An eye for an eye may make the whole world blind—but for these vengeful warriors, that was a price their betrayers had to pay. From brutal Kings and Queens to vicious Samurai and Wild West gun-slingers, you do not want to mess with these bloodthirsty warriors. It’s payback time: Here are history’s most incredible acts of revenge.
Historical Revenge Facts
1. Too Close for Comfort
When Genghis Khan was just a small child, his father died and the tribe abandoned his family, driving them into total poverty on the barren Mongolian steppe. But that was just the beginning of his nightmare. His half-brother Begter then began to assert his power as the eldest child, trying to take Genghis’ mother Hoelun as his wife. This didn’t sit well with the young, ruthless Genghis, and he exacted a cold-hearted revenge.
2. The Hunter Becomes the Hunted
As Begter plotted about how to gain power and flex his muscles as the oldest boy in the Khan family, Genghis and his other brother were busy hatching a brutal plan. When young Genghis was just 10 years old, he and his brother took Begter on a hunting excursion. Little did Begter know, he was the prey. Genghis killed him in cold blood.
3. The Mouths of Babes
In 1199, a lone arrow killed King Richard. Just before dying, Richard the Lionheart met his murderer—and saw he was just a boy. When the King asked why he did it, that mere boy spat out a disturbing reply. He revealed that Richard had killed his father and brothers, and he was seeking his revenge. Though he faced certain execution, Richard’s final words to him were an act of mercy: “Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day.” The boy thought he was miraculously saved, but it turns out he had only delayed a much darker fate.
4. Dude Needs a Chill Pill
Not only did Richard forgive his assailant, he actually sent the young boy away with 100 shillings. Tragically, Richard’s royal pardon may have been immediately betrayed. One source reports that a vicious captain named Mercadier went against the King’s wishes. Mercadier was furious at the young child, flaying the boy alive and hanging him in revenge.
5. Revenge Is Best Served Bloody
Although ronin were often outcasts in feudal Japanese society, one group of ronin committed a feat so great and so loyal, it cemented their place in the legends of the samurai. The 47 ronin were a rag-tag group of hard-hearted men who sought revenge after the death of their master: a daimyo named Naganori Asano. When a cruel official named Yoshinka Kira forced Asano to commit seppuku (suicide), the ronin responded by carrying out a revenge so bloody, it has lived on in Japanese history ever since.
6. Plot Twist
Asano’s band of now-bereft samurai waited and plotted for over a year before exacting their brutal revenge and ending Yoshinaka’s life. But that’s not even the bloodiest part. After the ronin dispatched their enemy, they performed seppuku for themselves. They ended their own lives in the name of their honor and that of their dead master. Even though 47 men died that day, they were quickly immortalized in Japanese history.
7. Boy, Bye
Wu Zetian was the only female empress of China for a reason: No one wanted to cross her. When one of Wu’s ministers told her to live a more respectable life as a widow rather than an empress, her response was so disturbing that it’s impossible to forget. She promptly sentenced him to exile in the “swampy, disease-ridden Southland” where one can imagine that the minister didn’t have a happy ending.
8. And Now the Rains Weep O’er Montfort’s Halls
Edward Longshanks has gone down in history as one of England’s most vicious kings, but nothing compares to his vengeance against his rival (and awkwardly, brother-in-law) Simon de Montfort. After years of fighting, Edward’s time for revenge against Montfort came when they fought at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Edward’s royal forces outnumbered Montfort’s barons, but this time, Edward had taken the high ground in the middle of a thunderstorm. This changed everything.
9. Too Far, Man
Despite Montfort’s best efforts, the barons and their army were completely defeated. In an example of his ruthlessness as king, Edward ignored the tradition of prisoners and ransoms. Instead, he preferred to wipe out his enemies on the battlefield, even if they were willing to surrender. If that isn’t ice cold, I don’t know what is—but it gets so much worse.
10. Real Life Game of Thrones
Edward had his men kill Montfort’s son as Montfort watched. Then they put Montfort to the sword. In a final act of spite and vengeance, Edward ordered that Montfort’s body be mutilated; his head, hands, feet, and private parts were all removed from his body. The scene was called “an episode of noble bloodletting unprecedented since the Conquest [of William the Conqueror].”
