Nothing in life lasts forever – and for many figures throughout history, that has included their respective grips on power, glory and fortune. At one time or another, all these people had the world at their feet. Yet whether it was thanks to political or military power, celebrity status or even renowned intelligence, those same individuals also had it all to lose. And lose it they did, as they each tumbled from grace in the most dramatic of fashions.
Heralded as among the founding fathers of Western philosophy, Socrates spent most of his life challenging the established beliefs of his fellow Athenians. Yet while this secured him a great many admirers, it also led to his vilification by those who disagreed with him. The unstable sociopolitical climate at the time resulted in people ultimately rejecting Socrates’ forward-thinking views, and in 399 B.C. he stood trial on various charges, including blasphemy. Rather than fleeing Athens, however, as a matter of principle the philosopher accepted the death sentence that was handed down.
19. Liu He
Liu He may as well have written the book on how not to be a leader. An emperor in the Chinese Han dynasty for just 27 days in 74 B.C., this historical figure was nevertheless said to have committed a whopping 1,127 offenses during that short time. Among his alleged transgressions were partying through the period of mourning for his uncle, whom he’d succeeded as emperor, and promoting his friends to positions of power. Eventually, then, officials apparently got so fed up that they sought permission from his aunt to depose him. Liu He was therefore subsequently removed from power and assigned to the post of marquis of a small province – where he lived until his death at just 33.