9 stories of commoners who have achieved power
In most cases, only representatives of aristocratic dynasties had a chance to reach any political heights, sometimes even becoming heads of entire states. However, sometimes, although very rarely, ordinary people who were not at all blue-blooded had the opportunity to rise and gain power and might.
9. Servius Tullius, King of Rome
We know little about the childhood and adolescence of Servius Tullius reliably. Some sources report that he was the son of a captive princess and sold into slavery during the siege of Cornicula. All the legends agree on one thing: the gods from childhood chose Servius the Roman king, because once when the boy was asleep, his head was lit up with divine light.
As he got older, he received the attention of Tanakvili, the wife of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, who was fond of fortune telling. Having predicted a great future for Servius, Tanakville married him to her daughter and began an intrigue against her husband to make Servius his successor.This caused irritation among the numerous claimants to the throne, because of which Tarquinius Priscus was rather quickly killed under mysterious circumstances.
The reign of Servius lasted about 43 years, during which he drew up the Etruscans and conducted the first complete census of Rome. The glory of this emperor has become truly legendary, and now it is difficult to say that Servius did in fact commit the acts attributed to him. He died about 535 BC; may have been killed by order of his daughter Tullia.
8. Liu Bang, Emperor of the Han Dynasty
The birth of Liu Bana, according to legend, was marked by the appearance of a mystical dragon
Liu Bang was born to a peasant family in Pei Province (now part of Jiangsu Province) about 256 BC. According to legend, his birth was marked by a great storm and the appearance of a mystical dragon. He also had 72 black moles on his thigh, and this number in China is considered happy.
Liu Bang was in public service in the province of Syshui, but most of the time he spent in restaurants for drinking and hunting for women. Legend has it that he never paid, but this did not upset the owners of the establishments, because the ghostly image of the dragon, always appearing with his departure, attracted a large number of visitors.Luck also accompanied him when a prominent judge arrived in the city and demanded generous gifts from local officials. Liu did not give anything, but wrote on his business card that he donated a very large sum. The official was so impressed with Liu's arrogance that he not only became angry, but even gave his daughter to him.
It is not known for what reasons, but after the death of the emperor, Liu took part in an uprising led by commander Xian Yu and very soon proved himself to be an outstanding leader. Xiang Yu appointed him ruler of the ancient Han kingdom in western China. This turned out to be a mistake that pushed Liu Bang into a struggle for power over all of China. In 202 BC, Xiang Yu committed suicide, and Liu Bang was proclaimed Emperor of the Middle Kingdom.
7. Maximinus Thracian, Emperor of Rome
Maximin was born in Thrace around 173 AD. We know little about his early life before joining the Roman legions. According to some modern sources, he was a shepherd. Maximin was called the "man-mountain": he was distinguished by his height of more than 2.5 meters and his relief muscles. Although, most likely, such a description is clearly exaggerated,This captive Thracian was quickly noticed by Emperor Septimius Severus - primarily because of his remarkable strength and dexterity in battle - and eventually became the commander of the army on the Rhine, where the soldiers declared him emperor after the assassination of the North.
Unfortunately, Maximin’s reign lasted only three years, most of which was spent in suppressing the invasions of various tribes on the border of the Danube and the Rhine. However, after three weeks, upon learning of the death of his son in a battle against the king Numidia, Gordian committed suicide. However, the Roman Senate did not agree to swear allegiance to Maximin, but instead took the opportunity to declare the new ruler of the empire Gordian III, the grandson of Gordian I.
Angered by such a betrayal, Maximin moved back to Italy, but met with decisive resistance in the north and, together with his son, was killed by the same army that had previously proclaimed him emperor.
6. Justinian, Justin and Theodora
Justinian with surroundings
Born in 483 AD, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian came from a Latin-speaking family of peasants of Illyrian origin and always spoke Greek with a terrible accent. Justinian's name, born Petrus Savvaty, took in honor of his uncle Justin, who became the head of the palace guard, going to Constantinople "with one change of clothes on his shoulders and a piece of bread in his pocket." When Emperor Anastasius died, leaving no heir, Justin, the commander of the most effective military force in the city, became his successor.
Justin made an excellent career and became an emperor, but he never received a formal education, and Justinian probably became the key adviser to his uncle and ultimately his successor. During the 38 years of his reign, Justinian carried out major government and legal reforms, and also participated in several successful campaigns that brought the empires back to North Africa and part of Italy.
No less remarkable was the story and the wife of Justinian Theodora. Her influence on her husband left a documented mark on history. Theodora, herself a former actress of plebeian origin, used her high position to fight for the rights of Roman women of all classes.Perhaps it was she who saved Justinian's throne during the “Nika” uprising, which began during the chariot races and swallowed up almost all of Rome. The revolt was soon crushed, and the reign of Justinian remained unshakable.
