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Badasses in History: Shaka Zulu

Ah Shaka Zulu.

Really, when it comes to warlords of Sub-Saharan Africa, it doesn’t get much more badass than old Shaka. Though not affiliated with Waka Flocka Flame—as their similar sounding names might lead you to believe—the two men do share some key similarities, in that both opposed the killing of animals: Waka by posing nude for PETA, Shaka by advocating the wholesale slaughter of those tribes not willing to submit to his rule.

Known even today as a military genius, Shaka managed to expand his chiefdom from a tribe 1,500 strong into an Empire spanning more than two million square miles and containing 250,000 subjects—or in modern parlance, the size of two Costcos and a Wall-mart.

Born with spear in hand (literally; it was a very very difficult pregnancy, let me tell you), Shaka essentially rebuilt the Zulu culture from the ground-up, transforming it into a militaristic war-machine by introducing the “iklwa,” (a short spear, named for the sound it made entering and exiting a foe’s body) the “assegai,” (a throwing spear; you figure this one out) and the spiked shield to his men. More importantly, Shaka also divided his warriors into smaller regiments, and required all his fighters to learn and understand complicated tactics (supplanting the previous “Run-forward-quickly-and-yell-loudly-stabstabstab” system used by his predecessors). In time, his men grew so fit that they could run up to 50 miles in a day. By comparison, most modern Americans can’t run to and from their fridge.[1]

Unsurprisingly, Shaka bitchslapped any rival tribes, giving the losers two choices: join Shaka and renounce their tribal loyalty, or live out the remainder of their lives in peace.

Oops. Homophones and whatnot. I meant pieces (Generally, this meant “the remainder” was in the ballpark of, oh, let’s say twenty seconds?).

As you can imagine, the second option was quite a bit less popular than the first, and as a result, Shaka is one of the lucky few to have finished a war with more people than he started it with, and is widely regarded as having controlled the most powerful and wide-reaching African empire since Ancient Egypt.[3]

Speaking of the British (read the footnotes, dick), Shaka managed to restrain his homicidal rage long enough to establish peaceful contact (damn, I was hoping for piece-full) and a few trade routes with the old limeys. That said, Shaka was generally more of the kill-first-who-cares-about-questions-anyway type, most notably after the death of his mother. When that happened, Kojak, I mean, Shaka, ordered a three-month period of mourning for all the Zulu people, in which no one was allowed to eat anything (which, you know, you need to do to like, live). Still not satisfied, Shaka went and murdered some cows so that the calves would know what it was like to lose a mother[4], and rounded his grief off by executing 7,000 people who "didn't look sad enough."

With no heads, they definitely looked sadder.

Anyhow, Shaka died in 1828, when his crotch-monkey half-brothers bro-ssassinated him with knives. He’s still remembered even today though as a definite badass.

Kind of a jerk though, right?

[1] You try running carrying a bowl of mash potatoes, two chickens, and one surprisingly unintelligent dog[2]

2 In that he is trying to eat the bowl rather than the potatoes

3 That English and French colonialism crap doesn’t count. If you don’t have a mountain of skulls, you’re not a warlord. Simple as can be.

4 Modern society’s got him beat on this one. Slaughterhouses, yo.

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