Who was the standard-bearer for EVIL prior to Hitler?

Title pretty much says it all: Who was the standard-bearer (at least in the Western world) for evil prior to 1945?

Napoleon? Genghis Khan? Judas? The Boogeyman? The Devil? Was there even one?

I don’t know, but

these were my first guesses. It would have to be someone that eventually lost a conflict, I think.

Attila the Hun?

Per this recent article (Hank Williams Jr. firing: Who was the rhetorical worst person in history before Hitler?), Napoleon, Pharoah and King George were popular choices (obviously depending on where you lived).

Not sure Napoleon would count; there’s a Sherlock Holmes story concerning busts of Napoleon getting destroyed, Lestrade thinks its the work of a lone Napoleon-hating nutter; discussing how rare it would be for someone to still hate him so much (it’s set less than a century after the wars). Not to mention busts of him are even being sold (and in England), I can’t see busts of Hitler being sold any time soon.

Attila the Hun would probably be up there, when the British wanted to demonise the Germans in WW1 & 2 “The Hun” was the shorthand they used.

In Dante’s Inferno, Judas Iscariot is in the worst spot in Hell, being chomped up in Satan’s mouth for eternity. Brutus and Cassius, who betrayed/murdered Julius Caesar, are nearby.

I would say one of the Christian’s perceived evildoers such as Judas Iscariot or Pontius Pilate.

Attila, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane all had that fearsome conqueror thing going. Or it could be some “mad tyrant” who slaughtered people domestically.

The gospels don’t really make out Pilate to be worse than the high priest’s family, though. Judas gets a lot of flack for being a traitor. But Pilate starts from lower expectations, and is usually judged less harshly; he was just an occupier putting down a rebel would-be king.

Some folks would say it’s Oliver Cromwell.

The Turks were a huge hassle for Eastern Europe for hundreds of years and relatively recently, too, weren’t they? One of those dudes?

Dr. Fu Manchu

Nero? Caligula? Or are they only more recently recognized as EVIL?

Vlad the Impaler (15th century) is popularly known for not much other than torturing people. I’m not saying he’s the definitive answer, though.

But he and Ivan the Dread were more Eastern than Western. (Ivan was the one invoked in my family.)

This gets asked here a couple of times a year. The usual consensus is Atilla.

I don’t know the answer to OP (though Vlad the Impaler seems a plausible choice), but am surprised to see Napoleon mentioned.

Napoleon may have waged wars recklessly, but was he really “EVIL”? I don’t think the French would agree. (Le tombeau de l’Empereur made quite an impression on me on my first visit to Paris.)

Attila the Hun is the one I’ve heard the most reference to over the years. His sobriquet “The Scourge of God” is proably a factor. Napoleon and Genghis Khan were also warrior/conquerors, but it seems Attila’s reputation has a noticeably higher level of nastiness. I would say it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with Hitler, but probably the closest thing there was before Hitler.

What about Jack The Ripper?

No, because a small time serial killer doesn’t even come close to a leader of a gigantic military who aggressively conquered and killed many millions of people.