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Tomarken.com > Criticism > The Greatest People of All Time (05-12-02)
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The Greatest People of All Time

Nels Frye
circa 2002-Chicago, IL

More than two years of labor have gone into this list. In the beginning, the plan was for it to be a list of the greatest figures of the millenium. Two factors prevented this outcome. The first, that the date of the millenium and the period in which our rival publications were launching their own lists passed without ours having been completed. The second, that this last millenium did not contain enough individuals of the stature that our list requires in order to be included. So, we decided to search all of the history of human societies for great men and women.

The aim of this introduction is not to discuss at length the idea of greatness; other pieces in this issue present different visions of that. Let us say that the glory and stature of the individuals on this list shined brighter than all of their contemporaries. Their light, or perhaps shadow, still falls on us today. Their fists and shouts shook the societies in which they lived. They are beings whose names produce in our hearts a feeling of awe and grandeur.

We sought to determine who would fit into our categories and whose great spirits simply demanded to be honored. For those who would not fit into any of the categories we have a list of “Greatest People we are sorry we could not include”.

Each of the categories has five people within it and they are ranked. The method for this ranking is not always entirely obvious. In some categories, the rankings are by general greatness and in others by the extent to which they fullfilled the requirements of the category. Very little should be said here since the list must stand by itself without tedious justifications or the usual witticisms to hold it up.

A note on the categories as well as the individuals on the list is necessary. Without giving away too much, we must warn the reader that the categories may at first glance seem irrelavent or even silly. We must ask the reader to approach with an open mind and heart. Perhaps the reader expects to watch Rousseau, Nietzche and Tolstoy trot out in typical University of Chicago fashion. They will not be found here, and neither will traditional favorites like Socrates, Christ, and Mohammed. This will not be some ode to conservative values and heroes either: Burke, Smith and the founding fathers can be found elsewhere. All of these men deserve our esteem: they were great men. Unfortunately most of the categories do not seem to lend themselves to intellectual and spiritual giants, and it appears as though this list has evolved to stress a different sort of Greatness. Let it be said, though, that we do acknowledge the greatness of these individuals, particularly that of Christ.

The Great people on this list hail from a wide array of lands and times. We took into consideration both the role a person had in his or her society and the relative importance of the society in determining the rankings. When it was possible without sacrificing honest assessments of merit, we tried to include people from several different eras and societies in each category. Since we wanted to give all people deserving the title of Great a place on the list, they do not always appear in categories that describe the aspect of their lives for which they have become most famous.

In compiling a list of this kind, we face the dearth of females whose names have been recorded in the historical annals of their societies. Of course females played an equal or even greater role than men in sustaining society, but until recently it was of a drastically different nature. Females performed duties that, although important, did not usually gain them a place in historical records. That said, it should be pointed out that more women than we often realize were great in a similar way to men. This list tries to reflect that.

The list is an organism that hopefully will expand and grow constantly. Now it is reaching the attention of the public but that does not mean that it will cease to improve and grow in terms of categories and individuals. The authors of the list will continue to tirelessly search for ways to make it more accurate. We are now inviting the rest of the communitty to be involved in the project as well. If readers have suggestions for the list they are invited to send them in to the Criterion. If we do receive enough worthwhile suggestions we will release a new edition of the list. But for now, we hope you enjoy the first edition of the list of history’s greatest individuals.
Greatest Conquerers
1. Chingiz Khan, Khagan of the Mongols===>
2. King Alexander III of Macedonia
3. Emperor Tamerlane of the Turks
4. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France
5. Cyrus, King of Kings of the Achaemenid Dynasty

Greatest Warriors
1. King Alexander III of Macedonia===>
2. General Belisarius of Rome
3. General Yoshitsune of Minamoto
4. Queen Amina of Zaria
5. General Yue Fei of the Song Dynasty

Most Splendid Losers of Empires
1. Empress Dowager Ci Xi of the Qing Dynasty====>
2. Emperor Moctezuma of the Aztecs
3. Abdul Hamid II of the Ottomans
4. King Nabonidous of the Babylonians
5. Czar Nicholas II of Russia

Greatest Bastards
1. Emperor Shi Huang Di of the Qin Dynasty====>
2. King William I of the Normans
3. Mayor Charles Martel of the Franks
4. Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam
5. King Genseric of the Vandals

Greatest Women of Iron
1. Empress Wu Ze Tian of the Tang Dynasty
2. Queen Xenobia of Palmyra
3. Empress Samiramis of the Assyrians
4. Queen Tomyris of the Massagetae========>
5. Queen Elizabeth of England

Greatest Rulers who Killed their Sons
1. Emperor Constantine I of Rome=======>
2. Tzar Peter I of Russia
3. Sultan Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire
4. Empress Irene of the Byzantine Empire
5. King Herod I of Israel

Greatest Eunochs
1. Agha Mohammed, King of Kings of the Qajars====>
2. Admiral Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty
3. Origen, Theologian of Alexandria
4. General Narses of the Byzantine Empire
5. Sima Qian of Changan

Greatest Seductresses
1. Empress Messalina of Rome ===>
2. Lady Sophanisba of Carthage
3. Empress Theodora of Rome
4. Concubine Yang Gui Fei of Changan
5. Mata Hari of Leeuwarden of Holland

Greatest Crossdressers
1. Emperor Caligula of Rome
2. Emperor Nero of Rome
3. Emperor Elagabalus of Rome
4. J. Edgar Hoover of Washington, D.C.====>
5. George Sand of Paris

