41 — Leonidas I

Leonidas

a.k.a: Leonidas The Brave

Occupation: King

Born: circa 540 BCE

Died: 480 BCE

Brief Description:
Leonidas was the third son of Anaxandridas II of Sparta. His mother was his father’s niece and had been unable to bear children for so long that the King had to take a second wife. His second wife bore the king’s eldest son, Cleomenes. Shortly after however, his first wife gave birth to Dorieus and later to Leonidas.
Because Leonidas was not heir to the throne, he was not exempt from attending the agoge, which made him one of the few kings to have undergone the training.

(Sparta was an unusual city-state in that it had two kings simultaneously, coming from two separate lines, the Agiads and the Eurypontids. The agoge was the rigorous education and training regimen mandated for all male Spartan citizens, except for the firstborn son in the two ruling houses. Even though exempt however, they were allowed to take part if they so wished, which endowed them with increased prestige when they ascended the throne.)

After Anaxandridas’ death, Cleomenes ascended the throne but the spartans considered him insane and put him in prison where he committed suicide.
Leonidas then married Cleomenes’ daughter, Gorgo, and succeeded to the Agiad throne. (Dorieus had already died by then.)

In 481 BCE, he was chosen to lead the combined Greek forces to resist the Persian invasion and in August 480 BCE, he went out to meet Xerxes’ army at Thermopylae with a small force of 300 men. (Supposedly, the oracle at Delphi had predicted that Sparta would either fall to the Persians or mourn the death of a king.) Other Greek city-states joined Leonidas to form an army of 14,000. In contrast, Xerxes’ army consisted of over two million men according to Herodotus (but he’s known for exaggerating so take this with a pinch of salt).

Xerxes waited four days to attack, hoping the Greeks would disperse and eventually attacked on the fifth day. Leonidas and his men repulsed the Persians’ frontal attacks for two consecutive days and even killed two of Xerxes’ brothers. On the seventh day however, a Malian Greek traitor led a Persian general by a mountain track to the rear of the Greeks. At that point Leonidas sent away all Greek troops and remained in the pass with his 300 Spartans and a few hundred Helots and Thespians who refused to abandon him.

Now by this time the spears of the greater number of them were broken, so it chanced, in this combat, and they were slaying the Persians with their swords; and in this fighting fell Leonidas, having proved himself a very good man, and others also of the Spartans with him, men of note, of whose names I was informed as of men who had proved themselves worthy, and indeed I was told also the names of all the three hundred. – Herodotus

Why he’s on the list:
Of my favorite 50, Leonidas is perhaps the character that needs the least explanation as to why he’s on my list.
It should be pretty obvious and straightforward, but just in case you’re blind…
Leonidas embodies all the virtues of a charismatic leader (courage, respect, honor, loyalty, integrity, selflessness, etc.) even when challenged by insurmountable odds.
He and his men, through their valor and sacrifice, have set an inspirational example for all of Greece.
According to Plutarch, when someone told him: “Leonidas! How are you going with so few to risk with so many?”, he said: “If you think that I am going to fight by numbers, then the whole of Greece would be insufficient, for she is only a small part of the numbers of the Persians, but if I am going to fight by valor, then even this number is enough.”

And of course, as is usually the case, characters I like need to have that extra confidence/arrogance. =)
According to Plutarch (again), “When someone said to him: ‘Except for being king you are not at all superior to us’, Leonidas son of Anaxandridas and brother of Cleomenes replied: ‘But were I not better than you, I should not be king.'”

42 — Hernan Cortes de Monroy y Pizarro

Hernan Cortes

a.k.a: The Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca

Occupation: Conquistador

Born: 1485

Died: 1547

Brief Description:
Hernan Cortes was born in Medellin, Spain, to a family of lesser nobility. Around the age of fourteen, he went to study at the University of Salamanca for a couple of years and soon after, in 1504, left Spain to seek his fortune in the New World.

As Cortes reached Santo Domingo, the capital of Hispaniola, he registered as a citizen and settled in the town of Azua de Compostela where he served as a notary for several years.
In 1511, he joined Diego Velazquez in an expedition to conquer Cuba. Velazquez was so impressed by Cortes that he secured a high political position for him in the colony. As time went on however, the relationship between the two became tense and, in 1518, as Cortes was about to lead an expedition to Mexico, Velazquez changed his mind and revoked his charter. But Cortez ignored the order and set sail for Mexico anyway with 500 men, 11 ships and 13 horses.

Cortes became allies with some of the native peoples he encountered, but with others he used deadly force to conquer Mexico. He fought Tlaxacan and Cholula warriors and then set his sights on taking over the Aztec empire. As the Spaniards reached the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, they were received with open arms by Moctezuma II, the ruler of the Aztec empire, who thought Cortes to be the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, because he was of lighter skin, sitting on his horse and wearing metal armor. Nonetheless, Cortes took Moctezuma hostage and his soldiers raided the city. Led by Cuauhtemoc, Moctezuma’s nephew, the Aztecs rallied. Though reinforced, the Spaniards were besieged, then routed as they fled but they were soon back, and laid siege in turn. They finally took the city in 1521 and claimed it for Spain.

