11 Deadliest Bodyguard Units In History
From antiquity to today the safety and protection of public, wealthy, and most importantly, politically influential figures has been a very sensitive matter. Every emperor, king, powerful businessman, and president throughout history has been well aware of the fact that there are a series of dangers lurking around them such as assault, kidnapping, homicide, harassment, loss of confidential information, and a host of other criminal offenses. For that reason they make sure to hire the best guards to keep an eye on them 24/7. On this list we will find out about 11 effective bodyguard units that did (or still do) their job pretty well.
Written By Theodoros II
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THE IMMORTALS, PERSIAN EMPIRE
The elite force that fought in battle for the First Persian Empire (also known as the Achaemenid Empire) also served to protect the king. Herodotus called them “Immortals” during the Greco-Persian Wars because of their immense size, which numbered up to 10,000 soldiers, and their incredible fighting skills, to the point that the historian believed they were impossible to defeat. During battle the Immortals would immediately replace every killed or severely wounded member with a new one, thus maintaining the force’s numbers and unity. They played a significant role in the wars and conquests of many Persian kings including Cyrus the Great, Darius I, and Xerxes, and they were finally defeated in the Battle of Marathon by the united Greek forces after they had already been seriously decimated by the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae.
PRAETORIAN GUARD, ROMAN EMPIRE
The generals of the Roman army formed the Praetorian Guard by picking a few select men from the highest-ranking officials who had proved their bravery and skill in battle. These select few were the generals’ personal guards in times of battle as well as in ordinary times. Eventually, the Roman emperors became privy to this habit and it was the Roman Empire’s first emperor, Augustus, who officially established the Praetorian Guard in 27 BCE as his bodyguards. However, intrigue and scheming was not an unusual phenomenon in Roman times and there were cases where the Praetorian Guard not only didn’t protect the Roman emperor but actually murdered him instead, the case of Caligula being the most famous one in history.
SOMATOPHYLAKES, ANCIENT GREEK KINGDOM OF MACEDON
Somatophylakes in Greek means “bodyguards” and this is exactly what the name stood for in ancient Greece. The most famous somatophylakes in Greek antiquity were without a doubt the royal guard of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II, which consisted of seven of the best warriors and the highest-ranking military officers of the Macedon army and which surrounded and looked after the king of Macedon literally every minute of the day.
THE LEIB GUARD, RUSSIAN EMPIRE
The Leib Guard (modern-day Russian Federation Guards) is an extraordinary skilled and trained military unit of the Russian Army that served for many years as personal guards of the Russian emperors. It all started in the 1690s when Peter the Great decided to modernize pretty much everything in Russia, including the bodyguards of previous Russian rulers known as Streltsy, whom Peter no longer trusted and considered dangerous and politically motivated by his adversaries. He replaced them with more advanced and highly trained forces of his own choosing, and history justified him since they prevented a few attempts on his life by his adversaries during his reign.
KHESHIG, MONGOL EMPIRE
In Mongolian, kheshig translates as “someone who’s blessed” and apparently this is what someone was considered for being part of the imperial guard of the Mongolian royalty during its prime. The main purpose behind the Kheshig was to look after the emperors and their families 24/7, since they had to protect them even when they slept or ate. The guard was divided into two teams, the day guard and the night guard. They did not fight in battle alongside the rest of the Mongolian army but instead stayed behind looking after the emperor’s wife, children, and the rest of his family. Their superior commander was called Cherbi and he was the one who usually knew the emperor’s darkest secrets and thus those of the empire as well.
SWISS GUARD, VATICAN CITY
Even though millions of tourists in Rome pose for a photograph in front of the Swiss soldiers on guard at the gates of Vatican City, very few are familiar with the history of these men who are willing to give their lives to protect the pope. Switzerland might be known for its wealth, banks, cheese, and Roger Federer nowadays, but back in the sixteenth century it was a very poor country that mainly produced tough young men who would later make up the Swiss mercenary regiments and who were considered some of the very best in the world at the time and served as Special Forces units in many wars and for different armies including the French and Spanish. The Papal Swiss Guard now located in Vatican City was founded in 1506 and is the only surviving united Swiss guard as well one of the most famous in the world.
300 HOPLITES, ANCIENT GREEK KINGDOM OF SPARTA
Contrary to popular belief and what many people falsely believe mainly because of the film 300, the elite unit of Spartan soldiers had a dual role: one was to fight on the front lines in wars involving Sparta and the other was to protect their king just like common bodyguards. Sparta was one of the very first Greek city-states that had two kings, one who went to war and led the army and the other who stayed in Sparta to command the state.
SCHUTZSTAFFEL (SS), NAZI GERMANY
If this list was about the bodies of guards we admire or like the most then there’s no doubt that the SS would have no place in this article, but we’re afraid that we have to be fair here in accordance with the facts. Adolph Hitler was the most hated man of his time and he knew this to be true so he made certain to have the very best bodyguards looking after him. The Schutzstaffel, better known as the SS, and which means “Protection Squadron” or “Defense Corps,” was a paramilitary organization that would do whatever it takes to protect Hitler and the Nazi Party’s ideology and objectives.
Under Heinrich Himmler’s leadership from 1925 until the end of the Third Reich in 1945, the Schutzstaffel committed countless crimes against humanity while at the same time protected and saved Hitler from numerous murder attempts. Many historians report that it was humanly impossible to get up close to Hitler since the Schutzstaffel was the closest thing to human shields that have ever been witnessed and would kill anyone who looked suspect. The SS was the main reason the Allies did not capture Hitler alive and many of its members committed suicide or just vanished instead of surrendering.
THE MUSKETEERS OF THE GUARD, FRANCE
The Musketeers of the military Household of the King of France, as they were officially known, is without a doubt the most famous unit of bodyguards in history, with some of the members of this “fighting company” becoming known in pop culture through novels and multiple Hollywood blockbusters. Henri d’Aramitz, Isaac de Porthau, Armand d’Athos, and probably the most celebrated of them all, the Comte d’Artagnan, who served Louis XIV as captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, were the main inspiration for one of the best-selling novels ever, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.
THE FORBIDDEN TROOPS, ANCIENT CHINA
Nicknamed the Forbidden Troops, the imperial guard of the ferocious Tang Dynasty of ancient China became known for being one of the most populous bodies of guards in history. They originally were the honor bodyguards of the emperor and their role was more decorative than anything but they turned out to be some of the most murderous and skilled bodyguards in East Asian history despite having a reign that lasted less than one hundred years.
Korea has a long history of military dictatorship and for that matter the country’s name derived from Goryeo, a local dynasty established in 918 by King Taejo. Tobang was the private military unit that protected the leading members of the Goryeo Dynasty and started as the personal bodyguard for Gyeong Dae-seung, the third military dictator who ruled the kingdom during the late period of the Goryeo in the late 1100s. Surprisingly enough and despite being a military dictator, Gyeong Dae-seung was particularly loved by the Korean people and was the one who helped the civilians prosper and live better lives.