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  • Mark

    Caligula reminds me of Obama for sheer madness. I mean, Caligula declared himself a God, (like you do) and killed anyone who disagreed and did other crazy things. however, Obama probably beats Caligula. After a decade of fighting al-Qaeda, and declaring them “finished” not long ago, he`s now ARMING them against Assad in Syria and have recognised them as the official government. If that isn`t madness, I don`t know what is..

    • Chore Boy

      Not nearly as bad as Bush flaunting around an aircraft carrier with the huge banner stating “Mission Accomplished” huh? And since when are all Syrian rebels Al-Qaeda? That sounds horribly prejudice. I guess this “madness” is spreading into Europe, because France and Britain wants to arm them (Syrian rebels), even though the US has NOT ARMED THEM. The US hasn’t offered any kind of lethal assistance.The UN has an embargo against Syria. That means the US too, genius. Although, many Western nations have acknowledged them as the official government, since there is an embargo on Syria, that means the rebels, too. Assad is kills his own people all the time, but you think it’s bad to support his opposition? Assad is a dictator just like Saddam Hussein. I bet you completely supported the decision to invade Iraq because a Republican made it, huh? You obviously know very, VERY little about foreign affairs, no? Biased fool. I’m neither liberal or conservative, as I agree with many parts of both sides, but never one side completely. Open you mind a little and do your own research instead of watching news channels (Faux News, MSNBC, CNN, etc.).

  • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS

    I do wish that Caligula remake was real… 🙂

  • Matt

    Justinian should probly not be on this list: idk if you know this, but typically emperors cannot cause plagues, so as hard as it sounds to believe, he did not in fact cause a plague. It was just named after him because people back then did, in fact, think he caused it because back then people are just weird.

    • Frederick

      Yeah, I agree. Justinian is a saint. If we are purely going by infamy, that alone should disqualify him. The explanation to his placement was a lot weaker than the other emperors too, especially when coupled with the bubonic plague bit.

      I personally think Diocletian is a pretty glaring omission. His persecution of Christians is pretty much the basis of a lot of the standard “throw Christians to the lions” stories we continue to hear to this day.

  • Defender

    To TopTenzMaster: are you considering making the TopTenz app available in android devices? It would really help. I have been following this site for well over 2 years.

    • I’m not sure. To be honest I have paid thousands for development and I estimate it will take about 5 years just to break even. Seems readers aren’t interested in paying .99 for it. I sell about 80 per month.

      • Defender

        Don’t worry about it. I understand.

    • Dov

      To get right to type point, the item header for the Emperor Tiberius had the dates of his reign incorrect. In the time frame listed, that included the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius.

      • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS


        The dates provided are their birth and death dates, not the dates of their reigns.



  • isolation bordeaux

    stabbed in th groin is definitely not the best way to go

  • Chore Boy

    How was Nero committing suicide cowardly? If I had the choice of being tortured to death or suicide, I’d obviously pick the latter. Not cowardly, but logical. Sure, he was a terrible person, insane even, but that doesn’t make him a coward. Everyone who reads this would have done the same. Anyone who would accept torture is even crazier than those listed.

  • Gene Claridge

    Dr. Z,

    Fascinating article! Are you going to make a list of the TopTenz military leaders soon?


    – Gene C.

  • Tom

    Diocletian if you’re a Christian. His persecution of us was the most extensive. Glad I didn’t live back then, I wouldn’t want to be throw to a lion.

    • grt

      The persecution of the christians had political reasons. They behaved in a very agressive way and followed odd practices. If they had integrated into society like everyone else (the Romans have always been very tolerant to any religion!) there would have been no problem.

  • Nicholas Fill

    It’s interesting to see that many of the emperors on this list are unknown to the general public. Also, without thinking, I am sure many people would believe that Nero is the most infamous. However, you have proven that is not the case. I am surprised of both the devilish manner of Caligula and the amount that the people hate him. If they stabbed him and beat his daughter in such a brutal way, there may be even more evil he committed then studied.

  • Mitch Bartholomai

    Thank you for showing me more about the roman rulers that i knew nothing about before! it was really nice getting caught up on some of the main events that happened withing the main emperors and empresses! Thanks!

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS

      Dear Mitch,

      You’re welcome!


      Dr. Matthew Zarzeczny

  • Ryan Winchell

    I did not realize how bizarre some of the Roman Emperors and Empresses were until reading this article. The strange acts of these rulers, some of which are stated in primary sources, are alarming and absurd. I think Tiberius, Nero, and Caligula are the weirdest emperors on the list.

  • Tyler

    We always hear about the great Roman Emperor Caesar, but I found it quite funny that some of the former rulers of Rome weren’t great rulers at all, and as for the article the Infamous Emperor Elagabalus, I cant beleive he was capable of doing all that while still running the great Roman Empire.

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS

      Speaking of Caesar, did you see what historically inaccurate thing they had happen to him on the last episode of Spartacus?! I was quite appalled… Good show and all, but that scene was not necessary!

  • grt

    Actually, Neros mistake was: he was not in Rome when it burned! Though he acted fast as he heard about it (ordered help for citizens, opened the parks for them and such things) people never forgave him his absence. And the christians then rewrote the whole story for their purposes…
    Same goes for Caligula, who, according to newer research, seemed to be a quiet and modest ruler. Caligula was not crazy, he simply broke with some traditions and got in conflict with the roman aristocracy. What Suetonios wrote was in fact denunciation.

  • Alexus

    I found Agrippina very interesting because who would have thought she would murder her husband with poisonous mushrooms. The story even gets more twisted when both mother and son agree to murder Nero’s half brother. After they succeed, Nero decides to kill his mother which I did not see coming since they both planned a solid plan to kill Nero’s half brother. This specific story really caught my attention and expanded my knowledge on some emperors and empresses!

    • grt

      But you have to be aware that the sources for this story are highly dubious and they all contradict each other. This story is more like a fairytale.

  • Adam Lenhart

    All I can say is that I am glad that I am not picking an order for the most infamous Roman emperors and empresses. All the cruelty is just a little too weird for me to assign a rank to any one of them. Augh!

  • Chelsea

    Dr Z,
    This was a very interesting article; extremely informative considering I have no heard of many of these emperors/empresses, so reading about their achievements and ingenuity was quite interesting.

  • Arimathean

    The icon shown for Empress Irene is actually that of the Great Martyr Irene. They are not the same person. Furthermore, it is not even clear that the empress of that name was ever named as a saint. The few icons labeled as “Irene the Empress” look identical to those of Great Martyr Irene. I suspect that both her icons and her being regarded as a saint have resulted from a relatively recent confusion of the two Irenes. The empress’s behavior towards her son, which you have recounted, would disqualify her from sainthood if not repented.