The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Politicians of all time. This list of famous Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Politicians.
With an HPI of 80.61, Cyrus the Great is the most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 114 different languages on wikipedia.
Cyrus II of Persia (c. 600–530 BC; Old Persian: 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁 Kūruš), commonly known as Cyrus the Great and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all of the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Western Asia and much of Central Asia. Spanning from the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, the empire created by Cyrus was the largest the world had yet seen. At its maximum extent under his successors, the Achaemenid Empire stretched from parts of the Balkans (Eastern Bulgaria–Paeonia and Thrace–Macedonia) and Southeast Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. The reign of Cyrus lasted about thirty years; his empire took root with his conquest of the Median Empire followed by the Lydian Empire and eventually the Neo-Babylonian Empire. He also led an expedition into Central Asia, which resulted in major campaigns that were described as having brought "into subjection every nation without exception". Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, and was alleged to have died in battle while fighting the Massagetae, an ancient Eastern Iranian nomadic tribal confederation, along the Syr Darya in December 530 BC. However, Xenophon claimed that Cyrus did not die in battle and returned to the Achaemenid ceremonial capital of Persepolis again. He was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, who managed to conquer Egypt, Nubia and Cyrenaica during his short rule. Cyrus is well-known for having respected the customs and religions of the lands he conquered. He was important in developing the system of a central administration at Pasargadae governing satraps in the empire's border regions, which worked very effectively and profitably for both rulers and subjects. The Edict of Restoration, a proclamation attested by a cylinder seal in which Cyrus authorized and encouraged the return of the Israelites to the Land of Israel following his conquest of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, is described in the Bible and likewise left a lasting legacy on the Jewish religion due to his role in ending the Babylonian captivity and facilitating the Jewish return to Zion. According to Isaiah 45:1 of the Hebrew Bible, God anointed Cyrus for this task, even referring to him as a messiah (lit. 'anointed one'); Cyrus is the only non-Jewish figure in the Bible to be revered in this capacity.Cyrus is also recognized for his achievements in human rights, politics, and military strategy, as well as his influence on both Eastern and Western civilizations. The Achaemenid influence in the ancient world would eventually extend as far as Athens, where upper-class Athenians adopted aspects of the culture of the ruling class of Achaemenid Persia as their own. Having originated from Persis, roughly corresponding to the modern-day Fars Province of Iran, Cyrus has played a crucial role in defining the national identity of modern Iran. He remains a cult figure amongst modern Iranians, with his tomb serving as a spot of reverence for millions of people. In the 1970s, the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, identified Cyrus' famous proclamation inscribed onto the Cyrus Cylinder as the oldest-known declaration of human rights, and the Cylinder has since been popularized as such. This view has been criticized by some Western historians as a misunderstanding of the Cylinder's generic nature as a traditional statement that new monarchs make at the beginning of their reign.
With an HPI of 80.06, Xerxes I is the 2nd most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 77 different languages.
Xerxes I (Old Persian: 𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠 Xšayār̥šā; Greek: Ξέρξης; c. 518 – August 465 BC), commonly known as Xerxes the Great, was the fourth King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, ruling from 486 to 465 BC. He was the son and successor of Darius the Great (r. 522–486 BC) and his mother was Atossa, a daughter of Cyrus the Great (r. 550–530 BC), the founder of the Achaemenid empire. Like his father, he ruled the empire at its territorial apex. He ruled from 486 BC until his assassination in 465 BC at the hands of Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard. Xerxes I is notable in Western history for his invasion of Greece in 480 BC. His forces temporarily overran mainland Greece north of the Isthmus of Corinth until losses at Salamis and Plataea a year later reversed these gains and ended the second invasion decisively. However, Xerxes successfully crushed revolts in Egypt and Babylon. Xerxes also oversaw the completion of various construction projects at Susa and Persepolis. Xerxes is identified with the king Ahasuerus in the biblical Book of Esther, which some scholars, including Eduard Schwartz, William Rainey Harper, and Michael V. Fox, consider to be historical romance. There is nothing close to a consensus, however, as to what historical event provided the basis for the story.
With an HPI of 78.66, Darius III is the 3rd most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.
