A Sketchy List of Leaders for Travelers

Revised December 31, 2018

This is a very brief list of important figures in European history, a history that often dramatizes the fight for power, land, and resources between various ethnic and religious groups.

Historical Figures before Christ

  • Cleisthenes (507 BC) When the Spartans attempted to sieze control of Athens, the people of Athens revolted forcing the Spartans to retreat to the Acropolis and surrender. The people recalled Cleisthenes from exile and asked him to build the first city ruled by the people, the world's first democracy.
  • Pericles (490-429 BCE) Athenian leader who is given credit for founding Athenian democracy. During his reign, Athens is fortirfied and many of the great buildings at the Acropolis are built.
  • Socrates (470-399 BC) Philosopher and political dissident who was, at heart, a teacher. His most famous pupil was the philosopher Plato. In 399 he was executed for not worshipping the gods recognized by the government of Athens and for corrupting the young.
  • Plato (427-347 BC) Philospher and founder of the Academy of Athens. He was the teacher of Aristotle and wrote many "dialogues" in which ideas of moral behavior were discussed.
  • Phillip of Macedonia (338) Most famous as father of Alexander the Great, he built a military power to the north of Athens and defeated the Athenians and the people of Thebes.
  • Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) Macedonian (found north of modern Greece) leader who extended the Greek empire into Egypt and across Asia to India.
  • Julius Ceasar (100 - 44 BCE) As a general, he expanded the Roman Empire across western Europe and into Britain. He returned to Rome with his troops, and following a civil war, claimed the role of emperor. In that role, he implemented reforms that expanded citizenship to people throughout the Roman Empire, implemented land reforms, and provided assistance to veterans, creating conflict within the Senate over his actions. He was assassinated on the Ides of March (March 15) 44 BCE.
  • Ceasar Augustus: (63 BCE - 14 AD) Heir to Julius Ceasar, Augustus was by birth Julius's nephew. Rising to the throne after a civil warin 44 BCE, Augustus becomes a leader of the empire as part of a triumverate with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus. He consolidated his power in 31 BCE, after conflict between leaders of the triumverate results in the suicide of Mark Antony and the exile of Marcus Lepidus. Once in full power, he expands the role of government, building a permanent army and providing basic public services to the populaion. Augustus oversaw the expansion of the Roman Empire to modern Spain, southern Germany, Switzerland and parts of the Czech Republic, while quelling uprisings in the the Balkans.
  • Tiberius (42 BC - 37 AD) Stepson of Augustus, Tiberius ruled Rome during a period of relative peace and prosperity. His reign ends with his murder and he is replaced by Caligula.

An important observation about the rulers of Rome is that they often died at the hands of assassins seeking the power of the emperor. Many of the assassins were part of the Praetorian Guard, which had been created by Ceasar Augustus to protect the Roman leaders. It was rare for a Roman emperor to serve more than a decade and, rarer, that an emperor died of natural causes.

Leaders born during the First Millenium

  • Caligula (14 - 41 AD) The nephew of Tiberius and the son of the popular military leader, Germanicus, reigned with a violent hand. His mental illness is sometimes traced to a serious illness and fever shortly after he assumed the throne. Whatever, his short reign was marked by brutal slaughter and other acts of lunacy, ending with assassination by a military officer.
  • Nero, who led Rome from 54 to 68 AD, and during the great fire of Rome. Like Caligula and other predecessors, his rule was violent and ultimately, he forced his secretary to kill him rather than face the Senate which had declared him a public enemy.
  • Diocletian, born in what is now Croatia, was one of he most successful Roman emperors. He reigned from 286 to 305 AD, stabilizing the government and eventually accepting Christianity as a religion in the Roman Empire.
  • Attila the Hun expanded his central European empire across Europe, invading Germany, France and northern Italy and taking control of the Balkan region during his reign which lasted from 434 to 453 AD.
  • Charlemagne was the Holy Roman Emperor from 800 to 814 AD, during a period of significant conflict with the Moors who held great tracts of land in Spain and France. With support of the church, he expanded the empire and spread Christianity through Europe, often killing those who did not convert to his faith.

Leaders during Medieval Times