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The Most Important Leaders In World History

Updated November 13, 2020 804.2k votes 102.3k voters 2.2m views347 items

For good or for bad, our leaders can be powerful forces for change in the world. But who are the most impaction people to ever hold prominent positions of power? This is a list of the most important and influential leaders in the history of the world. Who are the most important world leaders? Anyone can vote on this definitive list of the men and women who shaped our civilization – for better or worse – making it a collaborative list of the greatest leaders of all time.

Visionaries, pragmatists, conquerors, and humanitarians (of all physical sizes) share this list. Rank these famous world leaders in terms of importance and add anyone you see missing. But remember: the most influential leaders (those who changed the face of world politics and forever altered their own countries) weren't necessarily good leaders. Some famous conquerors changed the world but let destruction in their wake. Others actually worked for the good of their people and became the great leaders in history.

So, who are the historical leaders that left their permanent mark (for good or bad)? Find out below!

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    Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम Siddhāṛtha Gautama, c. 563/480 – c. 483/400 BCE) or Siddhattha Gotama (शिद्धत्थ गोतम) in Pali, also called the Gautama Buddha, the Shakyamuni (i.e. "Sage...  more
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    Socrates (; Ancient Greek: Σωκρᾰ́της, romanized: Sōkrátēs, [sɔːkrátɛːs]; c. 470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as...  more
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    Galileo Galilei ( GAL-il-AY-oh, also US: -⁠EE-oh, Italian: [ɡaliˈlɛːo ɡaliˈlɛi]; 15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath from...  more
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    An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (Arabic: صلاح الدين يوسف بن أيوب‎ / ALA-LC: Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb; Kurdish: سەلاحەدینی ئەییووبی‎ / ALA-LC: Selahedînê Eyûbî), known as Salah ad-Din or...  more
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    Otto I (23 November 912 – 7 May 973), traditionally known as Otto the Great (German: Otto der Große, Italian: Ottone il Grande), was German king from 936 and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 until his...  more
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    Frederick William I (German: Friedrich Wilhelm I.; 14 August 1688 – 31 May 1740), known as the "Soldier King" (German: Soldatenkönig), was the King in Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg from 1713...  more
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    Titus was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own...  more
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    Alfred the Great (Old English: Ælfrēd, Ælfrǣd, 'Elf-counsel' or 'Wise-elf'; between 847 and 849 – 26 October 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to c.  886 and King of the Anglo-Saxons from c.  886 to...  more
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    Attila (; fl. c. 406–453), frequently called Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. He was also the leader of a tribal empire consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths,...  more
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    Frederick I (German: Friedrich I., Italian: Federico I; 1122 – 10 June 1190), also known as Frederick Barbarossa (Italian: Federico Barbarossa, from "barba rossa", "red beard"), was the Holy Roman...  more
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    Muhammad (Arabic: مُحمّد‎, pronounced [muħammad]; c. 570 CE – 8 June 632 CE) was an Arab religious, social and political leader and the founder of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a...  more
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    Nebuchadnezzar II was a Chaldean king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned c. 605 BC – 562 BC. Both the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem's temple...  more
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    Greatest Viking of them all.

    Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók, "Ragnar shaggy breeches", contemporary Norse: Ragnar Loðbrók) was a historically dubious Norse Viking hero and legendary king of Denmark and...  more
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    Theodoric the Great (454 – 30 August 526), also spelled Theoderic or called Theodoric the Amal (; Latin: Flāvius Theodoricus, Greek: Θευδέριχος, Theuderikhos), was king of the Ostrogoths (471–526),...  more
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    Charles V (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1519, King of Spain (Castile and Aragon, as Charles I) from 1516, and ruling prince of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1506....  more
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    Defeated the Tatars at the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. First step of the liberation of the Russian people from the Mongolic suppressors.
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    Hammurabi (c. 1810 – c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of the First Babylonian dynasty, reigning from c. 1792 BC to c. 1750 BC (according to the Middle Chronology). He was preceded by his father,...  more
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    Frederick II (26 December 1194 – 13 December 1250; Latin: Fridericus, Federicus, Italian: Federico, German: Frîderich, Friedrich) was King of Sicily from 1198, King of Germany from 1212, King of...  more
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    Lead to the unification of Germany in 1871, and first chancellor of the German Empire.
    Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (Born von Bismarck-Schönhausen; German: Otto Eduard Leopold Fürst von Bismarck, Herzog zu Lauenburg; 1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), known as...  more
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    Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) was a Frankish statesman and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until...  more
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    Charles XII, sometimes Carl (Swedish: Karl XII) or Latinized to Carolus Rex (17 June 1682 – 30 November 1718 O.S.), was the King of Sweden from 1697 to 1718. He belonged to the House of...  more
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    Founded the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701.
    Frederick I (German: Friedrich I.; 11 July 1657 – 25 February 1713), of the Hohenzollern dynasty, was (as Frederick III) Elector of Brandenburg (1688–1713) and Duke of Prussia in personal union...  more
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    Spartacus (Greek: Σπάρτακος Spártakos; Latin: Spartacus; c. 111–71 BC) was a Thracian gladiator who, along with Crixus, Gannicus, Castus, and Oenomaus, was one of the escaped slave leaders in the...  more
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    Hannibal Barca (247 – between 183 and 181 BC) was a Carthaginian general and statesman who commanded Carthage's main forces against the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War. He is widely...  more