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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


Character/Date Short Biography

Exploration

Leif Ericsson
980–1020
Discovered Newfoundland and explored the seacoast of North America. Son of Erik the Red.
Christopher Columbus
1451–1506
Genoan sailor, sponsored by Isabela of Spain, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and discovered the Americas.
Ponce de Leon
1460–1521
First Spanish governor of Puerto Rico. Explored inland regions of Florida while searching for the fountain of youth.
Hernando De Soto
1496–1542
Adventurer who aided in conquest of Peru, then explored Southwestern United States. Discovered Mississippi river.

Colonial

Pocahontas
1595–1617
Daughter of an Indian Chieftain who helped the early settlers in the Jamestown Colony in Virginia.
John Smith
1580–1631
Adventurer, leader and early settler at Jamestown. Befriended Pocahontas.
William Brewster
1560–1644
One of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on the Mayflower. Elder in Congressional Church.
Miles Standish
1584–1656
Military advisor to the Plymouth colony. Arrived on the Mayflower.
William Penn
1660–1718
Quaker, and founder of the colony of Pennsylvania.
Blackbeard
1680–1718
Notorious pirate of the Spanish Main who haunted the Coast of North Carolina and the West Indies.
James Oglethorpe
1696–1785
Founder of Georgia as buffer state between English and Spanish Colonies . Opposed Slavery.

Revolution

Benjamin Franklin
1706–1790
Statesman, publisher, inventor, and non-conformist. Founding father, and benefactor of Philadelphia.
Paul Revere
1735–1818
Paul Revere is famous for his ride from through Lexington-Concord, warning of the British attack.
George Washington
1732–1799
Leader of the Continental Army of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, and first President.
Patrick Henry
1736–1799
American Patriot, active in inciting the rebellion against Britain. First Governor of Virginia.
Lafayette
1757–1834
French soldier who fought in American Revolution, and early leader of French Revolution.
Benedict Arnold
1741–1801
Hero of the Revolutionary War, but tragically turned traitor. He escaped to the British before discovery.
John Paul Jones
1747–1792
American Revolution Naval Hero. Famous for the sea fight Bon Homme Richard vs. Serapis.
Pontiac
1720–1769
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


Character/Date Short Biography

Early Republic

Daniel Boone
1734–1820
Explored the Kentucky and Tennessee Valley. Opened a road for settlers through Cumberland Gap.
Thomas Jefferson
1743–1826
Third President. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Founder of Democrat-Republican Party.
Eli Whitney
1765–1825
Inventor of the Cotton Gin, and also interchangeable parts for rifles.
Andrew Jackson
1767–1845
Hero of the Battle of New Orleans, President of U.S., and founder of Democratic Party.
Merriwether Lewis
1774–1809
With William Clark, followed the Missouri river to its source, crossed the Rockies and followed the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.
William Clark
1770–1838
Led an expedition up the Missouri River, map-making, gathering information, and looking for a passage to the Pacific Ocean.
Davy Crockett
1786–1836
Tennessee Frontiersman and congressman. Involved with Texas independence. Died at the Alamo.
Sam Houston
1793–1863
Founder of the state of Texas, and first governor.
Tecumseh
1768–1813
Shawnee Hero. Tried to unify tribes against the colonists. Fought for Britain during War of 1812.

Civil War and After

Abraham Lincoln
1809–1865
President of the United States during the American Civil War.
Robert E. Lee
1807–1870
General of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Stonewall Jackson
1824–1863
Leading Confederate General of the American Civil War, especially notable at Bull Run. Died at Chancellorsville.
Ulysses Grant
1822–1885
Commander and Chief of the Union forces in the Civil War, and President of the United States.
William Sherman
1822–1885
American Civil War General. Marched "From Atlanta to the Sea."
Clara Barton
1821–1912
Civil War Nurse and Humanitarian. Founder of the American Red Cross.
Alexander Graham Bell
1847–1922
Inventor of the telephone, and also a founder of a school for the deaf.
Thomas Edison
1847–1931
Prolific inventor, responsible for improvements in the light bulb, movies, phonograph, and many others.
Booker T. Washington
1856–1915
Former slave who became an Important leader of newly freed negroes. Emphasised education, job training, clean-living, and self-help.
Theodore Roosevelt
1858–1919
Progressive Republican who served as the 26th President of the United States.
Wilber and Orville
1871–1948
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.


