Poll: They're Just Misunderstood

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thaluikhain:

OneCatch :

Katatori-kun:
Almost everyone in history has been misunderstood in one way or another. It's because we want history to be an engaging narrative, but real life is never that simple.

The historical Spartans seem to be pretty badly misunderstood, especially by people who get their history from Frank Miller. The real Spartiate were essentially fascists. They would have gotten on well with the Nazis. But more importantly their obsession with warfare is what destroyed their society. Between attrition from fighting too many wars, low birth rate from their warrior lifestyle, and an emphasis on soldiering to the exclusion of learning effective trade techniques, their obsession with proving their own strength was their undoing.

I was going to mention this one! I mean yeah, they were probably the best soldiers of their time. That isn't necessarily a good thing!
Especially when they were made as such by obsessively ruthless infanticide, racial segregation, an entire slave caste that made up the bulk of the population, and yearly legislated bloodbaths as coming-of-age rituals.

And then they used this martial prowess to start wars, raze or subjugate nearby city states - at least some of whom were proto-democratic, or at the very least more enlightened - and generally run amok through the entire peninsula.

Literally one of the most horrible states in history.

Erm, that's true until you get to the "most horrible" bit. They don't really stand out. The Greek-city states were always warring amongst themselves and they all kept slaves. I'd also question if having a democracy necessarily makes you more enlightened when you keep doing much the same as the people who don't. The Spartans were more "enlightened" in certain ways than their neighbours.

Well, I did say "one of the most horrible" - and that's probably true despite the fact that there are many contenders!
I agree that none of the city states were particularly good with regard to slavery, but in most of the others slavery was seen as a kind of natural way of dealing with prisoners of war, criminals, pirates, and those in personal debt - and slaves could be released, and even retained a high level of legal rights[1] compared to in other slave owning societies.
Indeed, because of the regular conflicts and changing auspices of states and individuals, it seems that the greeks in general viewed slavery - at least for the higher classes - as a temporary misfortune to befall someone, liable to change in time, or at the whim of the gods:

"War is the supreme... it turns some into slaves and sets others free"

In fact, I'd say that it seems to have had more in common with the practice of hostages within the nobility in the middle ages, rather than with what we think of[2] as slavery.

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Contrast that with the Spartan Helots; a horrifically repressed underclass, who worked to support the Spartan economy, and were legislatively abused in order to quell insurrection. In expansion of my previous points, they were basically mistreated in every way that would prevent rebellion by essentially giving them as a culture a massive inferiority complex, coupled with annual massacres, and the ad hoc killing of any Helots that seemed a threat. A comparison with the Atlantic slave trade is here completely justified, and if anything is a favourable representation of the Spartans!

Out of interest, in what ways would you say that the Spartans were more enlightened?

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[1] The rights to own housing, to own personal property, to inherit property, a degree of protection from overly cruel masters, and a legitimate method by which a slave could emancipate himself
[2] tempered by the truly horrendous Atlantic slave trade

Katatori-kun:

And then they used this martial prowess to start wars, raze or subjugate nearby city states - at least some of whom were proto-democratic, or at the very least more enlightened - and generally run amok through the entire peninsula.

Literally one of the most horrible states in history.

I think this is rather unfair to the Spartans. Although they were absolutely brutal to their helot population, Sparta's conduct in foreign policy was in my view overwhelmingly characterised by motivations of self-defence, they were slow to go to war and neither particularly vindictive nor punitive.

They vied with Argos' attempts to be the major force the Peloponnese. However, after they won, the Peloponnesian League was not run as an empire and most city-states within enjoyed considerable freedom of action. (Rather different from Athens' Delian League, which was in all but name an Athenian Empire.)

Sparta did frequently intervene to remove tyrants in other cities. However, offhand I don't think Sparta burnt a single city down, not even their long-time rivals Argos, nor those Greek city states that submitted and assisted the Persians. It's also worth bearing in mind that Sparta had to be asked and persuaded to help against the Persians. They were not the city state that pushed to take down Athens in the Peloponnesian War, and when it was over ensured Athens was not destroyed and it's population massacred and enslaved.

Vegosiux:
I'm actually going to say the French. Considering how they're inevitably portrayed as "surrender monkeys" in modern pop culture, which is a tad unfair to them if you look at history.

I've never really seen anyone outside of Americans describing France as that. I was under the impression it was only a small portion of Americans holding that grudge because France was so outspoken in their opposition against the invasion of Iraq.

OneCatch :
Well, I did say "one of the most horrible" - and that's probably true despite the fact that there are many contenders!
I agree that none of the city states were particularly good with regard to slavery, but in most of the others slavery was seen as a kind of natural way of dealing with prisoners of war, criminals, pirates, and those in personal debt - and slaves could be released, and even retained a high level of legal rights[1] compared to in other slave owning societies.
Indeed, because of the regular conflicts and changing auspices of states and individuals, it seems that the greeks in general viewed slavery - at least for the higher classes - as a temporary misfortune to befall someone, liable to change in time, or at the whim of the gods:

"War is the supreme... it turns some into slaves and sets others free"

In fact, I'd say that it seems to have had more in common with the practice of hostages within the nobility in the middle ages, rather than with what we think of[2] as slavery.

