Exceptionally adept or exceptionally lucky, here are 8 individuals who broke through the shackles of slavery, defied fate and rose to rule empires. These individuals came from humble beginnings but it did not take long for these slaves to become kings and emperors. Their rise to power is quite inspirational.
Read about the 8 slaves who refused to accept their fate and became kings
1) Saif ad-Din Qutuz- A man who rose from slave to Sultan of Egypt
Saif ad-Din Qutuz was sold into slavery in Egypt but rose to the position of vice-sultan over 20 years. He went on to become the power behind the throne. Eventually, he became the 3rd of the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt in the Turkic line.
2) Baibars’ rise to power
Baibars was sold into slavery when he was held as a captive after the invasion of the Mongols. He was a slave to the Sultan of Egypt; He gradually rose to power and became commander to Sultan Qutuz of Egypt and after the assassination of Qutuz, he succeeded him as the 4th Sultan of Egypt.
3) King Henri Christophe of Haiti was a slave too!
Henri was a former slave of the Bambara ethnicity in West Africa and perhaps of Igbo descent. He was elected as the president of Haiti on 17 February 1807. He later went on to create the kingdom of Haiti where he was proclaimed as Henri I, King of Haiti.
4) Eunus- A Roman slave who became king
Eunus was a roman slave from Apamea in Syria. He became the leader of the slave uprising in the First Servile War in the Roman province of Sicily. He participated in the storming of Enna, after the capture of the city he crowned himself as King.
5) Basil I- A former slave who became emperor
Another person on our list of slaves who became kings is Basil I. He was born to peasant parents and spent most of his childhood in captivity in Bulgaria and later escaped captivity. Because of his abilities as a horse tamer, he caught the eye of the Byzantine Emperor Michael III and became his bodyguard, companion and confidant and after the death of the latter, Basil was proclaimed Emperor.
6) Diocletian- Born into slavery but became the Emperor of Rome
Diocletian came from a family of low status and was allegedly born into slavery. But his status did not deter him from joining the military where he steadily grew in ranks. Soon he was appointed as the commander of Roman forces on the lower Danube. However, he got formal recognition when Emperor Carus made him the commander of the elite cavalry force. After Carus’ death, his sons Numerian and Carinus were made emperors of the East and the West. However, after the death of Numerian, Diocletian was made emperor of the east. He subsequently became emperor of the west in place of the unpopular Carinus. Thus Diocletian reigned over the Roman Empire for 21 years. Yes, today he is known as one of the worst Roman Emperors, but his story from a slave to a king is remarkable.
7) Qutb-al-din Aibak- From slave to Sultan of Delhi
Qutb-al-din Aibak was sold into slavery as a child. Eventually, he was purchased by the Sultan of the Ghurid Empire Mu’izz ad-Din, who put him in charge of the royal stables. The sultan grew to favour him and eventually put him in charge of his Indian territories. Aibak turned out to be great at conquest and conquered most of the North Indian territories. After Mu’izz ad-Din’s death, his empire was divided amongst his leading and most competent slaves. Thus, Qutb-al-din Aibak became the Sultan of Delhi. Additionally, he was also the founder of the Slave dynasty (mamluk) which reigned over India for almost a century. Although his reign was quite short, he left his mark in history and is now among the few slaves who became kings.
8) Iltutmish- A slave who became a great king
The last in our list of slaves who became kings is Iltumish. As a young boy, Iltutmish was sold into slavery and served under many masters. Eventually, he came under the possession of Qutb-al-din Aibak, the then commander of the Ghurid Army. He soon grew in his favour and was granted the tax farming of Badaun. Additionally, Iltutmish had excellent military skills which were recognised by Sultan Mu’izz ad-Din. Post the Sultan’s death, Aibak became the ruler of India and Iltutmish became a prominent man under his reign. After Aibak’s untimely death, Iltumish dethroned his unsuccessful successor, married his daughter and crowned himself the Sultan of Delhi. Moreover, during his reign, he successfully conquered many large areas of Northern India.
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