What Was the Coldest Act of Revenge of All Time?

Graham Roumieu

Stephanie Barron, author, That Churchill Woman

After Waterloo, the British exiled Napoleon, who had conquered most of Europe, to St. Helena—an island so remote and tiny, it can barely be found on a map. Kind of like banning Donald Trump from Twitter for life.

Bill Peschel, author, Writers Gone Wild

Alexander Pope and Edmund Curll. Angry that the bookseller was publishing his poem without permission, Pope spiked Curll’s drink with an emetic, then relished describing his painful vomiting in print.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, authors, An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between Us

For nearly 50 years, speculation has swirled around the identity of the stunningly self-absorbed man in Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” By tightly holding the name of the louse who cast her aside—and who slept with “the wife of a close friend”—Simon paints a dark cloud over all the exes who ever did her wrong. (We imagine Warren Beatty hastily changing the station every time the song plays.)

Reader Responses

Ronnie Ra, Princeton, N.J.

Katherine Parr outliving Henry VIII.

Graham Roumieu

William McMullen, Mississauga, Ontario

Returning to Ithaca after 20 years, Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar, strings his great bow, and slaughters his wife’s 108 suitors. The palace doors are locked. None is spared.

Chanel Basha, Sydney, Australia

Euripides’s Medea, who was married to and had sons with Jason, succumbs to rage when she finds out he wants to marry Glauce and keep Medea as his mistress. Medea kills Glauce; Glauce’s father, Creon; and—to maximize Jason’s suffering—her own children.

Thomas F. Cingel, Kingston, N.Y.

President Donald Trump. Barack Obama’s ridicule of the reality-TV star at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner may have been his revenge for Trump’s “birther” claims, but it also potentially seeded politics’ ultimate revenge.

Stephen Azzi, Ottawa, Ontario

After more than a century of intermittent hostilities, the Romans laid siege to Carthage for three years and then destroyed the city in 146 b.c., enslaving 50,000 Carthaginians and killing the remainder of the city’s residents.

Jim Lee III, Charlotte, N.C.

After the Nazis’ invasion and defeat of France in 1940, the Germans forced the French to sign the terms of surrender in the very same railroad boxcar in which the Germans had capitulated to the Allies in 1918.

Matthew Riotto, Knoxville, Tenn.

When the Abbasids took power in Damascus in a.d. 750, they slaughtered nearly the entire ruling dynasty of the Umayyads. Exiled, Abd al-Rahman I eventually made his way to Córdoba, where he presided over the rise of one of the most advanced cultures on Earth. If success is the sweetest revenge, his story has to number among the greatest.

Graham Roumieu

Kristine Perria, Phoenix, Ariz.

In 1964, Seabury Stanton, the president of a textile company, backed out of an oral agreement with Warren Buffett. Buffett promptly bought control of the company just so he could fire Stanton.

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