Key Persons

By memorizing one famous person in each century, you can internalize a framework upon which you can add more detail. Here’s an easy way to proceed:

Take an ordinary sheet of lined paper — the kind with three holes punched in it. Turn the paper so the holes are toward you. Each vertical space will represent one century. You will be writing one person’s name into each space, with the most recent name at the far right. The names therefore will follow the same time sequence as the diagram of empires you have learned to draw. Even though the lined paper is not on the same scale, it will flow in the same direction, and you will be writing in some empire names to help you visualize how the names and empires papers fit together.

With the three holes facing toward you, write “2000 AD” on the line farthest to your right, on the near side of the red margin line. On the next line to the left, write 19. The space between the lines represents alll the years that start with a 19, from 1900 to 1999. The century is named after the number to the right: the twentieth century. In the area beyond the red margin line, you will write the name of one famous person from the twentieth century. You of course can write any names that you prefer on your chart, but in my example I am going to be suggesting mostly political ruler in European history. My suggestion is that you write “Elizabeth 2” in that 20th century space. She ruled as queen of England for a large part of the century, and continued to rule into the 21st century.

Now continue writing in numbers. On the line left of the 19 write 18, then on the next line 17, and continue to your left until you have reached 1. In the SPACE to the left of the number 1, write “1 AD.” The space between 1 AD” and “1” is the first century, and includes all the year numbers that are less than 100. the name I suggest for the century is the famous Roman emperor Nero.

The next step is to fill in all the spaces to the right of Nero. Here are my suggestions: 2nd century (between the 1 and the 2) Hadrian (the emperor famous for building Hadrian’s wall, that separated Scotland from england). 3rd century: Diocletian.  He’s the emperor who carried out the most widespread and systematic persecution of Christians. He was followed (4th century) by Constantine, the emperor who proclaimed toleration for Christianity. In the 5th century, the Roman Empire in Europe came to an en, so instead of writing a Roman name, please write Clovis. He was leader of the Germanic tribe called the “Franks,” which became dominant in the area we now call France. 

At this point please ensure that you can reproduce everything we have presented so far on another sheet of paper. The purpose of this learning approach is not to give you a reference outline — if so, I could have just printed it,. the purpose is for you to memorize and internalize the names and their position in space on that piece of paper. Later, when you make “century sheets, you will associate the newer names with that key name.

Depending on your memorization style, you may decide to wait a day before continuing, and add names at the rate of 5 per day.

When you are ready to proceed, write “Justinian” in the 6th century space. Although the empire had ended in the west (Europe) , it continued in the east (extending from Greece to Turkey) and Justinian was one of their emperors. He regained a large part of the lands in Europe that had been lost. From this time the Eastern Empire is commonly called the Byzantine Empire, and it continued until 1453.  7th century: write “Muhammad,” the founder of Islam. (you could also write ISLAM at the upper end of that space, as one of those key words that will help you keep track of how the names you are writing ft with key moments in history).  For the 8th century, write Charles Martel. He was a leader of the Franks, the one who in 732 defeated invading Muslim armies in France, and thus prevented Europe from becoming part of the expanding Arab Muslim empire. In the 9th century, write Charles’ descendant Charlemagne (which means “Charles the Great): ruler of the Franks who ruled much of today’s Germany, France, and also northern Iitaly. The in the 10th century write Otto 3. He was a descendant of Charlemagne who founded the Holy Roman Empire, which encompassed the German and Italian parts of Charlemagne’s empire (though not the French part). You could also write HRE at the upper part of that space.) The HRE continued until 1806, when it ended during the time of Napoleon.

After you have successfully memorized all the names so far, continue adding names to the right. I suggest using a leader of England to represent each century. After the number 10 (11th century) write William the Conqueror. A descendant of Vikings, he crossed the English channel from France and took control of England, and his descendants for the next century ruled lands in both France in England. For the 12th century, write Richard 1. You may remember frmo the Robin Hood story that while he went off on a crusade to try to recapture Jerusalem, he left his brother John in charge of England. John finally did become king, and will be the name we write in the 14th century. John lost the family’s lands in France.  In the 14th century, write Edward 3. He began the “Hundred Year’s War” which was an attempt by the English to regain those lands in France. In the 15th century write Henry 3 — it was during his reign that England finally lost that war and was no longer a major power in France. Pause again here until you are able to reproduce the entire chart up to this point.

 I recommend two names for the 16th century. Nearest the red line, write Henry 8 — the one with 6 wives, who made the English Church independent from the Roman Catholic Church. Then write Elizabeth, his daughter, who lived during the time of Shakespeare. For the 17th century write the next kind, James, who authorized a Bible translation that we therefore call the “King James Bible, a book in that same style as Shakespeare, and that had a great influence on English language and literature as well as on religion. Starting in the 18th centuries, there were four kings in a row named George. Write George 3, because he was king during the American and French revolutions. also write Napoleon in that space. or even on the next line, for he became leader of France at the very end of the century, but was crowned as Emperor inn 1800 and not finally defeated until 1815. In the 18th century, write Victoria, the queen during the time that the British empire reached it’s  greatest expanse. You already have written Elizabeth 2 in the next space. After you have mastered all the names up to this point, we will continue with the years before Christ.

