So I've been a casual student of history for practically all of my life. A pattern I noticed, is that it seems that virtually no one has ever risen from peasantry to controlling an empire, or leading a successful rebellion.
I was reading The Prince, and I guess my reading comprehension was off because I could have sworn he said that Cyrus - The one Xenophon wrote about, rose from a private station, to a private in the army, eventually becoming an officer, and then a general, and eventually leading a coup and starting his own empire.
So I read the actual book my Xenophon, and although Cyrus was undoubtedly a noble, virtuous, and ambitious man who played his cards very wisely, both his father, and grandfather were kings. So I was kind of disappointed.
My question to you, is can you think of any times a private citizen was able to raise an army and form their own empire?
Well after the mid 10th century all pretense of reigning in the name of the caliph or his governors was out the window. The child Abbasid caliph was murdered by one of these ghulams, and in eastern Iran the Samanid dynasty was beginning to fail.
Starting what later became a trope, a Samanid general named Alptigin left the Samanid court and conquered a place called Ghazna. His lieutenant Sebuktigin married his daughter although he was a slave he once bought of no real account or name some years before. Upon Alptigin's death Sebuktigin and his son formed the Ghaznavid Sultanate. This cycle would repeat when a soldier in the Ghaznavid army named Tughril himself rebelled to form the Seljuk Empire, who upon their collapse spawned several atabegs - soldiers who had worked their way up the ranks to marry the queen-mother of a Seljuk prince - one of which was the Zengids which later caused the rise of Saladin and the Ayyubids, who themselves were overthrown by the Mamluks of Egypt.
Only problem is these regimes were generally under constant attack or on the offensive somewhere chaotic, and elevating sycophants without any merit would have been disastrous.
It's not that they married into generalship, but that they gained the trust of their superiors to be adopted as son-in-laws or, in the case of atabegs, were powerful enough upon their leader's death to take his wife for themselves. The goal in either case was legitimacy. The wife didn't come with the army, she was a political prize to be won through successful military leadership.
The Mamluks of Egypt didn't even bother however. They deposed the Queen Mother of the last Ayyubid prince and formed a state around their small, now private army.
>Zhu was a born into a desperately poor peasant tenant farmer family in Zhongli Village in the Huai River plain, which is in present-day Fengyang, Anhui Province. His father was Zhu Shizhen (朱世珍, original name Zhu Wusi 朱五四) and his mother was Chen Erniang. He had seven older siblings, several of whom were "given away" by his parents, as they did not have enough food to support the family. When he was 16, the Huai River broke its banks and flooded the lands where his family lived.
He started the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), and might be the only historical example of an actual peasant doing so (instead of slave soldiers like in the Islamic empires)
>Zhu was a born into a desperately poor peasant tenant farmer
>Justin was a peasant and a swineherd by occupation
Ivaylo of Bulgaria
>According to some sources Ivaylo began his life living humbly and herded swine for payment. Other sources indicate he was a peasant farmer with no land of his own
>Haven't studied commie revolutions to be fair, I'm more interested in pre-medieval. Tell me more, how did it happened?
>Mao Zedong was born on December 26, 1893 in Shaoshan village, Hunan Province, China. His father, Mao Yichang, was a formerly impoverished peasant who had become one of the wealthiest farmers in Shaoshan. Growing up in rural Hunan, Mao Zedong described his father as a stern disciplinarian, who would beat him and his three siblings, the boys Zemin and Zetan, and an adopted girl, Zejian. Mao's mother, Wen Qimei, was a devout Buddhist who tried to temper her husband's strict attitude. Zedong too became a Buddhist, but abandoned this faith in his mid-teenage years. At age 8, Mao was sent to Shaoshan Primary School. Learning the value systems of Confucianism, he later admitted that he didn't enjoy the classical Chinese texts preaching Confucian morals, instead favouring popular novels like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin. At age 13, Mao finished primary education, and his father had him married to the 17-year-old Luo Yigu, uniting their land-owning families. Mao refused to recognise her as his wife, becoming a fierce critic of arranged marriage and temporarily moving away. Luo was locally disgraced and died in 1910.
There you go, impoverished child of the peasantry grew up to found the People Democratic Republic of China at the head of a vast army.
Hernán Cortés, father was in the Army but a commoner. Cortés went to the new world made something of himself and carved out his on fiefdom in Mexico using politics, native soldiers and loyal spaniards.
Not a revolutionary, and he didn't set himself up as an independent state, but close enough.
>My question to you, is can you think of any times a private citizen was able to raise an army and form their own empire?
It may or may not qualify as an "empire," but Ya'qub ibn Laith, the founder of the Saffarid dynasty, was a common coppersmith who became a soldier and eventually ruled most of Persia. ("Saffar" literally means coppersmith, so calling his dynasty the Saffarids is basically calling them "the Coppersmiths.")
Of course, the dynasty was short-lived because his descendants were dogshit.
Funnily enough, the Dynasty the succeeded the Ming Dynasty was also founded by a poor man. IIRC It was a Courier from NW China. Though he got his ass kicked a few weeks later by the Manchus.
> I could have sworn he said that Cyrus - The one Xenophon wrote about, rose from a private station, to a private in the army, eventually becoming an officer, and then a general, and eventually leading a coup and starting his own empire.
Machiavelli was referring to Agathocles of Syracuse. You're getting facts mixed up.