At a time of unprecedented cross-cultural exchange along the Silk Roads, this man from Mesopotamia responded to what he saw as a need for a prophet for all of humanity by creating a new religion to connect all peoples by drawing from Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Christianity.
The rediscovery in western Europe of the ideas of this Greek philosopher kept alive through Arab translations and Byzantine Greek texts, allowed for Latin translations that contributed to the development of universities and the rise of Christian scholastic thinkers.
Urban II 2
As Pope, he launched the crusades calling on Christian warriors to seize the holy land which had fallen to the Muslims and promising salvation to all those who died for cause.
Chinggis Khan 2
He unified the Mongols replacing tribal loyalty with a centralized rule that spread over the largest land empire the world has ever known though it split among his sons and grandsons into four khanates after his death.
Cecil Rhodes 4
On of the most successful imperialists of all times, he dominated the diamond industry and worked for British interests in Africa most notably pushing for a belt of British control across the continent to enable for the construction of a Cape-to-Cairo railroad.
One of the first rulers of the Byzantine Empire, he tried to reconquer the western Roman Empire and codified Roman law both demonstrating the influence of Rome on the Byzantine Empire and helping to maintain Rome's influence throughout European law in the future.
Though little is known about his life, he is credited with founding Zoroastrianism, a religion based on a great battle between the forces of good and evil that was embraced by the Persian Empire and that historians consider to have been very influential on future developments in Judaism and Christianity.
Benito Mussolini 5
Disenchanted with socialism, he embraced a new political ideology of extreme militarism and nationalism in Italy that would evolve into the first movment of the political ideology known as fascism, seizing power as he gained popularity and later allying with Hitler.
This philosopher developed principles to address the political and social disorder of the late Zhou dynasty and believed that individuals that were well educated and moral should fill governmental positions, an idea that survived in Chinese government for thousands of years.
This emperor of the late Roman Empire issued the Edict of Milan allowing for religious freedom, most notably for Christians, and he moved the capital from Rome to the east after reuniting a divided empire.
Louis XIV 3
This French monarch who epitomized the absolutism of Europe that would lead to an era of political revolutions was known as the "sun king" and built the immense palace at Versailles from where he ruled the French state.
Woodrow Wilson 5
As president of the United States during and after World War I, he called for the creation of the League of Nations and for self-determination for all peoples in his Fourteen Points, an idealistic vision for the post-war world.
Otto I of Saxony 2
As the Carolingian empire crumbled, this German lord imposed his authority on much of Germany and began the Holy Roman Empire after being crowned emperor by the pope.
St. thomas Aquinas2
He is the most famous scholastic theologian trying to reconcile the teaching of Christianity with the scientific and philosophical ideas of Aristotle, which had recently been reintroduced to western Europe through contacts with Byzantines and Muslims.
Ibn Battua 2
This Muslim jurist from Morocco is best known for his writings of his extensive travels across the Dar-al-Islam.
Ignatuis Loyola 3
Symbolic of the Catholic Reformation that swept through the Church as a response to Martin Luther and the rise of Protestantism, this Basque soldier founded the Society of Jesus which became one of the strongest forces of missionary activities in the following centuries.
Jawaharal Nehru 5
Following independence from the British, he guided India to democracy as its first prime minister and at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, strongly promoted the strategy of nonalignment which encouraged post-colonial nations to chart their own course free of the Cold War influences of the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
As the last great ruler of India's Mauryan Dynasty, he experienced a change of heart after his bloody campaign against the kingdom of Kalinga which led him to embrace nonviolence and convert to Buddhism of which he encourage the spread both in and out of India.
Mustafa Kemal 5
Known as the "Father of the Turks," he modernized and secularized the new nation of Turkey after the final dissolution of the Ottoman Empire saving his people from much of the post-war chaos experienced throughout Europe after WWI.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah 5
As head of the Muslim League, he played a major role in the struggle for Indian independence from the British, though his fear of the Hindu domination over the Muslim minority led him to break with Gandhi and fight for the creation of a separate Pakistan as a Muslim nation.
Ho Chi Minh 5
This popular Vietnamese nationalist led the war for independence against the French to become the communist leader of North Vietnam, and later the chief enemy of the U.S. in the region as he tried to reunite the country under his leadership.
