It’s a bit of a bitch being a historical figure. You know that every step you take, every move you make, historians will be watching you. And that’s a lot of pressure.
You also have to take into account the need to be completely badass with everything that you say. You wouldn’t want to be remembered in history as the guy who faced down the might of the Soviet Union with a rabble-rousing “Let’s, uh, do, like, some stuff to make sure that, errr, well, we, I dunno, like, um, possibly maybe win?”.
Luckily some people got the historical timbre right and managed to come up with the badassiest quotes in history which are sure to perpetuate their fame forevermore.
Foch (tremendous name) was a French soldier in World War I who was credited with possessing “the most original and subtle mind in the French army”. That’s damning someone with faint praise given the French thing, but Foch was good at quotes. Foch’s forces were being spanked in the war by Germans and were pretty much on the retreat. It’s at that moment that this Focher let out the best words ever uttered by a Frenchman:
Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I attack.
They attacked. It worked.
In the world’s most abrupt fuck you, General McAuliffe responded to the following letter sent at the Battle of the Bulge:
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
The German Commander.
Now, of course, this isn’t the most lengthy and boring quotes in history, so you should expect McAuliffe’s response was a little different.
Well, it was a lot different.
McAuliffe might’ve just been following in the historical footsteps of Pierre Cambronne, who was asked to surrender by the British at the Battle of Waterloo. As the Brits sent over a small boat to ask the French to politely do what they do best, Cambronne was taken with an entirely un-French feeling: the need to stand up and fight. His reply to the offer to submit?
We have a problem here in the UK called ‘The Troubles’. The problem is that that’s kind of like calling a murderous lion your pet pussy cat or breaking your neck a boo-boo. The Troubles were an enormously long religious war in Ireland and Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants which spilled out across the world, resulting in countless lives lost.
So any discussions around it are bound to be a bit heated. Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, got a bit too heated, and gave us this rant.
Sparta is pretty badass city-state. They threw puny children off cliffs, demanded that the survivors go through Spartan training camp and pretty much scared shitless anyone who dared cross them.
Philip of Macedon isn’t a slouch either. But when he rocked up to Sparta to invade, he obviously had bitten off more than he could chew.
He sent an emissary with a message which was equal parts sweet for its poeticness and its naivety:
You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army on your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people and raze your city.
That might work in Corinth or Athens. But this. was. Sparrrrrrrtaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
(I’ve always wanted to do that.) So they replied back in the most dickish, cocky way possible.