-

Contrast that with the Spartan Helots; a horrifically repressed underclass, who worked to support the Spartan economy, and were legislatively abused in order to quell insurrection. In expansion of my previous points, they were basically mistreated in every way that would prevent rebellion by essentially giving them as a culture a massive inferiority complex, coupled with annual massacres, and the ad hoc killing of any Helots that seemed a threat. A comparison with the Atlantic slave trade is here completely justified, and if anything is a favourable representation of the Spartans!

I don't buy that. Maybe to an extent in Athens, but that was not typical of the rest of Greece, people from other states found it strange and confusing.

Even in Athens though, if you were sent to work in the mines or the quarry or you were forced into prostitution, you got the usual hellish conditions.

OneCatch :
Out of interest, in what ways would you say that the Spartans were more enlightened?

Female citizens in Sparta enjoyed much more right than female citizens of the other Greek states. Over-simplification, but with the men off being super-soldiers, the women had to mane things at home, and you couldn't do that locked up in home.

[1] The rights to own housing, to own personal property, to inherit property, a degree of protection from overly cruel masters, and a legitimate method by which a slave could emancipate himself
[2] tempered by the truly horrendous Atlantic slave trade

Rudolf Hess
Spent 80% of his political career trying to stop wars and preventing the more extreme members of the NSDAP from doing crazy immoral shit. He then flew to the UK to broker a peace treaty. Then he spent the rest of his life in prison for crimes he didn't commit. Was probably assassinated too.

George Washington.
I don't understand how people venerate someone who kills his own people for being loyal to Britain, the nation that founded and defend America from French and Spanish invasion. He also repeatedly broke the rules of engagement by executing British POWs, killing suspected British sympathizers without trial and attacking on Christmas and boxing day. The Battle of Trenton will forever go down in history as a massive dick move by a 'devoted christian'.

JFK.
His policies basically outlined Western response to so called Soviet 'Domino republics'. This led to the Vietnam war. The biggest reason he is so fondly remembered was he was killed before his decisions reaped their terrible consequences. Even so I'd still call him a good leader.

SonicWaffle:

Witty Name Here:
I may get some hate for this, but most likely Benedict Arnold.

He was America's first traitor, that is undeniable, yet if you actually read what caused the man to betray his country, it's sort of understandable. He seems a lot less like some "evil tea-sipping red coat who only joined so he could betray the nation" and more like a dog that's been kicked around one to many times and decides to just see if the other side treats him any better.

You're right, I am going to hate on you for this. There's no such thing as kicking your dog too many times!

OT: Just about everyone, probably. Give it a hundred years and see how we look at Hitler. We use his name as an insult now, so imagine what happens when the legend grows and we keep using him as a quick way of saying "the epitome of evil". Future children will learn of how he had three heads, breathed fire and raped all the Jews to death.

That's just how history works. We take humans who made choices we approve of or or that we don't, and over time we turn them into heroes and villains who are generally so cartoonish as to be caricatures of themselves. Was Hitler an awful, awful person? Sure. Was he a human-looking avatar for the Fountain Of Evil that was under the island in Lost? Probably not. Likelihood is that that will be how the people of the far future remember him, though.

.
Napoleon was used in the 20th and 19th centuries in Britain as a classical boogyman to scare children into submission.
The same can happen with Hitler.

thaluikhain:

I don't buy that. Maybe to an extent in Athens, but that was not typical of the rest of Greece, people from other states found it strange and confusing.

Even in Athens though, if you were sent to work in the mines or the quarry or you were forced into prostitution, you got the usual hellish conditions.

OneCatch :
Out of interest, in what ways would you say that the Spartans were more enlightened?

Female citizens in Sparta enjoyed much more right than female citizens of the other Greek states. Over-simplification, but with the men off being super-soldiers, the women had to mane things at home, and you couldn't do that locked up in home.

It's certainly true that Athenian slaves had it better than any others - they were allowed to take wages and own their own businesses - but that doesn't mean that the general situation across the other states was as bad as Sparta. Even in Crete for example (which was a hub of slaving and piracy by this time), there were still laws protecting slaves from murder, allowing them to marry or inherit and granting them ownership of possessions.

It was still generally illegal to murder slaves in Greece as a whole. Interestingly, killing a slave was seen as murder (albeit with a smaller sentence than 'normal' murder), and not as property destruction as in a lot of other slaving societies, lending further credence to the idea that slaves were seen as primarily as people.

For a more general example, I've recently re-read the Odyssey, and the good friendship between Odysseus and his slave, Eumaeus is portrayed in a very positive light. It isn't seen as decadent or 'soft' on Odysseus's part, and more importantly, Eumaeus certainly isn't described as being stupid or subhuman as is common in other slaving societies. Slaves in general are certainly portayed in a more positive light than vagrant citizens for example, suggesting that they weren't considered to be 'inferior'[1], but unlucky enough to be a commodity for the time being.

While I agree that conditions were undoubtedly harsh for the lowest class of slaves (Laurium miners, prostitutes), the lowest of the low still had more rights than the best of the Helot's did under Spartan rule.

That's a valid point about Spartan women, but in my mind it doesn't even come close to making up for the other inequalities present in Spartan society.
Even Athenian women were treated better than in other ancient societies (Rome for example), and the social attitudes prevalent there are by no means out of place, relative to the norms of the era. Hell, such attitudes were common in most medieval societies, and are still being overturned in the West today.

