History's Most Infamous Betrayers

From biblical days, to the race to colonize the New World, to the situation in the Middle East today, human history has been dotted with self-serving traitors and collaborators who have betrayed their peoples and their nations. But in the end, not everyone had a chance to enjoy the fruits of their betrayal for long.

JUDAS ISCARIOT: One of the 12 apostles, Judas betrayed Jesus after the Last Supper in the garden of Gethsemane, where he identified the "heretic" proclaiming himself to be the son of God to an armed band by kissing him. It was the kiss of death for Jesus of Nazareth, but for the Christian faith, the crucifixion and the subsequent resurrection became the central tenets of a faith that has spread across the globe. But Judas was to suffer a punishing fate for his misdeeds. The Judaean villager was allegedly paid 30 pieces of silver for his collaboration, but in some biblical accounts, Judas threw away the blood money after the crucifixion in repentance and horror. By all accounts, he later committed suicide and the money allegedly went to buy a potter's field. For his collaboration, Judas has turned into one of the most derided figures in Western history and his name today is synonymous with betrayal.

MARCUS BRUTUS: One of the most well-known cries of dismay over a betrayal is Julius Caesar's "Et tu, Brute?," uttered when Brutus, a Roman senator, joined a plot to oust Caesar from power. But Brutus' betrayal was fueled by complicated concerns for the Roman republic. A beloved friend of Caesar, Brutus opposed the ascension of any single man to the position of dictator, and he feared his dear friend aspired to such power. Brutus' inflexible sense of honor made it easy for Caesar's enemies to manipulate him into believing that Caesar had to be killed for the republic to survive. In the end, the story of Marcus Brutus is the story of the complexities of human choices. The "noblest of Romans" ultimately betrayed his friend because he loved the republic more.

DOÑA MARINA: Arguably the most reviled women in the Hispanic world, Doña Marina is known as the traitor — and in some circles, the harlot — who betrayed her people to the viciously cruel Spanish conquistadors. A former slave, Marina was the translator-cum-mistress of Hernando Cortes, the conqueror of "New Spain" or what is now Mexico. Born into an Aztec family, she knew Nahuatl, the Aztec language, when she was sold as a slave in the Yucatan peninsular where she learned the Mayan dialects. She was therefore able to translate the Nahuatl of the Aztec emperor into the Mayan language, which was understood by Cortes' Spanish translator. According to legends, the vital linguistic link proved crucial in helping Cortes conquer the New World. Marina went on to bear Cortes a son and for her contribution to history, she is known as La Malinche, a term denoting betrayal. To this day, the word malinchista is used to describe a Mexican who apes the language and customs of another country.

BENEDICT ARNOLD: At the start of the American War of Independence, Benedict Arnold was an American hero, a brilliant general who fought bravely in several tough battles. By the end of the war, he was commanding British troops against his former forces, a general on the losing side who has gone down in history as a "turncoat" and a traitor. Embittered by what he saw as a lack of recognition of his military genius, Arnold offered West Point to the British in return for 20,000 pounds and proceeded to systematically weaken the defenses of the strategic fort overlooking the Hudson River in New York state. But his plot quickly unraveled and Arnold's contact with the British army, Maj. John Andre, was captured by American forces and hanged. Arnold escaped to a British frigate and although the British never really trusted him, he was given command of British troops. After the war, he and his wife went to England, where he died, the most famous traitor in American history.

MARSHAL PÉTAIN: It was Marshal Pétain's Oct. 30, 1940, speech to the French people after meeting Adolf Hitler — in which he declared: "I am today setting out along the road of collaboration" — that forever changed the connotation of the word "collaborator." Although Pétain used it in a positive sense, his actions and his role in history turned the term into a synonym for "betrayer." A French military hero during World War I, Pétain was convicted as a traitor for heading the pro-Nazi Vichy regime after France's defeat in World War II. Following the German invasion of France, Pétain took over as premier from Paul Reynaud and proceeded to sign an armistice with Germany. With German support, he established a Fascist-oriented government in Vichy, central France, that accounted for some of the darkest chapters in French history. The Vichy collaboration with the Nazis extended to virtually every aspect of life — from the political to the cultural and most notoriously, in the passing of anti-Semitic laws under which French, Spanish and Eastern European Jews were rounded up and deported to German concentration camps. With the Allied victory, Pétain fled to Germany, but later returned to France to stand trial for treason. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment to Ile d'Yeu, an island off the coast of Brittany, where he died.

TOKYO ROSE: Born Ikuko Toguri, "Tokyo Rose" was the infamous disc jockey whose radio program, Zero Hour, led to the conviction of the Japanese-American woman of treason against the United States. Born in Los Angeles in 1916, Toguri was in Japan when World War II broke out. From Japan, she launched her career at Radio Tokyo as a part of the Japanese psychological warfare machinery. Under the alias of "Orphan Ann," Toguri took to the airwaves, beaming propaganda designed to lower the morale of U.S. troops. On air, she never used the title "Tokyo Rose," which was a term used by U.S. troops in the South Pacific to describe a number of English-speaking Japanese women employed in Radio Tokyo's propaganda effort. After the war, she was tried for treason in the United States, and her defense that she was forced to work at Radio Tokyo was rejected. In 1949, a San Francisco court sentenced her to 10 years of imprisonment for the crime of treason. She served more than six years of the sentence before being released. Toguri was eventually granted a presidential pardon by President Gerald Ford in 1977.