“O people, know that you have committed great sins, and that the great ones among you have committed these sins. If you ask me what proof I have for these words, I say it is because I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”—Genghis Khan.
Sometimes you are just going about your day, minding your own business, maybe trying to give a speech to the nation you are the leader of and BAM! Somebody tries to mess with you. These are the moments that solidify your legacy and etch you in the world’s “Don’t Mess With Me” Hall of Fame. There are many famous leaders who lived their life full of these moments, from Teddy Roosevelt to Julius Caesar, but sometimes ordinary people flex their muscles to the world as well and become well known as someone not to mess with.
Here is a look at some of history’s best “Don’t Mess With Me” moments, as told by Reddit.
40. Don’t Forget Who Saved You in the War
Lyndon Johnson in 1966.
Charles de Gaulle had moved to withdraw France from NATO and ordered all US and foreign military personnel out of the country. Secretary of State Dean Rusk had relayed this information to LBJ, who promptly asked if that would include the bodies of American troops buried at Normandy, uttering the famous “Ask him about the cemeteries, Dean” quip.
Rusk didn’t feel that was the most diplomatic option, so LBJ issued a Presidential Order for him to ask de Gaulle.
De Gaulle, embarrassed, left the question unanswered.
39. Can’t Touch This
Olga of Kiev had a marriage proposal from a nearby kingdom, but that meant her suitor would rule her kingdom too.
So she said sure, but I want to be escorted by your smartest advisors and generals.
She locked them in a building and then burned them alive.
So then she said she’d like to be escorted by his army. She held a feast, got the army drunk and then slaughtered them all.
So she marched on the man’s kingdom and the people surrendered.
In payment, she asked for a bird from every house in the kingdom.
She attached a bag of sulfur on each bird and lit it on fire.
The birds flew back to their nests in the houses and everything burned.
38. Walling Himself In
Y’all are doing Caesar stories but I got a better story. In his final battle against the Gauls at their stronghold of Alesia, the Gaul commander Vercingetorix attempted to lure Caesar into sieging the city down, while Vercingetorix was receiving reinforcements that would be able to attack Caesar’s rear forces.
Do you know what Caesar did? He built a goddamn wall! He surrounded himself with the wall around Alesia and the wall he built to keep out the flanking forces. And he messed them both up. He sandwiches himself between two walls and then crushed both armies at the same time.
37. Salted City
Roman General Scipio Aemilianus Africanus plowed over and sowed the city of Carthage with salt after defeating it in the Third Punic War (146 BC), sacking it, and enslaving the survivors.
36. No Crisis Needed
When the Iranians held the US diplomats hostage, some other Iranian students invaded the Soviet Union’s embassy. The Russian ambassador to Iran went to Ayatollah Khomeini. The Russian removed his own expensive wristwatch, threw it on the floor, and said “If the Russians are not released, Iran will look like this:” and stomped on his expensive watch. The Ayatollah grew pale and left the room. The Russian diplomats were released that day.
35. You Will Not Mess With My Vision
Harvey Weinstein wanted to censor and change a few parts in Princess Mononoke so Miyazaki sent him an actual samurai sword with a note that said “no cuts.”
No one messes with Miyazaki.
This man is my hero.
34. Listen To Your Warnings
There’s a story told in Ken Burn’s The West, that Custer had previously made a deal with a Cheyenne chief. This chief didn’t entirely trust Custer, so he poured out the ashes of a peace pipe on Custer’s boot and warned him if he ever made war on Indians again, the great everywhere spirit would see to it he was surely doomed.
After Little Big Horn, some Cheyenne women poked the ears of Custer’s corpse with their sewing needles to clear them out, so he could better hear warnings in the next life.
33. Should Have Never Fired Me
General Yi Sun-sin.
So Japan wanted to go through Korea to attack China. Korea said “Hell no,” to which Japan responded by beating the hell out of Korea—at that time called Joseon. To put into perspective how bad Joseon was losing, the advance of Japanese forces into the Korean peninsula was slightly faster than the average traveler.
One of the things that was keeping Joseon from outright loosing was the fact that the Joseon Navy was mostly successful in its fights. General Yi Sun-sin being one of the ones winning said fights.
Sometime during the war Yi was framed, demoted, and sent to prison to be tortured while the idiot that replaced him went and lost virtually every fight.
Well, the idiot managed to get himself killed sooner or later, which saw General Yi reinstated as General. However, at this point, the navy only had 13 ships left, while the invading Japanese army had a fleet of over 120 ships.
