11 Bad-Ass Ancient Warriors Who Will Inspire Greatness.
Some days you aren't feeling like you are up for the challenge in front of you.
You are tired and sore, exhausted, beaten down, and all done. It's just not your day.
You are feeling like it's time to move on. And try something else. Admit defeat and back down.
But that's just your fear talking. In truth, you are much more powerful than you think you are.
Some people just don’t know when it’s time to give up. And for some, it’s never time to give up. Warriors have a tendency to live life on their own terms.
Here are a few of those type of people to inspire you to take that step towards your greatness:
Tlahuicole was a warrior who lived pre-sixteenth century. Held captive by the Aztecs, he integrated himself in with the Aztecs and became part of their clan. Nobody knows why he stayed. Most likely, it was for the women. Isn’t that why most warriors get sidetracked? Tlahuicole was promoted to commander of the Army. A job that he was really good at. It is said that he was so large, other soldiers couldn’t even lift Tlahuicole’s weapons because they were too heavy.
When the Aztecs went to war with the people of Tlahuicole’s tribe, the Tlaxcala, the young warrior realized he could not fight for the Aztec’s he had been living among nor could he go back to his people the Tlaxcala and fight against the Aztecs. It was a lose-lose situation for Tlahuicole. And so, he asked to be given a warrior’s death. He would fight as a gladiator to his death.
Only, it wasn’t that easy. Warrior after warrior came to fight Tlahuicole, and although he was ready to accept his fate, he wasn’t ready to just lay down and be killed. He fought back. He ended up killing eight Eagle Warriors and wounding twenty other warriors before he fell to his death. After he died, his heart was cut out by a high priest as a sacrifice to the gods.
Galvarino was a Mapuche warrior who lived in the 1500’s. During the Battle of Lagunillas, Galvarino was captured along with 100 of his fellow warriors. They were tortured and most of them lost a hand and a nose. Galvarino was lucky. He just lost both hands and was able to keep his nose. Governor Mendoza was in charge of the punishments and the release of Galvarino and his men.
For Mendoza, blood had been spilled and he had been victorious. For Galvarino, he wasn’t going to be so easily defeated. He returned home with his men. He paid little to no attention to the fact that he was missing two very important parts of himself. He didn’t worry about his hands at all. Instead, he figured out a way to tether knives to the stumps at the ends of his arms and went to battle that way. His men and the people of Mapuche weren’t sure if Galvarino would be able to fight with the contraption that he made, but he cooly told them in his gruff, beastly tone that we all assume ancient warriors had that if his hands didn’t work, he would just tear them apart with his teeth.
Then came the Battle of Millarapue. The second battle between Galvarino and Mendoza. And it was a great battle. Galvarino struck down Mendoza’s second in command with his makeshift knife hands. He was pretty proud of himself. So proud he almost patted himself on the back...but then he thought better of it. The battle continued on. Galvarino fought off man after man. Finally, Mendoza broke through Galvarino’s line. The battle lasted for over an hour before Mendoza was victorious. He killed thousands of Galvarino’s men, but Galvarino stood tall. Until Mendoza threw him to the dogs-- literally.
Spartacus was a Thracian soldier. He fought for the Roman army early on in his life. During a moment of clarity, he decided not to die fighting against the Germans, but instead to walk away from the army. The Romans weren’t too pleased with Spartacus for abandoning them in their time of need so he was captured and sold into slavery.
Luckily for Spartacus, he was well built and had an innate ability to fight. He was bought from the slave traders and trained as a gladiator. Spartacus was so large, he was considered a heavyweight gladiator (if that was a thing back then). He was trained to fight while carrying a large shield and a long straight blade sword that was at least 18 inches long.
After Spartacus was fully trained in his gladiatorial field, he decided it was time to move on. Contrary to popular movie beliefs, Spartacus never actually fought in the arena. He decided to escape instead. But he couldn’t just up and walk out of the stadium after a win. So instead, he picked 70 of the meanest, badass gladiators around and planned an escape. On top of being an amazing fighter, it turned out that Spartacus was a pretty good strategist too. He and the 70 swept through the empire killing over two dozen Roman guards and rescuing Spartacus’ and the others wives.
After Spartacus and his friends escaped, they pillaged their way through Rome ransacking town after town and recruiting peasants to join forces with them. Spartacus and the others trained the common folk to be fighters. Every time the Romans came for them, they would win. Sure, they lost a life or two, but Spartacus kept on keeping on. For three years to be exact. Legion after legion attacked and Spartacus and the army he had formed fought successfully and either killed them or turned them around. That is until Marcus Lycineus Crassus showed up with his eight legions.