Greatest Limpers
1. King Tamerlane of the Turks
2. Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne====>
3. Lord Byron of Rochdale
4. King Genseric of the Vandals
5. King Richard III of England

Most Imaginative Users of Severed Body Parts or Entire Bodies
1. King Tamerlane of the Turks
2. Emperor Shi Huang Di of the Qin Dynasty
3. Shapur I, King of Kings of the Sassanian Dynasty====>
4. Empress Lu of the Han Dynasty
5. King Genseric of the Vandals

Greatest Practicers of Incest
1. Emperor Caligula of Rome
2. Pharaoh Akhenaton of Egypt
3. Lord Byron of Rochdale===========>
4. Cambyses, King of Kings of the Achaemenid Dynasty
5. Prince Grigory Potemkin of Russia

Greatest Beauties
1. Antinous of Bythinia
2. Lady Xi Shi of Yue
3. Countess Oldoini of Castiglione
4. Lord Alfred Douglas of London======>
5. Pauline Bonaparte of Corsica

Greatest One-Eyed Warriors
1. General Hannibal of Carthage
2. Antigonous the Elder of Macedonia
3. General Quintus Sertorius of Spain
4. King Philip II of Macedonia========>
5. General Xiahou Dun of Wei

Greatest Men who were under a Woman’s Thumbs
1. Gaius Marcius Coriolanus of Rome
2. Emperor Xuan Zong of the Tang Dynasty
3. Emperor Claudius of Rome
4. Emperor Jahangir of the Moghuls
5. President John Adams of America=======>

Greatest Epileptics
1. King Alexander III of Macedonia
2. Dictator Julius Ceaser of Rome
3. Emperor Napoleon of France
4. Emperor Akbar of the Moghuls
5. Fyodor Dostoevsky of Russia=======>

Most Valiant Resisters against the Inevitable
1. Emperor Julian of Rome=========>
2. Hannibal of Carthage
3. Tupac Amaru of the Incas
4. Queen Baodicea of the Iceni
5. King Xiang Yu of Chu

Greatest Intellectual Heavyweights
1. St. Thomas Aquinas of Rocca Secca
2. Edward Gibbon of London
3. Samuel Johnson of Lichfield
4. Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia
5. Harold Bloom of Yale University=======>

Greatest Person Ever, Finalists: (Based on Number of Appearances on list)
1. King Alexander III of Macedonia
2. King Tamerlane of the Turks
3. Emperor Caligula of Rome
4. Emperor Shi Huang Di of the Qin Dynasty
5. King Genseric of the Vandals

Greatest People we are sorry we could not include
1. Commander Alcibiades of Athens
2. Arthur Rimbaud of Charleville
3. Consul Marc Antony of Rome
4. Prime Minister Zhuge Liang of the Han Dynasty
5. Charleton Heston of Hollywood======>

Greatest People we are glad we could not include:
1. Joan of Arc
2. Andy Warhol of New York======>
3. Sir Richard Arkwright of Lancashire
4. Levi Strauss of Bavaria
5. Emperor Didius Julianus of Rome

Respond to this article

================
Nels Frye spends his surplus discretionary time editing a newsletter, for the time being, in Chicago, IL. He comes to Tomarken with expansive experience.


2 Responses to “The Greatest People of All Time”
  1. -Nels, on July 25th, 2002 at 9:56 am, said:

    Dear Tomarken.com,

    I think these are great pictures(:. Even though Warhol’s expression seems to hint vaguely at revulsion-or something-he may have even approved of this list (or at least his place on it). I’m particularly impressed that you were able to find pictures of Agha Mohammed and Empress Tomyris (and what a statue-staring at Cyrus’ head (:(:! (she’s so hot (let’s see: which “woman of iron” would you spend a night with?))).

    I do have some recommendations for the author of the list, though. Since the list was first published, several ideas have appeared in my brain.

    The warriors list appears to take into account both generalship and physical prowess. Therefore, I would suggest that Gen. Khalid Ibn Walid of the Arabs deserves to be on it above at least the bottom three people on the list.

    For the most splendid losers of empires, it could be argued that (if you have to pick an Aztec or an Inca) Atahualpa should be included before Moctezuma. Atahualpa was quite dramatically stupid in the battle of Cajamarca. Whether he was splendid is another question. But the makers of the list never really specified what exactly the title of this category means.

    Bastards seems like a solid category, although I am sure there are other famous ones.

    There are always more women of iron (Catharine the Great, Cleopatra, Olympias, Livia) but it seems like this list bent over backwards to find obscure people.

    Killers of sons and eunuchs are both pretty good. Please try to find more crossdressers who weren’t Romans. For god sakes, what about Mu Lan? She was real-and then there would be more women.

    Limpers is fine, I suppose. You might stick in Nero for imaginative users of body parts. He used Christians as torches after all. But…I don’t know if that is better than sending back your daughter-in-law with here nose and ears cut off. Okay, I need to take a break from this for the moment. I do have many more ideas. I think overall it is a pretty good list-at least based on the knowledge you had at the time.

    A bit pretentious, maybe.

    Another idea I had was a list of famous people who were killed in a bath. But I will send you another e-mail about the list soon… Also, a very nice site in general.
    -Nels

  2. Amy Biegelson, on August 8th, 2002 at 5:17 pm, said:

    What about Japanese Geishas and Ancient Greek Courtesans? Nice list, even if everyone in Chicago already knows about it.
    -Amy Biegelson

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