[1] except in the case of Celt slaves, but then all barbarians were seen as inferior by the greeks, so that's not relevant with regard to slavery

OneCatch :
While I agree that conditions were undoubtedly harsh for the lowest class of slaves (Laurium miners, prostitutes), the lowest of the low still had more rights than the best of the Helot's did under Spartan rule.

Perhaps, I'm just not sure that should be taken as such a condemnation of Sparta, whilst giving everyone else a free pass.

OneCatch :
That's a valid point about Spartan women, but in my mind it doesn't even come close to making up for the other inequalities present in Spartan society.
Even Athenian women were treated better than in other ancient societies (Rome for example), and the social attitudes prevalent there are by no means out of place, relative to the norms of the era. Hell, such attitudes were common in most medieval societies, and are still being overturned in the West today.

Roman women when and where, though? Attitudes changed a lot during their time.

In any case, I meant that it's a bit strange to try and rate such things. Any ancient society would be viewed as horrific by today's standards, regardless of whether it looked less horrific compared to its neighbours.

Blablahb:

Vegosiux:
I'm actually going to say the French. Considering how they're inevitably portrayed as "surrender monkeys" in modern pop culture, which is a tad unfair to them if you look at history.

I've never really seen anyone outside of Americans describing France as that. I was under the impression it was only a small portion of Americans holding that grudge because France was so outspoken in their opposition against the invasion of Iraq.

British people say stuff like that as well, but with us it's more of a tradition than something people actually take seriously.

My own ones: Paul Revere. Basically a bloodthirsty, greedy, arrogant coward, unfairly recieves credit for warning the rebels despite the fact about 20 messengers were actually sent and he was caught by the British before he reached Concord. And he's at the very least partially responsible for the Penobscot Disaster.

George Washington. Fraser Greenfield already went through this, but I would add that he was a pretty crap military leader, he should have won the Battle of Long Island easily.

William Wallace. Bloody Braveheart makes everyone think he was like a cross between Aragorn and Jesus, but he was actually no different to any other freedom fighters. As in, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." And he evidently didn't inspire his men that much, since one of them stabbed him in the back for money. Robert the Bruce is the man who should get the credit for freeing Scotland.

Most European Colonialists. Before you start telling me why I'm a terrible person, let me explain. First of all, yes slavery was an awful awful thing, but there seems to be a misconception that Europeans invented it. Africans enslaved each other and Europeans long before the Atlantic trade began, and only stopped because Europeans made them. I have also seen people claiming that colonialism set former colonies back. Yes, because introducing modern technology and medicine to predominantly tribal cultures will really have that effect. Europeans also ended many horrific practices in colonies, like human sacrifice and cannibalism. When Charles Napier was confronted about the British banning the Indian practice of burning widows alive on the husband's funeral pyre, he said, "Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs." Oh, colonialists were all terribly evil.

Dags90:
As an American, my British history is admittedly lacking in finer details. I was just saying that defending accusations of being an appeasing coward by saying he was trying to appease the British population is a poor defense. This is a much better one.

That doesn't even absolve him to a lot of Americans, because our country is still enamored with this macho, swaggering cowboy mentality where diplomacy and trading space for time are seen as signs of weakness. Of course, there's also the problem that you demonstrated unknowingly that a lot of people judge Chamberlain because... you know how the story ends. People criticize him for not knowing things he couldn't possibly have known at the time. They shit on him for not having a Tardis in other words.

Vegosiux:
I'm actually going to say the French. Considering how they're inevitably portrayed as "surrender monkeys" in modern pop culture, which is a tad unfair to them if you look at history. I mean you don't win the Hundred Years War or the Battle of Verdun (as phyrric and purely tactical victory as that one was) by being one of those. I'm not actually particularly fond of the French, really, but fair is fair.

Oh, and Chamberlain, definitely.

I'm going to back this up and also add in that Charles de Gaul's resistance movement was key to the war effort on the European front.

DrVornoff:

Dags90:
As an American, my British history is admittedly lacking in finer details. I was just saying that defending accusations of being an appeasing coward by saying he was trying to appease the British population is a poor defense. This is a much better one.

That doesn't even absolve him to a lot of Americans, because our country is still enamored with this macho, swaggering cowboy mentality where diplomacy and trading space for time are seen as signs of weakness. Of course, there's also the problem that you demonstrated unknowingly that a lot of people judge Chamberlain because... you know how the story ends. People criticize him for not knowing things he couldn't possibly have known at the time. They shit on him for not having a Tardis in other words.

It seems particularly odd since the US didn't declare war until much later than the UK anyway, though there was a lot of quiet deals and plenty of volunteers claimed to be Canadian.

Vegosiux:
I'm actually going to say the French. Considering how they're inevitably portrayed as "surrender monkeys" in modern pop culture, which is a tad unfair to them if you look at history. I mean you don't win the Hundred Years War or the Battle of Verdun (as phyrric and purely tactical victory as that one was) by being one of those. I'm not actually particularly fond of the French, really, but fair is fair.

I always found it odd that American conservatives like to demonize the French when they basically saved our asses in the Revolutionary War.

