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Notorious people

Notorious people


Alexander Severus (AD 208-235)
Roman emperor from 222, when he succeeded his cousin Heliogabalus. He attempted to involve the Senate more closely in administration, and was the patron of the jurists Ulpian and Paulus, and the historian Cassius Dio. His campaign against the Persians 232 achieved some success, but in 235, on his way to defend Gaul against German invaders, he was killed in a mutiny.

Marcian (396-457)
Eastern Roman emperor 450-457. He was a general who married Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II; he became emperor on Theodosius' death. He convened the Council of Chalcedon (the fourth Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church) 451 and refused to pay tribute to Attila the Hun.

Anaximander  (c. 610-c. 546 BC)
Greek astronomer and philosopher. He claimed that the Earth was a cylinder three times wider than it is deep, motionless at the centre of the universe, and that the celestial bodies were fire seen through holes in the hollow rims of wheels encircling the Earth.

According to Anaximander, the first animals came into being from moisture and the first humans grew inside fish, emerging once fully developed. He was born in Miletus, in what is now Turkey, and was a pupil of Thales.

He is thought to have been the first to determine solstices and equinoxes, by means of a sundial, and he is credited with drawing the first geographical map of the whole known world. He believed that the universe originated as a formless mass containing within itself the contraries of hot and cold, and wet and dry, from which land, sea, and air were formed out of the union and separation of these opposites. Perpetual rotation in the universe created cosmic order by sorting heavier from lighter matter. Overall, he seems to have shared the early Greek philosophical urge to explain the universe with a tiny number of general laws.

Thucydides (c. 455-400 BC)
Athenian historian. He exercised military command in the Peloponnesian War with Sparta, but was banished from Athens in 424. In his History of the Peloponnesian War, he gave a detailed account of the conflict down to 411.

Narses (478-c. 573 AD)
Byzantine general. Originally a eunuch slave, he later became an official in the imperial treasury. He was joint commander with the Roman general Belisarius in Italy 538-39, and in 552 destroyed the Ostrogoths at Taginae in the Apennines.

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)
King of Macedon from 336 BC and conqueror of the large Persian empire. As commander of the vast Macedonian army he conquered Greece 336, defeated the Persian king Darius in Asia Minor 333, then moved on to Egypt, where he founded Alexandria. He defeated the Persians again in Assyria 331, then advanced further east to reach the Indus. He conquered the Punjab before diminished troops forced his retreat.

The son of King Philip of Macedon and Queen Olympias, Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle. He first saw fighting 340, and at the battle of Chaeronea 338 contributed to the victory by a cavalry charge. At the age of 20, when his father was murdered, he assumed command of the throne and the army. He secured his northern frontier, suppressed an attempted rising in Greece by his capture of Thebes, and in 334 crossed the Dardanelles for the campaign against the vast Persian empire; at the river Granicus near the Dardanelles he won his first victory. In 333 he routed Darius at Issus, and then set out for Egypt, where he was greeted as Pharaoh. Meanwhile, Darius assembled half a million men for a final battle at Gaugamela, near Arbela on the Tigris, 331 but Alexander, with 47,000 men, drove the Persians into retreat.

After the victory he stayed a month in Babylon, then marched to Susa and Persepolis and in 330 to Ecbatana (now Hamadán, Iran). Soon after, he learned that Darius was dead. In Afghanistan he founded colonies at Herat and Kandahar, and in 328 reached the plains of Sogdiana, where he married Roxana, daughter of King Oxyartes. India was his next objective, and he pressed on to the Indus. Near the river Hydaspes (now Jhelum) he fought one of his fiercest battles against the rajah Porus. At the river Hyphasis (now Beas) his depleted troops refused to go farther, and reluctantly he turned back down the Indus and along the coast. They reached Susa 324, where Alexander made Darius's daughter his second wife. He died in Babylon of a malarial fever.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (63-12 BC)
Roman general and admiral, instrumental in the successful campaigns and rise to power of Augustus. He commanded the victorious fleet at the battle of Actium and married Augustus's daughter Julia.

Pericles (c. 495-429 BC)
Athenian politician who was effective leader of the city from 443 BC and under whom Athenian power reached its height. His policies helped to transform the Delian League into an Athenian empire, but the disasters of the Peloponnesian War led to his removal from office 430 BC. Although quickly reinstated, he died soon after.

Gaius Flaminius, ( - )
Roman consul and general. He constructed the Flaminian Way northward from Rome to Rimini 220 BC, and was killed at the battle of Lake Trasimene fighting Hannibal.

Lysander, ( -395 BC)
Spartan general, politician and admiral. He brought the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta to a successful conclusion by capturing the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami 405 BC, and by starving Athens into surrender in the following year. He set up puppet governments in Athens and its former allies, and tried to secure for himself the Spartan kingship, but was killed in battle with the Thebans 395 BC.

Gnaeus Julius Agricola, (AD 37-93)
Roman general and politician. Born in Provence, he became consul 77 AD, and then governor of Britain AD 78-85. He extended Roman rule to the Firth of Forth in Scotland and won the battle of Mons Graupius. His fleet sailed round the north of Scotland and proved Britain an island.

Olympias, (c. BC 375-316)
Macedonian queen. The daughter of the king of Epirus, she married Philip II of Macedon 357 BC, and was the mother of Alexander the Great. When Philip left her for Cleopatra, niece of Attalus, she instigated his assassination 337 BC. She gained much influence during Alexander's reign, and after his death plotted to secure power for her grandson by killing Alexander's half-brother and successor. The Macedonian general Cassander besieged her at Pydna, and executed her on its surrender.

Origen , (c. 185-254 AD)
Christian theologian, born in Alexandria, who produced a fancifully allegorical interpretation of the Bible. He also compiled a vast synopsis of versions of the Old Testament, called the Hexpla. Origen taught in Alexandria and Caesarea. The Palestinian historian Eusebius says that Origen castrated himself to ensure his celibacy, but since Origen disapproves of such actions in his biblical commentaries, it may be just malicious gossip. He was imprisoned and tortured during the persecution of Christians ordered by the Roman emperor Decius in 250. By drawing on Greek philosophy and on Scripture, Origen produced interpretations of the Bible that disturbed the more orthodox. For example, he held that the Fall occurred when spiritual beings became bored with the adoration of God and turned their attention to inferior things.

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