Osman I was the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, which ruled the Ottoman Empire between 1299 and 1922. One of the most important historical figures in Turkey, Osman I is often depicted in popular culture. Interestingly, he is also one of the least documented leaders of the Ottoman Turks, making the factual information of his biographies questionable.
Mehmed II reigned as the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire on two separate occasions; from 1444 to 1446 and again from 1451 to 1481. During his first reign, Mehmed II defeated the military expedition led by John Hunyadi. During his second reign, Mehmed II strengthened the Ottoman navy and conquered Constantinople at age 21, which ended the Byzantine Empire.
Mehmed III reigned as the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 16 January 1595 until his death on 22 December 1603. He is best remembered for his role in the Long Turkish War, where he successfully led his army at the all-important Battle of Keresztes. Also remembered for his diplomacy, Mehmed III established communications with the court of Elizabeth I.
Mehmed IV reigned as the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 8 August 1648 to 8 November 1687. After ascending the throne at age six following the dethronement of his father in a coup, Mehmed IV went on to become the second-longest reigning emperor in the history of the Ottoman Empire after Suleiman the Magnificent.
Ali Kemal was a Turkish journalist, poet, newspaper editor, government official, and liberal-leaning politician. He is best remembered for his brief service as the Minister of the Interior of the Ottoman Empire in 1919. During the Turkish War of Independence, Ali Kemal was assassinated by paramilitary officers.
Abdülmecid I reigned as the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 2 July 1839 until his death on 25 June 1861. During his reign, Abdülmecid I tried to set up alliances with France and the United Kingdom. He also played an important role in the Crimean War against the Russians.
Mehmed I reigned as the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 5 July 1413 until his death on 26 May 1421. Prior to his reign as the emperor of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed I ruled as the Sultan of Anatolia from 1403 to 1413. Nicknamed The Restorer, Mehmed I is credited with re-establishing central authority in Anatolia.
Zeno reigned as the Roman emperor of the East on two separate occasions; from 474 to 475 and again from 476 to 491. His reign marked the end of the Western Roman Empire after the deposition of Romulus Augustus. However, Zeno is credited with stabilizing the Eastern Empire.
The 2nd president of Turkey, İsmet İnönü had also been a 3-time prime minister of the country. Previously an efficient military commander, who had fought in World War I and the Greco-Turkish War, he later led the Republican People's Party in Turkey’s one-party state. He had also been Turkey's foreign affairs minister.
The 28th sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Selim III was a ruler who believed in modern reforms. A talented poet and composer of Ottoman music, he introduced the nizam-ı cedid, a set of new reforms. He redefined his kingdom’s military strategies and taxation system and launched embassies in Europe.
Turkish politician Talaat Pasha, who chaired the Union and Progress Party during its one-party dictatorship, later became the Grand Vizier, or prime minister, of Turkey. He had also been Turkey’s minister of the interior and finance. A convicted war criminal, he was assassinated by an Armenian in Germany, where he had escaped.
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.
Piri Reis was an Ottoman navigator, admiral, cartographer, and geographer. He is best remembered for his Book of Navigation, which contains maps and charts and information on navigational techniques. He gained international recognition in 1929 when a portion of his first world map was discovered at the Topkapı Palace in Turkey. Piri Reis finds mention in several popular video games.
The 21st sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Ahmed II reigned in the 17th century. He spent most of his reign in campaigns against the Holy League of Austria, Venice, and Poland. He faced significant Arab unrest and encouraged settlements of nomadic Turkmen tribes. He was also mostly dominated by his courtiers.
The 24th sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mahmud I was the son of Mustafa II. Known for his friendly relationships with the Mughal and Safavid empires, he also fought against Austria and Russia in a war that ended in the Treaty of Belgrade. He is remembered for restoring peace after the Patrona Halil uprising.
Ancient Byzantine emperor Justinian II was the son of Constantine IV and an efficient ruler, though he was also known for his cruel ways and means. He was also known as Rhinotmetos, or the slit-nosed, after his nose was cut off during a revolt in 695, following which he was banished from the kingdom.
The 9th president of Turkey, Süleyman Demirel, was also the country’s 12th and youngest prime minister. He had led both the Justice Party and the True Path Party. The civil engineer and politician hailed from a peasant family. Amid extremist violence, he was once barred from participating in politics.
Macedonian king of the 4th century, Antigonus I Monophthalmus was initially a military general under Alexander the Great. He founded the Macedonian Antigonid dynasty and was known for his efficient military strategies. He is remembered for his role in the Wars of the Diadochi and has appeared in prominent historical fiction.
Tariq Aziz was an Iraqi politician best remembered for his service as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 11 November 1983 to 19 December 1991. An influential political leader, Tariq Aziz also served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq from 16 July 1979 to 9 April 2003.
Roman emperor of the 4th century, Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius was the son of Maximian. He spent most of his later rule dealing with civil wars. He also invested in building religious structures. He was eventually beaten and killed at Battle of the Milvian Bridge.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a Turkish politician and the current president of Turkey. After founding the Justice and Development Party (AKP), he played a major role in leading the party to election victories and thereby helping AKP become a force to reckon with in Turkey. Described as an authoritarian, his government has restricted access to sites like Wikipedia and YouTube.