Spartacus and his men tried to fight their way through Crassus’ line. After all the fighting they had done, Spartacus and his guys pretty much thought they were invincible. They were wrong. Crassus and his legions of men were too strong for Spartacus and his trained peasants. On a cloudy day in 71 B.C near the village of Quaglietta, Spartacus was said to be killed in battle (his body was never found) and his band of 6600 were crucified on the side of the road and left there.
4. Miyamoto Musashi
Born in the year of the monkey (1584), Miyamoto was a samurai wizard. He started teaching himself the art of the sword when he was very young. By the time he was 13, Miyamoto was traveling around the country challenging grown men to a dual, but it’s not much of a shock since Miyamoto’s father was a martial artist and a swordsman himself.
There is some conflict to whether Miyamoto learned the sword from his father before the age of seven (that’s when his dad died) or from his uncle after the age of 7 (where he went to live after his dad died). But there is no conflict about how often Miyomoto bathed. He didn’t. He said he didn’t want to be taken by surprised and attacked while he bathed so he just opted out of it. Between the lack of bathing and the childhood eczema, it’s probably safe to say that Miyomoto was only sleeping with his sword at night. But that didn’t matter because his sword never let him down.
Miyomoto won over 60 duels in his lifetime and never suffered a loss. He was so good at the sword that when he got older, he wrote a book about sword handling to teach others his masterful secrets. He gave the book to his brother right before he died in 1645. He died with his cane in one hand and his sword in the other.
5. Prince Rupert of the Rhine
Prince Rupert was born in Prague in 1635 to parents who were less than awesome. His father was a member of the Holy Roman Empire and his mother only showed affection to her monkeys and her dogs. The children were taken care of by the hired help. When Prince Rupert was a baby, his parents fled Prague to escape King Ferdinand’s advances and baby Rupert was almost left behind in their rush to collect their valuables. Only at the last minute, did a court member grab the baby and shove him into the carriage as his family pulled out.
That was the amount of attention Prince Rupert grew up with. So when he moved to England as a child and was being raised by governors (fancy nannies), Rupert, at times rebelled against his royal upbringing and acted a fool earning himself the nickname “Rupert the Devil.” But, if you can speak five languages by the time you are three, there is probably some wiggle room on poor behavior even in a royal family.
Rupert grew up and continued to do well academically. When he was 14, he fought in his first war and by 1635 he was the military bodyguard to Prince Frederick. He continued to fight in all wars including the Eighty Years War. By the time he was 18, Rupert was 6’4 and had gained a reputation for being a fearless warrior. Some even thought he had supernatural powers, but he was just really good at killing people.
Prince Rupert fought in more than 5 wars (hundreds of battles) in Europe. When he wasn’t decapitating the enemy, he was painting pieces of art that famously became known as Head of Titian and The Standard Bearer. Maybe there was some truth to the rumors of Rupert's superpowers because although he was taken prisoner a time or two, he never die in battle. He lived a long prosperous life and died of natural causes when he was a mere 63 years old.
Marcus Calpurnius Flamma was a Roman soldier and hero who fought in the First Punic War. Flamma led 300 volunteer soldiers into Carthage on a rescue mission. A mission that ended with his men dead in a pile of blood and guts. He was at the bottom of the pile- injured.
It’s speculated that after Flamma (“the flame”) was pulled from under the bodies of his dead, he was then taken prisoner and sent to gladiator school. Turns out, he loved being famous. Even if he was being forced to fight. He loved hearing the crowd chant his name, “Flamma, Flamma, Flamma.” Unlike Spartacus, Flamma had no desire to leave, let alone start his own army and ravage Rome. Instead, after he won his freedom for the first time, he thought it’d be cool to stay on as a slave and fight for his freedom one more time (you know, just to see if he could do it twice). Even that wasn’t enough proof of his badassery to himself. He ended up winning his freedom (and a wooden baton called a rudius) 4 times, and every single time, he declined it in exchange for just one more fight.
Flamma was killed in his 22nd arena fight. He was 30.
7. Marcus Cassius Scaeva
Marcus Cassius Scaeva basically appeared out of thin air and into the Roman Army. It probably wasn’t magic like it seems, but his history didn’t matter to historians until after he became part of the EDGY Empire (same kind of EDGY, different Empire) and started kicking ass and taking names. Marcus Cassius fought for Julius Caesar. If it wasn’t for him and men like him, Caesar would have never been the military success he was.
