Emperors & Kings

When we talk of emperors and kings, the picture of a regal man dressed in resplendent attire reigning over some ancient land comes to our mind, for in today’s world what we know about emperors and kings comes primarily from folklores and history books. An emperor is the male sovereign ruler of an empire. There have been many vast empires worldwide which consisted of several states and countries. Kings were the rulers of their own kingdoms over which they exercised complete power. Being extremely powerful, the emperors and kings have played crucial roles in shaping the history of not just their own empires and kingdoms, but of the whole world. Titus, the ancient Roman Emperor might have had a short reign, but he secured his place in history as he completed the Colosseum and dealt with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Genghis Khan, the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire conquered vast territories, four times the lands of Alexander the Great. Other rulers still revered today are Atilla the Hun, Timur the Lame and Charlemagne. Over the centuries, absolute monarchies gave way to several other forms of government and now only a handful of monarchies, that too ceremonial, remain in the world. Browse on to learn more about the great emperors and kings who had once walked on this earth.

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 1 Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great
87
Famous As: King of Macedonia
Birthdate: June 30, 0356
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pella, Greece
Died: May 31, 0323

Counted amongst the greatest military commanders of all times, Alexander the Great successfully created one of the largest empires—from Macedonia to Persia and India—of the ancient world. The son of King of Macedonia, Philip II, he ascended the throne at the age of 20 and achieved unprecedented success before he died at the age of 33.  

 2 Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte
67
Famous As: Emperor of the French (1804-1814)
Birthdate: August 15, 1769
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ajaccio, France
Died: May 5, 1821
French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte ruled as the French emperor from 1804 to 1814 and again in 1815. He strengthened France’s position in Europe through the Napoleonic Wars and extended his kingdom. However, he was eventually defeated by the Seventh Coalition at the Battle of Waterloo and sent to exile. 

 3 Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar
63
Famous As: Roman dictator
Birthdate: June 30, 0100
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: March 15, 0044

Julius Caesar is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history and played an important role in the events that led to the downfall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He assumed control of the government after a civil war. He was assassinated by rebel senators on the Ides of March, 44 BC.

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 4 Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan
71
Famous As: Great Khan of the Mongol Empire (1206-1227)
Birthdate: 1158 AD
Birthplace: Khentii Mountains, Mongolia
Died: August 18, 1227

The founder and first Great Khan and Emperor of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan is often considered to be the greatest conqueror of all time. A brutal ruler, he enjoyed exceptional military successes and occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia and China. Besides his military accomplishments, he is also credited with revitalizing the Mongol Empire's writing system.

 5 Augustus

Augustus
48
Famous As: Roman Emperor
Birthdate: September 23, 0063
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: August 19, 0014

Augustus, the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, ruled from 27 BC to 14 AD. He transformed Rome from a republic to an empire after Julius Caesar’s assassination. He annexed new territories, brought about peace and prosperity and laid the foundation of an empire that lasted for nearly 1500 years. Historians regard him as an effective but controversial leader.

 6 Ashoka

Ashoka
78
Famous As: Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty
Birthdate: 0304 BC
Birthplace: Pataliputra
Died: 0232 BC
Ashoka the Great of the Maurya Dynasty was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya and ruled the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 BCE. Following the death and destruction caused by the Kalinga War, which was part of his expansion plan, he converted to Buddhism and propagated the faith.

 7 Charlemagne

Charlemagne
39
Famous As: Holy Roman Emperor (800-814)
Birthdate: April 2, 0747
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Aachen, Germany
Died: January 28, 0814

Also known as Charles the Great, Charlemagne ruled as the king of the Franks, king of the Lombards, and emperor of the Romans at different time periods. Not surprisingly, he had a major impact during the Early Middle Ages as he went about uniting the majority of central and western Europe, for which he is called the Father of Europe.

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 8 Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius
32
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 26, 0121
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: March 17, 0180

Marcus Aurelius played an important role in the Roman Empire. A Stoic philosopher, Marcus was part of the Five Good Emperors and the last emperor of the Pax Romana—a 200-year-long period of relative peace in the Roman Empire. Also a writer, his work Meditations is regarded by many as one of the greatest works of philosophy.

