By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. — Confucius

Historical Characters of Young Readers

    American colonies     United States     Old Testament     New Testament     Ancient Greece     Ancient Rome     Europe     Legends

American colonies—1492 to 1883

Voyage of Columbus to Revolutionary War


CharacterDate Short Biography

Exploration

Leif Ericsson980–1020 Discovered Newfoundland and explored the seacoast of North America. Son of Erik the Red.
Christopher Columbus1451–1506 Genoan sailor, sponsored by Isabela of Spain, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and discovered the Americas.
Ponce de Leon1460–1521 First Spanish governor of Puerto Rico. Explored inland regions of Florida while searching for the fountain of youth.
Hernando De Soto1496–1542 Adventurer who aided in conquest of Peru, then explored Southwestern United States. Discovered Mississippi river.

Colonial

Pocahontas1595–1617 Daughter of an Indian Chieftain who helped the early settlers in the Jamestown Colony in Virginia.
John Smith1580–1631 Adventurer, leader and early settler at Jamestown. Befriended Pocahontas.
William Brewster1560–1644 One of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on the Mayflower. Elder in Congressional Church.
Miles Standish1584–1656 Military advisor to the Plymouth colony. Arrived on the Mayflower.
William Penn1660–1718 Quaker, and founder of the colony of Pennsylvania.
Blackbeard1680–1718 Notorious pirate of the Spanish Main who haunted the Coast of North Carolina and the West Indies.
James Edward Oglethorpe1696–1785 Founder of Georgia as buffer state between English and Spanish Colonies . Opposed Slavery.

Revolution

Benjamin Franklin1706–1790 Statesman, publisher, inventor, and non-conformist. Founding father, and benefactor of Philadelphia.
Paul Revere1735–1818 Paul Revere is famous for his ride from through Lexington-Concord, warning of the British attack.
George Washington1732–1799 Leader of the Continental Army of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, and first President.
Patrick Henry1736–1799 American Patriot, active in inciting the rebellion against Britain. First Governor of Virginia.
Lafayette1757–1834 French soldier who fought in American Revolution, and early leader of French Revolution.
Benedict Arnold1741–1801 Hero of the Revolutionary War, but tragically turned traitor. He escaped to the British before discovery.
John Paul Jones1747–1792 American Revolution Naval Hero. Famous for the sea fight Bon Homme Richard vs. Serapis.
Pontiac1720–1769 Leader of a Great Lakes tribe who planned a rebellion. His attempt to take fort Detroit was thwarted by an Indian who warned the garrison.

United States—1883 to 1865

Washington President to Civil War


CharacterDate Short Biography

Early Republic

Daniel Boone1734–1820 Explored the Kentucky and Tennessee Valley. Opened a road for settlers through Cumberland Gap.
Thomas Jefferson1743–1826 Third President. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Founder of Democrat-Republican Party.
Eli Whitney1765–1825 Inventor of the Cotton Gin, and also interchangeable parts for rifles.
Andrew Jackson1767–1845 Hero of the Battle of New Orleans, President of U.S., and founder of Democratic Party.
Merriwether Lewis1774–1809 With William Clark, followed the Missouri river to its source, crossed the Rockies and followed the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.
William Clark1770–1838 Led an expedition up the Missouri River, map-making, gathering information, and looking for a passage to the Pacific Ocean.
Davy Crockett1786–1836 Tennessee Frontiersman and congressman. Involved with Texas independence. Died at the Alamo.
Sam Houston1793–1863 Founder of the state of Texas, and first governor.
Tecumseh1768–1813 Shawnee Hero. Tried to unify tribes against the colonists. Fought for Britain during War of 1812.

Civil War and After

Abraham Lincoln1809–1865 President of the United States during the American Civil War.
Robert E. Lee1807–1870 General of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Stonewall Jackson1824–1863 Leading Confederate General of the American Civil War, especially notable at Bull Run. Died at Chancellorsville.
Ulysses Grant1822–1885 Commander and Chief of the Union forces in the Civil War, and President of the United States.
William Sherman1822–1885 American Civil War General. Marched "From Atlanta to the Sea."
Clara Barton1821–1912 Civil War Nurse and Humanitarian. Founder of the American Red Cross.
Alexander Graham Bell1847–1922 Inventor of the telephone, and also a founder of a school for the deaf.
Thomas Edison1847–1931 Prolific inventor, responsible for improvements in the light bulb, movies, phonograph, and many others.
Booker T. Washington1856–1915 Former slave who became an Important leader of newly freed negroes. Emphasised education, job training, clean-living, and self-help.
Theodore Roosevelt1858–1919 Progressive Republican who served as the 26th President of the United States.
Wilber and Orville1871–1948 Inventors of the first practical airplane. The Wright brothers were self-educated bicycle shop owners.

