Notes on Time the 100 Most Influential People of All Time, edited by Time editorial staff 2012.
Annually, Time produces a list of the most influential people of the year, but this year they decided to do something special. They created a volume of 100 of the most influential people of all time. Almost a quarter of them relate to our time period, and if you extend it through late antiquity there are probably several more. This makes it relevant for you, my readers.
You may find the summaries superficial, but they are researched and get to the heart of the matter, quickly, picking out what the editors consider the individual's primary area of contribution to the world's history. Unfortunately, Cleopatra is said to have been the seventh Ptolemaic pharoah, instead of the 7th Cleo (there are probably other similar irritants), but that could be little more than a typo. What particularly pleases me about the ancient selection is that with, I believe, the exception of Abraham, I think I have them all in my list of the top 69 most important people in the ancient world. Like the Time volume, I included Moses, considering him by and large enough of an historical figure to warrant inclusion, but Abraham (whom I exclude) falls into the murkier time and if I were to include him, why not Helen of Troy (since the editors were striving to represent the generally under-represented categories) or Romulus?
What annoys me about the book is that it is not possible to go through it in any systematic way looking for our favorites. This resonates with me because I faced similar problems with my list of the top 69 people from antiquity and decided that alphabetical was the way to go. Granted, it took me a couple of years to arrive at that decision, while their time frame is a year for their annual list....
The Table of Contents breaks people up into odd groupings -- maybe they make sense for a later historic period. There isn't an index and the Contents relegates my favorite Caesar to an "other" category. Shame on them giving his relative a spot of his own in the contents, but denying him one. Granted Augustus has to share his actual page with the so-called 7th ptolemaic pharoah, a status that might aggravate him, but why wasn't it Julius in the illustration to the side of the pharaoh mother of his presumed son, instead? As I've indicated, I'm not at all objective here.
A friend who is more conversant with modern history wanted to know why, since they wanted to give prominence to Americans, they left out Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. She wasn't certain they were overlooked. As I said, it was impossible to sort through the book, so they could be buried, like Julius Caesar, in one of the miscellaneous pages.
It isn't meant as an academic book, but it is an entertaining book that also makes you think. Some of the names are familiar; others not so. Most people will have many people to learn. Some of us have whole swathes of history to learn.
Here are the people I found from our period. Remember that the rise of Islam comes later:
14 Julius Caesar
15 Lao Tzu
21 St Augustine
22 St. Paul
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.