassus lacked, but that his partners in the First Triumvirate had in abundance. Unlike Pompey’s and Caesar’s brilliant military records, Crassus’ only military accomplishment had been to crush Spartacus’ slave uprising. To defeat mere slaves did not count for much in Roman eyes. It gnawed at Crassus, so he decided to invade Parthia, a wealthy kingdom comprised of today’s Iraq and Iran, which he assumed would be a pushover. A decade earlier, Pompey had invaded and easily defeated other kingdoms in the east, so how hard could Parthia be?

Crassus assembled an army of 50,000 men, and in 53 BC, marched off to what he assumed would be an easy conquest. He trusted a local chieftain to guide him. Unbeknownst to Crassus, the guide was in Parthian pay. He took the Romans along an arid route until, hot and thirsty, they reached the town of Carrhae in today’s Turkey. There, they encountered a Parthian force of 9000 horse archers and 1000 armored cataphract heavy cavalry. Although they outnumbered the Parthians five to one, the Romans were demoralized by the rigors of the march and by Crassus’ lackluster leadership.

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
‘The Death of Marcus Licinius Crassus’, by Lancelot Blondeel, sixteenth century. Groeninge Museum

7. Karma Catches Up With a Plutocrat

The Parthian mounted archers shot up the Romans from a distance and retreated whenever Crassus’ men advanced. As casualties mounted, morale plummeted. Crassus, unable to think of a plan, hoped that the Parthians would eventually run out of arrows. The Parthians however had a baggage train of thousands of camels loaded with arrows, that kept them well supplied. Finally, Crassus ordered his son to take the Roman cavalry and some infantry, and drive off the horse archers. The Parthians feigned a retreat, Crassus’ son rashly pursued and was slaughtered with all his men. The Parthians rode back to Roman army and taunted Crassus with his son’s head mounted on a spear.

Shaken, Crassus retreated to Carrhae, and abandoned thousands of his wounded. The Parthians invited him to negotiate and offered to let his army go in exchange for Roman territorial concessions. Crassus was reluctant to meet the Parthians, but his men threatened to mutiny if he did not, so he went. Things did not go well. Violence broke out, and ended with Crassus and his generals killed. Karma had a particularly ironic – and cruel end – in store for the notoriously greedy plutocrat. To mock his avarice, the Parthians poured molten gold down Crassus’ throat. Those Romans still alive fled, but most were hunted down and killed or captured. Out of Crassus’ 50,000, only 10,000 made it back to Roman territory.

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
Genghis Khan. PJ’s Factoids

6. It Was Unwise to Deliberately Insult History’s Scariest Conqueror

Genghis Khan (1162 – 1227) was not somebody a rational person would deliberately seek to insult. He once stated: “Life’s greatest joy is to rout and scatter your enemies, and drive them before you. To see their cities reduced to ashes. To see their loved ones shrouded and in tears, and to gather to your bosom their wives and daughters“. Somebody who says stuff like that is probably not somebody a wise ruler should go out of his way to offend. Yet that is precisely what Shah Muhammad II, ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire from 1200 to 1220, did.

As if to double down on the stupid, Shah Muhammad then dared Genghis Khan to do something about it. Needless to say, it backfired and invited a serious dose of bad karma. Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, the world’s largest contiguous empire, and was one of history’s scariest figures. His conquests were often accompanied by widespread massacres and genocide. As a percentage of global population, the estimated 40 million deaths of the Mongol conquests he initiated would be equivalent to 278 million deaths in the twentieth century: more than double the fatalities of WWI and WWII combined.

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
Shah Muhammad II’s Khwarezmian Empire. Wikimedia

5. This Shah’s Execution of Envoys Invited Seriously Bad Karma

The beef between Genghis Khan and the Khwarezmian Empire of Shah Muhammad II began in 1218. At a time when the Mongol conqueror was busy with the conquest of China, he sent an embassy and trade mission to Khwarezmia. In addition to emissaries, the embassy included numerous merchants with valuable trade wares. Genghis had hoped to establish diplomatic and trade relations with the Khwarezmian Empire, which encompassed most of Central Asia, and whose borders stretched from present day Afghanistan to Georgia.