Old Testament—4000 to 400 B.C.

Garden of Eden to Nehemiah

Dates associated with many Old Testament characters, especially those who lived before 1000 B.C., are estimates.


CharacterDate Short Biography

Patriarchs and Prophets

Adam~ 5500 BC First Man, father of mankind, ate an apple in the Garden of Eden.
Noah~ 4000 BC Built and Ark and survived the Great Flood with his wife and children.
Abrahamd. 1800 BC First Prophet in the Hebrew bible. Traveled from Ur in Mesopotamia and founded the nation of Israel.
Jacob~ 1900 BC Biblical patriarch. His sons by two wives and their handmaids, formed the twelve tribes of Israel.
Moses~ 1400 BC Prophet who led the Hebrews out of Egypt, and authored the first five books of the Old Testament.
Joshua~ 1350 BC Warrior who became leader of the Isrealites after the death of Moses, and conquered Canaan.
Gideon~ 1100 BC Early Judge who led the Israelites to victory over the Midianites
Ruth~ 1050 BC Biblical heroine who accompanies her mother-in-law to Bethlehem and beomes the grandmother of David.
David~ 1000 BC Second King of the united Kingdom of Israel. Great warrior and musician, righteous and pious.
Solomon~ 950 BC Third King of Israel, known for wealth and wisdom. Built the first temple of Jerusalem.
Jonah~ 800 BC Biblical Prophet who was called by God to preach to Ninevah and was swallowed by a whale.
Isaiah~ 700 BC Biblical prophet of the 8th century B.C. Author of the book of Isaiah.
Nebuchadnezzar645–561 BC King who conquered much of Assyria and made his capital at Babylon.
Daniel620–520 BC Taken as a hostage to Babylon as a youth. Minister of Babylon, interpreter of dreams, and prophet.
Esther~ 585 BC Persian Queen who protected the Jews in the kingdom.
Judas Maccabeed. 160 BC Lead a Jewish rebellion during the reign of the Syrian King Antiochus V.

New Testament—0 to 100 A.D.

Birth of Jesus to Acts of the Apostles


CharacterDate Short Biography

Apostles

Saint Johnd. 101 Long-living apostle who preached in Asia Minor. Authored the Gospel of John and Revelation.
Saint James the Greaterd. 44 Apostle who preached in Spain before being beheaded by Herod. Patron Saint of Spain.
Saint Peterd. 64 Leader of the Apostles and first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Saint Paul3–67 Apostle who traveled throughout the Eastern Roman Empire spreading Gospels. Wrote Epistles.

Legendary Saints

Saint Christopherd. 250 Early Christian saint whose name means "bearer". Said to have born the burdens of the Christ child."
Saint George275–303 Patron saint of England. Soldier who killed a dragon and died a martyr's death.
Saint Nicholasd. 343 Bishop in fourth century Asia Minor, known for his generosity.
Saint Patrick389–461 Kidnapped as a child and brought to Ireland, returned later to spread Christianity.
Saint Augustine 354–430 Greatest Christian theologian of the Middle Ages. Wrote Confessions and City of God.
Saint Benedict480–547 Established the Benedictine order of monks. Founded the monastic movement in Europe.
Saint Francis of Assisi 1182–1226 Founded the Franciscan order of indigent Friars.

Ancient Greece—Legendary to 300 B.C.