 9 William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror
27
Famous As: King of England (1066-1087)
Birthdate: 1028 AD
Birthplace: Falaise, France
Died: September 9, 1087

William the Conqueror was the first Norman King of England who ruled from 1066 to 1087. William's conquest had a profound impact on England; his government merged elements of the Norman and English systems that laid the foundations of the medieval English kingdom. He is credited with building castles, mottes, and keeps, including the White Tower and Tower of London.

 10 Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great
33
Famous As: King of the Anglo-Saxons
Birthdate: 0849 AD
Birthplace: Wantage, England
Died: October 26, 0899

Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, cemented his place in history as a legendary ruler who led his kingdom to victory in wars that seemed hopeless. He is known for his brilliant strategies and defensive measures. He prevented England from falling to the Danes during his rule from circa 871 to 886. He’s also credited with promoting learning and literacy and curbing corruption.

 11 Charles II

Charles II
17
Famous As: King of Scotland (1649-51), King of England (1660-85)
Birthdate: May 29, 1630
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St James's Palace, London, England
Died: February 6, 1685
Charles II, son of King Charles I of England, ruled England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1660 to 1685. He was initially defeated by Oliver Cromwell and forced to go into exile, but returned to England after Cromwell’s death. He introduced the Clarendon Code and later sided with the Tories.

 12 Chandragupta Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya
30
Famous As: Founder of the Maurya Empire
Birthdate: 0000 BC
Birthplace: Pataliputra

Chandragupta Maurya established the Maurya Empire in India. He was mostly advised by philosopher Chanakya. He conquered the Nanda Empire and fought the Seleucid-Mauryan War, too. His reign was marked by religious tolerance, and cultural and economic prosperity. He later relinquished his throne and became a Jain monk.

 13 Suleiman The Magnificent

Suleiman The Magnificent
37
Famous As: Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1520-1566)
Birthdate: November 6, 1494
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Trabzon, Turkey
Died: September 6, 1566
Suleiman The Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566 and was instrumental in the empire’s expansion, leading the conquests of Belgrade, Rhodes, and Hungary. He was a patron of art and culture, and a talented poet and goldsmith himself. He married Roxelana, a Christian-turned-Muslim from his harem.

 14 Constantine the Great

Constantine the Great
22
Famous As: Roman Emperor
Birthdate: February 27, 0272
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Naissus, Moesia, Roman Empire
Died: May 22, 0337

Constantine the Great served as the Roman emperor between 306 and 337. During his reign, he enacted financial, administrative, military, and social reforms to strengthen the empire. Constantine the Great is also credited with introducing the solidus, a gold coin which became the standard for European and Byzantine currencies for over a thousand years.

 15 Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great
34
Famous As: Founder of First Persian Empire
Birthdate: 0590 BC
Birthplace: Anshan, Iran
Died: 0530 BC

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.

 16 Henry VIII of England

Henry VIII of England
29
Famous As: King of England
Birthdate: June 28, 1491
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kent, England
Died: January 28, 1547

Henry VIII, the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty, ruled England from 1509 to 1547. He married six times, leading to differences with the Roman Catholic Church, which prohibited divorce, thus forming the Anglican Church. The "father of the Royal Navy," he was known for his tyranny and extravagance.

 17 Wilhelm II

Wilhelm II
41
Famous As: German Emperor and King of Prussia (1888-1918)
Birthdate: January 27, 1859
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: June 4, 1941

Wilhelm II reigned as the King of Prussia and German emperor from 1888 to 1918. He is credited with promoting scientific innovation and building a blue-water navy, which strengthened Germany’s position as a great power. However, he was also responsible for getting his country involved in World War I, which eventually brought an end to the Hohenzollern dynasty’s rule.

 18 Hannibal

Hannibal
14
Famous As: Military General
Birthdate: 0247 BC
Birthplace: Carthage, Tunisia
Died: 0184 BC

 19 Peter the Great

Peter the Great
21
Famous As: First Emperor of Russia
Birthdate: June 9, 1672
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Moscow
Died: February 8, 1725
Peter the Great ruled the Tsardom of Russia, and then the Russian Empire, from 1682 to 1725. He ushered in the Enlightenment and cultural revolution in Russia. He also strengthened the Russian navy and launched the Russo-Persian War. Saint Petersburg, the capital of Russia till 1917, was established by him.

