by John Waller
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There have been many civilizations in the history of the world, from China to Zimbabwe, From Britain to Columbia. Here is a list of the most terrifying civilizations, from bad to worst. Due to the numerous civilizations in the course of human history, there are bound to be some you think should be here – tell us why in the comments.



Celtic Empire


Celts had a large reputation as head hunters, and were famous for putting victim’s heads on their chariots, and in front of their homes. Many Celts fought completely naked (much to the surprise of their enemies) and are famous for their iron long sword: “They cut off the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and striking up a paean and singing a song of victory; and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies, and preserve them carefully in a chest, and display them with pride to strangers, saying that for this head one of their ancestors, or his father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a large sum of money. They say that some of them boast that they refused the weight of the head in gold[.]“


Maori Civilization

The Maori were the first settlers of New Zealand – arriving many centuries before Europeans. Their culture dates back to the early modern era. They had been known to practice cannibalism during warfare. In October, 1809, a European convict ship was attacked by a large group of Maori warriors, in revenge for the mistreatment of a chief’s son. The Maori killed most of the 66 people on board, and carried dead and alive victims off the boat and back to shore to be eaten. A few lucky survivors, who were able to find a hiding spot inside the mast of the boat, were horrified as they watched the Maori devour their shipmates through the night and in to the next morning.


Mongol Empire


The Mongols were considered barbarians and savages. They dominated Europe and Asia and were most famous for riding on horseback, lead by one of the greatest military commanders in history, Genghis Khan. They were highly disciplined and masters with using the bow and arrow on horseback. They used a composite bow that could rip through armor, and were also pretty good with lances and scimitars. They were masters of psychological warfare and intimidation, and built the second largest empire ever, smaller only than the British Empire (But nothing’s scary about tea and crumpets). It all started when Temujin (who was later known as Genghis Khan), vowed in his youth to bring the world to his feet. He almost did. Then he set his sights on China, and the rest is history. From Vietnam to Hungary, the Mongol Empire is the largest contiguous empire in the history of mankind.


Apache Tribes


The Apaches were like the ninjas of America. They would sneak up behind you and slit your throat, without you even knowing. They used primitive weapons made mostly of wood and bone. They were also the greatest knife fighters the world has ever seen, and were pretty good with the tomahawk and throwing ax. They terrorized the southwest United States, and even the military had trouble beating them. They were great hit and run fighters, and their descendants teach modern day special forces how to fight in hand to hand combat. They usually scalped their victims.


Viking Empire


They terrorized Europe with their raids and pillaging (though not all of them, as we have previously read on Listverse). They were ferocious in battle and used weapons that suited their stature. They were big and mean and used their axes, swords and spears expertly in the conquering of cities. Even their religion was about war, and they believed that when you died in battle you fought, once again, in a never ending battle. They were all you would want in a soldier and proved it on the battlefield by destroying all in their paths.



North Korea


Those caught stealing food in the famine-struck nation, or attempting to cross the borders, are subject to public execution. Kim is continuing his lavish lifestyle and military obsession, in spite of the crumbling economy. In North Korea, he and his father are deified, considered saviors of the whole universe. 250,000 dissidents are confined to “re-education camps”. He has waged a war on South Korea that involved assassinating South Korean leaders and blowing up South Korean planes. He presents a great threat to the world in terms of nuclear warfare, having persuaded the Soviet Union to award him a nuclear reactor, in 1984.


Roman Empire


While Rome is possibly the greatest empire, you just can’t ignore some scariness. Criminals, slaves and others were forced to fight each other to the death in gladiatorial games. Some of the most evil men were Roman – Caligula, Nero and others. Christians were first, and horribly, targeted for persecution as a group, by the emperor Nero, in 64 AD. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive as human torches. At first they were ruled by divine kings, then they became a republic (perhaps their greatest period) before finally becoming an empire. How a group of farmers, who started off fending off wolves to protect their livestock, eventually became the greatest empire in all history is the stuff of legends. Coupled with an excellent military and administrative system, the Roman Empire, or rather ancient Rome, is also one of the longest-lasting. Counting from its founding to the fall of the Byzantine Empire, ancient Rome lasted for a whopping 2,214 years!


Aztec Empire


The Aztecs began their elaborate theocracy in the 1300s, and brought human sacrifice to a golden era. About 20,000 people were killed yearly to appease gods — especially the sun god, who needed daily “nourishment” of blood. Hearts of sacrifice victims were cut out, and some bodies were eaten ceremoniously. Other victims were drowned, beheaded, burned or dropped from heights. In a rite to the rain god, shrieking children were killed at several sites so that their tears might induce rain. In a rite to the maize goddess, a virgin danced for 24 hours, then was killed and skinned; her skin was worn by a priest in further dancing. One account says that at King Ahuitzotl’s coronation, 80,000 prisoners were butchered to please the gods. It is said that sometimes the victim would be cannibalized.


Nazi Germany


Although it was a very brief civilization, Nazi Germany was a superpower, and affected the world greatly. At least 4 million people were killed in the Holocaust (with some speculating it was closer to 11 million), and Nazi Germany started the worst war in human history – World War Two. The Nazi Swastika is probably the most hated symbol in the world. Nazi Germany owned about 268,829 square miles of land. Hitler was one of the most influential people ever – and his empire was, by far, one of the most terrifying.