In the space to the left of 1 AD, write 1 BC. This space represents the first century BC, the years from 1 to 100 BC.  In this space write Julius Caesar, a leading figure in the turmoil that eventually led to the founding of the Roman Empire. On the next line to the left, write 1, and on the next  line, write two. The space between them represents the years from 101 to 200, and is named after the number to the left. Formally, the year 200 is that last year of the as the second century, .Continue numbering to your left until you have reached the last line. On my paper, that turned out to be a number 12. We will begin our series of names to the right of the number 10, in the 10th century, that is, the 900’s. For the centuries older than that, we will not put a name in every blank, but later will add just a few names. 

In the 10th century, write David. He was king of Israel during its time of great expansion. in the next century, write Homer. He was the Greek poet who wrote an epic, the Iliad, about wars that had been fought among the Greeks back in around 1200 BC, and serves here to remind us of the important place of Greek culture in western civilization. In the eighth century, write Isaiah. he was one of the most well known prophets of Israel, and is included here because he was living in Jerusalem when it was attacked by the great empire of that century, the Assyrian Empire. Write ASSYRIA at the upper part of that space. By finding Assyria on your empires diagram, you will have an idea of the space encompassed by the name list you are making. By including a Hebrew prophet, we are reminded that western civilization has been described as an amalgam of Hebrew thought and Greek thought. In the 7th century write Draco, a leader in Greece whose laws helped in the process that eventually led to the appearance of democracy in Athens.

In the 6th century, write Daniel (from the biblical story of the lion’s den). In this century another empire, the Babylonian, which had defeated the Assyrians, defeated Jerusalem and took a large number of Jewish people to Babylon, an era of roughly 70 years that historians call the “Babylonian exile.” Daniel’s story takes place in Babylon. Write BABYLON at the upper end of the space, and locate it on the empires diagram. 

After you have ensured that you have memorized everything up to this point, continue with the 5th century .Write PERSIA at the far end of the space, and at the near end write one of the emperors, Xerxes (pronounced zerk-sees). In 480 he lost a major war against the Greeks. Athens then experienced its “golden age,” which you can associate with Pericles, its leader later that century.  In the 4th century write “Alexander the Great,” who conquered both Greece and Persia, and instituted an era of civilization in that entire era called “Hellenistic.”: You can write that word at the upper edge of the space. For the 3rd century, write Hannibal. He fought several wars against Rome, which was in its time of expansion. In one of those wars he crossed the Alps into Italy with a huge army, including war elephants. In the 2nd century, write Maccabees. They are a Jewish family that successfully gained independence from rule by one of the Greek families put inn place after Alexander the great, and maintained that independence right up to the time when Rome finally took over. 

After you have memorized all the names up to this point, contineu with the years before David. You have already written 12 on the farthest line at the left, Continuing into the space on the the left, write 4 more numbers 13 through 16. At 16, write Minos/Crete. Civilization inn Crete was at a high point, and the spectacular palace of King Minos has been discovered there. The 1500’s were the time when India was invaded from the north — write Aryan invasion. We will next write Moses. Various scholars have placed him in different years from the 1200’s to the 1400’s. On my chart, I wrote him after the 1400 line, because that leaves enough time for the following events that took place in israel. Right on 1200 write “Dorian invasion.” This was the time when a set of Greek speakers invaded the already existing Greeks, and set inn motion a movement of peoples that included the arrival of the philistines on the shores of Israel. Write PHILISTINES .at the far right of the 12th century space.  If you want to include Bible figures, you may write Gideon in the 12th century space. He was one of a leader of the Israel people known as “judges” (there is a book by this name in the Bible). He is remembered for using a sheep’s fleece to reconfirm that God was asking him to take leadership. he fought against an invading tribe, but the judge to write in the next century, Samson, fought against the Philistines. he is the one noted for superhuman strength. it was David, whom you have already written, who finally overcame the Philistines.

On the rest of the blank space at the left, we will represent all the years back to 3500 BC. Do this by writing columns of numbers parallel to the 13 through 16 lines you have already written. Write each column about an inch or so away from the previous line. So paralleling the 13 through 16 line, starting just above the last blue line, write17 18 19 20 21.  Move another inch and a half away, and write 22 23 24 25 26. The next line will be 27 through 31, and the last line 32 to 36. Now we will write in a few highlights starting at the far upper left. Next to 35, write Sumer. By this time the Sumerian civilization had emerged in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq). At 31, write Menes. he brought together the northern and southern kingdoms along the Nile to establish Egypt as a unified country for the first time, and the First Dynasty of Egypt is dated from that time. At 30, write Akkad. The Akkadians tok over north of the Sumerians and later dominated them. Going back to Egypt, at 25 write Cheops. That Pharaoh (king of Egypt) built the largest of the pyramids. At 23 write Sargon. He became king of the Akkadians and expanded his empire from Iraq west to the Mediterranean Sea. At 20 write Abraham, a date traditionally used for him; both the Jews and the Arabs regard him as a fore father. Finally, at 17 write Hammurabi. He became king of the Babylonians, who had taken over in Iraq from the Sumerians and Akkadians, and is famous for his law-code discovered on a large piece of stone. The Babylonian empire you wrote in the 6th century is called the Second or New Babylonian Empire, to differentiate it from Hammurabi’s Babylonian empire.

That finishes the survey of key names. After you have mastered it, you will probably want to write a few additional names of peple that interest you, but obviously there is not much space for that, so to get further into detail, the next step is to create “century pages.” 

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