 20 Qin Shi Huang

Qin Shi Huang
17
Famous As: King of Qin (221-210BC)
Birthdate: February 18, 0259
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: China
Died: 0210 BC

Qin Shi Huang is credited with founding the Qin dynasty, the first dynasty of Imperial China. He reigned as the first emperor of a unified China from 221 BC to 210 BC. Under his rule, the Chinese state expanded greatly and he also enacted major political and economic reforms. His life and work inspired several films like The Emperor's Shadow.

 21 Edward I of England

Edward I of England
18
Famous As: King of England (1272-1307)
Birthdate: June 1, 1239
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: July 7, 1307

Edward I of England ruled England as its king from 1272 to 1307. During his reign, Edward I reformed common law and royal administration. He is also credited with setting up Parliament as a permanent institution. He is also criticized for issuing the Edict of Expulsion, which expelled Jews from England. The Edict was not overturned for almost 350 years.

 22 Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible
23
Famous As: Grand Prince of Moscow (1533-1547)
Birthdate: August 25, 1530
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kolomenskoye, Moscow, Russia
Died: March 28, 1584
Ivan the Terrible, son of Vasili III, served as the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547. The “Chosen Council” declared him the tsar at 16 and established the Tsardom of Russia. Ivan’s reign was known for wars such as the Livonian War, which damaged Russia’s economy. 

 23 Claudius

Claudius
17
Famous As: Roman Emperor (41-54)
Birthdate: August 1, 0010
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lugdunum
Died: October 13, 0054

Claudius was made the Roman emperor by the Praetorian Guard after the assassination of Caligula, his nephew and predecessor, and ruled from 41 to 54 A.D. He was slightly limp and deaf since childhood, but his reign was marked by financial stability. He was succeeded by his grand-nephew, tyrant Nero.

 24 Louis XIV of France

Louis XIV of France
20
Famous As: King of France (1643-1715)
Birthdate: September 5, 1638
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died: September 1, 1715

Louis XIV of France reigned as the King of France from 1643 to 1715. Louis XIV is the longest-reigning monarch of a sovereign country in the history of Europe. Under his rule, France often asserted its military prowess and emerged as the most dominant European monarchy. His life inspired several films, such as The Taking of Power by Louis XIV.

 25 Timur

Timur
31
Famous As: Amir of the Timurid Empire (1370-1405)
Birthdate: April 9, 1336
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Shahrisabz, Uzbekistan
Died: February 18, 1405

Widely considered one of the greatest tacticians and military leaders in history, Timur is credited with founding the Timurid Empire, which attained its greatest extent under the leadership of Timur. His empire laid the foundation for the rise of the more prominent Islamic gunpowder empires, such as the Mughal Empire, which then ruled the Indian subcontinent for almost 330 years.

 26 King James I

King James I
9
Famous As: King of Scotland
Birthdate: June 19, 1566
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Died: March 27, 1625

King James I of England and Ireland was also the king of Scotland as James VI. Son of Mary, Queen of Scots, he believed in royal absolutism. He had major conflicts with the Parliament and its ever-growing powers, which eventually led to revolts against his successor, Charles I.

 27 Henry VII of England

Henry VII of England
27
Famous As: Monarch of England (1485-1509)
Birthdate: January 28, 1457
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Died: April 21, 1509

Henry VII of England played an important role in popularizing the House of Tudor by becoming the first monarch of the house; he ruled as the king of England from 1485 until his death in 1509. He is credited with several economic, diplomatic, and administrative initiatives.

 28 George V

George V
33
Famous As: King of the United Kingdom (1910-36)
Birthdate: June 3, 1865
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 20, 1936

George V became the King of Great Britain and the British Dominions in 1910. During the World War I, he played an active role in supporting the troops. The rise of socialism, communism, fascism and the Indian independence movement was witnessed during his rule. His reign also saw the supremacy of the elected British House of Commons established by the Parliament.

 29 Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler
25
Famous As: Ruler of Wallachia (1448)
Birthdate: 1431 AD
Birthplace: Sighișoara, Romania
Died: November 30, 1476

Often considered a national hero of Romania, Vlad the Impaler was an important ruler in Wallachian history. Also known as Vlad Dracula, his reputation for cruelty inspired the name of the famous fictitious vampire Count Dracula. Books describing his cruelty were among the first-known bestsellers in the German-speaking territories.

