Xerxees. Illustration by Steve Krakow
Galba (3 BC–69 AD) Rome
Son of a hunchback, Servius Sulpicius Galba had a lifelong sexual predilection for markedly older men and, as Emperor of Rome, it was a curious preference he could well afford to indulge. He had ample opportunity but before he could run though more than a handful of elderly toyboys, he was caught in the toils of the constantly broiling soap opera that was the game of the imperial succession, and he was murdered and replaced on the throne by the ever-scheming Otho, protégé of one of his former lovers.
Juan Vicente Gomez (1864–1933) Venezuela
An indigene from the mountains of Venezuela, Gomez began life inauspiciously as a barely literate cowboy living on a ranch in the Andes region. In manhood, he rapidly grew in stature, exchanging the role of a regional strongman for the occupancy of the presidential palace. Never married, he sired close to 100 children. He was called “The Catfish” on account of the resemblance of the stringy tips of his moustache to the barbels of the aforementioned aquatic animal. He ran Venezuela as a personal playpen; suspending congress and adopting extraconstitutional powers, he built up the country and made a fortune in the process. A fierce chieftain who ruled with an iron fist, he kept rivals and enemies in a perpetual state of fear. There were spontaneous outbreaks of jubilation in the streets upon the announcement of his death.
Sargon (2340 BC–2305 BC) Akkad
One of the earliest empire builders in recorded history. Sargon was a mighty conqueror who projected his dominion in the Mesopotamian region over an unprecedented extent. He ferried booty on barges, led captive monarchs in dog collars, commanded his soldiers to cleanse their swords in the sea to prove the geographical reach of his empire, and, according to ancient records, marched on cities and left them in a heap of ruins “so that there was not left even so much as a perch for a bird.”
Ali Soilih (1937–1978) Comoros
Hired a French mercenary to help him overthrow the Comorian President so he could take his place. Having succeeded in this endeavor, he immediately set about implementing reforms. He abolished the Anda, or Grand Wedding, along with traditional funerary rituals which were adjudged overly opulent. He lowered the voting age to fourteen and elevated teenagers to positions of authority, legalized the use of cannabis, and did away with the compulsory use of the veil by women. Soilih created the Moissy, a young revolutionary militia trained by Tanzanian military advisers. Patterned after Mao Tse-tung’s Red Guards, their modus operandi was similar to that of their Chinese counterparts. Moissy units terrorized villages and specialized in violent attacks against conservative elders, formerly revered old men. The teenage Moissy were perceived as a repressive political police, and their intimidation tactics and unpredictable behavior sparked widespread resentment among the general population. Humiliation of Comorians at the hands of the Moissy deeply alienated and sharply offended the traditional leaders of the Comoros who resented the erosion of their authority and the subversion of age-old traditions. Soilih appointed a fifteen-year-old boy to run the police department, torched government records, and, when a witch doctor told him he would be killed by a white man with a black dog, destroyed every black dog on the island. Burgeoning dissatisfaction spawned repeated coup attempts against the regime. In 1978, Soilih was unseated by a European mercenary team having only fifty participants. Colonel Bob Denard, the leader of the assault, landed quietly at night and proceeded to the palace to find Soilih in bed with three girls watching a pornographic movie. He shot him, and the next morning drove through the town with Soilih’s body draped over the hood of his Jeep. Denard also had with him a black German shepherd dog.
Xerxes (519 BC–465 BC) Persia
King Xerxes of Persia, halting at the seashore in the presence of his entourage and an entire army, instructed his soldiers to horsewhip the obstreperous ocean because it made too much noise.