Soviet Union


Communism is responsible for millions of deaths – more, even, than Nazi Germany in just the Soviet Union alone. Communists such as Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Nicolae Ceausescu and others have killed millions of people. But The Soviet Union stands out as the worst. Stalin, alone, killed 10-60 million people. The Soviet Union was probably one of the U.S.A’s greatest foes. Living under Stalin put even the most average person into a state of constant fear – this, alone, makes the Soviet Union worse than Nazi Germany, in which the majority of Germans felt a certain level of safety as long as they supported the Nazi concept.


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18 Responses

  1. Frankins

    Re Maori Civilization:

    I thought you may find this an interesting bit of my local history; About 10 minutes from where I live you can walk from the road to a site where nine European cavalrymen were killed by Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, the leader of a throng of Maori men. This happened in the 1860s at Opepe, 10 minutes’ drive from Taupo in the Central North Island.



      • Robert

        Americans are just as deserving as anyone else on this list – more so than some.
        Whether it be atrocities commited, death tolls or oppression – America are among the top in all of these categories.

      • Robert

        if we were on this list we would probably be around 7. But the US isn’t really feared as it is hated, all others on that list were feared.

  2. Nabil Al-Murabit

    I didn’t know that there was a Celtic Empire. I did some research and I couldn’t find one. What i did find were various Celtic kingdoms, naturally in Britain but also in the Breton area of France. I’m surprised that the Zulu’s didn’t make the list.

    • Winter

      The Celts, who originated in what is now southern Germany and North-Eastern France (Hallstatt culture), were never one specific nation, but the term Empire is used to define their culture and all the different tribes. In their glorydays (La Tene culture) their culture reached from the southern tip of Portugal in the west, to Turkey in the east, and to the north it reached all the way to the northern Scottish coast. They occupied Rome for seven months in 390BC, after which they were paid ransom by the Senate of Rome. A lot of the ‘technologies’ we think are Roman, are actually first introduced by the Celts, like the building of a good network of roads.
      If you want to learn more about the Celts, I’d suggest reading ‘The Celts, a history’ by Peter Berresford Ellis.

      As for the list as a whole, I find the title rather poorly chosen for some of the older cultures listed. True, some things they did we find terrifying in modern day society, but there are reasons behind why they did those things. I find it a pitty that there’s no emphasis on that.

  3. Yuri

    People seem to have a very poor grasp of conditions in the Soviet Union. It was bad there in the 1950s and 60s, but I doubt a majority of other countries had much better conditions. My family goes generations back in Russia and from their descriptions it seems far more pleasant then as portrayed in any American movie or book. Contrary to popular belief people did not live in fear, even under Stalinism. In fact in many rights the Soviet Union was more progressive then many other countries by encouraging people of lesser standing to aspire in education and women to be just as involved in work as men. Please do your research before labelling a country of which you know nothing about. I’m sorry if my English is poor.

  4. ano

    This article is total bullshit of random picked “so-called-civilizations” …. its another display of modern western idiocracy. Gotta love missplaced propaganda.

  5. Anna Key

    Look, the sole line to the British Empire is ‘nothing’s scary about tea and crumpets’. really?
    Ask the Australian aboriginals about the Shittish empire.

  6. david

    number 1 n 2 cant be true i mean usa managed to defeat them they wer evil true n usa is only evil through their torture tactics n the soldiers who secretly rape civilizians n all

  7. Vikram Hooda

    What about Israel and USA….. they have killed more people in the name of “birth right”, “Humanitarianism” and “spreading democracy” than most of the above combined…. but obviously i am just an anti Semite for saying that…. sssshhhh dont talk about this, go drink beer and watch jersey shore and congratulate yourself with a life of HUH??

  8. jack sprat

    Vikram Hooda,

    You seem sincerely to believe what you wrote. On what do you base your conclusions? Who were these legions of people whom you think were killed by America?

    Even in Iraq, the vast majority of those who’ve died since 2003 were killed by their fellow Iraqis, many of whom were armed and trained and otherwise supported by the Iranian intelligence service. In Afghhanistan, even if one chooses to set aside the fact that it created the state of war which led to its invasion, most of the killings were carried out by native factions, some of which were aided by Pakistani intelligence.

    As for our own natives, the vast majority of deaths are attributable to disease. By the time da Gama reached the Mississippi River, the infections that his men brought, chiefly smallpox, had wiped out most of the villages through which they’d passed for quite some time. The society of some 2 millions who lived along the River and its tributary systems was totally destroyed. A terrible result, but inevitable and not to America’s “credit”. After that, blame the British. Most of those whom they sent to these shores were “encouraged” by a savage Crown and Parliament, which needed laborers to accomplish her plunder. Beyond that, much of what occurred was tit-for-tat. Numbers told the tale, as they mostly do in such matters. Cruelty was not a one-way street here.

    As for Palestine, blame Britain and a Europe that turned its back on its dispossessed. Better there were no Israel, but it’s there–and no race of men should be required to die so that another (the European) might pretend that their own danger ends at that point. Enjoy your days as twilight falls on your civilization. The MOST terrifying civilization in the history is already among you. Sleep tight.

  9. anonymous

    Some of those on the list arent even civilizations, I mean North Korea come on they only terrorize their own population and are practically harmless to the rest of the world.

    You forgot the Ottoman Empire, the Turks enslaved millions of innocent people and raped and pillaged and forced people to change their religion and identity. The consequences of this barbaric empire are still in effect to this day in some parts of the world!


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