 30 Nero

Nero
26
Famous As: Roman Emperor
Birthdate: December 15, 0037
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Anzio, Italy
Died: June 9, 0068

Nero was the fifth Roman emperor whose rule was associated with tyranny. Five years into his reign, he had his mother Agrippina killed. The Great Fire of Rome, which occurred during his reign, is believed to have been instigated by him for political reasons. He was also responsible for eliminating many Christians from the empire.

 31 Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan
23
Famous As: Founder of the Yuan dynasty in Mongolia and China,
Birthdate: September 23, 1215
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mongolia
Died: February 18, 1294

Also known as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan, Kublai Khan served as the fifth khagan of the famous Mongol Empire. After the division of the empire, Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty in China and ruled as the first Yuan emperor from 1271 until his death in 1294. Hence, he played an important role in re-creating a militarily powerful China.

 32 Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
56
Famous As: Shah of Iran (1941-79)
Birthdate: October 26, 1919
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tehran, Iran
Died: July 27, 1980

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi served as the last king of Iran from 1941 to 1979. During his reign, Iran witnessed rapid military and industrial modernization and several social and economic reforms. During his rule, Iran also enjoyed a spike in economic growth, surpassing France, England, and the US. However, the Iranian Revolution, which was unusual in many ways, overthrew the king.

 33 Saladin

Saladin
28
Famous As: Sultan of Egypt (1174-1193)
Birthdate: May 27, 1138
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tikrit, Iraq
Died: March 4, 1193
Named the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Saladin founded the Ayyubid Dynasty. He abolished the Fatimid Caliphate and later defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin, thus taking control of Palestine. As the de facto Caliph of Islam, he controlled a vast area, including Egypt, Syria, and Yemen.

 34 Ramesses II

Ramesses II
11
Famous As: Pharaoh (1279-1213 BC)
Birthdate: 1303 BC
Birthplace: Egypt
Died: 1213 BC

Ramesses II, son of Seti I, was the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty. Also known as the “Great Ancestor,” he is remembered for his aggressive military expeditions to Nubia and Canaan. The second longest-reigning ruler of Egypt, he is credited for building monuments and cities such as the Pi-Ramesses.

 35 George III of the United Kingdom

George III of the United Kingdom
16
Famous As: King of Great Britain and of Ireland (1760-1801)
Birthdate: June 4, 1738
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 29, 1820

The King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for almost six decades, George III had a reign that was longer than those of any of his predecessors. His reign was marked by a series of military conflicts. He suffered from mental illness in his later years.

 36 Richard I of England

Richard I of England
19
Famous As: King of England
Birthdate: September 8, 1157
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Beaumont Palace, Oxford, England
Died: April 6, 1199
Richard I of England, the king of England from 1189 to 1199, was known as Richard the Lionheart, for his military prowess. He also reigned over Normandy, Aquitaine, Gascony, Cyprus, Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes. The third son of King Henry II, he fought actively in the Third Crusade.

 37 George II of Great Britain

George II of Great Britain
15
Famous As: King of Great Britain & Ireland (1727-1760)
Birthdate: November 10, 1683
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hanover, Germany
Died: October 25, 1760
George II was the king of Great Britain from 1727 to 1760. He had negligible control over his country’s policies, as the Parliament took most of the significant decisions back then. His participation in the 1743 Battle of Dettingen made him the last British monarch to fight in a battle.

 38 King David

King David
7
Famous As: King of Israel
Birthdate: 1040 BC
Birthplace: Bethlehem, Israel
Died: 0970 BC

King David of Israel remains a significant figure not just in Christianity, but also in Judaism and Islam. The Books of Samuel describe him as a shepherd. Legends also mention how he killed the giant Goliath and had an affair with Bathsheba. He was also a poet and a psalmist.

 39 Philip II of Spain

Philip II of Spain
19
Famous As: King of Spain (1556-1598)
Birthdate: May 21, 1527
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Valladolid, Spain
Died: September 13, 1598
Philip II, son of Charles V, was a 16-th century king of Spain and Portugal. Also known as Philip the Prudent, he became the king of Ireland and England through his marriage to Mary I. Following Mary’s death, he attempted to overthrow Elizabeth I with his armada invasions, but failed.