Trojan War to Alexander the Great


CharacterDate Short Biography

Greek Heroes

Jason~ 2000 BC Led a voyage of 'Argonauts' on a quest to recover the Golden Fleece.
Perseus~ 2000 BC Legendary hero who killed Medusa, a monster so ugly it turned people to stone.
Theseus~ 2000 BC Legendary hero, who killed the Minataur. Ancient King of Athens.
Hercules~ 2000 BC Greatest of Greek demigod heroes. Succeeded in twelve labors.
Achilles~ 1200 BC Greatest Warrior on the Greek side in the Trojan War. Invincible except for his heel.
Odysseus~ 1200 BC Greek hero of the Trojan war, famous for his wiles and craft. Central character of Homer's Odyssey.
Penelope~ 1200 BC Faithful Wife of Odysseus. Kept suitors at bay for twenty years, as she awaited his return.
Helen~ 1200 BC Wife of Greek Menelaus, who ran off with Paris of Troy. This insult caused the Trojan War.

Historical Characters

Solon638–559 BC Rewrote the laws of Athens to better protect poor citizens from the rich.
Pisistratus605–527 BC Tyrant of Athens. Respected Solon's laws. Established festivals, and promoted culture.
Themistocles525–462 BC Athenian hero of the Battle of Salamis. He masterminded Athenian naval supremacy.
Xerxes520–465 BC Raised an enormous army for Persian invasion of Greece. Defeated at Battle of Salamis.
Leonidasd. 480 BC Spartan King whose whole army died defending the pass of Thermopylae.
Pericles499–429 BC Athenian statesman during Golden Age of Athens. Made Athens cultural center of Greece.
Socrates469–399 BC First moral philosopher, immortalized by Plato.
Demosthenesd. 413 BC Important Athenian general in the Peloponnesian War. Perished at Syracuse.
Aristotle384–322 BC Renowned scientist and philosopher. Cataloged all types of knowledge. Tutor to Alexander the Great.
Philip of Macedonia382–336 BC Used statesmanship as well as military force to bring Greece under sway of Macedonia.
Alexander the Great356–323 BC Greatest general of ancient times. Conquered Persian Empire with 40,000 soldiers.

Ancient Rome—750 B.C. to 450 A.D.

Romulus to Fall of Rome


CharacterDate Short Biography

Kingdom of Rome

Romulus771–716 BC Legendary founder of the city of Rome, with brother Remus.
Tarquin Superbus~ 535 BC Killed Servius and usurped throne, eventually overthrown but tried to regain throne by force.
Horatius535–509 BC Hero who held the Sublican Bridge against Porsena's entire army.
Lars Porsena~ 508 BC Etruscan king, and supporter of the Tarquins who raised an army to march against Rome.

Roman Republic

Coriolanus500–450 BC Hero, provoked to turn traitor. Convinced by his mother to spare Rome from destruction.
Cincinnatus 519–439 BC Called to be dictator when Roman army was trapped. Saved them, and then returned to his farm.
Hannibal247–182 BC Carthaginian general, invaded and laid waste to Italy for sixteen years.
Fabius Cunctator250–203 BC Elected dictator to resist Hannibal; counseled delay, not direct assault.
Scipio Africanus234–149 BC Roman hero of second Punic War. Led armies in Spain and Africa. Defeated Hannibal at Zama.
Tiberius Gracchus163–132 BC Promoted Land Reform and fought for people's rights. Murdered by senators.
Gaius Gracchus154–121 BC Continued reforms of his brother, but was undermined by the senate.
Pompey 106–48 BC Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.
Julius Caesar100–44 BC Conquered Gaul, prevailed in civil war. Mastermind of Roman empire. Killed by senators.

Roman Empire

Antony83–30 BC With Octavius, led empire after Caesar's death. Liaison with Cleopatra caused downfall.
Marcus Brutus84–42 Leader of conspirators to assassinate Caesar. Committed suicide at Philippi.
Augustus Caesar63–14 First emperor. Reigned for over fifty years. Established the Imperial system.
Constantine272–337 First Christian emperor. Unified empire. Moved capital to Constantinople near Black Sea.

Europe—500 to 1800

Baptism of Clovis to French Revolution


CharacterDate Short Biography

Fall of Rome

Genseric390–477 Leader of Vandals. Conquered Northern Africa and Sicily. Invaded and ransacked Rome.
Attila the Hun406–453 Barbarian chieftain who overran and terrorized much of Europe. Defeated at the Battle of Chalons.
Clovis466–511 Founder of the Frankish Kingdom. Converted to Christianity by his wife Clotilda.
Mohammed570–632 Founder of Islam, author of the Koran.