But I guess having a European superpower bail you out of the fight doesn't really work with our beloved mythology that some tiny, scrappy colonies could beat the most powerful empire in the world through nothing but our whit, gumption, and desire to be free.

thaluikhain:

Perhaps, I'm just not sure that should be taken as such a condemnation of Sparta, whilst giving everyone else a free pass.

Roman women when and where, though? Attitudes changed a lot during their time.

In any case, I meant that it's a bit strange to try and rate such things. Any ancient society would be viewed as horrific by today's standards, regardless of whether it looked less horrific compared to its neighbours.

Roman women at any point prior to the rise of Christianity really. Christianity banned infanticide and child marriage, and eroded the principle of women being property, as they had been both legally and socially for hundreds of years.
And I agree completely that almost any ancient culture (including the various greeks city states) is going to be utterly repugnant if viewed with modern morals - but some can still be regarded as more unpleasant than others; either using current moral standing, or assuming you take their moral zeitgeist into account.
As such, the Spartans were unusually violent, fascistic, and repressive even for the violent and repressive time in which they lived.
Given today we abhor senseless violence, and also dislike fascism and repression, that makes them worse than other city states by our standards as well!

Katatori-kun:
I always found it odd that American conservatives like to demonize the French when they basically saved our asses in the Revolutionary War.

But I guess having a European superpower bail you out of the fight doesn't really work with our beloved mythology that some tiny, scrappy colonies could beat the most powerful empire in the world through nothing but our whit, gumption, and desire to be free.

My theory is that it's in part because a culture clash makes it easy to single the French out. I've met French people and my impression was, "Wow, they really are snooty. I can't believe how cold they are." I found out years later that yes, there are nationalist sentiments among the French, but they're no worse than in any other European nation. Rather, what's really going on is that French culture considers small talk and chit-chat to be something you reserve for close friends. Americans use small talk as a way to meet people and make friends. The French end up seeing Americans as being pushy and presumptuous while Americans perceive the French as being cold and stuck up. Makes it easier for conservatives to demonize the French and use them as the archetype for all things European that they want to teach their followers to disdain.

Again, this is my theory though, so take it with a grain of salt.

DrVornoff:
My theory is that it's in part because a culture clash makes it easy to single the French out. I've met French people and my impression was, "Wow, they really are snooty. I can't believe how cold they are." I found out years later that yes, there are nationalist sentiments among the French, but they're no worse than in any other European nation. Rather, what's really going on is that French culture considers small talk and chit-chat to be something you reserve for close friends.

It makes sense. Though American, I tend to dislike small talk and chit-chat and it drives me up the wall when other Americans I've never met think they're entitled to my time and attention without my giving some signal that I'm interested in sharing my time and attention.

But I also think a big part of it is people protest more when their friends "betray" them, and to conservatives in the US for France not to agree with everything they want often sounds like it gets portrayed as a betrayal. After all, we fought a cold war with the USSR for several decades, and never once did Congress rename the cafeteria's Russian dressing.

DrVornoff:
Of course, there's also the problem that you demonstrated unknowingly that a lot of people judge Chamberlain because... you know how the story ends. People criticize him for not knowing things he couldn't possibly have known at the time. They shit on him for not having a Tardis in other words...

Couldn't have known, but could reasonably be expected to have made preparations for.

What you can say in defence of Chamberlain is that anti-war sentiment was shot through not just much of the population, but government institutions. The Foreign Office, for instance, was focused on war avoidance and this coloured both their approach to Germany and the sorts of information they provided. If you surround a man with organisations and individuals all viewing something a certain way, he will be heavily inclined to view it the same way too. In this sense, you could view Chamberlain perhaps as a "figurehead" or representative of a much wider movement.

Blablahb:

Vegosiux:
I'm actually going to say the French. Considering how they're inevitably portrayed as "surrender monkeys" in modern pop culture, which is a tad unfair to them if you look at history.

I've never really seen anyone outside of Americans describing France as that. I was under the impression it was only a small portion of Americans holding that grudge because France was so outspoken in their opposition against the invasion of Iraq.

That attitude in America goes much farther back then just Iraq. Some of it goes as far as US Army commanders being unhappy with deGaule's actions during the liberation of France.

Polish attitudes about France's actions during World War 2 are also quite unfavorable. France was a Polish ally before the war and declared war on Germany shortly after Germany invaded Poland. However, they then sat back behind their defensive lines and did nothing that would relieve Polish forces fighting the Germans. Poland fell and then when France itself was invaded they ended up surrendering and their government collaborated with Germany.

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, better known as Vlad the Impaler. He's mostly known for inspiring one of the greatest and most remembered villains of all time, the Vampire Dracula.

But the guy...well, I'm not going to say he was nothing like that. The historical Dracula was a brutal warrior and he had no respect for his enemies, but he saved Wallachia from the advance of the Ottoman Empire. Hero? No, but I think he was the leader his nation needed at the time.

Warforger:

Right, the thing though was that he set the precedent for Russia, that in order to become powerful and prosper you needed to be a murderous psychopath. Guess who took that advice to heart and used Ivan as inspiration and historical justification for his actions?

image

Well, I doubt Stalin would have had to look far for historical despots he could have emulated. Also, while his reign certainly was rather brutal even for its time, I don't think he was some sort of trend-setter, being a murderous psychopath was pretty much the requirement for any 16'th century ruler. You don't really need a poster boy for that idea, it tend to come in vogue by itself.

