– by Mark MacDonald, Editor –
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For thousands of years human beings have had beefs with each other. Centuries before the East Coast vs West Coast feud of Tupac and Biggie, clansmen, samurai, god kings and emperors made war upon each other for revenge, honor, conquest and the like. Here’s a list of some of the biggest beefs in human history.
Sure there are countless conflicts that scored more dead than 48 people, but it is the dramatic nature of the feud between the Scottish clans of Mackintosh and Kay that lands this rivalry on the list. In 1396, things had been brewing for a while. The Chattan confederation, made up mainly of Clan Mackintosh, had a longstanding dispute with Clan Kay and, though the king had attempted to persuade them to settle their differences peacefully, diplomacy failed and instead the two clans agreed to a trial by combat (a 30 vs 30 melee) to take place in a constructed arena while the king and spectators watched on.
On the day of the battle (known as the Battle of North Inch) the Chattans were one man short, and it looked like the whole thing would have to be called off – until, that is, one Henry Smith (aka Hal o’ the Wynd), the town armorer, stepped up as a substitute. At the sound of the king’s trumpets the sides met, as vividly described in Sir Walter Scott’s The Fair Maid of Perth, and after a bloody battle, all but one of Clan Kay were dead (the sole survivor had jumped into the river to swim away). Eleven members of Clan Chattan (Mackintosh) lived, including the now-legend Hal o’ the Wynd, who had surprised all with his ferocity and valor, earning both fame and fortune.
The Ako Vendetta
The Ako Vendetta (aka the Story of the 47 Ronin) is a historical event that occurred in 18th century Japan, well deserving of its fame and notoriety. While preparing a reception for the envoys of the Emperor, a powerful Edo official named Kira Yoshinaka, who had been instructing the local daimyo Asano Naganori and Lord Kamei on court etiquette, began insulting Asano. When Kira called him a country boor with no manners, Asano attacked Kira, slashing him across the face before being restrained. The act was considered a grave offense and Asano was ordered to kill himself. His land and title were confiscated, and his 300 fighting men were made ronin (leaderless). Forty-seven of them secretly vowed to avenge their lord.
Knowing that Kira would send spies to watch over them, especially the leader Oishi, the 47 ronin took up menial jobs and acted as though they cared little for revenge, frequenting brothels and acting in a debauched manner. During this time, Oishi became so drunk he fell asleep in the street one day and was laughed at by the villagers, including a Satsuma man who kicked him and spat on him. All this deplorable behavior was merely a ruse to convince Kira no vendetta was being planned. After two years, confident that Kira had let his guard down, the 47 ronin seized their opportunity and attacked Kira’s mansion. After dispatching over a dozen of Kira’s men, the samurai found him hiding and, once he neglected to commit suicide, cut off his head with a dagger. The 47 ronin then marched through the streets carrying Kira’s head, praised by the local villagers, and placed it on the tomb of their master. They were all subsequently sentenced to death and committed suicide in the traditional fashion. The Satsuma man who had spat on Oishi later visited his grave, begged for forgiveness, then committed suicide.
Persia vs Greece
As far as clashes of civilizations go, there are few beefs as classic as ancient Greece vs ancient Persia. From Darius to Xerxes, Leonidas to Alexander, the two civilizations fought countless battles over the course of more than a hundred years. It all began when Cyrus conquered Ionia, who later rebelled against Persian rule with the support of Athens and Eretria. This culminated in the first Persian invasion led by Darius the Great, who was defeated at the famous Battle of Marathon.
Though foiled in their first attempt to conquer Greece, the Persians returned under Darius’ son Xerxes and this time (though temporarily halted at Thermopylae) overran most of Greece and torched an evacuated Athens. The Greeks later defeated the Persian forces at the Battle of Salamis and followed up with a victory at the Battle of Plataea to end the second invasion.
Though the conflicts between the two civilizations had a relative thaw for a few decades (Greece was busy having a civil war known as Peloponnesian Wars) they weren’t done yet. Philip of Macedon would later unite Greece and his son, Alexander the Great, put a bookend on the rivalry by conquering Persia in 330 BC, defeating Darius III and burning Persepolis (something he later regretted). All told, it’s likely hundreds of thousands of people were killed as a result of a clash of civilizations that shaped the very world we live in today.
Wu vs Wei vs Shu
Chinese history is filled with epic feuds and legendary battles, but none greater than the wars fought in the era known as the Three Kingdoms, considered one of the deadliest periods of warfare in human history. When the Han dynasty fell into decline in the early 3rd century AD, three kingdoms emerged, all vying for control over China: the Wei, the Shu and the Wu. For nearly a century, these three competing powers warred with one another on such a grade scale it would inspire great works such as Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms hundreds of years later. Famous warriors like Sun Quan, Cao Cao and Lu Kang wrote themselves into the history books in epic battles such as the Battle of Red Cliff and the Battle of Wuzhang Plains, the tales of which continue to inspire motion pictures, television series, games and comics to this day. Tens of millions of people were killed during decades of conflict before, after the fall of the Shu at the hands of the Wei, Sima Yan founded the Jin Dynasty, ended the state of Wei and conquered the kingdom of Wu, unifying China as Emperor Wu of the Jing Dynasty.
England vs France
As far as historical beefs go, nothing tops England vs France. From the Napoleonic Wars to the Hundred Years War all the way back to the Norman Conquest, the feud between the two nations spans nearly a thousand years. The first war between the two is arguably the Norman Conquest of 1066 AD when William of Normandy conquered all of England, after which there was the Anglo-French War of 1117-1120, the Hundred Years’ War of 1337-1453, the War of the League of Augsburg, the War of the Spanish Succession, the Seven Years’ War, the War of the First Coalition, and on and on (there were six coalitions). It is impossible to estimate how many people were killed as a result of the two nations sparring, but what is certain is that over the centuries they warred all over the globe, from Europe and the Middle East to the New World and all the oceans in between. Today, thankfully, the two powers appear to be best of friends – that is, until they play a soccer match.