Caesar decided to take Marcus Cassius and his men to Britain to see if there were any battles that needed winning on that side of the pond. It looked like just another cloudy British day with not much to write home about so Caesar and the men left Marcus Cassius to stand guard at the ship. Alone.
He didn’t stand there for long before he was attacked by British soldiers. Marcus Cassius fought as hard as he could, catching arrows in his shield and killing many Brits. Marcus Cassius couldn’t fight them all off, even though he had trained with some of the times finest gladiators, there were just too many of them. When the battle was finally over, a tattered and broken Marcus Cassius made his way to Caesar’s camp and fell to Caesar’s feet to ask for forgiveness. He apologized for losing his armor (and almost his life).
Luckily Caesar had more important things to laugh about. So he gave Marcus Cassius a promotion to Centurion and they were off to fight another war. The Roman Civil War to be exact. Marcus Cassius had a little less than 500 men under his command. When they saw 6000 Pompeian soldiers heading their way, Marcus Cassius’ men were ready to head home to their wives and children, but Marcus Cassius was a warrior and gave his men a quick pep talk and told them that today was as good a day to die as any. And so they fought.
It is said in that battle, Marcus Cassius killed so many men his sword became blunt and dull. That’s a lot of meat slicing. When his sword wasn’t effective anymore, he just started picking up large rocks and bashing people’s skulls in. He continued to fight even after his armor was peppered with arrows and his shield had no room for even one more arrow in it. Then it happened. An arrow hit him in the face. In the eye to be exact. Anybody else would have called it a day, but not Marcus Cassius, he let out a war cry and pulled the arrow out of his eye socket and continued fighting.
After about an hour, Marcus Cassius got weak from all the blood loss and fell to his knees. The opposing legion called a timeout from the fighting to check on Marcus Cassius and see if he was finally ready to surrender. When they got within arms reach, Marcus Cassius used his worn down sword and killed them both. After that battle, which was a complete success for Marcus Cassius, Caesar went on to defeat Pompey and awarded Marcus Cassius a very large purse.
Marcus Cassius went on to fight numerous battles even after Caesar’s death. There is no record of Marcus Cassius’ death, but in my mind, he retired from battle and died an old man on his porch reading the Sunday paper with the one eye he had left.
8. Xiahou Dun
Xiahou Dun was a military general in the Han Dynasty. He was given the nickname “Blind Xiahou” after a battle in which he was also shot in the eye with an arrow. Like Marcus Cassius, he pulled the arrow out of his eye socket. Unlike Marcus Cassius, the arrow was holding his eyeball like a Sunday afternoon barbecued skewer. And like a skewer, Xiahou Dun opened his mouth and ate it (yes, he ate his own eyeball). Nobody had ever seen anything so disturbing and from that moment on people feared the “the one-eyed warrior.”
But they should have known something was off about Xiahou Dun prior to his little eye eating incident. When he was 13, he killed a man just for insulting his teacher. So clearly, he was a little off from a young age, but he was a great warrior and in a time of war, isn’t that all that matters?
In 193, Xiahou Dun was tricked into thinking the opposing forces were surrendering. Instead, they took Xiahou Dun hostage in his own camp. Xiahou Dun’s second in command wasn’t having it and came to the rescue. He forced his way into the camp with no regard for the safety of Xiahou Dun. He told the captors he was coming for them and if Xiahou Dun died in the crossfire, so be it. Xiahou Dun survived and his captors were killed.
Xiahou Dun fought battle after battle under Cao Cao. He helped him conquer over and over again. In 219, when Cao Cao was on a journey back from Mobei, he treated Xiahou Dun like a close aide by letting Xiahou Dun ride in the same carriage. They weren’t exactly friends, but Cao Cao thought he could learn a thing or two from Xiahou Dun. And he did. Not only was Xiahou Dun a military prodigy, he was also a pretty good strategist. He told Cao Cao that he should try to take the throne from Emperor Xian. Xiahou Dun told him the Han Dynasty was coming to an end and he needed the people on his side. They had been fighting together for the better part of 20 years so Cao Cao listened to Xiahou Dun and snagged Emperor Xian’s throne.
Cao Cao died a year after defeating Emperor Xian. Xiahou Dun wasn’t far behind. They had a good run. Xiahou Dun died just a few short months after his friend.
