History has produced many great rulers. They were great in the ways they unified their empires under one solid rule, undertook building projects, and managed the administrative systems efficiently. Although each one of them had different strategies and tactics, they were united by one ambition- to become the most powerful emperor in the world. In this article, we discuss the 5 rulers in ancient history whose ruling skills abounded with great power and significance.
5 Rulers in Ancient History
- Hammurabi, an Amorite was the king of Babylon who ruled for 43 years and united Mesopotamia under a single governing body.
- He ruled based on a code of laws (for which he was famous) which can be deemed as the earliest and most inclusive form of constitution in ancient history.
- The code was engraved on an index finger-shaped monolith which depicted the ruler receiving the law from the God of Justice.
- It consists of 282 situations and a prescribed legal action for each one of them.
- The code of laws worked on the principle of “Lex Talionis” which refers to retributive justice as “if a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.”
- Despite the mentions of justice in the code, it discriminates between the punishments meted out to a property-owning man and a slave, showing leniency with the former than the latter.
- These codes were a model for other cultures like the laws written by the Hebrew scribes in the Bible.
- Initially, as an emperor he set upon himself the task to become an able administrator, continuing to build the projects that his father undertook (for which he was known as bani matim, meaning “builder of the land”), improved irrigation of fields and also renovated the sanctuaries of gods, especially Marduk which was the national god of Babylonia.
- Later, Hammurabi used political maneuvers and switched alliances several times to conquer the entire southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) which he ruled without any opposition.
- Interestingly, the rulers with whom he entered into alliances never mistrusted him for what he eventually did with preceding rulers.
- One of his strategies to make the enemy surrender was damming up the water sources and then releasing them to flood the city before launching an attack.
- After he conquered the south of Mesopotamia, he marched toward Mari and destroyed it. Mari was a highly influential city with lots of riches and the ruler of Mari, Zimri-Lim was a friend to Hammurabi, who died in the ensuing battle.
- The conqueror is described in the words of the poet Durant as ” a youth full of fire and genius, a very whirlwind in battle, who crushes all rebels, cuts his enemies into pieces, marches over inaccessible mountains, and never loses an engagement.”
- Hatshepsut was the sixth pharaoh of Egypt of the 18th dynasty.
- She was one of the most successful women to rule her land as pharaoh.
- Hatshepsut was well-known for her ambitious building projects like her mortuary, the highly impressive Djeser-Djeseru.
- Her building projects started with the erection of two 100-foot tall obelisks, weighing about 450 tons at the temple complex at Karnak.
- Hatshepsut carried out her public works at Thebes which was the theological center of the Thutmoside dynasty.
- The grand projects she undertook included building a network of processional roadways and sanctuaries.
- Her magnum opus was an immense memorial temple built at Deir el-Bahri. The temple performed the religious rites that would help continue Hatshepsut’s perpetual life after death.
- Her temples also consisted of reliefs which were one of the remarkable achievements of her ruling period.
- She was the widow of the pharaoh and stepbrother-husband Thutmose II and acted as a regent to her stepson and harem child Thutmose III until he came of age.
- However, the “unscrupulous woman showed…her true colors” (Hayes) and within a few years, declared herself as the new pharaoh.
- Recent scholarship varies as it suggests that political threat compelled Hatshepsut to assume the imperial position.
- The Queen had a darker side to herself and was referred to as the “vilest type of usurper”.
- Her climb to power is said to have been aided by her co-conspirator, rumored lover, and chief minister Senenmut.
- Earlier scholars and historians even opine that Hatshepsut would not have been able to gain prominence without masculine support.
- Hatshepsut liked to portray herself as a man with bulging muscles and a traditional pharaonic false beard which may be described as an “outrageous deception” or “deviant behavior”.
- However, the tenuous circumstances under which she had become a pharaoh and by the virtue of her sex, she might be reinventing herself.
- Attempts were made to erase the evidence of Hatshepsut but although they failed, some archaeologists struggled to discover the history of the Queen.
- Genghis Khan was the founder and the greatest ruler of the Mongol empire from 1160 to 1227.
- The expanse of his empire was the largest in history as it stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Europe.
- He is also famous for uniting the diverse nomadic clans and tribal groups of Mongolia.
- Temujin conquered the major portion of Mongolia by 1206 and the rest of the tribes acknowledged him as the leader. He then declared himself “Genghis Khan” which meant “oceanic sovereign”.
- As a conqueror, he brought a sophisticated administrative structure and a better system of taxation into place.
- He caused massive bloodshed but also sought negotiations before that.
- During Genghis Khan’s reign, there was massive religious tolerance.
- The Mongols had no written records from which Genghis Khan’s history could be discovered. All extant sources that are written on him were written by foreigners.
- The use of cavalry and composite bow provided the Mongolians under Genghis Khan greater mobility.
- The Mongolians focused on rigorous training and became accustomed to and adept at hunting.
- Genghis Khan’s tomb remains a mystery to this day.
- Alexander was a great military leader and legendary figure from Greece.
- He led several important campaigns and the extent of his reign spanned Greece, Persia, Egypt, Bactria, etc.
- Although his reign lasted a decade, he was one of the most influential and greatest ancient rulers in history.
- Alexander’s success over Darius III and the conquest of Persia may be somewhat attributed to the stage of accomplishment already set by his father Philip II.
- He was able to rule vast areas because he did not impose his ideologies of truth and religion upon the conquered territories.
- He attempted to create a united ruling class in his occupied areas like Persia.
- For that, he often used marriage as a medium to merge the ties between the conquered and the conqueror.
- Alexander also donned royal Persian robes and imitated court ceremonies in an attempt at unification.
- He also adapted the administrative systems of the conquered regions without making drastic changes to them.
- However, he was a ruthless suppressor and a vicious annihilator of all revolts.
Qin Shi Huang
- King Zheng or Qin Shi Huang was a Chinese emperor in the 3rd century.
- He was a ferocious emperor who united different territories into a unified empire and exercised massive control to subdue everyone and everything.
- Qin Shi Huangdi divided the lands into 36 command areas that were governed by important officials like a governor, a military commander, and an imperial inspector.
- Under his rule, a new imperial currency was introduced and Chinese writing was made uniform across all areas.
- Hundreds of thousands of armies served in his armies and an equal number engaged themselves in construction works like building palaces, canals, and roads.
- Qin Shi Huang undertook several defense-building projects where countless laborers toiled and many of them died. The Great Wall of China was built by the Chinese emperor.
- He was a brutal ruler who ruthlessly suppressed dissent by executing scholars and burning their books that criticized the government.
- Criminals were mutilated, executed, or put to hard labor.
- He used 700,000 forced labor to build his enormous tomb and buried a terracotta tomb horde. Numerous life-size figures surround his tomb to guard him in the afterlife.
Ambition is good as it helps one achieve great heights but over-ambition can be deadly. We can’t say if Hatshepsut was an unscrupulous woman or the vilest type of usurper but Qin Shi’s ambition came at the cost of the lives of his subjects. Genghis Khan was known to be extremely violent and Alexander was a ruthless suppressor. All of the greatest ancient rulers did have a darker side to themselves as can be associated with anyone who engages in bloodshed and warfare. However, they are great because of the positive influences they brought to their societies. Although excessive, their ambition managed to serve their subjects well in one way or the other.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who is the greatest ruler in ancient history?
Some of the greatest rulers in ancient history are Hammurabi, Hatshepsut, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Qin Shi Huangdi, etc.
Who came to India in 326 BCE?
Alexander the Great started his invasion of India in 326 BCE.
What is Qin Shi Huang famous for?
Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huangdi is famous for having built the Great Wall of China.