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
71
Famous As: Emperor of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon
Birthdate: July 20, 0356
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pella, Greece
Died: June 10, 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 Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar
42
Famous As: Former Roman dictator
Birthdate: July 13, 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.

 3 Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte
46
Famous As: Emperor of the French
Birthdate: August 15, 1769
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ajaccio
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. 
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 4 Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan
47
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
29
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
50
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
20
Famous As: King of the Frank
Birthdate: April 2, 0742
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Herstal
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
16
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 Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great
20
Famous As: King of Wessex
Birthdate: 0849 AD
Birthplace: Wantage, United Kingdom
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.

 10 William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror
18
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.

 11 Chandragupta Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya
19
Famous As: Founder of the Maurya Empire
Birthdate: 0340 BC
Birthplace: Pataliputra
Died: 0298 BC

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.

 12 Wilhelm II

Wilhelm II
25
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.

 13 Constantine the Great

Constantine the Great
12
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.

 14 Suleiman The Magnificent

Suleiman The Magnificent
24
Famous As: 10th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Birthdate: November 6, 1494
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Trabzon, Ottoman Empire
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.

 15 Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great
25
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 Peter the Great

Peter the Great
9
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.

 17 Hannibal

Hannibal
7
Famous As: Military General
Birthdate: 0247 BC
Birthplace: Carthage, Tunisia
Died: 0184 BC

 18 Edward I of England

Edward I of England
11
Famous As: King of England
Birthdate: June 17, 1239
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Palace of Westminster, 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.

 19 Attila

Attila
14
Famous As: Ruler
Birthdate: 0406 AD
Died: February 29, 0453

 20 Claudius

Claudius
9
Famous As: Roman emperor
Birthdate: August 1, 0010
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lyon
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.

 21 Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible
15
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. 

 22 Shivaji

Shivaji
51
Famous As: King
Birthdate: February 19, 1630
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Shivneri
Died: April 3, 1680

Shivaji was an Indian warrior-king. He is credited with founding the Maratha Empire, which became a force to reckon with during the 18th century. He is also credited with creating his own navy. Considered one of the most important Indian kings and a hero of the Hindus, Shivaji's life and work have inspired several works of art, including films.

 23 Henry VII of England

Henry VII of England
23
Famous As: King of England
Birthdate: January 28, 1457
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom
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.

 24 King James I

King James I
7
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.

 25 Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun
18
Famous As: Pharaoh
Birthdate: 1342 BC
Birthplace: Ancient Egypt
Died: 1325 BC

Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled between 1334 and 1325 BC. He is one of the most studied ancient Egyptian pharaohs, thanks to his well-preserved tomb. Although he was not a popular ruler, the global exhibitions of artifacts associated with him have made Tutankhamun the most renowned pharaoh in the modern world.

 26 Louis XIV of France

Louis XIV of France
10
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.

 27 Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler
19
Famous As: Ruler of Wallachia
Birthdate: 1431 AD
Birthplace: Sighi┼čoara
Died: December 31, 1477

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.

 28 Alexander II of Russia

Alexander II of Russia
8
Famous As: Emperor of Russia
Birthdate: April 29, 1818
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Moscow Kremlin, Moscow, Russia
Died: March 13, 1881

Alexander II of Russia was the Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland, and King of Poland from 1855 to 1881. He became known as Alexander the Liberator for his most significant reform, which was the Emancipation Reform of 1861. He is also credited with reorganizing the judicial system, abolishing corporal punishment, and imposing universal military service in Russia.

 29 Charles II

Charles II
15
Famous As: King of England, Scotland & Ireland
Birthdate: May 29, 1630
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St James's Palace
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.

 30 Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce
8
Famous As: King of Scotland
Birthdate: July 11, 1274
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Turnberry Castle, Scotland
Died: June 7, 1329
King of Scots Robert I, better known as Robert the Bruce, is revered as a Scottish national hero. He successfully led his country against England in the First War of Scottish Independence. Legends state he was inspired by a spider’s relentless effort to spin a web, to ultimately defeat England.

 31 Qin Shi Huang

Qin Shi Huang
12
Famous As: King
Birthdate: 0259 BC
Birthplace: Handan, 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.

 32 Hirohito

Hirohito
14
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.

 33 Henry VIII of England

Henry VIII of England
17
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.

 34 Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan
15
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.

 35 Saladin

Saladin
19
Famous As: Sultan of Egypt
Birthdate: 1137 AD
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.

 36 Nicholas II

Nicholas II
15
Birthdate: May 18, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tsarskoye Selo, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, Alexander Palace
Died: July 17, 1918

Nicholas II reigned as the last Emperor of All Russia from 1894 until his abdication in 1917. His reign oversaw a series of reforms in Russia. These reforms included the introduction of literacy programs, civil liberties, and methods to modernize the empire's infrastructure. However, these reforms were eventually undermined by Nicholas' love for autocratic rule.

 37 Ramesses II

Ramesses II
8
Famous As: Greatest Pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire
Birthdate: 1303 BC
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.

 38 Nero

Nero
20
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.

 39 Timur

Timur
23
Famous As: Monarch of the Timurid Empire
Birthdate: April 9, 1336
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Shahrisabz, Uzbekistan
Died: February 19, 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.

 40 Philip II of Spain

Philip II of Spain
13
Famous As: King of Spain
Birthdate: May 21, 1527
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pimentel Palace, 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.

 41 Henry IV of France

Henry IV of France
12
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.

 42 Edward IV of England

Edward IV of England
11
Famous As: King of England
Birthdate: April 28, 1442
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: April 9, 1483

The King of England for several years from 1461 until his death in 1483, Edward IV of England was a central figure in the Wars of the Roses. He was a brave warrior and his contemporaries described him as handsome, affable, and energetic. He died at the relatively young age of 40. The cause of his death remains unknown. 

 43 Haile Selassie

Haile Selassie
10
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.

 44 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
10
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.

 45 Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
38
Famous As: Last Shah of Iran
Birthdate: October 26, 1919
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tehran
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.

 46 Maharana Pratap

Maharana Pratap
17
Famous As: Ruler of Mewar
Birthdate: May 9, 1540
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kumbhalgarh
Died: January 19, 1597
Maharana Pratap, son of Maharana Udai Singh, ruled the Indian region of Mewar, in modern-day Rajasthan, from 1572 to 1597. Also known as “Mewari Rana,” he is best remembered for his exploits at the Battle of Haldighati, against the Mughal army of Akbar, led by Man Singh I of Amer.

 47 Babur

Babur
19
Famous As: Founder of Mughal Dyanasty
Birthdate: February 14, 1483
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Andijan
Died: December 26, 1530
Babur, the first emperor of the Mughal Dynasty of India, was a descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur. He defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 CE and then defeated Rajput ruler Rana Sanga in the Battle of Khanwa in 1527. His memoir is titled Baburnama.

 48 George II of Great Britain

George II of Great Britain
11
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.

 49 Richard I of England

Richard I of England
15
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.

 50 Xerxes I

Xerxes I
14
Famous As: Persian King
Birthdate: 0519 BC
Birthplace: Iran
Died: 0466 AD

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.

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