Character/Date 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.
Abraham
d. 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.
Nebuchadnezzar
645–561 BC
King who conquered much of Assyria and made his capital at Babylon.
Daniel
620–520 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 Maccabee
d. 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


Character/Date Short Biography

Apostles

St. John
d. 101
Long-living apostle who preached in Asia Minor. Authored the Gospel of John and Revelation.
St. James the Greater
d. 44
Apostle who preached in Spain before being beheaded by Herod. Patron Saint of Spain.
St. Peter
d. 64
Leader of the Apostles and first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
St. Paul
3–67
Apostle who traveled throughout the Eastern Roman Empire spreading Gospels. Wrote Epistles.

Legendary Saints

St. Christopher
d. 250
Early Christian saint whose name means "bearer". Said to have born the burdens of the Christ child."
St. George
275–303
Patron saint of England. Soldier who killed a dragon and died a martyr's death.
St. Nicholas
d. 343
Bishop in fourth century Asia Minor, known for his generosity.
St. Patrick
389–461
Kidnapped as a child and brought to Ireland, returned later to spread Christianity.
Augustine of Hippo
354–430
Greatest Christian theologian of the Middle Ages. Wrote Confessions and City of God.
Benedict of Nursia
480–547
Established the Benedictine order of monks. Founded the monastic movement in Europe.
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


Character/Date 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

Solon
638–559 BC
Rewrote the laws of Athens to better protect poor citizens from the rich.
Pisistratus
605–527 BC
Tyrant of Athens. Respected Solon's laws. Established festivals, and promoted culture.
Themistocles
525–462 BC
Athenian hero of the Battle of Salamis. He masterminded Athenian naval supremacy.
Xerxes
520–465 BC
Raised an enormous army for Persian invasion of Greece. Defeated at Battle of Salamis.
Leonidas
d. 480 BC
Spartan King whose whole army died defending the pass of Thermopylae.
Pericles
499–429 BC
Athenian statesman during Golden Age of Athens. Made Athens cultural center of Greece.
Socrates
469–399 BC
First moral philosopher, immortalized by Plato.
Demosthenes
d. 413 BC
Important Athenian general in the Peloponnesian War. Perished at Syracuse.
Aristotle
384–322 BC
Renowned scientist and philosopher. Cataloged all types of knowledge. Tutor to Alexander the Great.
Philip of Macedonia
382–336 BC
Used statesmanship as well as military force to bring Greece under sway of Macedonia.
Alexander the Great
356–323 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


Character/Date Short Biography

Kingdom of Rome

Romulus
771–716 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.
Horatius
535–509 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

Coriolanus
500–450 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.
Hannibal
247–182 BC
Carthaginian general, invaded and laid waste to Italy for sixteen years.
Fabius Cunctator
250–203 BC
Elected dictator to resist Hannibal; counseled delay, not direct assault.
Scipio Africanus
234–149 BC
Roman hero of second Punic War. Led armies in Spain and Africa. Defeated Hannibal at Zama.
Tiberius Gracchus
163–132 BC
Promoted Land Reform and fought for people's rights. Murdered by senators.
Gaius Gracchus
154–121 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 Caesar
100–44 BC
Conquered Gaul, prevailed in civil war. Mastermind of Roman empire. Killed by senators.

