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75 Ancient People You Should Know

Most important names in Ancient / Classical History

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31. Euclid

Euclid, detail from "The School of Athens" painting by Raphael.
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Euclid of Alexandria (fl. 300 B.C.) is the father of geometry (hence, Euclidean geometry) and his "Elements" is still in use.

32. Euripides

Euripides
Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons

Euripides (c. 484 - 407/406) was the third of the three great Greek tragic poets. He won his first first prize in 442. Despite winning only limited acclaim during his lifetime, Euripides was the most popular of the three great tragedians for generations after his death. Euripides added intrigue and the love-drama to Greek tragedy. His surviving tragedies are:

  • Orestes
  • Phoenician Woman
  • Trojan Women
  • Ion
  • Iphigenia
  • Hecuba
  • Heracleidae
  • Helen
  • Suppliant Women
  • Bacchae
  • Cyclops
  • Medea
  • Electra
  • Alcestis
  • Andromache

33. Galen

Galen
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Galen was born in 129 A.D. in Pergamum, an important medical center with a sanctuary to the healing god. There Galen became an attendant of Asclepius. He worked at a gladiatorial school which gave him experience with violent injuries and trauma. Later, Galen went to Rome and practiced medicine at the imperial court. He dissected animals because he couldn't directly study humans. A prolific writer, of 600 books Galen wrote 20 survive. His anatomical writing became medical school standards until the 16th century Vesalius, who could perform human dissections, proved Galen inaccurate.

34. Hammurabi

The upper part of the stela of Hammurabi's Law Code
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia
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.

35. Hannibal

Hannibal With Elephants
Clipart.com
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.

36. Hatshepsut

Thutmose III and Hatshepsut from the Red Chapel at Karnak
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
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.

37. Heraclitus

Heraclitus by Johannes Moreelse.
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Heraclitus (fl. 69th Olympiad, 504-501 B.C.) is the first philosopher known to use the word kosmos for world order, which he says ever was and ever will be, not created by god or man. Heraclitus is thought to have abdicated the throne of Ephesus in favor of his brother. He was known as Weeping Philosopher and Heraclitus the Obscure.

Heraclitus uniquely put his philosophy into aphorisms, like "On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow." (DK22B12), which is part of his confusing theories of Universal Flux and the Identity of Opposites. In addition to nature, Heraclitus made human nature a concern of philosophy.

38. Herodotus

Herodotus
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Herodotus (c. 484-425 B.C.) is the first historian proper, and so is called the father of history. He traveled around most of the known world. On one trip Herodotus probably went to Egypt, Phoenicia, and Mesopotamia; on another he went to Scythia. Herodotus traveled to learn about foreign countries. His Histories sometimes read like a travelogue, with information on the Persian Empire and the origins of the conflict between Persia and Greece based on mythological prehistory. Even with the fantastic elements, Herodotus' history was an advance over the previous writers of quasi-history, known as logographers.

39. Hippocrates

Hippocrates
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Hippocrates of Cos, the father of medicine, lived from about 460-377 B.C. Hippocrates may have trained to become a merchant before training medical students that there are scientific reasons for ailments. Before the Hippocratic corpus, medical conditions were attributed to divine intervention. Hippocratic medicine made diagnoses and prescribed simple treatments like diet, hygiene, and sleep. The name Hippocrates is familiar because of the oath that doctors take (Hippocratic Oath) and a body of early medical treatises that are attributed to Hippocrates (Hippocratic corpus).

40. Homer

Marble Bust of Homer
Public Domain Courtesy of Wikipedia
Homer is the father of poets in the Greco-Roman tradition.

We don't know when and if Homer lived, but someone wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey about the Trojan War, and we call him Homer or the so-called Homer. Whatever his real name, he was a great epic poet. Herodotus says Homer lived four centuries earlier. This is not a precise date, but we can date "Homer" to some time following the Greek Dark Age, which was the period after the Trojan War. Homer is described as a blind bard or rhapsode. Ever since, his epic poems have been read and used for various purposes, including teaching about the gods, morality, and great literature. To be educated, a Greek (or Roman) had to know his Homer.

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