Seeing the overwhelming difference in numbers, the King ordered General Yi to disband the navy and join the troops on land, to which Yi Sun-sin basically replied with ‘I still have 13 ships left’
And then he went and beat 120+ ships with his 13 without losing a single ship.
32. You Did It To Yourself
In 220 BC, China was under a Game of Thrones style situation, where 7 states were duking it out to become the new central ruler.
Anyway one of these states Qin attacked a neighbor, Han. Han knew it couldn’t withstand the mighty Qin forces so decided to give a piece of land called Shangdang which Qin coveted, to Qin. Unfortunately, the governor in charge of the land objected and ran to another country Zhao for help. Zhao annexed Shangdang. Qin was FURIOUS.
To cut a 2-year long battle story short, Qin eventually won over Zhao forces. They lost 100,000 men, but poor Zhao lost its ENTIRE army of 450,000 who were mostly slaughtered by Qin forces after they surrendered. A few were released to ‘spread terror in Zhao’. Soon after Zhao was taken over by Qin who later went on to unify China.
31. Leveling the South
Sherman’s March. The South still hasn’t quite bounced back from the total war/scorched earth campaign. He destroyed everything in his path from Atlanta to Savannah. Before there was an assault on Savannah, Sherman put forward a surrender request to the garrison.
“I have already received guns that can cast heavy and destructive shot as far as the heart of your city; also, I have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison of Savannah can be supplied, and I am therefore justified in demanding the surrender of the city of Savannah, and its dependent forts, and shall wait a reasonable time for your answer, before opening with heavy ordnance. Should you entertain the proposition, I am prepared to grant liberal terms to the inhabitants and garrison; but should I be forced to resort to assault, or the slower and surer process of starvation, I shall then feel justified in resorting to the harshest measures, and shall make little effort to restrain my army—burning to avenge the national wrong which they attach to Savannah and other large cities which have been so prominent in dragging our country into civil war.”
Tl;dr of that: “Give up, or I will seriously mess you up. And you know it.”
30. Salting The Bullet Hole Wound
The bullet fee: It’s been done in Iran and China, possibly other places. When prisoners were executed by a shot to the head, if the family wanted to claim the body, they would be billed for the bullet used to kill the prisoner.
29. Yeah, About That Whole Surrendering Thing
When the German army asked the US Commander of the town of Bastogne to surrender, Brig. Gen. McAuliffe replied with:
“December 22, 1944
To the German Commander,
N U T S!
The American Commander”
28. Sure, You’ll Take Our Territory, But We Will Have Your Heads
I’d say it was the winter war when Finland showed their mettle and held off the Soviets. Sure they ended up having territory taken regardless, but the Soviets got a real kick in the teeth.
27. KGB Don’t Play
I recall a story from the Afghan-Soviet war or something. The Taliban captured some Russian civilians and were demanding ransom so the KGB went full psychopath mode. They kidnapped a bunch of Taliban operatives, gutted them, and threw their bodies into a pit full of pig carcasses. After showing the Taliban, they released the hostages.
TL;DR: don’t mess with Soviet Intelligence.
26. Life Finds a Way
Poisonous frogs evolving bright colors to warn snakes not to mess with them. Nature’s very own, “don’t mess with me” defence.
25. Get Your Hands Off of Me
When the cop who was trying to arrest Stormé DeLarverie was manhandling her so she punched him in the face and started the Stonewall Riot.
24. Remembering Your Vow By Your Hair
4th century BC, Kingdom of Magadh, India.
A famous military strategist is insulted and dragged out of the palace by his hair on orders of the king, Dhana Nanda. He cuts off his lock of hair and vows to never grow it again until the Nanda dynasty is turned to dust.
That guy, Chanakya then meets a young soldier named Chandragupta Maurya, whom he trains, helps him gather an army and invade the Magadhan Kingdom and destroy the Nanda dynasty.
23. Some Say He Is Still In The Circle
In ~170 BC, The Macedonian king of the Seleucid Empire decided to invade Egypt with his army. Egypt however, was allied to Rome. Instead of sending an army, Rome simply sent one man, the Consul Gaius Popillius Laenas, with his attendants. He met the invading king in northern Egypt and told him:
“If you don’t pack up your army and head back home immediately, you will be at war with Rome.” He then went further, taking a stick and drawing a circle in the sand around the king’s feet. “In fact, if you step outside this circle before giving me your answer, you will also be at war with Rome.”
The king agreed and withdrew his army from Egypt.
22. Go Ahead, Call The Cops
Parks said, “When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And he said, ‘Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested.’ I said, ‘You may do that’.”
21. Can’t Blackmail Me When I Am Willing To Blackmail Myself!
Not warfare, but still impressive.