11. Siri, Play “Womanizer” by Britney
The Persian ruler Xerxes was a notorious womanizer. He had many wives, and yet he still couldn’t keep it in his pants—he even had an affair with his own niece. This is horrifying enough, but things took a much darker turn when his wife heard about this infidelity. She couldn’t punish her husband—he was, after all, the King of Kings—yet she still devised a plan to enact her chilling revenge.
12. Um, Maybe Make That “Crazy” by Britney
When Xerxes’s wife heard her husband was Netflix and chilling with his niece affair, she ordered the girl’s mother to be brutally mutilated in revenge (we’ll spare you the gruesome details). Then, when Xerxes’s brother (whose wife had just been slain by Xerxes’ wife) understandably went on the warpath, Xerxes killed said brother, his nephews, and every man who rallied to their cause.
13. Two Revenges for the Price of One
In the summer of 465 BC, the aging Xerxes had officially ticked off too many people. His own bodyguard Artabanus and a eunuch named Aspamitres teamed up to take Xerxes down. While they were at it, they also offed Xerxes’ son and heir, Darius. The rest of Xerxes’s family was at risk of being completely overthrown until Xerxes’s second son, Artaxerxes, took power and avenged his father’s death.
14. Taking Revenge
Oliver Cromwell was an ardent Protestant, and his religious fervor made him unspeakably cruel during his campaign in Catholic Ireland. When he encountered violence against Protestants, he got his brutal revenge by horrifically slaughtering people in the Catholic town of Drogheda. The town had little to do with the conflict, but Cromwell still killed more than 3,500 innocent people there, just because they were Catholic.
15. Lock Them Up!
When King Philip IV of France discovered his daughters-in-law having, um, intimate relations with knights, he decided to do something horrific to ensure it would never happen again. Philip allegedly caught two of the girls in the act and locked all three of them up in royal prisons. Philip was so angry that the third one was thrown in jail just for knowing about the dalliances of the other two. But that’s just the beginning of Philip’s rage.
16. When Jail Looks Good, You Know You’re in Trouble
Being in a musty jail cell looks like heaven compared to the horrific fate that awaited the women’s lovers. Philip had them tortured, flayed, and then put to death. The violence was so extraordinary that Philip’s actions went down in history. They came to be known as the “Tour de Nesle Affair.” Note to self: never cross the king!
17. Family Feud, 1888 Edition
American families the Hatfields (mostly of West Virginia) and the McCoys (mostly of Kentucky) were in a long, bloody feud that lasted for decades. It all started with the violent death of Asa McCoy, for which the McCoys blamed one of the Hatfields. Things escalated and soon enough, both sides were under the impression that they were getting revenge on the other for some previous atrocity. Dozens of people died, and that’s just the beginning of the carnage.
18. Should’ve Made a Resolution to Quit Fighting
The feud peaked on a chilling night now known as the “1888 New Years Night Massacre.” On that night, several members of the Hatfield clan surrounded the cabin of Randolph McCoy, the McCoy’s leader. The Hatfields set the cabin on fire, killing McCoy’s two children and severely injuring his wife. The McCoys quickly retaliated with the now-legendary battle of Grapevine Creek, where the McCoys captured and killed multiple Hatfields. It took until 1901 for the dust to clear and all the legal trials to end. Yikes.
19. Hell Hath No Fury
Around 900 CE, in what is now Eastern Europe, a woman named Olga married Igor, the future king of Kievan Rus (today Kiev), and had a son, Svyatoslav. Seems great, right? Wrong: King Igor was assassinated by a rival tribe, the Drevlians, while Svyatoslav was still a child. The assassins wanted to take over the region, and tried to force Olga to marry their king, Mal. But that wasn’t quite what Olga had in mind…
20. Fury, Thy Name is Olga
She wanted to rule the kingdom herself until her son was old enough to take the throne. Oh, and there was no way she was going to let the people who assassinated her husband tell her what’s what. When the Drevlians sent 20 men to try and persuade her, she had them buried alive. As the dirty rained down on their heads, Olga coolly asked her enemies “if the honor was to their taste.”
