Bad Fathers in History and Mythology
King Laius (Λάϊος) - This King of Thebes was warned by the Oracle of Delphi that his future son would eventually grow up to kill him and take his wife Jocasta for himself. A drunk Laius ended up fathering a child (Oedipus) anyway, and so he did what most logical parents would do - he had Oedipus’s ankles bound (or in some versions, staked) together and left the baby to die in the mountains. Of course, Laius eventually got his comeuppance…
Ivan IV Vasilyevich (25 August 1530 – 28 March 1584) - Ivan the Terrible had several children by his first wife, Anastasia Romanovna, but the first to survive to adulthood was the fourth (and second eldest son), Ivan Ivanovich. As such, he was his father’s heir apparent, and according to historical accounts, inherited his father’s temper and cruelty. The Tsar sent his heir’s first two wives to convents because of their sterility, which soured their relationship. In 1581, he beat his son’s then-pregnant third wife, causing her to suffer a miscarriage; when the younger Ivan confronted him, he struck his son’s head with a pointed scepter, mortally wounding him. He did feel bad about it, though.
Herod the Great (74 BCE - 4 BCE) - The king of Judea had many children by several wives. His firstborn (by his first wife Doris), Antipater, was charged with the attempted murder of his father, and he was executed. His next wife, Mariamne, was also executed for allegedly committing adultery. Herod then had his two sons by Mariamne, Alexander and Aristobulus IV, strangled on charges of treason.
Peter the Great (9 June 1672 – 8 February 1725) - Like Ivan, Peter ended up causing the death of his heir - Alexei Petrovich. Alexei, son of Peter’s first wife Eudoxia Lopukhina (banished to a convent), was suspected of trying to overthrow his father; he was then tried and confessed under torture. Peter, unwilling to directly authorize his own son’s execution, was content to allow Alexei to die in prison of wounds sustained during torture instead.
Cronus (Κρόνος) - In Greek mythology, Cronus led the Titans in their overthrow of their own father, Uranus. Fearing the same sort of overthrow by his own offspring, Cronus proceeded to eat all five of his offspring (Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon). The sixth, Zeus, was swapped with a stone disguised as a baby, which Cronus also ate. In most versions of the tale, the adult Zeus frees his siblings from Cronus’s stomach, and together, they overthrow the Titans. I suppose Cronus’s father, Uranus, also warrants a spot on the “terrible father” list - he imprisoned his first children in Tartarus.
Joseph Stalin (18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953) - Stalin had three children by two wives. His firstborn son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, eventually shot himself, but he didn’t die; Stalin’s first words upon learning of Yakov’s suicide were “He can’t even shoot straight”. Later, during the war, Yakov was captured, to which Stalin coldly replied “I don’t have a son captured in Germany.” The Germans offered Stalin a trade - his son for captured German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, and Stalin refused. The Germans then proposed to trade Yakov for Hitler’s nephew Leo Raubal, but Stalin refused this proposition as well, merely saying “war is war”. So, abandoned by his father, Yakov was deported to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, where he died (according to German accounts, he ran into an electric fence).
… Happy Father’s Day!