Darius III (Old Persian: 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 Dārayavaʰuš; Greek: Δαρεῖος Dareios; c. 380 – 330 BC) was the last Achaemenid King of Kings of Persia, reigning from 336 BC to his death in 330 BC. Contrary to his predecessor Artaxerxes IV Arses, Darius was a distant member of the Achaemenid dynasty. During his early career, he was reportedly an obscure figure among his peers and first rose to prominence during the Cadusian expedition of Artaxerxes III in the 350s BC. As a reward for his bravery, he was given the Satrapy of Armenia. Around 340 BC, he was placed in charge of the royal "postal service," a high-ranking position. In 338 BC, Artaxerxes III met an abrupt end after being poisoned by the court eunuch and chiliarch (hazahrapatish) Bagoas, who installed his youngest son Arses on the throne. He only reigned for a few years, until Bagoas had him poisoned as well. Darius was subsequently installed on the throne and soon forced Bagoas to drink his poison after discovering that the eunuch had planned to poison him as well. In 334 BC, Alexander the Great began his invasion of the Persian Empire and subsequently defeated the Persians in several battles before looting and destroying their capital, Persepolis, by fire in 330 BC. With the Persian Empire now effectively under Alexander's control, Alexander then decided to pursue Darius. Before Alexander reached him, however, Darius was killed by his relative Bessus, who was also the satrap of Bactria. Darius is partially remembered in Iranian traditions as Dara II, the last king of the mythological Kayanian dynasty, which reflected memories of the Achaemenids.
With an HPI of 77.95, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is the 4th most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 92 different languages.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Persian: محمدرضا پهلوی, pronounced [mohæmˈmæd reˈzɒː pæhlæˈviː]; 26 October 1919 – 27 July 1980), also known as Mohammad Reza Shah (محمدرضا شاه), was the last Shah (King) of the Imperial State of Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow in the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979. Owing to his status, he was also known as the Shah. Mohammad Reza Shah took the title Shahanshah ("King of Kings") on 26 October 1967 and held several other titles, including that of Aryamehr ("Light of the Aryans") and Bozorg Arteshtaran ("Commander-in-Chief"). He was the second and last monarch of the House of Pahlavi. His dream of what he referred to as a "Great Civilization" (Persian: تمدن بزرگ, romanized: tamadon-e bozorg) in Iran led to a rapid industrial and military modernization, as well as economic and social reforms.Mohammad Reza came to power during World War II after an Anglo-Soviet invasion forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi. During Mohammad Reza's reign, the British owned oil industry was briefly nationalized by Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh until an Army coup d'état supported by the UK and the US deposed Mosaddegh, reinstalled the Shah, and brought back foreign oil firms under the Consortium Agreement of 1954. The Shah went on to become a dominant figure in OPEC, promoting a surge in oil prices that crippled Western economies. Mohammad Reza introduced the White Revolution, a series of economic, social, and political reforms aimed at transforming Iran into a global power and modernizing the nation by nationalizing key industries and land redistribution. The regime implemented many Iranian nationalist policies leading to the establishment of Cyrus the Great, Cyrus Cylinder, and Tomb of Cyrus the Great as popular symbols of Iran. The Shah initiated major investments in infrastructure, subsidies and land grants for peasant populations, profit sharing for industrial workers, construction of nuclear facilities, the nationalization of Iran’s natural resources, and literacy programs which were considered some of the most effective in the world. The Shah also instituted economic policy tariffs and preferential loans to Iranian businesses which sought to create an independent economy for the nation. Manufacturing of cars, appliances, and other goods in Iran increased substantially leading to the creation of a new industrialist class that was considered insulated from threats of foreign competition. By the 1970s, the Shah was seen as mastered statesman and used his growing power to pass the 1973 Sale and Purchase Agreement. These reforms culminated in decades of sustained economic growth that would make Iran one of the fastest-growing economies of both developed and undeveloped nations. During his 38-year rule, Iran spent billions on industry, education, health, and armed forces and enjoyed economic growth rates exceeding the United States, Britain, and France. National income rose 423 times over. The nation saw an unprecedented rise in per capita income rising to the highest level at any point in Iran's history and high levels of urbanization. By 1977, Iran's armed services spending, which the Shah saw as a means to end foreign intervention in Iran, had made the nation the world's fifth strongest military.By 1978, growing political unrest snowballed into a popular revolution leading to the monarchy's overthrow. The Jaleh Square massacre, where his military killed and wounded dozens of protestors and the Cinema Rex fire, an arson attack in Abadan that was largely but erroneously blamed on SAVAK, leading to protests across Iran, made his position in Iran untenable. The true perpetrators of the Cinema Rex fire, and whether they were pro- or anti-Shah remain unclear. A meeting of western leaders was perceived by the Shah as a withdrawal of their support. He left Iran for exile on 17 January 1979. While the Shah told his contemporaries in the West that he would rather leave than fire on his people, the number of protesters killed by his military is disputed, with the total number of people killed during the revolution ranging from 540 to 2,000 (historian figures) to 60,000 (figures of the Islamic Republic of Iran). Soon thereafter, the Iranian monarchy was formally abolished, and Iran was declared an Islamic republic led by Ruhollah Khomeini. The Shah died in exile in Egypt, where he had been granted asylum by President Anwar Sadat.
