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People in world history

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Darius I


This stone carving depicts Darius I, right, also known as Darius the Great, and his son and successor Xerxes I. Darius I ruled the Persian Empire from 522 to 486 bc. He secured the outer borders of the empire and reformed its internal organization, built highways, encouraged commerce, and organized a postal system. Darius allowed freedom of worship among the many different ethnic groups contained within the empire’s vast borders, earning their respect and goodwill

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Xerxes I


Persian king Xerxes I inherited his throne after the death of his father Darius I. His ambitious plans to expand the Persian empire into Europe never materialized. The huge naval fleet he assembled for the invasion lost a decisive battle at the bay of Salamís in 480 bc, forcing Xerxes to retreat

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Khosrau I

Considered one of Persia’s greatest rulers, Khosrau I is depicted in the center of this contemporary decorative plate. In 531 he began a series of battles with the Byzantine Empire that led to the expansion of Persia’s borders. Khosrau also streamlined government administration and reformed the tax system

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Alexander the Great


Alexander the Great became king of Macedonia when his father, Philip II, was assassinated in 336 bc. He took immediate measures to quell insurrections, both domestic and abroad, establishing himself as a powerful leader. Alexander led his troops in campaigns against Greek city states, Egypt, and the Persian Empire, ruling most of the civilized world by the time he died in 323 bc at the age of 33. His celebrated military and tactical genius share renown with his ego and ruthlessness

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A student of ancient Greek philosopher Plato, Aristotle shared his teacher’s reverence for human knowledge but revised many of Plato’s ideas by emphasizing methods rooted in observation and experience. Aristotle surveyed and systematized nearly all the extant branches of knowledge and provided the first ordered accounts of biology, psychology, physics, and literary theory. In addition, Aristotle invented the field known as formal logic, pioneered zoology, and addressed virtually every major philosophical problem known during his time. Known to medieval intellectuals as simply “the Philosopher,” Aristotle is possibly the greatest thinker in Western history and, historically, perhaps the single greatest influence on Western intellectual development

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Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven is considered possibly the greatest Western composer of all time. He wrote symphonies, concertos, chamber music, sonatas, and vocal music. His best-known composition is the Ninth Symphony with its passionate chorus, the Ode to Joy. Beethoven began to lose his hearing in the 1790s and was completely deaf by 1818

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Gaius Julius Caesar


One of the most influential political and military leaders in history, Gaius Julius Caesar helped establish the vast Roman Empire. Caesar’s triumph in a civil war in the 40s bc made him the absolute ruler of Rome, but political jealousies among his opponents led to his assassination

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Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, was among the greatest of military leaders in the Middle Ages. He conquered much of western and central Europe. As king, Charlemagne revived the political and cultural life that had disappeared with the fall of the Western Roman Empire four centuries before

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Sir Winston Churchill

As prime minister of Britain during World War II, Churchill roused the British to stand against Nazi Germany. The sight of Churchill, with his cigar and two fingers raised in a “V for victory” salute, inspired Britons to rise to what he called “their finest hour

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Christopher Columbus

Italian-born explorer Christopher Columbus broke with tradition in 1492, sailing west in an attempt to find a shorter route to India and China. Columbus based his calculations for the journey on Biblical scripture, specifically the books of Esdras in the Apocrypha. On August 3, 1492, Columbus departed from Palos de la Frontera, Spain, on the first of several voyages to what he later called the “New World

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During the age of Chinese feudalism, when intrigue and vice were rampant, Confucius taught principles that embraced high ethical and moral standards. He urged the feudal leaders to live by those standards and serve as examples to their subjects. An aristocrat of the 6th century bc, Confucius was China’s first great philosopher. His teachings about ethics and the role of individuals in society form the 12-volume Lunyu (The Analects). Respect for tradition and for elders underlies much of Confucius’s instruction. His work helped define Chinese culture for more than 2,000 years

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Constantine the Great


Constantine the Great was the first emperor of Rome to convert to Christianity. During his reign, Christians, previously persecuted, gained freedom of worship. He gave huge estates and other gifts to the Christian church. He established a capital in the eastern provinces, naming it Constantinople

، now İstanbul, Turkey

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Nicolaus Copernicus

Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus revolutionized science by postulating that the earth and other planets revolve about a stationary sun. Developed in the early 1500s but not published until years later, his heliocentric (sun-centered) theory disputed the Ptolemaic theory, popular at the time, which held that the sun and the planets revolved about the fixed earth. Copernicus at first hesitated in publishing his findings because he feared criticism from the scientific and religious communities. After suffering initial disbelief and rejection, however, the Copernican system ranked as the most accepted concept of the universe by the late 17th century

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Oliver Cromwell

A member of England’s Parliament and a dedicated Puritan, Oliver Cromwell led his forces to victory against King Charles’s army. Even though he had no military experience, Cromwell turned out to be a brilliant cavalry leader. The defeat and subsequent execution of the king left Cromwell as virtual dictator over England

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Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was greatly influenced by the geologist Adam Sedgwick and naturalist John Henslow in his development of the theory of natural selection, which was to become the foundation concept supporting the theory of evolution. Darwin’s theory holds that environmental effects lead to varying degrees of reproductive success in individuals and groups of organisms. Natural selection tends to promote adaptation in organisms when necessary for survival. This revolutionary theory was published in 1859 in Darwin’s now famous treatise On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

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Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein is considered one of the greatest and most popular scientists of all time. Three papers he published in 1905 were pivotal in the development of physics and, to a large degree, Western thought. These papers discussed the quantum nature of light, provided a description of molecular motion, and introduced the special theory of relativity. Einstein was famous for continually reexamining traditional scientific assumptions and coming to straightforward, elegant conclusions no one else had reached. He is less famous for his social involvement, although he was a staunch supporter of both pacifism and Zionism. Here, Einstein discusses Gandhi and commends nonviolence

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Elizabeth I


Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn, ruled England from 1558 to 1603 during what is known as the Elizabethan Age. Elizabeth’s reign was a time of great prosperity and achievement, and her court was a center for poets, writers, musicians, and scholars

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