21. Too Hot Tub
With this batch of the Drevlians dispatched, Olga moved right along, determined to wipe out everyone involved in her husband’s death. She asked the Drevlians to send more men to Kiev to prove that they were serious about the whole marriage thing. Thinking Olga was going to be their new Queen, the Drevlians were happy to oblige.
Olga repaid the favor by locking the new arrivals in a bathhouse and setting it on fire.
22. Burn Baby Burn
Olga was like the MacGyver of misery. You could give her a toothpick and a rabbit and she’d somehow invent the plot of Saw 14—so you can only imagine what she did when she found her and her army captured in enemy territory, with only three birds to her name. Olga’s army attached pieces of sulfur to the birds and then lit the rocks on fire. When the birds flew to their nests, the smoking sulfur set hundreds of Drevlian buildings and trees ablaze. In the end, the entire city burned to the ground.
23. Bad Bread
After WWII ended, some Jewish survivors of the war formed a group called Nokmim, Hebrew for “avengers”—and they did just that, tracking down surviving Nazi soldiers and killing them as revenge for the horrors of the Holocaust. In 1946, the Nokmim infiltrated Stalag 13, a detention centre in Nuremburg for Nazi prisoners of war. All of the bread for the centre, the Nokmim learned, was supplied by a single bakery. With this knowledge, the Nokmim put their dark plan into motion. A member of their group named Arye Distel got a job working for the bakery.
24. A Ringing Endorsement for the Atkins Diet
Over the course of several days, Arye smuggled in bottles labeled “medication” (which was really arsenic) and hid them under the floorboards of the bakery. One Saturday, three other Nokmim members snuck into the bakery during shift change and the four avengers painted nearly 3000 loaves of bread with the poison. The staff served the bread to the prisoners the following day and over 2000 of them fell ill.
25. Alec Unchained
Alec Turner, the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s movie Django Unchained, was born a slave in Virginia in 1845. Unlike the majority of people living in slavery at that time, Alec learned how to read and write under the secret tutelage of the plantation owner’s granddaughter. Once these lessons were discovered, however, Alec was brutally whipped as punishment. It would take a few years, but Alec would get this revenge.
26. Vengeance is His
During the American Civil War, Alec escaped from his cruel masters, joined the Union Army, and led a platoon of soldiers back to the plantation. Once there, he strode into the room where the evil overseer sat. This was the man that had made Alec’s life a living hell, and Alec didn’t waste this precious opportunity for vengeance. He personally shot and killed his enemy.
27. Mommy Issues
Toregene Khatun was one of Genghis Khan’s daughters-in-law, and she had almost as brilliant and brutal a reputation as her father-in-law Genghis. She ruled as Great Khatun and regent of the Mongol Empire for five years, and helped her son Guyuk become Khan in 1246. Guyuk, however, did not repay back his mother in kind…
28. A Competent Woman? She Must be a Witch!
When Guyuk became Khan, his brother Koden accused one of Toregene’s closest advisors, Fatima, of using witchcraft on him. Koden then promptly died. Grieving his brother and pretty convinced that Fatima was definitely a witch, Guyuk demanded that dear old mom deliver Fatima to face execution for her crimes. Toregene, not happy about the situation, claimed she would end her own life rather than hand over her beloved advisor.
29. Norman Bates, Mongol Edition
So what was Guyuk Khan to do? Well, he seized his mom’s friend Fatima anyway, killing her by sewing up her mouth and other orifices and then dumping her into water. He then proceeded to strip the household of his mother’s supporters. Toregene died a few months later under mysterious, and obviously very suspicious, circumstances. It’s hard out there for a Mongol.
30. Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer
During WWII, a young Romanian man named Eliahu Itzkovitz watched in horror as a Nazi soldier killed his entire family, leaving him as the only survivor. All he remembered of this soldier was a last name: Stănescu. That was good enough for Itzkovitz. He tracked Stănescu down to the French Foreign Legion, but instead of just killing Stănescu outright, Itzkovitz did something much more devious.
