Top 15 Influential Leaders from Ancient Greece
There is no question that ancient Greeks were among the most influential civilizations the world has ever seen. Notwithstanding a few flaws here and there, the ancient Greek city states were instrumental in developing several ideas and philosophies that changed the face of the Earth. Greek leaders in those city-states were highly celebrated during the years after their deaths. Colossal philosophical thinkers such as Socrates and Plato also enjoyed the same magnitude of fame. But there are many reasons why ancient Greeks are dearly missed in our world today — apart from revolutionizing their era, ancient Greeks also left great work and ideological legacies.
Ancient Greek Leaders and their Impact on the world
The ancient Greeks were successful in many different ways, from putting up massive architectural structure to nurturing a rich cultural history. They were also prolific at coming out with scientific/mathematical discoveries, exquisite writing and poetry, and philosophy. It appeared as if the Greeks were bad at nothing. So there’s nothing really surprising when some modern day scholars name Ancient Greece as the greatest civilization to have ever existed on our planet.
Without wasting much time, let’s go straight into the lives of the following 15 heroic leaders of ancient Greece. The submission also includes a few villainous leaders from ancient Greece.
Alexander the Great
Even after two millennial, The world still recognizes Alexander the Great as one of the all-time greatest military figures to ever pop up in the world. Alexander the Great (356 –323 BCE) was a Greek conqueror who conquered much of the ancient Macedonian kingdom and Asia. His father was king Philip II of Macedonia.
Aged 20, Alexander rose to the throne when his father was assassinated. Not scared of death, the young ruler vowed to surpass heights reached by his father. Standing by his words, Alexander took down the Persian Empire. He used his army to build a great empire that stretched from Egypt to some parts of India.
He was a great politician, poet, and democratic pioneer of the Greek kingdom. Born in 638 BCE, the lawmaker allowed citizens of Athens to enjoy democratic rights. His great policies eased the pressure on enslaved people. Coming into power in 594 BC as a democratically elected leader, Solon is regarded as one of the prominent founders of democracy in Athens.
He was a lawmaker of ancient Greece. Some historians view him as the actual father of democratic Athens. This is backed by the fact that Cleisthenes reviewed the Athenian Constitution to allow democracy to flourish brilliantly.
In 1510 BC, due to Cleisthenes’ extensive knowledge in democratic governance and the legislature, the Spartans enlisted his support in overthrowing their king so that democracy would also thrive in their city.
He was an Athenian ruler, and a powerful orator as well, who stood against Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. His great speeches highlighted deep information on 4th century BCE Athenian political and socioeconomic status.
Born in 384 BCE, Demosthenes inherited vast collection of wealth when his rich father died. Great thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, were both contemporaries of Demosthenes. Blessed with unmatched intellectual skills, Demosthenes made fortunes writing and delivering great speeches across his city.
He was a Greek politician, a great speaker, and a famed Athenian general. Pericles existed between 495 & 429 BCE, supporting the study of arts, literature, and philosophical reasoning. Pericles realized that the guarantee of freedom was crucial to a successful government, so he stood for freedom of expressions. Because people were free to study what they liked, Pericles’ tenure saw Athens produce great artists, scientists, architects, philosophers and so on. It is for these and many other reasons why Pericles is considered one of the leading minds when it comes to democratic principles and liberty.
Athens is marked as the birthplace of democratic governance and the senate. The Athenians accomplished this by having laws written down and enforced by courts. The adoption of written laws stopped oral laws from being misinterpreted by the public.
Draco was the writer of the coded laws that were deemed as brutal. Famous for being a harsh lawmaker, Draco’s name has been associated with severity and strictness. Draconian is an adjectival term that refers to cruel and rigid systems or laws.
In 547 BCE, Pisistratus became an Athenian tyrant who changed the status quo of the city-state and its neighborhoods. Upon coming into power, Pisistratus set forth to correct all problems in his jurisdiction. He started by building fountain houses to take care of the aquatic needs of his people.
Culturally, he wanted to make the city to be a land of glory. In so doing, he introduced great festivals such as the Panathenaic Festival — a festive sports event to honor Athena.
Cleopatra was a powerful female ruler of ancient Egypt and Greece. During the Hellenistic era of ancient Greece, this absolutely beautiful woman with a fine brain as well ruled over a male-dominated court and senate. Her courage and determination to stand toe to toe with men was very admirable. Mind you, all these happened about 2000 years ago, when women weren’t allowed to occupy crucial political positions. However, Cleopatra was different, she was a woman who would do anything to remain on the throne, even if it meant marrying her siblings. Cleopatra descended from Ptolemy I Soter (a brother/general of Alexander the Great).
Demetrius of Phalerum
Demetrius was a distinguished Athenian statesman and an orator. He got an appointment from King Cassander of Macedonia to rule over Athens. During his decade long reign, Demetrius introduced reforms into the Athenian legal systems. Around 307 BCE, he was forced to flee and go into exile by his political opponents. After moving to Thebes, Demetrius later went to Alexandria’s court. As a scholar who was tutored by Theophrastus and probably Aristotle. Demetrius of Phalerum produced a lot of work on history, literary criticisms, and rhetoric.
Born in 540 BCE, Leonidas was a Spartan King with extraordinary bravery. During the Spartans’ battle against the Persians, Leonidas showed that he was an outstanding Greek King. The king exhibited copious amount of courage in the Battle of Thermophile, where he fought against the Xerxes the Great, King of Persia. In spite of the enemy vastly outnumbering Leonidas and his men, Leonidas stood against the huge Persian forces. For his bravery, as well as that of his men, Spartans erected a statue to honor the heroic King.
Born in 449 BCE, Cimon (aka Kimon) was a mid-5th century BCE Athenian general and ruler. His father was Miltiades, winner of the legendary Marathon Battle. Cimon and Aristides fought to save the Asian Greek cities from being invaded by the Persians. Following Aristides’ death, Cimon rose to become the pro-Spartan party’s main statesman. Notwithstanding his accomplishments, historians think that Cimon was exiled during his later life — the Spartans however called him back.
Other Great Ancient Greek Leaders
The Greeks had heroes in abundance; a tall list of which include names like Cassander, Alcibiades, George I, Queen Gorgo of Sparta and the like.