5 Evil Tyrants You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

The lesser-known villains who carried out despicable acts of evil

Jacob Wilkins


A portrait of Nader Shah by Mohammad Reza Hendi, c. 1740 (Wikimedia Commons)

Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Chairman Mao are top of the list when it comes to evil tyrants. Even if you’ve never studied the past in any detail, you probably know something about these three men and the atrocities they committed.

But they weren’t the only ones. Every period of human history has its fair share of twisted villains. And though the men discussed in this article aren’t particularly well-known, their heinous crimes will prey on your mind long after you’ve read about them.

1. Emperor Domitian

A photograph of a bust of Domitian at the Louvre Museum by Sailko, 2013 (Wikimedia Commons)

Emperor Domitian was the last Roman emperor of the Flavian dynasty, and he ruled the empire for fifteen years following the death of his brother Titus in 81 AD.

Far from taking care of his citizens, Domitian was a self-indulgent man with a thirst for violence. He spent much of his time committing adultery with prostitutes, and he was also addicted to watching gladiatorial fights between women and dwarfs.

But Domitian is best known for his reign of terror. After taking power away from the Senate, he became increasingly paranoid about the upper classes of Rome, as he suspected them of plotting against him.

Domitian oversaw the execution of philosophers, senators, imperial officers, and intellectuals. He even executed his own cousin at one point. The methods used by Domitian’s spies were particularly brutal. Under the emperor’s instructions, they would chop off hands and burn genitalia in order to extract as much information as possible from their prisoners.

After three years of slaughter, this bloodthirsty tyrant was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard, and the senators of Rome did their utmost to erase his name from history.

2. Shah Nader Shah