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75 Ancient People You Should Know

Most important names in Ancient / Classical History


21. Cicero

Cicero at 60. Marble bust of Cicero.
Public Domain
Cicero (Jan. 3, 106 - Dec. 7, 43 B.C.), best known as an eloquent Roman orator, rose remarkably to the top of the Roman political hierarchy where he received the accolade Pater patriae 'father of his country', fell precipitously, went into exile because of his hostile relations with Clodius Pulcher, made a permanent name for himself in Latin literature, and had relations with all the contemporary big names, Caesar, Pompey, Mark Antony, and Octavian (Augustus).

22. Cleopatra

Cleopatra and Mark Antony on Coins
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.

23. Confucius

Project Gutenberg
The sagacious Confucius, Kongzi, or Master Kung (551-479 B.C.) was a social philosopher whose values became dominant in China only after he died. Advocating living virtuously, he put emphasis on socially appropriate behavior.

24. Constantine the Great

Constantine at York
N.S. Gill
Constantine the Great (c. 272 – 22 May 337) was famed for winning the battle at the Milvian Bridge, reuniting the Roman Empire under one emperor (Constantine himself), winning major battles in Europe, legalizing Christianity, and establishing a new eastern capital of Rome at the city, Nova Roma, formerly Byzantium, that was to be named Constantinople.

Constantinople (now known as Istanbul) became the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which lasted until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

25. Cyrus the Great

The Persian king Cyrus II, known as Cyrus the Great is the first ruler of the Achaemenids. Around 540 B.C., he conquered Babylonia, becoming ruler of Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean to Palestine. He ended the period of exile for the Hebrews, allowing them back to Israel to rebuild the Temple, and was called the Messiah by Deutero-Isaiah. The Cyrus Cylinder, which some view as an early human rights charter, confirms the Biblical history of the period.

26. Darius the Great

Achaemenid Bas-Relief Art From Persepolis
The successor of the founder of the Achaemenid Dynasty, Darius I united and improved the new empire, by irrigating, building roads, including the Royal Road, a canal, and refining the governmental system known as satrapies. His great building projects have memorialized his name.

27. Demosthenes

Aischenes and Demosthenes
Alun Salt
Demosthenes (384/383 - 322 B.C.) was an Athenian speech-writer, orator, and statesman, although he started out having a great deal of difficulty speaking in public. As official orator, he warned against Philip of Macedon, when he was beginning his conquest of Greece. Demosthenes' three orations against Philip, known as the Philippics, were so bitter that today a severe speech denouncing someone is called a Philippic.

28. Domitian

Denarius of Domitian
Public Domain
Titus Flavius Domitianus or Domitian (October 24 A.D. 51 - September 8, 96) was the last of the Flavian emperors. Domitian and the Senate had a mutually hostile relationship, so although Domitian may have balanced the economy and done other good works, including re-building the fire-damaged city of Rome, he is remembered as one of the worst Roman emperors, since his biographers were mainly of the senatorial class. He strangled the Senate's power and executed some of its members. His reputation among Christians and Jews was tainted by his persecution.

Following Domitian's assassination, the Senate decreed damnatio memoriae for him, meaning that his name was removed from records and coins minted for him were re-melted.

29. Empedocles

Empedocles as portrayed in the Nuremberg Chronicle
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikpedia.
Empedocles of Acragas (c. 495-435 B.C.) was known as a poet, statesman, and physician, as well as philosopher. Empedocles encouraged people to look upon him as a miracle worker. Philosophically he believed there were elements that were the building blocks of everything else: earth, air, fire, and water. These are the four elements that are paired with the four humors in Hippocratic medicine and even modern typologies. The next philosophical step would be to realize a different type of universal element -- atoms, as the Pre-socratic philosophers known as Atomists, Leucippus and Democritus, reasoned.

Empedocles believed in transmigration of the soul and thought that he would be come back as a god, so he jumped into the Mt. Aetna volcano.

30. Eratosthenes

Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Eratosthenes of Cyrene (276 - 194 B.C.) was the second chief librarian at Alexandria. He calculated the circumference of the earth, created latitude and longitude measurements, and made a map of the earth. He was acquainted with Archimedes of Syracuse.

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