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istory is full of brave people who tried to get out of the struggles of their era, revolting against political leadership and social conditions. From the multitude of examples, I have chosen people of a more modest rank and with a military background, more or less known, all related to the desire of nonconformism and the provocation of historical changes. All of these people are willing to give their last breath for a better life, not just for themselves, but also for those surrounding them.

Spartacus (109–71 BC)

Spartacus fighting against hordes of Roman soldiers (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Spartacus was the most notable leader of the slaves of the third war waged by the Roman Republic to stop the uprisings. Little is known about Spartacus before he became involved in this war, and existing sources often contain contradictions. Spartacus trained at the gladiator school (ludus) near Capua, owned by Lentulus Batiatus. In 73 BC Spartacus was found in a group of gladiators plotting to escape. The plot was revealed, but nearly 70 people manage to seize the kitchen and make their way out of school, capturing some with weapons and armor. The freed slaves defeated a small army sent after them and plundered the region, including other slaves as they retreated to Mount Vesuvius. The group won more battles with Spartacus, Crixus, and Oenomaus, but Crassus’ Roman legions ended the uprising. Spartacus’ fate is uncertain because his body was never found.

William Wallace (1273–1305)

Wallace in stained glass at his monument in Stirling (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

William Wallace belonged to the little nobility. His conflict with the English started for personal reasons, but instead of becoming an outlaw, he became a rebel. Wallace’s position did not correspond to the interests of the great Scottish nobility, who recognized King Edward I as an arbitrator in the battles for succession. Wallace himself killed William de Heselrig, the sheriff of Lanark, the rebellion officially starting in 1297. The troops under Wallace’s command won the battles, despite numerical inferiority. Wallace defeated Stirling Bridge, becoming Guardian of Scotland, a title held until the defeat at Falkirk. In 1305 he was taken prisoner at Robroyston and handed over to Eduard, who executed him for high treason. The empowerment this man gave to his rebel troops was astonishing, which made them win a large number of battles with fewer troops and inferior equipment. He fought for the people of his country.

Wat Tyler (1341–1381)

Wat Tyler is murdered when he goes to meet King Richard (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

He may have been a craftsman from Kent or Essex. The reason for the rebellion that he began was the intention to implement the capitulation within Medieval England. King Richard II was only 12 years old at the time. The first protest took place on May 30, 1351, and in June the rebel army moved to London. On June 14, 1381, during negotiations with the King, the rebels killed the Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon de Sudbury, as well as Treasurer Robert de Hales. On the next round of negotiations, Wat Tyler falls victim, on June 15, 1381, to the Lord Mayor of London, William Walworth. King Richard II had promised to respond to requests, but no word remains. His only concession was the renunciation of the term of captivity.

Zhu Yuanzhang (1328–1398)

Zhu Yuanzhang during the Ming Dynasty (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Arguably the most successful rebel in history is this Chinese soldier born in a poor village, who spent a good deal of his time begging and experiencing personally the difficulties that many fellow citizens faced back in the Yuan Dynasty. For 4 years he lived in a monastery where he learned to read and write. The monastery was destroyed in 1352 when local troops rebelled against the Yuan dynasty. Zhu also enlisted in the rebel army, even commanding. In 1357 Nanjing, the capital was conquered. He became emperor by the name of Hongwu, although he was known by his temple name, Taizu. He founded the Ming Dynasty, one of the most important steps in the evolution of China as a nation that has brought the prosperity that the country beholds today.

Stepan Razin (1630–1671)

Stepan Razin on his execution day (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Razin was a Cossack leader who led a major uprising against the Czarist nobility and bureaucracy. The Cossacks were landowners linked to military occupation, often in opposition to central power. In 1670, when Razin went to report to the headquarters of the Don, he opened the revolt against the government, capturing Cherkassk and Tsaritsyn.

After taking Tsaritsyn, Razin sailed to the Volga with his army of 7,000 rebels. The target was the Cherny Yar fortress, located between Tsaritsyn and Astrakhan, which they took without too much trouble because of the soldiers rebelled against the officers and joined the Cossack cause in 1670. After massacring all opponents, including the princes. Prozorovsky turned Astrakhan into a republic. In 1671, however, he and his brother Frol Razin were taken to Kaganlyk, his last occupied fortress, and taken to Moscow, where Stepan was executed in the Red Square.

Yemelyan Pugachev (1742–1775)

Yemelyan Pugachev (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Pugachev was a Don Cossack from the same village as Razin. At only the age of 20, he left his family and set off for the Ural River. The rebellion began in 1773 when Pugachev claimed Peter III to have murdered Catherine II’s husband. The rebellion encompassed a very large area, occupied by an army of 10,000 rebels. Pugachev was captured by his own people, transported to Moscow in an iron cage, and publicly executed. There were so many executions in the rebel area that the population was reduced to one-third. In Russia at that certain time period, being a rebel was death on its own, however, the struggles of the Russian population pushed man like Razin and Pugachev as well as many others to put their lives at risk for what was in their eyes the worthies cause.

Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882)

Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Italian uprising (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Garibaldi was the son of merchants and initially became captain of the ship. In 1834 he participated in a failed insurrection, following Mazzini’s model, and was forced to go into exile in South America. He was taking part in a rebellion in Brazil before becoming commander of the Uruguayan fleet in a campaign against the president. He also took part in military actions during the revolution in Italy, defending Rome from the French. After the end of the revolution in 1850, he left for the United States, from which he returned in 1859. On May 11, 1860, he and 1000 other volunteers landed in Sicily, which they conquered with British aid. The army reaches 25,000 people on the continent. Garibaldi was caught but released. He also participated in military campaigns which lead to his election as a member of Parliament. All of this has brought only respect from the Italian population as a man who has truly fought for his country and for the causes for those in struggle or threatened by other powers.

Pancho Villa (1878–1923)

Pancho Villa on his horse during the Mexican Revolution (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Doroteo Arango, later known as Pancho Villa, was also born into a modest family. At the age of 16, he shot Lopez Negre, one of the owners of his family’s estate, because he tried to rape his sister. Villa ran away and joined a band of bandits, and at the beginning of the Mexican revolution of 1910, he became the head of a large army. He worked with General Huerta, which whom he ended up not agreeing with. He was sentenced to death, but President Madero reduced his sentence to imprisonment. Villa escaped from prison, becoming governor of one of the Mexican states after Huerta’s defeat. He later conflicted with the US, where he conducted attacks in New Mexico and Texas. Pancho was killed at a bank in Parral where he had gone to get the money needed to pay his soldiers. He is remembered as the man who started the Mexican revolution, but many see him as a fellow even if he fought for the right reasons.

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