Few mixtures are as toxic as absolute power and insanity that comes from megalomania or severe mental illness. When nothing stands between a leader’s delusional whims and seeing them carried them out, all sorts of bizarre outcomes are possible.

Whether it is Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I practicing archery on palace servants and sending out his advisers to find the heaviest woman in the empire for his wife or Turkmenistan President Turkmenbashi renaming the days of the week after himself and constructing an 80-foot golden statue that revolves to face the sun, crazed leaders have plagued society for millenia.

In this episode we look mentally unbalance rulers who made the lives of their subjects miserable. Some suffered from genetic disorders that led to schizophrenia, such as French King Charles VI, who thought he was made of glass. Others believed themselves to be God’s greatest prophet and wrote religious writings that they guaranteed to the reader would get them into heaven, even if these “prophets” were barely literate.

Whatever their background, these rulers show that dynastic politics made sure that a rightful heir always got on the throne – despite that heir’s mental condition – and that power can destroy a mind worse than any mental illness.

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

History’s Most Insane Rulers: Lunatics, Eccentrics, and Megalomaniacs From Emperor Caligula to Kim Jong Il 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rank, Michael. History’s Most Insane Rulers: Lunatics, Eccentrics, and Megalomaniacs From Emperor Caligula to Kim Jong Il. Five Minute Books, 2013.

“Was the Roman Emperor Caligula as Crazy as They Say?” The Straight Dope, June 10, 2003. https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2102/was-the-roman-emperor-caligula-as-crazy-as-they-say/.

Wells, Colin. Sailing from Byzantium. Random House Publishing Group, 2008.

 

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