 40 Hirohito

Hirohito
28
Famous As: Former Emperor of Japan
Birthdate: April 29, 1901
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Aoyama, Tokyo, Japan
Died: January 7, 1989
Hirohito, or Emperor Showa, the longest-reigning Japanese emperor, reigned from 1926 to 1989 and supported the Axis Powers during World War II. He also served in the Japanese military. He was not prosecuted for war crimes by the U.S. and played a major role in the post-war reconstruction of Japan.

 41 Haile Selassie

Haile Selassie
19
Famous As: Emperor of Ethiopia
Birthdate: July 23, 1892
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ejersa Goro, Ethiopia
Died: August 27, 1975

Haile Selassie, served his country, Ethiopia, as its regent from 1916 to 1930 and as its emperor from 1930 to 1974. He introduced the first Ethiopian constitution, abolished slavery, chaired the Organisation of African Unity, and helped Ethiopia enter the UN. He inspired the Rastafari movement, too.

 42 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
16
Famous As: Former Holy Roman Emperor
Birthdate: February 24, 1500
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ghent
Died: September 21, 1558

Charles V served as the Holy Roman Emperor, King of Italy, and King of Germany from 1519 to 1556. From 1516 to 1556, he ruled as the King of Spain. His personal union of the American and European territories was the first collection of kingdoms that were described the empire on which the Sun never sets.

 43 Richard III of England

Richard III of England
20
Famous As: King of England
Birthdate: October 2, 1452
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, England
Died: August 22, 1485

Richard III was King of England from 1483 to 1485. His defeat and subsequent death marked the demise of the Middle Ages in England. He is the subject of William Shakespeare's famous play Richard III. He has also been an inspiration for several other works of literature and films.

 44 Henry IV of France

Henry IV of France
17
Famous As: King of France (1589-1610)
Birthdate: December 13, 1553
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pau, France
Died: May 14, 1610

Henry IV of France reigned as the King of France from 2 August 1589 until his death on 14 May 1610. Remembered for his concern about the welfare of the people of France, Henry worked to eliminate corruption, promote agriculture, encourage education, and regularize state finance. The character of Ferdinand in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost was loosely based on Henry.

 45 Henry V of England

Henry V of England
14
Famous As: King of England (1413 – 1422)
Birthdate: August 9, 1386
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Monmouth Castle, Monmouth, Principality of Wales
Died: August 31, 1422

One of the most renowned kings in English history, Henry V ascended the throne at the age of 26 in 1413 and ruled England till his death in 1422. Though his reign was short, it was marked by great successes in the Hundred Years' War against France which established England as one of the strongest kingdoms in entire Europe.

 46 Ertuğrul

Ertuğrul
4
Famous As: Osman I's father
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Turkey
Died: 1280 AD

 47 Caligula

Caligula
22
Famous As: Roman Emperor (37-41 AD)
Birthdate: August 31, 0012
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Anzio, Italy
Died: January 24, 0041

Caligula, the third Roman emperor, is often described as a cruel man who forced his subjects to worship him as their god. Considered an insane tyrant, Caligula is accused of incest and forcing the audience to enter a sporting arena to be eaten alive by wild beasts during the intermission. His stories are famous in popular culture.

 48 Henry II of England

Henry II of England
14
Famous As: King of England (1154-1189)
Birthdate: March 5, 1133
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Le Mans, France
Died: July 6, 1189

Henry II of England reigned as the king of England from 1154 to 1189. During his long rule, Henry introduced many changes that had severe long-term consequences. Some of his legal changes are believed to have laid the foundation for English Common Law. Henry is often portrayed in films and plays; he has been played by actors like Peter O'Toole.

 49 Xerxes I

Xerxes I
19
Famous As: King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire (486-465)
Birthdate: 0519 BC
Birthplace: Achaemenid Empire
Died: July 31, 0466

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.

 50 Darius the Great

Darius the Great
14
Famous As: King of Persia
Birthdate: 0550 AD
Birthplace: Iran
Died: September 30, 0487

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.