War. Death. Destruction. A tale as old as time. A cycle that never ends. The millions of lives lost to mankind’s love of warfare is startling in quantity and impossible to grasp.
Some wars are so ancient, the world seems to have forgotten they ever occurred. Some are so recent, it is like they happened only yesterday. But both have staggering cultural, political, economic and social repercussions. Here is a look through history at some of the most costly wars mankind has endured.
22. The Biafran War
The Biafran War, also known as the Nigerian Civil War, was fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra from July 6, 1967, to January 15, 1970. After Britain formally decolonized from Nigeria in the early 1960s, political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions grew and Biafra sought succession. An estimated 2 million civilians perished due to famine during the blockade.
21. The Japanese Invasions of Korea
The two Japanese invasions of Korea between 1592 and 1598 CE are also known as the “Imjin Wars.” The first invasion started when Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a Japanese military leader, put into motion his long-held plan to invade China through Korea. It got off to a successful start as cities like Pyongyang and Seoul were captured, but eventually, the combined operations of the Korean navy, a large land army from Ming China and well-organized local rebels resulted in the first invasion stalling in 1593 CE. After unsuccessful peace talks, Hideyoshi launched a second, much less successful invasion in 1597 CE, and when the warlord died the next year, the Japanese forces withdrew. The conflict led to a death toll of 1 million for Korea.
20. The Iran–Iraq War
This prolonged military conflict between Iran and Iraq lasted through most of the 1980s. Open warfare began on September 22, 1980, when Iraqi armed forces invaded western Iran along the countries’ joint border. The roots of the war lay in a number of territorial and political disputes between Iraq and Iran. Fighting was ended by a 1988 cease-fire, though the withdrawal of troops did not take place until the signing of a formal peace agreement on August 16, 1990. Estimates of total casualties range from 1,000,000 to twice that number, with Iran likely suffering the greatest losses. Both sides fought brutally with the use of chemical weapons and deliberate attacks on civilian targets.
19. The Siege of Jerusalem
The Siege of Jerusalem of 70 CE marks the Roman military blockading Jerusalem during the First Jewish Revolt. The Romans encircled the city with a wall to cut off supplies to the city completely and thereby drive the Jews to starvation. They also destroyed much of the city, including the “Second Temple,” a center of worship and national identity in ancient Israel. The fall of the city marked the conclusion of a four-year campaign against the Jewish insurgency in Judaea. The majority of information on the siege comes from the notes of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. According to these notes, 1.1 million civilians died during the siege, mainly as a result of violence and famine.
18. The Korean War
At the end of the Second World War, Korea was divided along an internal border between North and South Korea (sometimes referred to as “the 38th Parallel”). Tensions reached an explosive high in June 1950 when North Korea—supplied and advised by the Soviet Union—invaded the South. The United Nations—with the United States as the principal participant—joined the war on the side of the South Koreans, and the People’s Republic of China came to North Korea’s aid. After more than a million combat casualties had been suffered on both sides, the fighting ended in July 1953 with Korea still divided into two hostile states—North and South, as it remains today.
17. The Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910, was the first major social revolution of the 20th century. It was the dawn of many changes in Mexico’s government, including the end of dictatorship in Mexico and the establishment of a constitutional republic. Though a constitution drafted in 1917 formalized many of the reforms sought by rebel groups, periodic violence continued into the 1930s. It has been difficult for historians to quantify the death toll of this period of Mexican history, but most estimates range from 1 to 2 million.