But I suppose that in the end, it's mostly a testament to why you should always have a ruler in reserve for when the first one goes mad and start swiping at imagined enemies. It's just a bit odd that he is singled out amongst paranoid historical rulers when he did much more than just attend executions and chew the scenery of his throneroom in his time.

Aidinthel:
"Terrible" used to mean "terrifying" (note the similarity), but it's changed over time. So the translation was correct at the time it was made, and no one has bothered to update it because it's the name everyone recognizes.

Still, it sort of makes me picture him sobbing before a computer, while the rest of his WoW-raid yell at him through Vent.

PrinceOfShapeir:
Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, better known as Vlad the Impaler. He's mostly known for inspiring one of the greatest and most remembered villains of all time, the Vampire Dracula.

But the guy...well, I'm not going to say he was nothing like that. The historical Dracula was a brutal warrior and he had no respect for his enemies, but he saved Wallachia from the advance of the Ottoman Empire. Hero? No, but I think he was the leader his nation needed at the time.

Point. Like ol' Ivan, he was a ruler for his time, and honestly, he had to deal with having the Ottoman Empire for neighbours. Yes, he did impale alot of people, but doing horrible things to people and then leaving them around the countryside like birdfeeders was something pretty much everyone did. Suppose he just impaled beyond the agreed quota or something.

DJjaffacake:

Most European Colonialists. Before you start telling me why I'm a terrible person, let me explain. First of all, yes slavery was an awful awful thing, but there seems to be a misconception that Europeans invented it. Africans enslaved each other and Europeans long before the Atlantic trade began, and only stopped because Europeans made them. I have also seen people claiming that colonialism set former colonies back. Yes, because introducing modern technology and medicine to predominantly tribal cultures will really have that effect. Europeans also ended many horrific practices in colonies, like human sacrifice and cannibalism. When Charles Napier was confronted about the British banning the Indian practice of burning widows alive on the husband's funeral pyre, he said, "Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs." Oh, colonialists were all terribly evil.

Oh its so true. All this anti-colonial bullshit tends to fall apart the moment you mention the following:
Islamic nations opened up cross continental slave trade centuries before the Europeans ever did.
Europeans didn't go out of their way to enslave the locals, the natives were all to willing to enslave and sell their neighbors to foreigners as they had done for centuries.

I'll throw in another little tidbit:
Islamic world was the center of civilization and scientific achievement during the middle ages.
Biggest load of codswallop I have ever heard. And I never heard of such things prior to 2001 either. It was a transfer culture, 99% of the 'scientific achievements' proudly alofted as products of Islamic civilization are merely regurgitation of knowledge from other Civilizations. Algebra is a collection of Greek, Indian and Chinese mathematical theory and had pre dates Islam by several centuries. Arabesque atheistic s is just regurgitated late Persian/Byzantium architecture. Bathing and soap did not come from Arabia, its invention comes from Greek/Roman/Egyptian culture and precedes it almost a thousand years. They only thing they can actually claim without any bias is the theory of optics. To say they invented zip would be a major discredit, but if living in the middle east has taught me anything, it's that people here loving taking credit for stuff that had nothing to do with them.

Muspelheim:

Well, I doubt Stalin would have had to look far for historical despots he could have emulated. Also, while his reign certainly was rather brutal even for its time, I don't think he was some sort of trend-setter, being a murderous psychopath was pretty much the requirement for any 16'th century ruler. You don't really need a poster boy for that idea, it tend to come in vogue by itself.

But I suppose that in the end, it's mostly a testament to why you should always have a ruler in reserve for when the first one goes mad and start swiping at imagined enemies. It's just a bit odd that he is singled out amongst paranoid historical rulers when he did much more than just attend executions and chew the scenery of his throneroom in his time.

The difference was scale. Whereas his predecessors may have just killed people who were going to overthrow the government, Stalin tried to uproot any form of dissent before such people would exist. He took away all private gatherings, getting to the point where there was only a state stamp collecting club which was bugged and monitored because they could easily talk about their discontent with the state and how outside the country is better. He slaughtered anyone who slightly questioned his rule to those who rose up against it, on top of that he set arrest quotas for the NKVD meaning even people who honestly didn't do anything at all were arrested. Absolutely no one could've questioned his rule, it's why after he died Kruschev confirmed his brutality but he didn't stop it, just relaxed some of the more brutal policies. Now when the leader of the Soviet Union, just a few years after Stalin's death, a guy that Communists and leaders abroad had to constantly try to see the best in and revere as great, condemns him, you know there's something wrong.

Muspelheim:
Point. Like ol' Ivan, he was a ruler for his time, and honestly, he had to deal with having the Ottoman Empire for neighbours. Yes, he did impale alot of people, but doing horrible things to people and then leaving them around the countryside like birdfeeders was something pretty much everyone did. Suppose he just impaled beyond the agreed quota or something.

He learned it from the Ottomans in fact. He and his brother Radu were offered as hostages to stall armed conflict at one point. The Ottomans didn't use impaling as a form of execution very often, but Vlad did use it on prisoners of war to make a statement. It was as much psychological warfare as a reflection of his own beliefs on justice and punishment.

