Some do it for love, some do it for money or politics: these people sold out their countries, their comrades…even their own families…changing the course of history forever. Here is our list of Top 10 Traitors.
10. Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes was part of a revolutionary group of Roman Catholics, who plotted to blow up most of England’s aristocracy in 1605. The infamous Gunpowder plot was foiled by authorities who caught Fawkes before he could carry out his murderous intentions: he was apprehended due to his attire of cloak, boots and spurs, a suspicious costume designed to ensure a quick getaway.
Fawkes and his colleagues worked hard at their plot, using a cellar under The House of Lords as their base, and hiding over 1800 pounds of explosives in the small space.
Fawkes and his co-conspirators wished to loosen the influence of the Spanish kingdom on British affairs, feeling that they drained resources from England.
Guy Fawkes believed in his ideals, and he didn’t break, even under torture, refusing to name his comrades until he was sure they had already confessed. He was sentenced to by hung, drawn, and quartered in 1606, but foiled authorities by jumping from the scaffold to his demise at the last minute: even in death, he was crafty and mischievous.
His story is referenced in the film, V For Vendetta. To this day, the rebellious acts of Guy Fawkes are legendary, and the English have a special event each year, Bonfire Night, every fifth of November: it celebrates the failure of his notorious plot.
9. Robert Hanssen
Hanssen grew up in a dysfunctional home, suffering abuse at the hands of his father. He started a career as a police officer in Chicago, but left to pursue employment as an FBI Special Agent in 1976.
Hanssen had strange proclivities: his interest in videotaping his sexual activities with his own wife, and showing them to neighbors, put him well outside the mainstream. In 1979, he became involved with FBI counterintelligence, and this paved the way for some of the most treasonous acts in American history.
In 1983, Hanssen transferred to the Soviet espionage unit within the FBI. Using his vast knowledge of computers, wiretapping, and electronic surveillance, he went on to sell lists of FBI double agents and other moles to KGB agents for large sums of money.
Hanssen was turned in to the FBI by his own brother-in-law, Mike Hauck: he is currently serving a life sentence, in solitary confinement, at ADX Florence, a supermax facility in Colorado.
8. Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda grew up as Hollywood royalty, surrounded by luxury and privilege. After an easy entrée into the acting world, greased by family connections and her own good looks, Jane became a passionate activist, involving herself in causes that were controversial and, in the eyes of many American veterans of the Vietnam War (including Jon McCain) highly treasonous. “Hanoi” Jane sympathized with the North Vietnamese, posing with their anti-aircraft guns, and “questioning” American POW’s (through her comrades, the North Vietnamese) about the “benevolent” treatment they were receiving from their captors. The soldiers tried to explain to Fonda that they were in fact being ill treated, and sometimes tortured, but she didn’t believe it. Some soldiers claim they withstood more torture and suffering because they would not speak to Jane and parrot the viewpoint that their captors were kind and peaceful. Many veterans tried to bring Jane Fonda up on charges of treason after the war, but, as some rich and famous people tend to do, she managed to escape any real punishment for her role in supporting the enemy during the Vietnamese conflict. She says now that she regrets her acts, but veterans of that conflict have yet to forgive “Hanoi Jane” for her easy embrace of the enemy.
Julius Caesar, self-appointed “dictator for life” of the Roman Empire, was a leader whose tyranny led to his assassination: he had many enemies in high places, including a group of senators who conspired to kill him, with the help of his own nephew, Marcus Junius Brutus. Brutus joined the Senate in Rome after an early and very lucrative career as a moneylender.
On the day of Caesar’s assassination, there were rumors that the plot had been discovered, and many of the conspirators were wary of carrying out the plan. Brutus’ own wife pleaded with him to stay far away from the Senate that day. Brutus was undaunted, and he went to lie in wait for his uncle, along with a group of senators who then attacked the dictator with their bare hands. The famous quote, “Et tu, Brutus?” was uttered by Caesar as he took in the depths of his betrayal by his own nephew. The assassins attacked Julius Caesar so savagely, that they themselves were injured in the melee.
Brutus committed suicide after losing the Second Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.
