Cyrus II, or Cyrus the Great, founded the first Persian empire, the Achaemenid Empire. His kingdom extended from Western Asia to Central Asia. He advocated centralized administration, with the help of local governors. The biblical Edict of Cyrus, named after him, talks about the return of the Jews to Israel.
Darius the Great was a Persian ruler. He served as the third King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 522 BCE until he died in 486 BCE. The empire was at the peak of its glory under his reign and included much of Western Asia and parts of the Balkans. He invested a lot in construction projects.
Xerxes I ruled the Achaemenid Empire from 486 to 465 BC as the fourth King of Kings. During his reign, Xerxes I supervised the completion of several construction projects at Persepolis and Susa. A popular ruler, his life has been adapted into several plays and films; in the 1960 movie Esther and the King, Xerxes is played by Richard Egan.
Also known as Justinian the Great, Justinian I was the Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. Even though he came from a peasant family, he was well educated in jurisprudence, theology, and Roman history. As emperor, he was known to be highly energetic and ambitious. He brought about several judicial reforms in his kingdom.
Theodora was an Eastern Roman empress who was married to Emperor Justinian. She was one of Justinian's chief advisers; she had a strong influence on Justinian. A saint in the Oriental Orthodox Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, Theodora is commemorated on 28 June. Over the years, she has been the subject of several books, films, and video games.
Solon was an Athenian lawmaker, statesman, and poet. He is best remembered for his efforts to legislate against the moral, economic, and political decline in archaic Athens. Although his efforts did not prove to be fruitful during his lifetime, Solon is often credited with laying the foundation for Athenian democracy.
Romulus Augustus went down in history as the last Western Roman emperor. The son of Orestes, who was killed by German warrior Odoacer, Romulus was spared and allowed to move to southern Italy. Though not much is known of him, it is believed he lived till the rule of Theoderic.
Empress Suiko reigned as the 33rd monarch of Japan from 593 to 628. Suiko is often recognized as the first of eight women to assume the role of empress regnant in Japan. Empress Suiko reigned until her death and she is venerated even today at a memorial Shinto shrine in Osaka.
Cambyses II was the second King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire. He ruled from 530 BC to 522 BC. He was the son of Cyrus the Great and Cassandane. Before claiming the throne, he served as the governor of northern Babylonia under his father. His reign was relatively brief and marked by his conquests in Africa, notably Egypt.
The only child of Spartan king Cleomenes I, Gorgo later married Cleomenes’s successor and half-brother, Leonidas, thus becoming the queen of Sparta. She was a child when she warned her father against Aristagoras, who tried his best to bribe Cleomenes to have him as an ally after the Ionian revolt.
Clovis I, regarded as the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, united the Frankish tribes under one leader and thus transformed the leadership system which had previously been based on leadership by a group of chieftains. His conversion to Catholicism led to widespread conversion among the Frankish people.
A skilled military leader, Heraclius was also deeply religious, having once read out passages from the Bible when his men wanted to invade Persia. He also treated his prisoners with respect. He is best remembered for his exploits in the Byzantine–Sasanian War and his clashes with the Arabs.
A legendary figure, Tomyris was the fabled queen of the Massagetai, an Iranian tribal population. She is perhaps best remembered for her campaign against Cyrus II the Great of Persia, whom she attacked and killed, thus defending her forces. She has been the subject of many literary and artistic creations.
Born to Cyrus the Great of Persia, Bardiya was also known as Tanyoxarces. Though most sources believe he was the king of Persia, some sources claim an impersonator ruled Persia, pretending to be the real son of Cyrus. Both historian Herodotus and king Darius believed the impersonator was Gaumata, a magus.
Harshavardhana, the second son of king Prabhakaravardhana of Thanesar, became a king at 16. Also known as Harsha, he reigned over a vast region of North and Northwestern India from 606 to 647 CE. Hieun Tsang’s Harshacharita detailed how Harsha converted from Hinduism to Buddhism, banned animal slaughter, and built monasteries.
Khosrow I was a 6th-century Persian king of the Sasanian Empire. Though most of the information on him is known through legends, he is believed to have been a patron of the arts. He introduced major tax reforms and also brought changes to the Sasanian bureaucracy.
Brunhilda was queen of Austrasia, which was part of Francia. The daughter of Visigothic king Athanagild, she was also one of the most powerful fighters of Merovingian age. Her conflict with Fredegund, the queen consort of Chilperic I, ended in her death by being torn apart by four horses.
Emperor Yang of Sui is remembered for constructing countless canals and palaces in China during his reign. He apparently took over the throne after executing his father and brother. Though a patron of the arts, he killed two poets when he found they wrote better poetry than him.
Cambyses I was the king of Anshan from c. 580 to 559 BC. He was an early member of the Achaemenid dynasty and was a great-grandson of its founder Achaemenes. Not much is known about his life other than the fact that he reigned under the overlordship of Astyages.
Maha Maya was the mother of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Maya is often depicted as a beautiful queen of the Śakya clan. She is revered in Buddhism and is often mentioned in the stories pertaining to the life of Gautama Buddha.
Polycrates was a tyrant who ruled over Samos, a Greek island which is separated by the 1.6-kilometre wide Mycale Strait from present-day Turkey, from the 540s to 522 BC. Polycrates is credited with achieving engineering and technological expertise of unprecedented levels in ancient Greece. The Tunnel of Eupalinos, which is 1,036 metres long, was an aqueduct constructed during his time.
Bahram Chobin was a nobleman, political leader, and general of the late Sasanian Empire. He also served as its ruler from 590 to 591. A respected political leader renowned for his character, skills, and accomplishments, Bahram Chobin came to be known as a hero and his life inspired several folktales and literary works.