Many in Romania today consider him one of the greatest patriots who ever lived. There's a lot to be said about his rule both positive and negative, but bottom line is he got results.

Warforger:

The difference was scale. Whereas his predecessors may have just killed people who were going to overthrow the government, Stalin tried to uproot any form of dissent before such people would exist. He took away all private gatherings, getting to the point where there was only a state stamp collecting club which was bugged and monitored because they could easily talk about their discontent with the state and how outside the country is better. He slaughtered anyone who slightly questioned his rule to those who rose up against it, on top of that he set arrest quotas for the NKVD meaning even people who honestly didn't do anything at all were arrested. Absolutely no one could've questioned his rule, it's why after he died Kruschev confirmed his brutality but he didn't stop it, just relaxed some of the more brutal policies. Now when the leader of the Soviet Union, just a few years after Stalin's death, a guy that Communists and leaders abroad had to constantly try to see the best in and revere as great, condemns him, you know there's something wrong.

Well, I never went to say that Stalin was misunderstood, he took the whole Russian ruler shtick and had it industrialised with horrible effect, and you're right, it's telling that even his successors couldn't quite cope with the scale of his purges and couldn't even in all honesty pretend the man was anything but a crazed tyrant.
But the thing is, he'd have many, many other historical rulers to draw "inspiration" and justification from. He could have picked and choosed if he needed to. And as brutal and honestly rather nutters as he was, Ivan the Terrible still doesn't rank quite as high as Stalin.

DrVornoff:

He learned it from the Ottomans in fact. He and his brother Radu were offered as hostages to stall armed conflict at one point. The Ottomans didn't use impaling as a form of execution very often, but Vlad did use it on prisoners of war to make a statement. It was as much psychological warfare as a reflection of his own beliefs on justice and punishment.

Many in Romania today consider him one of the greatest patriots who ever lived. There's a lot to be said about his rule both positive and negative, but bottom line is he got results.

Well, with such neighbours, it's not really that odd when someone resorts to desperate measures to prove a point. Small countries right at the edge of large, expansionist empires probably don't have many choices when it comes to things like that. Suppose he was simply a man of his time and place.

Fraser Greenfield:

Oh its so true. All this anti-colonial bullshit tends to fall apart the moment you mention the following:
Islamic nations opened up cross continental slave trade centuries before the Europeans ever did.
Europeans didn't go out of their way to enslave the locals, the natives were all to willing to enslave and sell their neighbors to foreigners as they had done for centuries.

Indeed, sometime you get the impression that yesteryear's European was some sort of evil fantasy race and the first culture ever enclined towards the idea of world domination or colonialism. Hell, some versions seem to imply that the world was a nice, happy Shire-esque place until Whitey came along and colonized the lot.
Now, colonialism isn't really a good thing, exploiting other cultures and peoples for the sake of profits isn't exactly something we'd see as humane and enlightened today. But slavery and exploits already occured before the Europeans came around.
Again, it's not like the Europeans were some kind of fantasy villains or had some kind of "conquest-gene" or whatever. They were simply very, very lucky on many occasions, and happened to be the first who had the need and possibility to execute such a huge colonial program. Hell, if it hadn't been them, it'd be China, or India, and so on.

It doesn't make colonialism, institutionalized racism and slavery any more acceptable. It still happened, and is still absolutly horrid. But it's not an inherrent Whitey-trace, and cruelty to other human beings is certainly not something they were pioneers in...

Muspelheim:

Warforger:

The difference was scale. Whereas his predecessors may have just killed people who were going to overthrow the government, Stalin tried to uproot any form of dissent before such people would exist. He took away all private gatherings, getting to the point where there was only a state stamp collecting club which was bugged and monitored because they could easily talk about their discontent with the state and how outside the country is better. He slaughtered anyone who slightly questioned his rule to those who rose up against it, on top of that he set arrest quotas for the NKVD meaning even people who honestly didn't do anything at all were arrested. Absolutely no one could've questioned his rule, it's why after he died Kruschev confirmed his brutality but he didn't stop it, just relaxed some of the more brutal policies. Now when the leader of the Soviet Union, just a few years after Stalin's death, a guy that Communists and leaders abroad had to constantly try to see the best in and revere as great, condemns him, you know there's something wrong.

Well, I never went to say that Stalin was misunderstood, he took the whole Russian ruler shtick and had it industrialised with horrible effect, and you're right, it's telling that even his successors couldn't quite cope with the scale of his purges and couldn't even in all honesty pretend the man was anything but a crazed tyrant.
But the thing is, he'd have many, many other historical rulers to draw "inspiration" and justification from. He could have picked and choosed if he needed to. And as brutal and honestly rather nutters as he was, Ivan the Terrible still doesn't rank quite as high as Stalin.

Very well, but that wasn't what I was saying. Ivan the Terrible set the precedent that in order for Russia to progress it has to be brutal and psychopathic, not to be brutal and psychopathic. Thus when Stalin was looking to industrialize Russia he looked to Ivan as an example. It was most symbolized when a Russian movie maker was making a 3 part movie about Tsar Ivan, the 1st part was very generous to the man and praised him, and Stalin liked it, when the 2nd part was being made and it started painting Ivan as a psychopath Stalin canceled production of the movie and destroyed the remnants of the 2nd and 3rd parts.

