Imagine waking up in the morning to a job where the likelihood of returning home alive is by sheer luck. You do not know if you would see the next day because your job is so dangerous. Some of these jobs a well-paid, but there are very high chances that you might get sick, injured severely or even killed, all in one day’s work. Despite the dangers involved, the jobs need to be done, and someone has to do them. In today’s world, a position that can lead to death is not one most people would want to fill. Interestingly, some of these dangerous jobs still exist in our modern world. Although everyone is exposed to some level of danger or another, be it professional hazards or domestic, these ten jobs rank as the most dangerous in history, by far.
1 Snake Milker
Just from the job title, you can probably guess what this person does for a living. A snake milker was the person tasked with extracting venom from snakes for medical use or research. You can see the obvious danger here. Milkers have to handle some of the most dangerous snakes on the planet and extract the venom. This extraction is the milking process; this profession is still in existence today. Although today milking is to create anti-venom, during ancient civilization the snake venom was used as biological warfare. For instance, in 326 BC during Alexander the Great conquest of India, his soldiers died after being hit by poisonous arrows that had snake venom. Probably the most famous snake milker was Bill Haast, who died at 100 years old and had handled more than 3 million poisonous snakes. He was bitten 173 times by venomous snakes, about 20 times fatally. Although a profession of value at a different time in, a snake milker is the epitome of dangerous occupations or professions.
2 Galley Rower
A galley was a sizeable seagoing vessel propelled primarily by rowing; they were used either for war or piracy. The person assigned the task or job of rowing was called the rower. During the Middle Ages, this profession was considered honorable. But as time progressed and more galleys were built, the demand for rowers increased. In places like Crete and Cyprus, it forced its subjects to take on this job. With the galleys becoming an essential part of the military and during the war, more rowers were needed. The nations or kingdoms wanted to build their naval army to be strong and capable of fighting in the waters. How these rowers were enlisted was mostly through force. This is where slaves and criminals were also used. During the reign of the King Louis XIV of France in the 17th Century, criminals were sent to the galleys about 60,000 men. About a third of the men died within three (3) years. Overall, half the rowers did not survive.
3 Plague Body Collector
The plague was the Black Death of Europe that wiped out nearly half the population in the 14th century. With all these dead people, someone had to be responsible for collecting all the bodies to be buried. The plague body collector was liable and tasked with such a dangerous job. The job was dangerous because just by touching the belongings of a plague victim, you might be infected by the disease. With European countries like England, France, Italy, and Spain losing between 50% and 60% of their population in two (2) years, there was work to be done. The only equipment they had was a cart, a rag to cover their face, and some even used flowers to prevent contracting the disease. The bodies were taken to a mass grave or a plague pit and buried. Dangerous jobs in history for ancient Europe plague body collectors where the Black Death was spreading with speed.
A miner is responsible for extracting valuable minerals or metals from the earth using different tools. In ancient civilization, mining tools were limited to mostly a hammer that you used to break a rock. In today’s mining industry, this would be unacceptable, but in places like ancient Rome and Egypt where metals like silver and gold were of high value. All means were used to ensure there were people in the mines to do the dirty, dangerous job. Slaves, criminals, prisoners of war, and children were all made to work in the mines. The mines were unsafe, hot and most miners were killed in accidents. In the silver mines of Spain, the Romans worked some 40,000 slaves. Pliny reports the conditions of mining in ancient time, where miners worked in shifts as long as the torches last and do not see daylight for months at a time. It is dangerous for the miners involved since modern mining tools like drills were non-existent. Just doing such work in such adverse conditions would make the strongest men falter.
5 Food Taster
Most Roman emperors had hired a food taster whose role was to taste the delicacies of the emperor before he eats them. Why this was done was for the sole purpose of ensuring the food was not poisoned. Poisoning someone’s food was the most effective way to kill or eliminate someone. Advantage of the job was the fact that you got a taste of the king’s mouthwatering food. Of course, the disadvantage is dying if the food was poisoned. Some of the kings, queens, and emperors that had food tasters were King Henry VII of England, Emperor Claudius of Rome, Egyptian Pharaohs and Emperors of China. The job had its dangers and perks; it was risky and delicious at the same time.
This is a person whose occupation and the job is to scavenge in the river mud for valuable items that he or she could sell. But this job was done by the lowest and poorest people during ancient civilization. They were mostly children and women who scoured the banks of rivers in hopes of finding something of value to sell. It was not uncommon to see human corpses also on the river banks. The job was dangerous in that those who took up the work were mostly barefoot and there was raw sewage in the river. The risk of contracting a disease or injury was possible. These were just some of the hazards of the job. Ancient civilization was unequal; therefore, people took high risks to earn a living. Thus dangerous jobs in history, such as Mudlarking, were such one way.
This person job is scavenging the sewers for treasurers or a sewer hunter. During the Victorian era in London, most people made a living through this. They sifted through the raw sewage to find money or silver. The dangers to the job existed like the foul air in the sewers that if one accidentally inhaled death was possible. The rushing water was allowed to flow into the sewers, and if there was any tosher, being swept away was likely. There were also swarms of rats that might attack you. Due to the maze-like nature of the sewer system, you might get lost as well. To avoid these dangers; most toshers usually scavenged in groups. In the 1840s, the work becomes riskier as the government banned the practice. You could be fined or put in jail if found in the sewers. It was worth the risk as most toshers earned 6 shillings, which were quite good at the time. The work was dangerous, but worth it for most toshers.
8 Chariot Racer
These were people who raced with chariots in coliseums during ancient Rome. It was a prevalent sport at that time with racers admiring celebrities in today’s standards. The danger involved with this sport or job was that the chariots raced at amazingly high speed. Because they had the reins tied around their wrists, they couldn’t just let it go if there was a crash. Also, racers were allowed to ram and bump into each other, and if one overturned, the athlete is killed. A famous charioteer like Scorpius died at the young age of 27, but he had won at least 2,000 races. A high-speed race such as this was dangerous, and death was possible to all those chariot racers.
A soldier was the first defense of a nation or kingdom if the enemy ever attacked it. His role was to protect, defend, and go to war when needed. War in ancient time was a lot different in today’s standard. They were no guns, only swords, shields, spears, and arrows. If war was in a distant land, most soldiers walked there, saying that it was exhausting would be an understatement. There were expected to fight and win, regardless of how tired they were. Most ancient civilization trained their children to take up the job of a soldier like the Spartans. If you were trained since childhood by the time you’re an adult, you would be a great soldier. From age 7, a Spartan boy was sent to the military academy. They were bred to serve and fight. For instance, Alexander the Great was only 16 when he assembled an army marched towards the Thracian tribe and defeated them, therefore, conquering their lands. Death was everywhere in such a profession, and you might get killed or injured in battle. For instance, in the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC, the Carthaginian army set a trap and surrounded the Roman army. The Roman soldiers had to fight for their lives; the aftermath was a loss of 50,000 Roman citizens and two consuls. Getting back home fine and dandy is not assured, you’re mainly living day by day.
This is a non-violent form of bullfighting where an acrobat leaps over the back of a charging bull. The person doing these leaps is referred to as a bull-leaper. In ancient civilization this ritual, sport or profession was done by the Minoans who inhabited the island of Crete. It was a dangerous undertaking, indeed. Performing such spectacular leaps on the back of a running bull is deadly as one had to grasp the horns of the beast and tumble over him. The acrobat might be gauged by the horn if there is a mistake, and the risk of facing the wrath of the bull is possible. One might get killed or seriously injured; you had to do it correctly as failure might lead to unpleasant consequences. In spite of how such dangerous jobs in history were, some are still practiced today.