Roman Empire

Antony
83–30 BC
With Octavius, led empire after Caesar's death. Liaison with Cleopatra caused downfall.
Marcus Brutus
84–42
Leader of conspirators to assassinate Caesar. Committed suicide at Philippi.
Augustus Caesar
63–14
First emperor. Reigned for over fifty years. Established the Imperial system.
Constantine
272–337
First Christian emperor. Unified empire. Moved capital to Constantinople near Black Sea.



Europe—500 to 1800

Baptism of Clovis to French Revolution


Character/Date Short Biography

Fall of Rome

Genseric
390–477
Leader of Vandals. Conquered Northern Africa and Sicily. Invaded and ransacked Rome.
Attila the Hun
406–453
Barbarian chieftain who overran and terrorized much of Europe. Defeated at the Battle of Chalons.
Clovis
466–511
Founder of the Frankish Kingdom. Converted to Christianity by his wife Clotilda.
Mohammed
570–632
Founder of Islam, author of the Koran.

Middle Ages

Charlemagne
742–814
First Holy Roman Emperor. Unified most of Western Europe into a Frankish Empire.
Alfred the Great
849–899
Noblest of Saxon kings. Fought the Danes and made peace. Built churches and schools.
Rollo the Viking
d. 931
Viking Leader who was granted the Dukedom of Normandy if he became Christian.
William the Conqueror
1028–1087
Claimed the crown of England and won it at the Battle of Hastings. Ruled forcefully but justly.
Peter the Hermit
1050–1115
Monk who helped instigate the First Crusade, by preaching against the Moslems of Jerusalem.
Richard I
1157–1199
Son of Henry II. Spent almost his entire reign crusading and fighting in France.
Marco Polo
1254–1324
Traveller from Venice who spent 30 years at the court of Kublai Khan in China.
The Black Prince
1330–1376
Excellent general and leader who ruled alongside his father, Edward III. Victor at the Battle of Poitiers.
Joan of Arc
1412–1431
Led the French Army to Victory at the Siege of New Orleans. Burned at the stake by English.
John Gutenberg
1400–1468
Invented printing press. Made improvements over many years on types, inks and methods.

Reformation

Henry VIII
1491–1547
King of England famous for marrying and dispensing with six wives.
Elizabeth I
1533–1603
Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Walter Raleigh
1552–1618
Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
Francis Drake
1540–1596
Greatest sea adventurer. Sailed around the world, harassed Spanish ships. Fought in Armada.
Martin Luther
1483–1546
Leader of the Protestant Reformation. Excommunicated by Catholic Church.
Galileo Galilei
1564–1642
Promoted Heliocentric theory against pressure from the Pope. Invented the telescope.
Oliver Cromwell
1599–1658
Military leader of Parliament who headed the Commonwealth government after death of Charles I.
Isaac Newton
1642–1727
Outstanding scientist. Made important breakthroughs in physics, optics, and mathematics.
Peter the Great
1672–1725
Modernized Russia in spite of great resistance. Improved the army. Won coastal territory.

Early Modern

Robert Clive
1725–1774
British soldier, who rose to be a hero in the Carnatic Wars and delivered Bengal to Britain at the Battle of Plassey.
Captain Cook
1728–1779
Discovered Australia and New Zealand. Helped establish colonies there.
Horatio Nelson
1758–1805
Great Naval hero of his age; victor at the Battle of the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar.
Robespierre
1758–1794
Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.
Maria Antoinette
1755–1793
Extravagant Queen of France. Beheaded during French Revolution.
Frederick the Great
1712–1786
Great Prussian military leader in the War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years War.
Napoleon
1769–1821
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


Character/Date Short Biography

European

Siegfried
~ 1200 BC
Primary character of the Norse Epic, The Niebelung.
Cuchulain
~ 1000 BC
Legendary hero of the Irish folklore.
St. George
275–303
Patron saint of England. Soldier who killed a dragon and died a martyr's death.
King Arthur
460–510
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 Cid
1040–1099
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 Tell
1275–1325
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.