Warforger:

Very well, but that wasn't what I was saying. Ivan the Terrible set the precedent that in order for Russia to progress it has to be brutal and psychopathic, not to be brutal and psychopathic. Thus when Stalin was looking to industrialize Russia he looked to Ivan as an example. It was most symbolized when a Russian movie maker was making a 3 part movie about Tsar Ivan, the 1st part was very generous to the man and praised him, and Stalin liked it, when the 2nd part was being made and it started painting Ivan as a psychopath Stalin canceled production of the movie and destroyed the remnants of the 2nd and 3rd parts.

But again, any vaguely paranoid despot throughout history could have worked to his goals. If there hadn't been an Ivan the Terrible, I'm sure Stalin could've settled for another Tsar and been just as horrible.
Although I must confess, I weren't aware that Ivan the Terrible did indeed turn paranoid brutallity into a status quo in Russian governance, I thought it was present even before his time. Hell, my interpretation was that Ivan the Terrible only did what everyone else did at the time, but only did it slightly more and took it too far by the standards of the time, and thus were remembered for it. But if that trait sort of tagged along like a thing that leaders should do and wasn't present in the same way before... Well, one thing learnt, I suppose. :3

Still, I don't think Ivan the Terrible is somehow a main cause to Stalin turning out the way he did. Sure, he functioned as an inspiration or a rethorical justification, but had he been kinder back in his day, I'd think Stalin would be able to dig some other old despot up.

But as you say, there's no denying that the two men are freakishly similar at points.

Muspelheim:

Still, I don't think Ivan the Terrible is somehow a main cause to Stalin turning out the way he did. Sure, he functioned as an inspiration or a rethorical justification, but had he been kinder back in his day, I'd think Stalin would be able to dig some other old despot up.

But as you say, there's no denying that the two men are freakishly similar at points.

My point though is that it wasn't for the brutality, it was the notion that in Russia the most effective way to progress was through brutal force. Ivan started the expansion of Russia to its monstrous size and he did that through brutality and force. Stalin felt just as Ivan had to use such force to strengthen Russia while it was threatened by all of its neighbors so to if he wanted to industrialize it while having many outside opponents. Hence why any other despot wouldn't be necessarily as inspirational.

Muspelheim:
Well, with such neighbours, it's not really that odd when someone resorts to desperate measures to prove a point. Small countries right at the edge of large, expansionist empires probably don't have many choices when it comes to things like that. Suppose he was simply a man of his time and place.

That's about the size of it. Vlad was an exceptionally harsh ruler. Just about every crime was punishable by death under his rule. He called all the vagrants, beggars, and vagabonds in Tirgoviste to a banquet, trapped them in the hall and burned them alive so that he could brag he had no unfortunates in his kingdom. He clapped the voivods in chains, installed himself as an autocrat, and forced the lot of them to build him a new castle. And when the Ottomans finally overpowered his army and forced him to retreat, he executed thousands of Turkish prisoners by impaling them and putting the corpses on display throughout the city. On his way out, his remaining soldiers salted all the fields and poisoned the wells. The Ottomans arrived at Tirgoviste to find a "forest of death" and a dead, useless, and uninhabitable city. If he didn't invent the scorched earth tactic, he certainly added a degree of pageantry to it.

But he also spent his entire adolescence as a hostage to the Ottomans and resented his father for using him as a bargaining chip. He turned the Ottomans' own tactics against them, but ramped up the volume and severity, using cruelty as a weapon. Fact is, it worked. At least for a time.

There are some historians who theorize that some of the stories about Vlad were actually exaggerated or outright fabricated by the Vatican. By credible accounts, he was a very cruel authoritarian ruler, even for the times. But he was ordered by the Catholic church to hold the Ottomans back, though he himself was Eastern Orthodox and refused to convert to Catholicism. Matter of fact, he actually commissioned the construction of many monasteries and hospitals and such out of his faith, believing that bringing more good into the world would balance out the blood on his hands. Between ideological differences and being a little squeamish over his methods, the church probably used his eventual defeat as an excuse to go ahead and push trumped up charges against him and install someone more palatable in the region.

I'll give you a guy that's misunderstood the wrong way: Mussolini. Remember the phrase "Mussolini made the trains run on time"? Patently false. History books often downplay exactly how utterly inept he and the rest of the Fascist Italian leadership was during WWII.

One of the reasons the Germans ran into such trouble on the eastern front was because they often had to divert forces to bail out the Italians.

OneCatch :
Roman women at any point prior to the rise of Christianity really. Christianity banned infanticide and child marriage, and eroded the principle of women being property, as they had been both legally and socially for hundreds of years.

While that's true (though attitudes varied a little over time), that was also true of Greek women.

OneCatch :
And I agree completely that almost any ancient culture (including the various greeks city states) is going to be utterly repugnant if viewed with modern morals - but some can still be regarded as more unpleasant than others; either using current moral standing, or assuming you take their moral zeitgeist into account.
As such, the Spartans were unusually violent, fascistic, and repressive even for the violent and repressive time in which they lived.
Given today we abhor senseless violence, and also dislike fascism and repression, that makes them worse than other city states by our standards as well!

