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These are 10 of history's most fateful mistakes

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Some of the biggest modern-day screw-ups seem to be missed opportunities, whether it's throwing out your Bitcoin portfolio or selling your stake in Apple in the 1970s for $800.

But of course, human beings have been f--cking things up since the dawn of time, and back in the day the consequences were far greater than missing your chance to make a fortune.

Here are ten of the really, truly disastrous mistakes made throughout the ages that changed the course of history forever. Everyone who turned down JK Rowling ain't got nothing on these spectacular fails:

1. Pissing off the Trung sisters

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Buddhist nuns practising kung fu

Trung Trac and Trung Nhi were sisters from a small village in first century Vietnam, which at the time was viciously ruled by Han China. When Trac's husband took a stand against their local warlord, he was executed, and Trac was raped.

What the Chinese didn't bother to find out before is that the Trung sisters were highly skilled martial artists and military strategists who weren't afraid of dishing out some payback.

Trac and Nhi raised an army of 80,000 women who proceeded to drive the Chinese right out of Vietnam for three years. Although they were eventually defeated, they are national heroes in the country and to this day don't exist in the Chinese version of history.

2. A spot of late night baking

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You only had one job, Thomas Farriner, which was to bake bread without burning down half of London.

A fire that broke out in Farriner's Pudding Lane bakery around midnight one night in 1666 lasted four days, destroyed St Paul's Cathedral, most of the city authority buildings and the homes of 70,000 of London's 80,000 inhabitants.

3. Bullying a blind man

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In 1171 the Byzantine Empire stepped up its hostility towards the Republic of Venice, which at the time was a small and thriving city state. Venice sent the elderly statemsan Enrico Dandolo to serve as an ambassador in Constantinople (modern Istanbul), but when he got there Emperor Manuel I Komnenos apparently blinded him for fun. He still served as ambassador for 14 years.

More than thirty years after the incident and blind Dandolo was in his 90s, he returned to Constantinople with the armies of the Fourth Crusade and took the city, effectively conquering the entire empire in one fell swoop.

With justice well and truly served, he died the next year.

4. Killing the messenger

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Genghis Khan, the ruler of the Mongol empire, had sought to open diplomatic and trade links with Ala ad-Din Muhammad, Shah of the neighbouring Khwarezmid empire (modern day Iraq/Iran) in the 13th century.

However, when Muhammad rejected a generous caravan gift and beheaded a Mongol diplomat, Genghis decided upon retribution on an almost industrial scale.

He laid siege to a citadel, supposedly getting a refund for his caravan gift by pouring molten silver into the ruler's eyes and mouth, and then stormed into the capital Khwarezmia with 200,000 warriors and all but destroyed an empire of four million people. Legend has it Genghis even diverted rivers to wipe the Shah's birthplace off the map.

5. Running a 1,400 year old company into the ground

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Kongo Gumi workers in 1930

Japanese temple building company Kongo Gumi was the world's oldest continuously operating business until it went bust in 2006: the company, which passed down through the Kongo family for 40 generations, had been in business since 578 AD.

To be fair to the last CEO, Masakazu Kongo, it wasn't really his fault that the Buddhist temple building business dropped off in the 20th century. But still: bad investments were a big part of Kongo's decline.

6. Killing more than two birds

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You know what they say: a bird in the hand is worth a lot more than killing them all dead.

In what was one of Mao Zedong's worst ideas (among spectacular competition), the People's Republic of China's leader instigated the Great Sparrow Campaign of 1958, killing birds en masse because he thought they ate the corn on farms and compromised the harvest. The absence of a natural predator led to a explosive growth in parasite populations that destroyed crops completely in some areas and led to a famine that killed millions.

7. Trying to expand your kingdom and losing your own in the process

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Ah, Scotland, no one can fault your ambition. In the 1690s the independent nation wanted to become a world trading power and pinned its hopes and dreams on the establishment of a new colony called "Caledonia" in modern day Panama, straddling the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Spain, which had claimed imperialist dibs on the region, did not take kindly to the Scottish muscling in, and the campaign (which was poorly planned anyway) was put to an end in 1700 after a thorough defeat by Spanish forces.

Scotland had borrowed heavily from England for the venture and was left stony broke, which weakened the country's resistance to the Act of Union in 1707 that has tied the countries together ever since...

8. Trying to invade Russia pretty much any time ever

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Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in 1812

Literally just don't even think about it. Military campaigns against Russia proved to be the undoing of both Napolean and Hitler, and over the centuries the Huns, Sarmartians, Scythians, Mongols, Turks and Magyars have all tried and failed to take a piece of what is now modern Russia.

Nowadays you'd have to face down the blue steel gaze of Vladimir Putin, too.

9. Drinking and driving

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The Tree of Ténéré in 1961

Never a good idea; a drunk truck driver managed to plough into and destroy one of the most beautiful natural wonders on the planet.

The Tree of Ténéré was a solitary acacia near a well in the Sahara in northeaster Niger, used as a landmark for nomads and caravan routes through the desert - it was the only tree shown on a map at a scale of 1:4,000,000 and said to be the most isolated tree in the world.

In 1973 a truck driver from Libya knocked it over because he had been drinking. The dead piece of history is now in the National Museum of Niger.

10. But hey. None of them are Reddit user JayDogSmith:

So I'm hoping a load of people are going to come out in support of me here but I've got that sinking feeling I may be alone in this.

Our toilet broke so I was in shopping for new ones and the sales person joked (no doubt for the millionth time) that I'll want one that automatically puts the seat down after I'm finished with it. I 'joked' back and said if I didn't have a wife I could save money and not buy one with a seat and I'd never have to hear women complaining about putting it down again. To which he gave me a strange look and said "but what about when you need to poop?" I naturally pointed out that I'm a guy and therefore don't put the seat down, I sit on the rim of the bowl. Several embarrassing moments later, I realize that I've misunderstood my entire life and that guys do indeed use the toilet seat. I left empty handed and red faced.

Thinking about it now, it makes sense. Especially how men's restrooms have seats. But I just assumed it was a unisex/cost saving/oversight deal.

HT: Reddit


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