With an HPI of 77.58, Harun al-Rashid is the 5th most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 77 different languages.
Abu Ja'far Harun ibn Muhammad al-Mahdi (Arabic: أبو جعفر هارون ابن محمد المهدي) or Harun ibn al-Mahdi (Arabic: هَارُون ابْنِ ٱلْمَهْدِيّ, romanized: Hārūn ibn al-Mahdī; c. 763 or 766 – 24 March 809), famously known as Harun al-Rashid (Arabic: هَارُون الرَشِيد, romanized: Hārūn al-Rashīd) was the fifth Abbasid caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate, reigning from September 786 until his death. His reign is traditionally regarded to be the beginning of the Islamic Golden Age. His epithet "al-Rashid" translates to "the Orthodox", "the Just", "the Upright", or "the Rightly-Guided". Harun established the legendary library Bayt al-Hikma ("House of Wisdom") in Baghdad in present-day Iraq, and during his rule Baghdad began to flourish as a world center of knowledge, culture and trade. During his rule, the family of Barmakids, which played a deciding role in establishing the Abbasid Caliphate, declined gradually. In 796, he moved his court and government to Raqqa in present-day Syria. A Frankish mission came to offer Harun friendship in 799. Harun sent various presents with the emissaries on their return to Charlemagne's court, including a clock that Charlemagne and his retinue deemed to be a conjuration because of the sounds it emanated and the tricks it displayed every time an hour ticked. Portions of the fictional One Thousand and One Nights are set in Harun's court and some of its stories involve Harun himself. Harun's life and court have been the subject of many other tales, both factual and fictitious.
With an HPI of 75.22, Cambyses II is the 6th most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Cambyses II (Old Persian: 𐎣𐎲𐎢𐎪𐎡𐎹 Kabūjiya) was the second King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 530 to 522 BC. He was the son and successor of Cyrus the Great (r. 550 – 530 BC) and his mother was Cassandane. Before his accession, Cambyses had briefly served as the governor of northern Babylonia under his father from April to December 538 BC. Afterwards, he resided in the Babylonian cities of Babylon and Sippar, before being appointed by his father as co-ruler in 530 BC. His father then set off on an expedition against the Massagetae of Central Asia, where he met his end. Cambyses thus became the sole ruler of the vast Achaemenid Empire, facing no reported opposition. His relatively brief reign was marked by his conquests in North Africa, notably Egypt, which he conquered after his victory over the Egyptian pharaoh Psamtik III (r. 526–525 BC) at the battle of Pelusium in 525 BC. After having established himself in Egypt, he expanded the empire's holdings in Africa, including the conquest of Cyrenaica. In the spring of 522 BC, Cambyses hurriedly left Egypt to deal with a rebellion in Persia. While en route in Syria (Eber-Nari), he received a wound to the thigh, which was soon affected by gangrene. Cambyses died three weeks later at a location called Agbatana, which is most likely the modern city of Hama. He died childless, and was thus succeeded by his younger brother Bardiya, who ruled for a short period before being overthrown by Darius the Great (r. 522–486 BC), who went on to increase the power of the Achaemenids even further.
With an HPI of 74.70, Malik-Shah I is the 7th most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 46 different languages.