Middle Ages

Charlemagne742–814 First Holy Roman Emperor. Unified most of Western Europe into a Frankish Empire.
Alfred the Great849–899 Noblest of Saxon kings. Fought the Danes and made peace. Built churches and schools.
Rollo the Vikingd. 931 Viking Leader who was granted the Dukedom of Normandy if he became Christian.
William the Conqueror1028–1087 Claimed the crown of England and won it at the Battle of Hastings. Ruled forcefully but justly.
Peter the Hermit1050–1115 Monk who helped instigate the First Crusade, by preaching against the Moslems of Jerusalem.
Richard I1157–1199 Son of Henry II. Spent almost his entire reign crusading and fighting in France.
Marco Polo1254–1324 Traveller from Venice who spent 30 years at the court of Kublai Khan in China.
The Black Prince1330–1376 Excellent general and leader who ruled alongside his father, Edward III. Victor at the Battle of Poitiers.
Joan of Arc1412–1431 Led the French Army to Victory at the Siege of New Orleans. Burned at the stake by English.
John Gutenberg1400–1468 Invented printing press. Made improvements over many years on types, inks and methods.

Reformation

Henry VIII1491–1547 King of England famous for marrying and dispensing with six wives.
Elizabeth I1533–1603 Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Walter Raleigh1552–1618 Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
Francis Drake1540–1596 Greatest sea adventurer. Sailed around the world, harassed Spanish ships. Fought in Armada.
Martin Luther1483–1546 Leader of the Protestant Reformation. Excommunicated by Catholic Church.
Galileo Galilei1564–1642 Promoted Heliocentric theory against pressure from the Pope. Invented the telescope.
Oliver Cromwell1599–1658 Military leader of Parliament who headed the Commonwealth government after death of Charles I.
Isaac Newton1642–1727 Outstanding scientist. Made important breakthroughs in physics, optics, and mathematics.
Peter the Great1672–1725 Modernized Russia in spite of great resistance. Improved the army. Won coastal territory.

Early Modern

Robert Clive1725–1774 British soldier, who rose to be a hero in the Carnatic Wars and delivered Bengal to Britain at the Battle of Plassey.
Captain Cook1728–1779 Discovered Australia and New Zealand. Helped establish colonies there.
Horatio Nelson1758–1805 Great Naval hero of his age; victor at the Battle of the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar.
Robespierre1758–1794 Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.
Maria Antoinette1755–1793 Extravagant Queen of France. Beheaded during French Revolution.
Frederick the Great1712–1786 Great Prussian military leader in the War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years War.
Napoleon1769–1821 Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.

Legends—Legendary to 1400

Beowulf to William Tell


CharacterDate Short Biography

European

Siegfried~ 1200 BC Primary character of the Norse Epic, The Niebelung.
Cuchulain~ 1000 BC Legendary hero of the Irish folklore.
Saint George275–303 Patron saint of England. Soldier who killed a dragon and died a martyr's death.
King Arthur460–510 Legendary king of the Britons.
Sir Galahad~ 500 Knight of the Round Table. Considered the noblest and worthiest of knights.
Sir Gawain~ 500 Knight of the Round Table. Famous for his encounter with the Green Giant.
Beowulf
~700 A.D.Legendary Swedish hero, Beowulf defeated the monstor Grendel for King Hrothgar who ruled the Danes.
Roland d. 778 Nephew of Charlemagne and legendary hero of his wars. Died at Roncesvalles.
Guy of Warwick~ 1000 Popular hero of Chivalry, who supposedly lived in Saxon England. Fought ogres and dragons as well as marauding Danes.
El Cid1040–1099 Legendary Spanish hero of chivalry. Loyal to Alfonso VI in spite of treachery. Conquered Valencia.
Robin Hood~ 1200 Leader of a legendary band of benevolent bandits who stole from rich and gave to the poor.
William Tell1275–1325 Swiss Folk Hero who shot an apple off his son's head and murdered a tyrannical Governor.

Middle Eastern

Sindbad
~700 A.D.Legendary Persian Sailor, who experienced many fantastic adventures on seven different voyages.
Aladdin
~700 A.D.The legendary character who found a magic lamp, married a princess, and defeated an evil sorcerer.