Leaders in history


Amenhotep IV (d. c. 1336 B.C.) was an 18th dynasty pharaoh of Egypt, son of Amenhotep III and his Chief Queen Tiye, and the husband of the beautiful Nefertiti. He is best known as the heretic king who tried to change the religion of the Egyptians. Akhenaten established a new capital at Amarna to go along with his new religion that focused on the god Aten, whence the pharaoh’s preferred name. Following his death much of what Akhenaten had had constructed was destroyed deliberately. Shortly afterwards, his successors returned to the old Amun god. Some count Akhenaten as the first monotheist.          Artifact identifies King Tut’s father says that Zahi Hawass has found evidence that Tutankhamen was the son of Akhenaten.

Alaric the Visigoth

Alaric was king of the Visigoths from 394 – 410 A.D. In that last year, Alaric took his troops near Ravenna to negotiate with Emperor Honorius, but he was attacked by a Gothic general, Sarus. Alaric took this as a token of Honorius’ bad faith, so he marched on Rome. This was the major sack of Rome mentioned in all the history books. Alaric and his men sacked the city for 3 days, ending on August 27. Along with their plunder, the Goths took Honorius’ sister, Galla Placidia, when they left. The Goths still didn’t have a home and before they acquired one, Alaric died of a fever very soon after the sacking.  

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great, King of Macedon from 336 – 323 B.C., may claim the title of the greatest military leader the world has ever known. His empire spread from Gibraltar to the Punjab, and he made Greek the lingua franca of his world. At the death of Alexander a new Greek age began. This was the Hellenistic period during which Greek (or Macedonian) leaders spread Greek culture to the area Alexander had conquered. Alexander’s colleague and relative Ptolemy took over Alexander’s Egyptian conquest and created a city of Alexandria that became famous for its library, which attracted the leading scientific and philosophical thinkers of the age.


Amenhotep III

Amenhotep III Amenhotep was the 9th king of the 18th Dynasty in Egypt. He reigned (c.1417-c.1379 B.C.) during a time of prosperity and building when Egypt was at its height. He died at about age 50. Amenhotep III made alliances with the leading territorial state power brokers of Asia as documented in the Amarna Letters. Amenhotep was the father of the heretic king, Akhenaten. Napoleon’s army found Amenhotep III’s tomb (KV22) in 1799.


Ashoka (304 – 232 B.C.), a Hindu convert to Buddhism, was king of the Mauryan Dynasty in India from 269 until his death. With his capital at Magadha, Ashoka’s empire extended into Afghanistan. Following bloody wars of conquest, when Ashoka was considered cruel, he changed: He eschewed violence, promoted tolerance, and the moral welfare of his people. He also established contact with the Hellenistic world. Ashoka posted “the edicts of Ashoka” on great animal-topped pillars, chiseled in the ancient Brahmi script. Mostly reforms, the edicts also list public works projects, including universities, roads, hospitals, and irrigation systems.  

Atilla the hun

Attila the Hun Attila the Hun was born around 406 A.D. and died 453. Called the Scourge of God by the Romans, Attila was the fierce king and general of the barbarian group known as the Huns who struck fear in the hearts of the Romans as he plundered everything in his path, invaded the Eastern Empire, and then crossed the Rhine into Gaul. Attila successfully led his forces to invade the Eastern Roman Empire in 441. In 451, on the Plains of Chalons, Attila suffered a setback against the Romans and Visigoths, but he made progress and was on the verge of sacking Rome when in 452 the pope dissuaded Attila from sacking Rome. The Hun Empire extended from the Steppes of Eurasia through most of modern Germany and south into Thermopylae.


Boudica was queen of the Iceni, in ancient Britain. Her husband was the Roman client-king Prasutagus. When he died, the Romans assumed control of his area of eastern Britain. Boudicca conspired with other neighboring leaders to rebel against Roman interference. In 60 A.D., she led her allies first against the Roman colony of Camulodunum (Colchester), destroyed it, and killed thousands living there, and afterwards, in London and Verulamium (St. Albans). After her massacre of the urban Romans she met their armed forces, and, inevitably, defeat and death, perhaps by suicide.



Ch’in Shi Huang

He unified the warring states of China and became the First Emperor or Emperor Ch’in (Qin) in 221 B.C. This ruler commissioned the gigantic terracotta army and subterranean palace/mortuary complex found, via pottery sherds, by farmers digging in their fields, two millennia later, during the tenure of one his greatest admirers, Chairman Mao.


Cleopatra (January 69 – August 12, 30 B.C.) was the last pharaoh of Egypt to rule during the Hellenistic era. After her death, Rome controlled Egypt. Cleopatra is known for her affairs with Caesar and Mark Antony, by whom she had respectively, one and three children, and her suicide by snake bite after her husband Antony took his own life. She was engaged in battle (with Mark Antony) against the winning Roman side headed by Octavian (Augustus) at Actium.  


Hammurabi (r.1792-1750?) was an important Babylonian king known for the Code of Hammurabi. It is generally referred to as an early law code, although it’s actual function is debated. Hammurabi also improved the state, building canals and fortifications. He united Mesopotamia, defeated Elam, Larsa, Eshnunna, and Mari, and made Babylonia an important power. Hammurabi started the “Old Babylonian period” that lasted for about 1500 years.