Jalāl al-Dawla Mu'izz al-Dunyā Wa'l-Din Abu'l-Fatḥ ibn Alp Arslān (8 August 1055 – 19 November 1092, full name: Persian: سلطان جلال الدولہ معوذ الدنیا و الدین ملک شاه بن محمد الپ ارسلان قسیم ), better known by his regnal name of Malik-Shah I (Persian: ملک شاه, Turkish: Melikşah), was the third sultan of the Great Seljuk Empire from 1072 to 1092, under whom the sultanate reached its zenith of power and influence. During his youth, he spent his time participating in the campaigns of his father Alp Arslan, along with the latters vizier Nizam al-Mulk. During one of such campaigns in 1072, Alp Arslan was fatally wounded and died only a few days later. After that, Malik-Shah was crowned as the new sultan of the empire, but the succession was contested by his uncle Qavurt. Although Malik-Shah was the nominal head of the Seljuk state, Nizam al-Mulk held near absolute power during his reign. Malik-Shah spent the rest of his reign waging war against the Karakhanids on the eastern side, and establishing order in the Caucasus. Malik-Shah's death to this day remains under dispute; according to some scholars, he was poisoned by Abbasid caliph al-Muqtadi, while others say that he was poisoned by the supporters of Nizam al-Mulk.
With an HPI of 74.01, Ali Khamenei is the 8th most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 93 different languages.
Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei (Persian: سید علی حسینی خامنهای, pronounced [ʔæˈliː hosejˈniː xɒːmeneˈʔiː] (listen); born 19 April 1939) is a Twelver Shia marja' and the second and current supreme leader of Iran, in office since 1989. He was previously the third president of Iran from 1981 to 1989. Khamenei is the longest serving head of state in the Middle East, as well as the second-longest serving Iranian leader of the last century, after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.According to his official website, Khamenei was arrested six times before being sent into exile for three years during Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's reign. After the Iranian revolution overthrowing the shah, he was the target of an attempted assassination in June 1981 that paralysed his right arm. Khamenei was one of Iran's leaders during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s, and developed close ties with the now powerful Revolutionary Guards which he controls, and whose commanders are elected and dismissed by him. The Revolutionary Guards have been deployed to suppress opposition to him. Khamenei served as the third President of Iran from 1981 to 1989, while becoming a close ally of the first Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini. Shortly before his death, Khomeini had a disagreement with the heir he had chosen — Hussein Ali Montazeri — so there was no agreed on successor when Khomeini died. The Assembly of Experts elected Khamenei as the next Supreme Leader on 4 June 1989, at age 50. According to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khamenei was the man Khomeini had chosen as his successor before dying. Khamenei has been head of the servants of Astan Quds Razavi since 14 April 1979.As Supreme Leader, Khamenei is the most powerful political authority in the Islamic Republic. He is the head of state of Iran, the commander-in-chief of its armed forces, and can issue decrees and make the final decisions on the main policies of the government in many fields such as economy, the environment, foreign policy, and national planning in Iran. As Supreme Leader, Khamenei has either direct or indirect control over the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as the military and media, according to Karim Sadjadpour. All candidates for the Assembly of Experts, the Presidency and the Majlis (Parliament) are vetted by the Guardian Council, whose members are selected directly or indirectly by the Supreme Leader of Iran. There have also been instances when the Guardian Council reversed its ban on particular people after being ordered to do so by Khamenei.There have been major protests during Khamenei's reign, including the 1994 Qazvin Protests, the 1999 Iranian student protests, the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, the 2011–2012 Iranian protests, the 2017–2018 Iranian protests, the 2018–2019 Iranian general strikes and protests, the 2019–2020 Iranian protests, the 2021–2022 Iranian protests, and the Mahsa Amini protests. Journalists, bloggers and other individuals have been put on trial in Iran for the charge of insulting Supreme Leader Khamenei, often in conjunction with blasphemy charges. Their sentences have included lashing and jail time; some of them have died in custody. Regarding the nuclear program of Iran, Khamenei issued a fatwa in 2003 forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction.
With an HPI of 73.32, Nader Shah is the 9th most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 63 different languages.