Arminius was born around 18 B.C. He was the son of a German Cheruscan chief named Segimerus. Sometimes referred to as Hermann (man of war in German), Arminius was a child hostage. In 1 A.D., Arminius was forced to join the Roman Army as a hostage. He was trained in Roman military tactics and obtained Roman citizenship. The military training would later bite the Romans in the rear.
The battle that Arminius is most widely known for is the Battle of Teutoburg Forest where the 25-year-old Arminius brought to Varus (his enemy) a fake report of rebellion in northern Germany. He persuaded Varus to divert the three legions under his command from their original route to where Arminius was to fend off the made-up rebellion. Varus walked right into Arminius’ trap. And having been a Roman Soldier for as long as he was, Arminius was well versed in the way of Roman battle and had taught it to his men.
Arminius and his men ambushed Varus and his men and annihilated them to the tune of 20,000 dead men. When Varus realized that he had been outsmarted and was heading down the road of defeat, he did what any nobleman would do. He fell squarely on his sword taking his own life so nobody else could. Arminius's success in destroying three entire legions and driving the Romans out of Germany was one of the most devastating defeats for Rome and they weren’t going to just take it lying down.
Rome decided to retaliate. So there was more battle and Arminius had a few more victories. He even married, but before he could get his happily ever after, his wife was captured and his son was forced to grow up in Roman custody. Arminius was eventually killed by rival Germanic chiefs, but his short-lived battle prowess lives on.
10. Lu Bu
Lu Bu was another warrior from the Han Dynasty Era. His nickname was “The Invincible Warrior.” He was one of the most feared warriors in the world during his time. Unlike some of the other great warriors of the time, Lu Bu was a man of many talents. He was an excellent archer, his horsemanship left very little to be desired and he could fight hand-to-hand with the best of them.
He wasn’t the most loyal of men though. He abandoned his family roots and joined Dong Zhou after Zhou offered him the fastest horse in the land. It seems great warriors can be bought after all. When things started going south for Lu Bu and Dong Zhou, Lu Bu did what any temperamental warrior would do. He killed Dong Zhou and slipped away. He wandered around central and northern China hanging out (and hiding) with other local warlords. After a while, he decided he needed to defeat someone. He picked Cao Cao (you remember Xiahou Dun’s buddy, right?). That defeat only lasted 2 years before he was run off. He later joined Yuan Shu. Lu Bu was not a very loyal fella. He just kind of threw his loyalties wherever the wind blew. On his last great allegiance to Yuan Shu, he and his comrades tried to attack Cao Cao again, but they were defeated. Lu Bu was captured and executed at Cao Cao’s command.
Not all warriors wear pants. Actually, this one may have, but Khutulun was a Mongolian princess. She was the cousin to Kublai Khan (yep, the famous and feared Emperor). Most parents say they don’t have a favorite child, but Khutulun was definitely the pick of the litter for her father, Kaidu. He took her with him everywhere, even on military campaigns. Not only because she was his favorite, but also because she was a beast (in a good warrior-lady-like way).
She was such a skilled warrior, she even got accolades from the likes of Marco Polo. He basically said she was the prettiest badass he had ever laid eyes on or more accurately that she was a superior warrior, horsewoman, and wrestler. Not too shabby for a girl from Mongolia in the 1200’s.
Khutulun could ride into enemy territory and pluck a captive up onto her horse as quickly as plucking a feather from a chicken. And when her suitors came about asking for her hand in marriage, Khutulun’s father let her deal with them. She told them that whoever could beat her in a wrestling match would be the lucky man. However, if they couldn’t beat her, they owed her some horses. Khutulun had a ton of suitors. None of which could be her wrestling prowess. She kept winning and kept collecting horses until she had a herd of over 10,000. Not only is that a lot of horses, but that’s a lot of wrestling matches. And a lot of suitors.
When Khutulun’s father was on his deathbed, he tried to name her as his successor. After all, he had gone to her for all his military and political advice over the years, but the patriarchs of the family were not going to allow a woman to rule anything and so her father was shot down (not literally) and Khutulun didn’t get the throne.
Khutulun never married. She guarded her father’s tomb after his death for the next five years until she died.
Greatness is a choice.
It is a possibility. An opportunity. A decision that you get to make -- by your actions and attitudes right now.
So regardless of what you have chosen in the past. Remember that today you get the chance to make that choice. Right now.
This moment. So go be awesome.