A Who's Who Directory of the Ancient World
You Probably Already Recognize Several Important Ancient Names...
Hippocrates © NYPL Digital Gallery
Don't worry if you don't recognize the names of major figures in ancient history (just read through the links a bit), but you may surprise yourself. You will probably find you already know quite a few of them.
Remember math class? Geometry owes much to individual Greek men like Pythagoras whose name was applied to a useful theorem. Have you ever heard of Platonic love? Platonic forms? How about the Hippocratic Oath? Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates are famous for their seminal work in philosophy and science; Hippocrates, for his role in medicine, which you may know only through the doctors' oath named for him.
Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Attila the Hun are probably familiar. If you can't quite remember, they are ancient military leaders and conquerors. Alexander spread the Greek empire all the way from Egypt to modern India and Pakistan. Caesar conquered Gaul and took his Roman forces to Britain. You might think of Attila as the Genghis Khan of the ancient world.
Learn about these men and other people, rulers, philosophers, writers, mythological heroes, gods, and monsters, and others who helped create the great cultures of the ancient world.
Directory of the Ancient World
This is an index of people linked together by occupation. Occupation should be thought of loosely. What were the individuals, human, legendary, or divine, known for?
Taking a quick look over the occupations, you may be surprised not to find a category of "warrior." Soldiers who made a name for themselves generally rose to power and became leaders of men or of nations. Therefore, for famous ancient military men, you'll have to look under "rulers."
Christians include the Church fathers and theologians who set the agenda for Christianity as well as some of the heretics whose views of Christianity never made the mainstream. Also see Bible People, including Old Testament.
The Greek doctors revolutionized medicine, making it less a matter of superstition and more a method of, well, being methodical and observant.
Hercules & the nymphs. Digital ID: 1623833. New York Public Library © NYPL Digital Gallery
Heroes of Greek legend seem to make a career out of it, traveling far beyond the world known to non-heroic mortals. There's Hercules going to the ends of the earth and even to the Underworld on his quests. There's Jason who called upon all the other living heroes of the age to join him on his adventures beyond the civilized world. Theseus winds his way through a labyrinth. Perseus travels the world to provision himself for his perilous encounter with the Medusa.
These are the most impressive of the lot, to me. We still talk about Euclidean geometry and Eratosthenes figured out the circumference of the earth reasonably well and well before the Christian world rejected the flat-earth theory.
It's a bit of a stretch referring to monstering as an occupation, but without these characters from Greek legend, what would a hero have used to prove his or her mettle?
A fascinating bunch these, arguing about whether or not there is an underlying atomic structure to everything in the world or whether there are mathematical principles to everything. They also came up with advice about how to live well that would serve us as well today as it did way back when.
Image ID: 1818796 Pythagoras. © New York Public Library Digital Gallery
These are the writers of tragedy, old comedy, new comedy, and Roman comedy. If you enjoy the theater today or watch sitcoms on television, you owe a debt of gratitude to these guys.
A-F | G-M | N-S | T-Z
Also see: Roman Emperors
Also see: Top Warriors
In addition to specialized categories of the history and play writers, Greek and Latin writers wrote epics, odes, lyrics, elegies, poems praising victors, satires, and letters.
Bios A-ZA | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | J | L | M | N | O | P | S | T | V | X | Z
Want to Read More About Ancient History?
- 60 Major Events to Know From Ancient History
- What Is Ancient History?
- Ancient History Study Guides
- Terms to Know
- Ancient World Atlas