Nader Shah Afshar (Persian: نادر شاه افشار; also known as Nader Qoli Beyg نادر قلی بیگ or Tahmāsp Qoli Khan تهماسب قلی خان) (August 1688 – 19 June 1747) was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty of Iran and one of the most powerful rulers in Iranian history, ruling as shah of Iran (Persia) from 1736 to 1747, when he was assassinated during a rebellion. He fought numerous campaigns throughout the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central and South Asia, such as the battles of Herat, Mihmandust, Murche-Khort, Agh-Darband, Yeghevard, Khyber Pass, Karnal and Kars. Because of his military genius, some historians have described him as the Napoleon of Persia, the Sword of Persia, or the Second Alexander. Nader belonged to the Turkoman Afshar tribe, a semi-nomadic tribe settled in Khorasan in northeastern Iran, which had supplied military power to the Safavid dynasty since the time of Shah Ismail I.Nader rose to power during a period of chaos in Iran after a rebellion by the Hotaki Pashtuns had overthrown the weak Shah Sultan Husayn, while the arch-enemy of the Safavids, the Ottomans, as well as the Russians had seized Iranian territory for themselves. Nader reunited the Iranian realm and removed the invaders. He became so powerful that he decided to depose the last members of the Safavid dynasty, which had ruled Iran for over 200 years, and become Shah himself in 1736. His numerous campaigns created a great empire that, at its maximum extent, briefly encompassed what is now part of or includes Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the North Caucasus, Iraq, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Pakistan, Oman and the Persian Gulf, but his military spending had a ruinous effect on the Iranian economy.Nader idolized Genghis Khan and Timur, the previous conquerors from Central Asia. He imitated their military prowess and—especially later in his reign—their cruelty. His victories during his campaigns briefly made him West Asia's most powerful sovereign, ruling over what was arguably the most powerful empire in the world, but his empire and the dynasty he founded quickly disintegrated after he was assassinated in 1747. The turning point in his military career started from his second and third campaigns against the by then revolting Lezgians, as well as other ethnic groups of Dagestan in the northwestern parts of his domain. Nader Shah has been described as "the last great Asiatic military conqueror".
With an HPI of 73.28, Tahmasp I is the 10th most famous Politician. His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.
Tahmasp I (Persian: طهماسب, romanized: Ṭahmāsb or تهماسب Tahmâsb; 22 February 1514 – 14 May 1576) was the second Shah of Safavid Iran from 1524 to 1576. He was the eldest son of Ismail I and his principal consort, Tajlu Khanum. Ascending the throne after the death of his father on 23 May 1524, the first years of Tahmasp's reign were marked by civil wars between the Qizilbash leaders until 1532, when he asserted his authority and began an absolute monarchy. He soon faced a longstanding war with the Ottoman Empire, which was divided into three phases. The Ottomans, under Suleiman the Magnificent, tried to put their favoured candidates on the Safavid throne. The war ended with the Peace of Amasya in 1555, with the Ottomans gaining sovereignty over Baghdad, much of Kurdistan and western Georgia. Tahmasp also had conflicts with the Uzbeks of Bukhara over Khorasan, with them repeatedly raiding Herat. He led an army in 1528 (when he was fourteen), and defeated the Uzbeks in the Battle of Jam; he used artillery, unknown to the other side. Tahmasp was a patron of the arts, building a royal house of arts for painters, calligraphers and poets, and was an accomplished painter himself. Later in his reign he came to despise poets, shunning many and exiling them to India and the Mughal court. Tahmasp is known for his religious piety and fervent zealotry for the Sh'ia branch of Islam. He bestowed many privileges on the clergy and allowed them to participate in legal and administrative matters. In 1544 he demanded that the fugitive Mughal emperor Humayun convert to Shi'ism in return for military assistance to reclaim his throne in India. Nevertheless, Tahmasp still negotiated alliances with the Christian powers of the Republic of Venice and the Habsburg monarchy. His succession was disputed before his death. When Tahmasp died on 14 May 1576, a civil war followed, leading to the death of most of the royal family. Tahmasp's reign of nearly fifty-two years was the longest of any member of the Safavid dynasty. Although contemporary Western accounts were critical, modern historians describe him as a courageous and able commander who maintained and expanded his father's empire. His reign saw a shift in the Safavid ideological policy; he ended the worshipping of his father as the Messiah by the Turkoman Qizilbash tribes and instead established a public image of a pious and orthodox Sh'ia king. He started a long process followed by his successors to end the Qizilbash influence on Safavid politics, replacing them with the newly-introduced 'third force' containing Islamised Georgians and Armenians.
Pantheon has 185 people classified as politicians born between 1300 BC and 1989. Of these 185, 31 (16.76%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Ali Khamenei, Farah Pahlavi, and Hassan Rouhani. The most famous deceased politicians include Cyrus the Great, Xerxes I, and Darius III. As of April 2022, 20 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Ebrahim Raisi, Sufyan al-Thawri, and Amytis of Media.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.