31. Paging Quentin Tarantino
Itzkovich joined the French Foreign Legion himself, went through the Legion’s intense training, and through many careful deceptions ended up deployed in the same battalion as Stănescu. Slowly, he befriended the man who killed his family, until one day the two men were patrolling together in Băc Ninh. Itzkovitz revealed himself, confronted Stănescu, and killed him.
32. Count of Monte Cristo, IRL
For ages, scholars have suspected that Pierre Picaud, a French shoemaker who lived in the 19th century, is the real-life inspiration for the classic adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo, written by Alexander Dumas. Here’s the story: Picaud awoke the green-eyed monster in three of his friends when he became engaged to a rich woman. These jealous friends then reported Picaud to the authorities by falsely accusing him of being an English spy. Despite Picaud’s protestations, he was thrown in jail.
33. Frenemies, Beware
While he was stuck in prison, Picaud befriended a wealthy fellow inmate, who left Picaud his fortune. After Picaud’s release, he spent the next decade using his inheritance to meticulously plot against his three frenemies. What was Picaud’s big plot, you ask? I’ll give you three gue—murder, yeah it was murder. Picaud killed them all.
34. Be Ruthless
Queen Olympias was as cruel as she was beautiful. After she struck down and imprisoned a rival queen, she infamously sent the girl three items: a cup, a rope, and a sword—and then she asked a truly chilling question. The cup was filled with poison, the rope was a noose, and the sword had been sharpened to a deadly point. All that Olympias wanted to know was: how did the girl wish to die? According to historians, Adea Eurydice chose to hang herself, though she cursed Olympias to the very end of her life.
35. Dangerous Gloves
Conan II, the Duke of Brittany in the early 11th century, did not get along with William of Normandy. Conan refused to support William’s plan to invade England in 1066, and in fact took advantage of William’s absence during the invasion to try to take control of William’s lands himself. William succeeded in his invasion, which meant that Conan had seriously upset the newly minted King of England. William took his revenge by having Conan assassinated, reportedly with poisoned riding gloves.
36. Julius and the Pirates
Julius Caesar was captured by Sicilian pirates in 75 BCE while he was on the Aegean Sea. The pirates demanded a ransom of 20 talents of silver for Caesar’s return (around $600,000 today), but Caesar indignantly demanded that they ask for even more money. They did so, increasing their demand to 50 talents. While Caesar’s allies got to work coughing up the dough, Caesar chummed around with his captors…but he had a plan up his sleeve.
37. He Came, He Saw, He Definitely Conquered
Even as Caesar charmed many of the pirates, playing games with them, and generally demanding that they treat him as one of their own, he also promised them that he would not forget the insult of being captured. Caesar kept his word: Once the ransom was paid and Caesar returned to Rome, he made a point of hunting down the pirates, capturing them, reclaiming the 50 talents of silver, and then having his soldiers slit their throats.
38. Hugh Glass: The Real Life Revenant
Hugh Glass was an American frontiersman who lived and worked in the late 18th and early 19th century. While on a group expedition, Glass came between a mama grizzly and her two cubs. That situation went about as well as you’d expect. Mama bear absolutely wrecked poor Hugh Glass. Given his intense injuries, Glass asked that two men from the company stay behind with him to bury his body after he died. These two men, John S. Fitzgerald and a man known as “Bridger,” stayed back—but not for long. They quickly abandoned the terribly wounded Glass and returned to the group, lying that Glass had died.
Glass, however, did not give up so easily.
39. Surprise, I Bet You Thought You’d Seen the Last of Me
Glass regained consciousness and realized that he had been abandoned by his fellow frontiersmen. Not only that, they’d left him without any weapons, tools, or even food. Heck, they even stole his precious rifle. Glass gritted his teeth, set his own broken leg, and crawled the 200 miles to the nearest fort. He then tracked down the two men who abandoned him. Glass forgave Bridger, who had been only 17 at the time, but when he found Fitzgerald he exposed him publicly—and demanded that Fitzgerald return his rifle.
