Weird History

Signature Afflictions Suffered By History’s Most Famous Despots

Some of history's most notorious despots demanded absolute authority over their states, but could never claim it over their own bodies. All of the rulers on this list are believed to have suffered from various afflictions, ranging from the curable to the fatal. In some cases, these afflictions shaped their reigns and reputations by exacerbating their worst and most vicious impulses.

The medical conditions don't excuse their deeds. The belief that Adolf Hitler suffered from Parkinson's, for example, does not explain the Holocaust or encourage a more sympathetic view of one of history's biggest villains. It simply presents context to understand his rule in Germany.

Despotic rulers' conditions provide a window into how the precarious health of those in power can shape history, for better or for worse.