Hannibal of Carthage (c. 247-183) was one of antiquity’s greatest military leaders. He subdued the tribes of Spain and then set about to attack Rome in the Second Punic War. He faced incredible obstacles with ingenuity and courage, including decimated manpower, rivers, and the Alps, which he crossed during the winter with his war elephants. The Romans greatly feared him and lost battles because of Hannibal’s skills, which included carefully studying the enemy and an effective spy system. In the end Hannibal lost, as much because of the people of Carthage as because the Romans had learned to turn Hannibal’s own tactics against him. Hannibal ingested poison to end his own life.


Hatshepsut was a long-ruling regent and female pharaoh of Egypt (r. 1479 -1458 B.C.) during the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom. Hatshepsut was responsible for successful Egyptian military and trading ventures. The added wealth from trade permitted the development of high calibre architecture. She had a mortuary complex built at Deir el-Bahri near the enttrance of the Valley of the Kings. In official portraiture, Hatshepsut wears the kingly insignia — like the false beard. After her death there was a deliberate attempt to remove her image from monuments.  


Mithridates VI (114- 63 B.C.) or Mithridates Eupator is the king who caused Rome so much trouble during the time of Sulla and Marius. Pontus had been awarded the title of friend of Rome, but because Mithridates kept making incursions on his neighbors, the friendship was strained. Despite the great military competence of Sulla and Marius, and their personal confidence in their ability to check the Eastern despot, it was neither Sulla nor Marius who put an end to the Mithridatic problem. Instead, it was Pompey the Great who earned his honorific in the process.  

Nebuchanezzar II

Nebuchanezzar II was the most important Chaldean king. He ruled from 605-562 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar is best remembered for turning Judah into a province of the Babylonian empire, sending the Jews into the Babylonian captivity, and destroying Jerusalem. He is also associated with his hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  


We know her as the New Kingdom Egyptian queen who wore a tall blue crown, lots of colored jewelry, and held up a neck like a swan — as she appears on a bust in a Berlin museum. She was married to an equally memorable pharaoh, Akhenaten, the heretic king who moved the royal family to Amarna, and was related to the boy king Tutankhamen, known mostly for his sarcophagus. Nefertiti never served as pharaoh, but she assisted her husband in the governing of Egypt, and may have been co-regent.


Pericles (c. 495 – 429 B.C.) brought Athens to its peak, turning the Delian League into the empire of Athens, and so the era in which he lived is named the Age of Pericles. He helped the poor, set up colonies, built the long walls from Athens to the Piraeus, developed the Athenian navy, and built the Parthenon, the Odeon, the Propylaea, and the temple at Eleusis. The name of Pericles is also attached to the Peloponnesian War. During the war he ordered the people of Attica to leave their fields and come into the city to stay protected by the walls. Unfortunately, Pericles didn’t foresee the affect of disease on the crowded conditions and so, along with many others, Pericles died of the plague near the start of the war.


The Egyptian 19th Dynasty New Kingdom pharaoh Ramses II (Usermaatre Setepenre) (lived 1304-1237) is known as Ramses the Great and, in Greek, as Ozymandias. He ruled for about 66 years, according to Manetho. He is known for signing the first known peace treaty, with the Hittites, but he was also a great warrior, especially for fighting in the Battle of Kadesh. Ramses may have had 100 children, with several wives, including Nefertari. Ramses restored the religion of Egypt close to what it was before Akhenaten and the Amarna period. Ramses installed many monuments to his honor, including the complex at Abu Simbel and the Ramesseum, a mortuary temple. Ramses was buried in the Valley of the Kings in tomb KV47. His body is now in Cairo.  

Sargon the Great

Sargon the Great (aka Sargon of Kish) ruled Sumer from about 2334-2279 B.C. or perhaps a quarter of a century later. Legend sometimes says he ruled the whole world. While the world is a stretch, his dynasty’s empire was the whole of Mesopotamia, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. Sargon realized it was important to have religious support, so he installed his daughter, Enheduanna, as priestess of the moon god Nanna. Enheduanna is the world’s first known, named author.  


Trajan The second of the five men in the late first to second century A.D. who are now known as the good emperors, Trajan was named optimus ‘best’ by the Senate. He extended the Roman Empire to its furthest extent. Hadrian of Hadrian’s Wall fame succeeded him to the imperial purple.  

Xerxes the Great

The Achaemenid Persian King Xerxes (520 – 465 B.C.) was the grandson of Cyrus and the son of Darius. Herodotus states that when a storm damaged the bridge Xerxes had had built across the Hellespont, Xerxes got mad, and ordered the water be lashed and otherwise punished. In antiquity, bodies of water were conceived of as gods (see Iliad XXI), so while Xerxes may have been deluded in thinking himself strong enough to scathe the water, it is not as insane as it sounds: The Roman Emperor Caligula who, unlike Xerxes, is generally considered to have been mad, ordered Roman troops to gather seashells as spoils of the sea. Xerxes fought against the Greeks in the Persian Wars, winning a victory at Thermopylae and suffering defeat at Salamis.