As a result of his victory, King Charles I of Spain (aka Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) appointed him as governor, captain general and chief justice of the newly conquered territory, dubbed “New Spain of the Ocean Sea” but Cortes faced challenges to his authority and position. He traveled to Honduras in 1524 to stop a rebellion against him in the area. Back in Mexico, he found himself removed from power so he traveled to Spain to plead his case to the king but he was not reappointed to his governorship.

In 1540, Cortes retired to Spain and spent much of his later years seeking recognition for his achievements and support from the Spanish royal court.

Why he’s on the list:
I first heard about Cortes in my early adolescence. I didn’t know much about him at the time but the fact that he was a soldier, an explorer and an adventurer was enough to fuel my imagination.
As I grew a older, it was Cortes’ determined character and pioneer spirit that impressed me. He was willing to do anything to reach his goals. In one instance, he even scuttled his ships in order to eliminate any ideas of retreat among his men.
Today, as I am writing this, it’s his insatiable greed for gold, his desire to always have more, that fascinates me. It’s what capitalism is all about and I love it.

That being said, none of the points above would stand alone to put Hernando Cortes on this list. He’s on this list because he’s a character I liked for different reasons at different stages in my life. For me, he’s a reminder of how our vision of the world grows and evolves over time throughout our experiences, sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst…

43 — Hippocrates of Kos

Hippocrates

a.k.a: The Father of Medicine

Occupation: Physician

Born: circa 460 BCE

Died: circa 377 BCE

Brief Description:
Hippocrates, son of Heracleides and Praxithea, was born on the Aegean island of Kos towards the end of the fifth century BCE.
His family’s wealth permitted him to have a good educational beginning as a child after which, he attended a secondary school where he had a thorough athletic training.
He then went on to study medicine under his father in a form of apprenticeship by following him and another doctor, Herodicos, from patient to patient and observing their treatment.

Hippocrates became a famous ambassador for medicine but Greek politics and governance had opposed his theories and approaches. For this reason, the great physician had to spend two decades in prison. During that time, he wrote his very famous book of medicine ‘The Complicated Body’.

Hippocrates was not only a healer but also a teacher and founded a school of medicine in Kos.
He had many students of which, his own two sons, Thessalus and Draco, and his son-in-law, Polybus.

The ‘Corpus Hippocraticum’ is a collection of roughly seventy works and the oldest surviving complete medical books. Although the works have been written by people other than Hippocrates himself, probably his students and followers, it was attributed to him in antiquity as its teachings closely followed his principles.
The most notable treatise from the Corpus is the Hippocratic Oath. The oath is still in use today (albeit not in its original form) and serves as a foundation for derivative oaths taken today by medical graduates about to enter medical practice. In the oath, the physician pledges to prescribe only beneficial treatments, to refrain from causing harm or hurt, and to live an exemplary life.

Little is known of Hippocrates’ death other than a range of date possibilities but what lives on in modern medicine is his commitment to the treatment of disease.

Why he’s on the list:
For the content of the oath…

I swear by Apollo the physician and Asclepius, and Hygieia, and Panacea, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation: To reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others.

I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art.

I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work.

Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves.

Whatever, in connection with my professional service, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.

While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times. But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot.

44 — Jessica Stoyadinovich

Stoya

a.k.a: Stoya

Occupation: Porn Star

Born: 1986

Died: Not Yet

Brief Description:
Stoya was born in North Carolina of a Serbian father and a Scottish mother. She was home-schooled and got her high-school diploma before the age of sixteen. Later, she moved to Delaware to attend college but dropped out. She then moved to Philadelphia where she started to pose for photo-shoots (with her clothes on). Gradually, she started posing nude then doing girl-on-girl scenes and eventually, everything else…

She is an exclusive contract performer for Digital Playground and is regarded as their first alt porn contract girl.
Her stage name “Stoya” was her nickname before appearing in adult films and is the shortened version of her family’s last name.
In 2009, Stoya won AVN’s Best New Starlet.

Why she’s on the list:
Technically, Stoya is not my favorite porn star: I don’t really have a favorite porn star but I do love porn stars in general. I also like the concept of porn and the idea of selling pleasures and fantasies.
I happen to love girls with huge plastic boobs, multiple piercings and full-back and sleeves tattoos. But Stoya lacks all these, so why her?
I don’t know. Maybe because she’s a porn star that just doesn’t fit the stereotype.

Physically, I like the fact that she’s relatively thin and tall with a strong contrast between her dark hair and light skin.
Intellectually, Stoya is smart, sharp and witty in a fun way. (At least that’s the public image she projects.)
She also likes to read. Seriously. Bonus points for being mentally twisted.
In general, it seems to me that Stoya is well-suited to be the placeholder and representative of porn stars on my list.

To recap: Porn stars are awesome and Stoya is awesomer so she gets a place on this awesomest list.