The Khwarezmian ruler, however, was suspicious of Genghis’ intentions. So when one of his governors halted the Mongol embassy at the border, accused it of espionage, arrested its members, and seized its goods, he approved. Genghis tried to keep things diplomatic. He sent three envoys to Shah Muhammad with a request that he disavow the governor’s actions, and hand him over to the Mongols for punishment. Muhammad executed Genghis’ envoys and followed that up with the execution of all members of the earlier embassy and trade mission. The bad karma reaped by that poorly thought-out decision was horrific.

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
Mongols lead the mother of Shah Muhammad II into captivity. Wikiwand

4. A Shah Hounded to His Death

In hindsight, Shah Muhammad II’s abuse and execution of Genghis Khan’s envoys, coupled with his refusal to make amends, turned out to be bad decisions. It invited bad karma and backfired on him and his realm in horrible ways that he probably could not have begun to imagine at the time. An incensed Genghis interrupted his campaign of conquest in China and concentrated a force of over 100,000 men against the Khwarezmian Empire. It was smaller than Muhammad’s forces, but the Mongols struck in 1218 with a whirlwind campaign that caught the Shah wrong-footed.

Amidst the Mongol onslaught, the Khwarezmian ruler and his army never got an opportunity to regain their balance or catch their breath. The Mongol invasion was a military masterpiece that overwhelmed Muhammad’s empire, and extinguished it by 1221. As to Shah Muhammad, he fled and was denied any opportunity to recover and try a comeback. Genghis put two of his best generals, Subutai and Jebe, in charge of hunting the Khwarezmian ruler. Muhammad was chased and hounded across his domain to his death, abandoned and exhausted, on a small Caspian island as his relentless pursuers closed in.

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
Mongols during the invasion of the Khwarezmian Empire. Weapon News

3. A Ruler’s Rash Decision That Invited Terrible Karma Upon Himself and His Realm

The bad karma invited by Shah Muhammad II’s execution of the Mongol envoys was visited not only upon himself, but upon his subjects as well. It was in their invasion of the Khwarezmian Empire that the Mongols cemented their infamous reputation for savagery. Millions died, as Genghis ordered the massacre of entire cities that offered the least resistance, and sent thousands of captives ahead of his armies as human shields. By the time Genghis was done, Khwarezm had been reduced from a prosperous empire to an impoverished and depopulated wasteland.

At the grand mosque in the once-thriving but now smoldering city of Bukhara, Genghis told the survivors that he was the Flail of God. As he saw it: “If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you“. The fate of Shah Muhammad, who brought catastrophe upon himself when he insulted somebody he assumed was just another upstart barbarian nomad chieftain from the Steppe, was tragic. Even more tragic was the fate visited upon his subjects because of their ruler’s decision to insult one of history’s scariest conquerors.

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence. Wikimedia

2. A Royal Ingrate Brat of a Kid Brother

George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence (1449 – 1478) was one of history’s more problematic siblings. He was the younger son of Richard, Duke of York, whose struggle to secure power precipitated the Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster. He was also the younger sibling of King Edward IV of England, who by all accounts was the soul of generosity towards his kid brother. George repaid that with a series of ill-advised conspiracies, which invited bad karma and resulted in his doom. After his brother broke the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton in 1461, deposed the Lancastrian king Henry VI, and had himself crowned in his place as Edward IV, George was made Duke of Clarence.

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
Richard Nevile, the Kingmaker. Find a Grave

A year later, Edward made the thirteen-year-old George Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. As he grew into early manhood, George idolized and came under the influence of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also known as “The Kingmaker”. He wed Neville’s daughter in defiance of his brother’s plans to marry him into a European royal family to secure a dynastic alliance. Neville had been instrumental in the deposition of the prior Lancastrian King Henry and his replacement with Edward. He eventually fell out with Edward and deserted to the Lancastrians. George rewarded his brother’s earlier generosity with betrayal and took his father-in-law’s side. Although he was a member of the York family, George switched his support to the Lancastrians.