The was not the name of a person, but rather was one of the two great cities on the Indus River established by the Harappan civilization which demonstrated the first city planning in world history. .
This Egyptian pharaoh championed Aten as the one and only god, leading to one of the first cases of monotheistic worship in world history, though it did not survive since priests restored the old ways after his death.
Joseph Stalin 5
He emerged as the leader of the Soviet Union out of the power struggle that followed the death of Vladimir Lenin and pushed his nation through a series of Five Year Plans to industrialize and imprisoned or executed many communists within the government who dared to confront his power.
This Arabian merchant founded a new religion based on Judeo-Christian principles and the belief in one god, Allah, who would bring a final judgment on the world rewarding all the righteous, leading to his exile from Mecca to Medina from where he gathered a following for his triumphant return.
Queen Victoria 4
This ruler of the British empire at its height of global imperial control led Great Britain for more than sixty years during the Berlin conference and the peak of British territorial control in both India and Africa.
His leadership was key to the rise of the Mughal Empire in India due to both his brutal military success and his religious toleration toward Hindus, which went as far as his encouragement of a syncretic religion known as the "divine faith."
James Cook 3
One of the most important British explorers, he extensively explored the Pacific leading to the first contacts between Europeans & the indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand, and many Pacific islands including Hawaii & Polynesia.
Henry the Navigator 3
In his efforts to spread Christianity and dominate the seas, this prince led Portugal to an early lead in the race to explore the unknown world, to explore Africa's coasts, and become the first Europeans to successfully sail the sea-route to India.
Abu al-Abbas 2
He led a rebellion against the Umayyad dynasty in Persia and founded the Abbasid Dynasty, which would oversee the spread of Islam across three continents before being overthrown by the Mongols some five hundred years later.
Mansa Musa 2
Perhaps the wealthiest king in the world when he ruled the West African kingdom of Mali at its height, he embraced Islam in his realm, showering gifts along the route of the hajj to Mecca with an entourage of thousands.
Toussaint L'ouverture 4
This former slave proved a shrewd military leader and politician, leading the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue to independence though he died in a French prison shortly before Haiti declared itself the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere.
Chandragupta Maurya 1
He established the first centralized empire in India which though shortlived, brought about an era of economic prosperity and long-distance trade that helped contribute to the evolution of popular Hinduism and rise of new religions such as Jainism and Buddhism.
martin luther 3
After his strong objections to the sale of indulgences and other corruption within the Catholic Church, he was able to begin the Protestant Reformation assisted by the recent introduction of the Gutenberg printing press to Europe.
He became the king of the Persian tribes before liberating Persia and building the Achaemenid Empire which would stretch from the Nile in Egypt to the Indus River in northwestern India to become the largest empire the world had ever seen at that time.
Ayatollah Khomeini 5
He led Iran on a fundamentalist path after the successful Islamic Revolution which expelled Westerners from the country, sent the CIA-imposed shah fleeing into exile, and led to an extended hostage crisis when Muslim students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
Tokugawa Ieyasu 3
This military leader ended an era of civil war to unify Japan under a shogunate that would last until forced contact with the West in the 1800s.
Olympe de Gouges 4
Pushing the barriers of revolutionary thought, she wrote one of the earliest assertions of the equality of women in the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen for which she went to the guillotine.
Sergei Witte 4
As the Russian minister of finance, he was the primary force behind Russia's industrialization typified by a huge railway construction program that stimulated other areas of the economy.
Kwame Nkrumah 5
After nonviolently leading Ghana to be the first African colony to win independence and becoming its first prime minister, he became a symbol of black pride and a champion of pan-African unity during the Cold War.
Simon Bolivar 4
Inspired by both the ideas of the Enlightenment and the actions of the American Revolution, this Venezuelan creole led a movement of independence from Spain in which he hoped to create a federation in South America similar to the United States in North America.
Otto von Bismarck 4
Appointed prime minister of Prussia, his rhetoric of "blood and iron" led to a rise in German nationalism and the establishment of the Second Reich, an important step in the unification of Germany.