Oscar Wilde wrote an unwise letter to his lover—homosexuality was illegal at the time—that was stolen by blackmailers. They called on Wilde a few days later to begin squeezing him for money. Wilde declined, pointing out that upon learning that it had been stolen, he’d turned the letter into a poem and published it. He wished them good luck blackmailing him for something everyone in London could read and which he would tell the judge was simply a rough draft of his poem.
The crestfallen blackmailers left empty-handed and refused to return, saying that Wilde only taunted them.
20. Even In Jest, Caesar Keeps His Word
I believe it was Caesar who was captured and held at ransom by pirates, the ransom being like 20 talents or whatever their currency was, but Caesar laughed in their faces and offered to pay 50 talents. They then raised the ransom, so Caesar had his men collect for it.
Meanwhile, Caesar, being so charismatic, ended up befriending the pirates, hanging out with them and such and homing around. He even told them with a hearty laugh: “Once my ransom is paid and I am let go, I will come back with an army and have you all hanged.”
His ransom was paid.
He gathered his troops.
He captured every pirate in Miletus.
They were hanged.
Edit: or crucified. Either way, they died.
19. I Tried Not To Kill You All
The best instance I can recall is when Muhammad, the Khwarezmian Shah, supported one of his governor’s decisions to plunder Genghis Khan’s caravan of gifts, which was intended to start good relations through trade. The Khan retaliated so brutally that the Middle East is still feeling the damage to this day.
The body count from his Middle Eastern invasions is absolutely staggering. He destroyed everything and almost everyone. They had irrigation systems for millennia that disappeared overnight. Entire sections of the Middle East were virtually depopulated and left devoid of any relevant infrastructure.
18. Napoleon’s Back
When Napoleon escaped exile on Elba, found the army and basically was just like “Here I am” and all the troops rallied to him.
17. Even Birth Can’t Stop Her
Pretty much anything Grace O’Malley did…but I always think of the story where she was giving birth on a ship that was being attacked and she supposedly just went out all covered in crap and sweat and blood and started shooting people and was all “Get off my ship, I just gave birth!”
I took a pirate history class in college because I was like “maybe something different will be nice” and now I know way too much about them.
16. You Take My Body, I’ll Take Your Head
Chiomara was a Galatian noblewoman. She got held captive after a battle, got raped in prison by a centurion. Said centurion manages to get a ransom against her freedom, and while he’s counting the money he just gained, she has him decapitated.
She then proceeds to bring the centurion’s head to her husband saying something along the line of “only one man can share my bed and live.”
15. How Dare You Interrupt
When Theodore Roosevelt got shot yet didn’t stop his speech. What a legend.
14. Screw It, I’ll Do It Myself
Somewhat more recent history. During the foundation of America, post-Revolutionary War, whiskey was being taxed very heavily. A lot of people in the more mountainous areas got mad and “rebelled.” Basically, a bunch of moonshiners threw a fit, but since the country was still fetal, it needed to be stopped.
General George Washington had fought in the Seven Years War and was Commander in Chief during the Revolutionary War. He was now President but hated it. His hobbies included fencing, wrestling, and warfare. When he heard of the “Whiskey Rebellion,” he hopped on his horse, slapped on a saber, gathered a militia, and rode off. The rebellion ended when the moonshiners saw fully armed troops lead by the goddamn President marching on their land.
That was the only time in American history a sitting President lead troops into battle.
13. All I Wanted Was A Prayer
The Siege of Tyre by Alexander the Great.
To set the stage, Alexander has just crossed into Asia from his Greek conquests in a major hurry to win Persia before he runs out of money to pay his troops. To say he’s in a hurry is an understatement. Time is the most precious resource to him, and he’s spent a lifetime working toward this moment.
He’s an oddly religious fellow, there are lots of stories about him like the Gordian knot. He gets it into his head that before he can conquer Persia he must pray in a temple in the city/island of Tyre. So he asks the city of Tyre to let him spend a day praying in their temple. They freak out and shut the doors hoping he’ll go away. Tyre is an island, he’s in a hurry and has no navy to speak of.
Alexander spent a year making his army turn an island into a peninsula, one rock at a time. When his bridge was complete he had every citizen of Tyre killed or enslaved. 40,000ish people. Then he prayed in their temple.
Tyre is no longer an island.
12. The North Never Forgets
William the Conqueror had real problems with the North of England after invading in 1066. They refused to pay homage or accept him as king and were generally naughty and rebellious.