These Historic Figures Really Deserved the Bad Karma They Got
The execution of George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence. Book Palace

1. Karma Catches Up With the Duke of Clarence

With the Kingmaker’s machinations, George’s brother Edward IV was deposed and forced to flee England in 1470. The once-deposed Lancastrian King Henry VI was restored to the throne. However, George began to mistrust his father-in-law, the Kingmaker, and switched his support back to his brother. Edward IV returned to England in 1471, defeated the Lancastrians in a battle in which the Kingmaker was killed, and was restored to the throne. To ensure that the twice-deposed Henry VI would trouble him no more, he had him murdered after he had already executed Henry’s son and sole heir. Edward pardoned his younger brother George and restored him to royal favor.

George could not keep his nose clean, however. In 1478, he once again betrayed his elder brother and was caught in a plot against the king. Finally fed up with his wayward sibling, Edward IV ordered George arrested and jailed in the Tower of London, and had him put on trial for treason. The king personally conducted the prosecution of his brother before Parliament. He secured a conviction and Bill of Attainder against George, who was condemned to death. On February 18th, 1478, karma finally caught up with George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence. He was executed by being dunked into a butt, or big barrel, of Malmsey wine, and forcibly held under its surface until he was drowned.


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

Armenian National Institute – Genocide Research

Ashdown-Hill, John – The Third Plantagenet: George, Duke of Clarence, Richard III’s Brother (2014)

Beatles Bible – KLUE Radio, Texas, is Struck by Lightning

Bogosian, Eric – Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide (2015)

SFA State University – Longview’s ‘Beatles Bonfire’ Turned Into a Shocking Event (September 2011)

Clements, Jonathan – The First Emperor of China (2006)

Cracked – 5 True Stories That Will Make You Believe in Karma

Crown Chronicles – History’s Strangest Deaths: The Duke of Clarence Drowned in a Barrel of Wine

Daily Beast – How A Sexist Prank Elected America’s First Female Mayor

Derogy, Jacques – Resistance and Revenge: The Armenian Assassination of Turkish Leaders Responsible for the 1915 Massacres and Deportations (1990)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Qin Shi Huang

Encyclopedia Iranica – Carrhae

Gloria Romanorum – Constantine’s Execution of Crispus and Fausta

Gonick, Larry – The Cartoon History of the Universe, Part II (1994)

Grant, Michael A. – Caligula: The Corruption of Power (1989)

Historia, Bd. 41, H. 4 (1992) – Flavia Maxima Fausta: Some Remarks

History Collection – The Life of American Con Man Soapy Smith

Kansas State Historical Society – Women’s Suffrage

Luft, Eric V.D. – Die at the Right Time: A Subjective Cultural History of the American Sixties (2009)

Military History, May 2006 – Facing the Wrath of Khan

Morgan, David – The Mongols (1986)

New York Times, Times Topics – Armenian Genocide of 1915: An Overview

Pawlowski, Gareth L. – How They Became the Beatles: A Definitive History of the Early Years, 1960-1964 (1990)

Plutarch – Parallel Lives: Life of Crassus

Ratchnevsky, Paul – Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy (1994)

Sima Qian – Records of the Grand Historian: The First Emperor

Stephen F. Austin State University Center for Regional Heritage Research – Longview’s ‘Beatles Bonfire’ Turned Into a Shocking Event

Suetonius – The Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Caligula

Ultimate Classic Rock – 50 Years Ago: ‘Beatles Bonfire’ Radio Station Struck by Lightning

Vintage News – The First Female Mayor in the US Was Nominated as a Prank, She Won Over 60 Percent of the Vote

Wikipedia – Cassius Chaerea