The 8th president of Turkey, Turgut Özal was also the country’s 19th prime minister. He led the Motherland Party, also known as ANAP, and had also worked with the World Bank as an economist. He died of a heart attack while in office, though many believe he may have been poisoned.
Roman emperor of the East in the 5th century, Theodosius II was declared co-augustus at the age of 9 months by his father, Arcadius. He became an emperor at age 7. Known as gentle, he was mostly dominated by his ministers but also led campaigns against the Persians, the Huns, and the Vandals.
The 16th prime minister of Turkey, Bülent Ecevit had held the post for 4 terms. He had led both the Democratic Left Party and the Republican People's Party and is remembered as the only left-wing prime minister that Turkey ever had. He was also a journalist and a talented poet and author.
After leading the coup of 1980, Turkish military commander Kenan Evren took over as the 7th president of Turkey. Following his retirement, he settled in Marmaris and mastered oil painting. Evren died before his final conviction and sentencing in the trial for the 1980 coup.
The 10th president of Turkey, Ahmet Necdet Sezer was also a prominent judge. Initially a supervisory judge at the High Court of Appeals, he later served as the 14th president of the Constitutional Court of Turkey. The independent politician became Turkey’s first president from a legal background and strongly believed in secularism.
The 32nd sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdülâziz was the son of Mahmud II. An admirer of Western ways, he became the first sultan to travel to Western Europe. He was also a talented composer. He was deposed and died of suicide a few days later, though many believe he was assassinated.
The 11th president of Turkey, Abdullah Gül has also been the country’s 24th prime minister. He has led Turkey as its minister of foreign affairs and of state too. Associated with political parties such as the Welfare Party and the Justice and Development Party in the past, he later turned into an independent candidate.
Turkey’s 9th prime minister, Adnan Mendere had also formed the Democrat Party after being expelled from the RPP. In Turkey’s first free election in over 25 years, in 1950, he had a sweeping win. He and 2 of his cabinet members were tried and hanged after the 1960 coup d'état.
Turkish left-wing politician and diplomat Burhan Asaf Belge was also the first husband of Hungarian-American actor Zsa Zsa Gabor. He represented the Muğla province at the Turkish National Assembly. He had also served as the ambassador of Turkey to Hungary, where he met Gabor.
Byzantine emperor of the 6th century, Justin II was the son of Vigilantia, who was the sister of emperor Justinian I. Declared an heir by a childless Justinian, he strengthened the economic situation of his kingdom during his reign. His rule was plagued by clashes with the Avars, Lombards, and Persians.
The 23rd and first Islamist prime minister of Turkey, Necmettin Erbakan had been a mechanical engineer and a professor before stepping into politics. The Welfare Party politician had also led other Islamist parties, such as the Felicity Party and the National Salvation Party, but was accused of going against Turkey’s secular constitution
Ottoman grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha led the Ottoman army to a loss in the Battle of Lepanto but eventually acquired Cyprus from the Venetian forces. A tough military leader, he held the post of governor-general. Following the death of sultan Selim II, he faced hostility and was eventually assassinated.
Abdullah Öcalan is a Turkish political prisoner best known for founding the Kurdistan Workers' Party in the midst of the 1980 Turkish coup d'état. He fled to Syria in 1979 and was active there until 1998. Abdullah Öcalan left Syria in 1998 and was taken captive in 1999 as part of an operation led by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization.
The 25th Ottoman sultan, Osman III, was also the 90th Islamic caliph. The son of Sultan Mustafa II, he spent a long time imprisoned, following his father’s deposition. Known for his ill-tempered nature, he banished all musicians from the palace. However, he also constructed the aesthetic Nuruosmaniye Mosque.
Roman historian and soldier from the 4th century, Ammianus Marcellinus penned one of the last major historical accounts of the later Roman empire, Res Gestae, also known as Rerum gestarum libri. His writings charted the Roman times from the accession of Emperor Nerva to the death of Emperor Valens.
Born in modern-day Cappadocia, Turkey, Basiliscus grew up to be an Eastern Roman emperor in the 5th century. He was the brother of Verina, who was the wife of Emperor Leo I. His belief in the Monophysite heresy caused conflicts. He was eventually exiled to Cappadocia and beheaded after Emperor Zeno’s return.
The 3rd president of Turkey, Celâl Bayar was also the country’s 3rd prime minister and a seasoned economist. The Democrat Party leader had also previously been a member of the Committee of Union and Progress and the Republican People's Party. He is also remembered for introducing etatism, or a state-directed economy, in Turkey.
Ahmet Tevfik Pasha had been the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire for 3 terms and was the last Ottoman to hold the post. He had also been the Ottoman Empire’s foreign minister. He supported revolutionary Mustafa Kemal’s nationalist movement which opposed the Allied occupation of Anatolia following World War I.
Emine Erdoğan became the First Lady of Turkey as the wife of Turkey’s 12th president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. She has been associated with social initiatives, especially those related to women’s issues, mothers, girls, and environmental concerns. She has also been awarded for her work for flood relief in Pakistan.
The 6th president of Turkey, Fahri Koruturk had also been the 3rd Commander of the Turkish Navy. He had an illustrious naval career, having served as a naval military attaché in Berlin, Rome, and Stockholm. He had also served as the Turkish ambassador to the Soviet Union and to Spain.