5. Ivaylo Lahana, King of Bulgaria
Tsar of Bulgaria Ivaylo was called "Lakhano" (gr. "Cabbage")
Ivaylo's date of birth is unknown. It is believed that he was born in northeastern Bulgaria, near Provadia. He was called “Lakhana” (“cabbage” in Greek) and “Brdokva” (which means “salad” in Bulgarian), because of illiteracy and peasant origin. Around 1277, Ivaylo raised the peasant army to counter the threat of the Mongol invasion of Bulgaria.
After several victories, the rumor about Ivaylo spread so much that the then Bulgarian Tsar Konstantin I Tikh and his army headed east to destroy the daring rebel. But the king's army was defeated, and Konstantin himself was killed in battle - according to some information, Ivaylo personally killed him in a duel. Having defeated both the Mongols and his personal enemy, Ivaylo married the widow of Constantine and was officially crowned in 1278. True, his reign was short: two years later he was killed by the Mongols.Nevertheless, Ivaylo is recognized as the leader of the most successful peasant uprising in medieval European history.
4. Zhu Yuanzhang, Emperor of China
Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty, was born around 1328 into a very poor peasant family from Haozhu (now Fenyan in Anhui province). At the age of 16 he was left an orphan and was forced to seek shelter in a monastery near Nanjing. Zhu was preparing to become a monk and learned to read and write, which would be very useful in his life. However, most likely, at that very time, Yuanzhang eked out a miserable existence, and from time to time he had to ask for food in nearby villages.
When Zhu turned 24, the monastery was destroyed by government forces suspecting monks in connection with the Red Armbands, a group of rebels who were under the influence of the most powerful secret society, the White Lotos. Fleeing from destruction, the young novice himself joined the Red Armbands, quickly showed himself to be a brave soldier, and soon began to command his own army. In 1356, supporters of Zhu, who changed his name to Zhu Yuanzhang, captured Nanjing, a city that later became the capital of the Ming dynasty.Five years later, his troops took the capital Yuan (now Beijing), allowing Zhu Yuanzhang to declare himself emperor in Nanking and establish the famous Ming dynasty.
3. Katharina Monsdotter, Queen of Sweden
Katharina Monsdotter was born on November 6, 1550, her father was a simple soldier. At the beginning of her life, she was supposedly helping her mother sell vegetables and nuts. Some stories very romantically tell about it, claiming that once the king was driving through the market, he saw Katharina and was so amazed by her beauty that he soon married him. In fact, she became the servant of the beloved musician of the king and, probably, it was there that Eric XIV met her.
Anyway, Eric fell unconsciously in love with her, and, after being a royal mistress for a short time, she was officially crowned in 1568. Unfortunately, her new husband was mentally unstable and lost all respect from the nobility and the whole nation. When he threw his brothers into prison because they did not appear at his wedding, a rebellion broke out in the country.
Eric was deposed from the throne, and the royal family was under house arrest for several years until the deposed king was poisoned after an unsuccessful attempt to regain power.Soon, Katharine was released, as there was no evidence of her involvement in her husband’s crimes. The common people loved her very much, and the new king Johan III presented one of the estates in Finland to the ex-Queen, where she lived until her death in 1612.
2. Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Cixi was born on November 29, 1835 in Beijing and became one of the most influential women in Chinese history, despite her descent from an ordinary Manchu family. She began her ascension to the throne at the age of 16, when she was chosen for the emperor's harem as another modest concubine.
In 1856, the girl gave birth to the emperor's son, who brought her the title "Zi Xi" or Cixi, which means "empress of the Western Palace". When the emperor died in 1861, Cixi became regent with his five-year-old son, the future emperor Zaichune. She shared the regency with the former wife of the deceased emperor, the widowed empress Tsyan, the mother of Prince Gong.
For a long time she remained regent of her son, then her nephew, until the latter reached the age of majority. Then Cixi retired to the summer palace, but was called upon to take the title of empress again in 1898,after the defeat of Chinese troops in the Sino-Japanese War. Cixi remained at the head of the state until her death in 1908.
1. Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong with his wife and daughter
Mao Zedong was born on December 26, 1893, ruled a quarter of the world's population for 25 years and made China one of the most powerful countries in the world. He reached such heights, despite descent from a modest kind of peasant in Shaoshan, Hunan province, from a family that worked from generation to generation on a small piece of land.
Mao went to a small village school for several years, but at 13 he left school and worked all day on the ground to feed his family. When the boy was 14, his father forced him to marry a girl from the same village, but Mao firmly refused to really become her husband. Three years later, he left home in search of another life, enrolling in high school in Changsha, and his formal wife later died of dysentery.
While Mao was studying in Changsha, a revolution broke out in Shanghai, and he decided to join the revolutionary army of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Guomindang party. After serving a short time there, Mao worked as an assistant librarian in Beijing, where he became acquainted with the ideology of the Communist Party.By 1935, Mao Zedong was already one of the key communist leaders and the chief strategist of the victory over the nationalists in the civil war of 1946-1949, becoming the first leader of the People's Republic of China.