John Locke 3
This English philosopher took the Enlightenment ideas into the political realm attacking the theory of divine right and declaring that political sovereignty lay in the people being governed, an idea that inspired many revolutions.
Karl Marx 4
The most important socialist of all time, he argued that the social and economic problems plaguing Europe's working class were the result of capitalism and the partnership between the wealthy industrial class and political states, something that would inevitably end in a worker revolution.
Patrice Lumumba 5
The first prime minister of the newly independent Congo liberated from Belgian colonialism, he was killed with the help of the CIA due to his Marxist leanings, a sign of the reach of the Cold War in the post-colonial world.
Mehmed II 3
His military conquests strengthened the Ottoman Empire and marked the end of the Byzantine Empire when he captured the strategic city of Constantinople which has been known as Istanbul ever since.
Patrice Lumumba 5
A champion of U.S. imperialism, as president he exerted the right to interfere in Latin American affairs to protect U.S. interests including by backing a Panamanian revolt vs. Colombia to guarantee U.S. control of a future Panama Canal.
Afonso I 3
This king of Kongo furthered Portuguese success during the early years of the age of exploration when his conversion to Christianity allowed for closer diplomatic, economic, and religious ties though a rise in the slave trade would eventually lead to the destruction of his kingdom.
Napoleon Bonaparte 4
A one-time supporter of the French Revolution, he overthrew the Directory and installed himself as the emperor of France creating stability and order, healing the wounded relationship with the Church, and undertaking a number of military campaigns to extend his authority across Europe.
Gamel Abdel Nasser 5
As leader of Egypt, he took an internationalist position in which he refused to take sides in the Cold War which he perceived as the source of new forms of imperialism and generated a strong pan-Arab nationalism through his anti-Israel stance and his strong actions that led to the seizure of the Suez Canal.
Mikhail Gorbachev 5
More than any other individual, he was responsible for the breakup of the Soviet Union after taking steps toward economic reform & privatization and toward political freedoms through his perestroika & glasnost programs.
This Turkish nomadic conqueror built an empire across Central Asia after the fall of the Mongols leaving a Muslim Turkish legacy that was reflected in the three Muslim empires that replaced it—the Mughal, Ottoman, and Safavid..
Mao Zedong 5
After struggling for decades in China's civil war, he led the Communists to victory over the Nationalists and while initially popular for his programs of land redistribution, he led his country on the economically disastrous Great Leap Forward and the politically disastrous Cultural Revolution.
Siddhartha Gautama 1
His search for the cause of human suffering led him to Enlightenment when he discovered what he called the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which became the cornerstones of Buddhism spread by his followers.
Osman Bey 2
As the chief of a nomadic band of Turks attempting to create an army of ghazi, or religious warriors, he founded the dynasty that would later establish the Ottoman Empire centered in Anatolia.
This Buddhist monk ironically led military forces that expelled Mongol rule from China. He became the first emperor of the Ming dynasty cleansing China of Mongol influences and reinstating traditional Confucian values.
The Roman Senate bestowed on him the name "Augustus," marking the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire as well as the Pax Romana, an era of peace and prosperity resulting from his reforms which expanded the loyalty of Roman citizens and subjects alike.
Vasco da Gama 3
He captained the first European sea voyage to reach India where he reportedly said he had come for "Christians and spices" and where Portugal soon established a trading post giving them a head start in the Indian Ocean trade.
Zheng He 3
This Chinese admiral led expeditions 100 times the size of Columbus's voyage as he extensively explored the Indian Ocean for the Ming Dynasty which mysteriously ended the expeditions which were seen as a threat to Confucian values.
Zheng He 5
Perhaps more responsible than any other individual for the changes in China since the death of Mao Zedong, he opened up China to foreign and capitalist influences, though his liberalization policies did not extend to political freedoms as seen in the bloody response to the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.
Louis XVI 4
His actions as king of France led the third estate to secede from the government and establish the National Assembly which led the French Revolution and created the Convention, a legislative body that had him executed.
Emiliano Zapata 4
Fighting for "land and liberty," this mestizo peasant became one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution which ultimately failed though it pushed for the drafting of a new Constitution that implemented land redistribution, universal suffrage, and an extension of freedoms.