I'm still not sure. The Spartans might have institutionalised it, but there was any number of violent city states run by oppressive regimes. If the Spartans stand out, it wouldn't seem to be by that much.

KittensTiger:

Dags90:

KittensTiger:
PM Neville Chamberlain.

In modern (at least American) remembrance of history he is a cowardly, appeasing, and naive. A leader who just didn't have the cajones to tell Hitler to knock it off. A leader who thought he could appease a Nazi into peace.

This is not a fair remembrance. He attempted to appease Hitler because the British people really really didn't want another war because WW1 was so expensive and killed so many young men in the trenches and those who did come back were frequently diseased and had mental scarring due to the horrific carnage of trench warfare. So, to make his people happy Chamberlain did everything he could to keep the UK from being pulled into a war.

So, essentially, Chamberlain gets a lot of flack for following popular British sentiment at the time and doing what the British people wanted.

So your defense of him not being cowardly, appeasing, and naive is that he didn't want to confront the British public with something that sucked, and instead appeased them by appeasing Hitler? That's not really changing much. If anything, it sounds worse.

Doing what your people want when you rule... damn I hate when leaders do that... I want leaders who tell us to go fuck ourselves and they'll do what they damn well please.

Except the British public had nothing to do with it. After the Munich dictate, it was the Czech people who had to give up their lands and arms factories to Mr. Dolfy. He failed to honor previous agreements. There were bunkers ready on the borders, Hitler would have lost by a long shot.

What Chamberlain basically conveyed was "It's OK for our enemies to take over our allies, as long as they don't hurt no brits."

He had the power to stop the biggest massacre of modern times, but he sided with the enemy.
And he's misunderstood?

Cowpoo:
He had the power to stop the biggest massacre of modern times, but he sided with the enemy.
And he's misunderstood?

What power? When war was declared, Britain and France were not in a position to do anything for several months until France was invaded, and then all they could do was retreat.

KittensTiger:
PM Neville Chamberlain.

In modern (at least American) remembrance of history he is a cowardly, appeasing, and naive. A leader who just didn't have the cajones to tell Hitler to knock it off. A leader who thought he could appease a Nazi into peace.

This is not a fair remembrance. He attempted to appease Hitler because the British people really really didn't want another war because WW1 was so expensive and killed so many young men in the trenches and those who did come back were frequently diseased and had mental scarring due to the horrific carnage of trench warfare. So, to make his people happy Chamberlain did everything he could to keep the UK from being pulled into a war.

So, essentially, Chamberlain gets a lot of flack for following popular British sentiment at the time and doing what the British people wanted.

some people say he was buying time to help build up the army and airforce as they were in a bit of a state

Tyler Perry:
I'll give you a guy that's misunderstood the wrong way: Mussolini. Remember the phrase "Mussolini made the trains run on time"? Patently false. History books often downplay exactly how utterly inept he and the rest of the Fascist Italian leadership was during WWII.

One of the reasons the Germans ran into such trouble on the eastern front was because they often had to divert forces to bail out the Italians.

QFT. Unmotivated troops, obsolete equipment (though to be fair, that would describe some of Germany's other allies as well) and on the Eastern Front, weapons not designed for extreme cold, leading to some anecdotes about having to slow roast their guns over a fire to prevent them from freezing. The disaster at Stalingrad was the hot issue that tipped the Italian populace into full on 'fuck Mussolini' mode.

At least they served as a effective buffer between the Hungarians and the Romanians. So they would shoot at the Russians, rather than each other.

Cowpoo:
Except the British public had nothing to do with it. After the Munich dictate, it was the Czech people who had to give up their lands and arms factories to Mr. Dolfy. He failed to honor previous agreements. There were bunkers ready on the borders, Hitler would have lost by a long shot.

What Chamberlain basically conveyed was "It's OK for our enemies to take over our allies, as long as they don't hurt no brits."

He had the power to stop the biggest massacre of modern times, but he sided with the enemy.
And he's misunderstood?

As I said before, you know how the story ends. Chamberlain had no way of knowing whether or not he could succeed at an armed conflict. He did know that the British people did not have the morale for another war. And France was the only country who agreed to lend military support should armed conflict result.

I notice you also ignored the part where we pointed out that when Chamberlain came back to England, he frantically built up the country's industrial sector and beefed up the military considerably. There a reason for that? Again, people need to get over this notion that trading space for time is cowardly. No it isn't, it just means you're not a moron who thinks he can solve every problem by shooting from the hip.

And for Christ's sake, lay off the stupid rhetoric. He sided with the enemy? Give me a fucking break.

DrVornoff:

And for Christ's sake, lay off the stupid rhetoric. He sided with the enemy? Give me a fucking break.

He did what would have been the equivalent of Czechoslovakia, France and Germany signing a treaty that gave Germany the south of Great Britain (if all the british arms factories were located in the south) before the battle of Britain. Hitler gained 40% of his firepower from Sudetenland factories.

He pretty much gave a whole country to the enemy along with it's defenses and it's arms industry. I'm sorry but if that's not siding with the enemy, it really fucking helped them. He was a populist and his decisions were later criticised by both the british public and Winston Churchill.

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