40. Vlad the Impaler
Pretty much every story about Vlad the Impaler is a little bit revenge-y, but this one is especially brutal. When Turkish rulers came to visit, they refused to remove their turbans in Vlad’s presence, as it was against their culture. For most people, this probably wouldn’t be a situation that required revenge. But for the man who was the inspiration for Dracula, it certainly was. Vlad took his revenge on the Turkish visitors by having their turbans nailed to their heads.
41. Dread Pirate Jeanne
After the King of France beheaded Jeanne de Clisson‘s beloved husband in 1343, the heartbroken widow sprang into action. She swore that she would have her revenge and so she reached out to the King of England for assistance. The English King, along with some Breton sympathizers closer to home, paid for Jeanne to outfit three warships, which she painted black. Apparently not one for subtlety, Jeanne named the flagship My Revenge.
42. The Lioness of Brittany
Jeanne then proceeded to spend year terrorizing the English channel, hunting down French ships. When she caught one, she would kill nearly all the sailors—but she would always save one or two, so that they could return to the French King and tell him what Jeanne had done. She definitely earned her nickname: “The Lioness of Brittany.”
43. Lost the Breakup by a Hair
Fair warning, this story isn’t about a warrior, but it just might be the most vicious act of revenge on this entire list. Famously dramatic poet Lord Byron has a well-earned reputation as a heartbreaker, but few things rival his vengeful response to an ex-girlfriend. After his ex Caroline Lamb stole a portrait of Byron, she said she’d only return it if Byron sent her a lock of his hair. Byron agreed, but when the time came, Byron actually sent over a lock of his new girlfriend’s hair. I want to be mad, but all I feel is respect.
44. Pink Sari Warriors
In India, where assault is a major problem and women’s rights are poorly protected, some women have decided to take justice into their own hands. In the Uttar Pradesh province in Northern India, the Gulabi Gang of women take revenge on men who have been accused of mistreating women. And like any great avenger, the Gulabi Gang has an amazing costume: bright pink saris and bamboo staffs.
45. Off with their Heads
If you were a poor French person in the 1700s, chances are that your life sucked. The country was bordering on bankruptcy, and many of the poor starved to death, even as King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette lived in the lap of luxury. The whole country was a pressure cooker of resentment and anger. When the French Revolution erupted, the commoners got their revenge. The king and queen, along with several noblemen, perished beneath the blade of the guillotine.
46. Young, Scrappy, and…Vengeful?
Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton weren’t exactly best buddies, but their relationship took a fatal turn in 1804. Hamilton had been instrumental in helping Thomas Jefferson win the presidency over Burr; later on, Burr ran for governor of New York, but found that once again, Hamilton was working against him. Enough was enough: Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel and shot him. The wound was fatal, which sucks for Hamilton but worked out really well for Lin Manuel Miranda.
47. Roman Revenge
The Roman empire may not have been known for their diplomacy, but back in 60 CE they pulled a particularly nasty stunt. Boudicca, queen of the Iceni tribe in what is now Britain, agreed to cooperate with Roman Emperor Nero, agreeing to share her land to avoid bloodshed. Nero broke his word and instead made the area a slave province—and that’s not the worst part.
What’s more, Roman soldiers flogged Boudicca and assaulted her two daughters. Infuriated, Boudicca took her revenge. She raised an army, and burned the Romans’ cities—including Colchester, which at the time was the Roman capital of Britain, and killed 80,000 Roman soldiers. In a final “screw you” to her enemies, Boudicca poisoned herself on the battlefield to avoid being captured.
49. Watch the Queen Conquer
Queen Victoria saw her miserable childhood as one man’s fault: John Conroy. When she took the throne, she got her revenge. There were years at a time where her mother had pressured her to put him in a position of power, and every time, Victoria refused—even though Conroy may have been her mother’s lover. Finally, when Victoria ascended to the throne, she declared that he should be “banned from her presence.”
50. Not So OK Corral
After the infamous shootout at the OK Corral, the Cochise County Cowboys attacked Wyatt Earp’s brothers. One was killed and one was maimed. Then, as the Earps were transporting their brother’s body by train, the Cowboys ambushed them once again—but they forgot who they were dealing with. One of the cowboys, Frank Stilwell, was killed. When doctors examined his body, one said that Stilwell was “the worst shot up man I ever saw.”
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