6. Wang Jingwei
Considered the greatest traitor in Chinese history, Wang Jingwei was born in 1883. When he turned 21, he went to school in Japan, where he encountered Sun-Yat Sen, a famous Chinese revolutionary. Under the influence of Sen, he began to participate in plots against the government, including an abortive assassination attempt on the Manchu Regent in Beijing.
Jang stayed in prison until the Wuchang uprising in 1911: after that time, Sun remained his mentor. Sun Yat-Sen’s Guangdong government rose to power in 1920: when Sun lay on his deathbed in 1925, Wang was his chosen successor. Wang could not hold onto power, however: Jiang Jieshi’s military faction usurped him the very same year.
When Nanjing fell to the Japanese in 1937, Wang began his traitorous dealings with the Japanese government, earning his place in history. He supported Japan’s plans for an armistice in a notorious telegram that led to his expulsion from the Chongqing government. When China was in crisis and needed him most, Jingwei took pains to ally with the Japanese and go along with its invaders. Wang died before he could witness the defeat of the Japanese by Allied forces in WWII.
5. The Rosenbergs
Selling atomic secrets to the Russians during the Cold War is about as treasonous it as gets: the Rosenbergs were a married couple willing to do anything to further their Communist beliefs.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s were affiliated with the Communist Party quite openly until 1943, when they suddenly seemed to retreat from any political activity: this was the same year they joined forces with Soviet super spy, Feliksov.
From then on, Julius Rosenberg was heavily involved in espionage against the American government: he acted as a mule for covert information exchanges with the Russians, and sought out new recruits to betray and spy for the USSR. He was arrested as he shaved one morning in 1950. He and his wife, Ethel, were executed on June 19, 1953.
4. Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold was an American general who served the cause of the American Revolution until he decided to shift his allegiance to the British. Born in Connecticut in January 1741, he came from a troubled background, where his family struggled to survive poverty and hardship. Always known as a troublemaking child, he grew to become a prominent figure in the military, where he trained soldiers and planned out attacks.
From an early start as a war hero and patriot, Arnold plotted to turn over the American fort at West Point, New York to British forces during the American Revolution. His plot was unsuccessful and he was driven to escape by sea, under cover of darkness, to Britain, where he was not welcomed with open arms: they, too, distrusted the man who would betray his own country so readily. He died in poverty in Canada in 1801.
3. Aldrich Ames
Ames entered the Soviet Embassy in Washington in 1985 and offered to sell American secrets for one reason only: money. He was an alcoholic with a very expensive second wife, a woman name Rosario who burned through his paychecks from the CIA with alarming frequency.
In order to give the woman he loved the lifestyle she demanded, he was willing to do a lot of damage to the US government: by releasing the names of American spies and other counterintelligence information, he compromised over 100 United States military operations.
Thanks to Aldritch, who earned about 4.6 million dollars for his efforts, 10 Americans were executed because their covers were “blown”. In time, he revealed the names of every US agent in operation against the USSR. His lavish lifestyle raised red flags for the CIA, and he was arrested and convicted to life in prison: his wife, Rosario, was deported to South America.
2. Vidkun Quisling
Considered a lunatic right-winger in his native Norway, Quisling went unnoticed until forming his National Unity Party in 1933. He adored Hitler and was a firm believer in the doctrine of Fascism. Quisling, a military general, met with Hitler and made sure he had all the information he needed about Norwegian military strategy, so that Hitler could secure the occupation of Norway.
When the Germans invaded, Quisling was appointed as Premier, as the deposed government officials scattered and ran, trying to stay alive. The citizens of Norway were disgusted by his appointment, and rebelled until he was forced to step down. Nonetheless, Hitler had him reinstated that November. A failure and a weak politician, Quisling often made a fool of himself, even in the eyes of his Nazi collaborators. After the German surrender in Norway, Quisling was tried and convicted for deaths of 1000 Jews, along other war crimes. He was executed in 1945.
1. Judas Iscariot
According to the Bible, Satan “entered Judas” before he betrayed the son of Christ to Roman authorities. This infamous member of the Twelve Apostles betrayed his friend for money alone – thirty pieces of silver. Judas arranged a special signal to let the authorities know the identity of Jesus Christ: he would kiss Jesus to identify him. This “Judas kiss” led to the prosecution and death by crucifixion of the Son of God, and puts Judas Iscariot at number one as the most notorious traitor in human history: Judas died shortly after his monumental act of greed.