So William had his men go and destroy them. Men were murdered, homes burns, crops destroyed, the whole region completely devastated. It is known euphemistically as the “harrying of the north.”
He had no further issues.
11. Poison By Riding Gloves
Another “Do not mess with me” anecdote involving William:
Prior to launching his invasion, he warned his neighbors off of despoiling his Norman estates while he was gone. Most of them agreed. Conan of Brittany, however, loudly announced that he would do as he pleased once William crossed the Channel, believing William responsible for poisoning his father.
William’s response was to have him poisoned too.
Further, since Conan was paranoid about his food after his father’s death, William did it by soaking his riding gloves with contact poison.
10. We Didn’t Say You Could Leave
Anglo-Zanzibar War, 1896. The new Sultan of Zanzibar wants to break ties with the British. War is declared. It lasts about 40 minutes. Zanzibar is essentially leveled by 2 British gunboats. Zanzibar surrenders. Britain makes Zanzibar pay for the shells expended by the gunboat. Zanzibar becomes a British Protectorate until the 1960s.
9. How’re Your Hands Doing?
Town revolted against Caesar late in his term in Gaul. After he took the town over he cut off the hands of all the prisoners and let them loose. Don’t. Mess. With. Me. Anymore.
8. Good Thing I Brought My Own Chair
In 1622, the future Queen Nzinga of Angola was invited by the Portuguese to negotiate a peace treaty.
When she arrived, she realized that while all the Portuguese delegates were provided chairs, they had simply set up a mat on the floor for her.
But Nzinga was a badass and not to be messed with. She snapped her fingers, and one of her servants crawled forward on his hands and knees.
She sat on his back for the entirety of the meeting.
7. The Will To Equality
Gandhi’s 1932 hunger strike.
The Brits tried to impose a constitution that separated India’s electoral system by caste. Gandhi said “Eff that, I ain’t eating because united we stand, divided we fall.” Six days later and the Brits gave in.
6. Old Hickory Ain’t Nothin’ To Mess With
Andrew Jackson was walking down the street and a would-be assassin jumps out and precedes to pull the trigger on two pistols. Both pistols fail and Jackson precedes to begin beating the would-be assassin with his walking stick to the point where his own bodyguards had to intervene in order to save the man’s life so he could be arrested.
Also there were several accounts of Jackson participating in duels where he just tanked the shot from his opponent before returning fire and killing them.
5. Crack Shot Swiss
During WWI some German minister asked the Swiss what they would do if Germany invaded with half a million troops since Switzerland only had a 250,000 strong militia for defense and the Swiss reply was “shoot twice and go home.”
4. Revenge By Painting
Artemisia Gentileschi was an accomplished Baroque painter of the 17th century, in an era when very few women found renown in the art. When she was a teenager, her father hired a painter named Agostino Tassi to tutor her; Tassi subsequently raped Artemisia. Somewhat unusually for the time period, Tassi was actually brought to trial for the rape and convicted, although he in all likelihood never served his sentence of exile.
Years later, when Gentileschi painted her most famous piece – an unusually brutal depiction of Judith beheading Holofernes—she drew herself as Judith and Agostino Tassi as the soon-to-be-headless Holofernes. In effect, through the painting, she’s taking revenge upon her rapist forever. The painting currently resides on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
3. You Killed The One In-Law I Liked
On Genghis Khan and strategic marriage:
“The marriages might have been strategic alliances, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any love involved. One of Genghis Khan’s daughters loved her husband, a man named Toquchar. Genghis Khan loved him, too, as his favorite son-in-law.
When Toquchar was killed by an archer from Nishapur, his wife demanded vengeance. Genghis Khan’s troops attacked Nishapur and slaughtered every person there. By some estimates, 1,748,000 people were killed. Other historians dispute that number, but there’s no doubt that his armies killed everyone they found.
Women, children, babies, and even dogs and cats were tracked down and murdered. Then they were beheaded, and their skulls were piled into pyramids—a request by Genghis Khan’s daughter to ensure that no one got away with a simple wounding.”
2. “If” Is the Biggest Word
Philip of Macedon once sent a message to the Spartans saying “If I invade Sparta you will be destroyed, never to rise again.”
The Spartans replied with one word, “If.”
Philip never invaded.
1. Stalin, You Try Too Hard
Urban legend, but here goes: Josip Broz Tito had fallen out of favor with Stalin, for promulgating a lighter version of socialism—with companies being worker-controlled instead of directly state-controlled. He had sent assassins to take Tito out, but all failed and were caught, so after several assassins, Tito wrote a letter to Stalin:
“Stop sending assassins to Belgrade, or I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t need another. JBT.”