Something fun for history buffs—you know who you are! This is just a sampling of historical figures you will “meet” on any cruise or cruisetour with Viking River Cruises.
See if you can guess who these historical figures are from reading the descriptions:
The year is 1887. Three years ago, you emigrated from Europe to America to seek your fortune. Though you are still young and though your academic career did not end well, you are well aware of your own genius, and you are driven to do whatever it takes to realize your dreams.
You were born in 1856 in a small town in what was then the Austrian Empire, now part of Croatia. Because your ancestors came from Western Serbia, near Montenegro, you are a proud Serbian. Your father was an Orthodox priest and hoped you would follow in his footsteps, but you were not interested in that. In addition to having a photographic memory, you had an extreme talent for mathematics and were able to perform integral calculus in your head. You finished high school a year early and went back to your village, but there you caught cholera; you were sick for many months and nearly died. Your father promised that if you recovered you would be given the best possible engineering education.
In 1875 you enrolled at Austrian Polytechnic in Graz. You studied electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and physics, working from 3:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. seven days a week, and found time to start a Serbian culture club. You argued with your professors and in your third year you lost your scholarship. You had one vice—gambling—and you lost your tuition money. You were able to make it back but you never completed your final exams and were never awarded a degree. Ashamed, you left your home town and severed ties with your family.
In 1881 you moved to Budapest to work at the Budapest Telephone Exchange, then a startup. You were appointed chief electrician there. The following year you went to France to work for the Continental Edison Company, and in 1884 you relocated to New York City to work for Thomas Edison there, arriving with four cents and a letter of recommendation in your pocket. Edison hired you to do electrical engineering projects, which of course you excelled at. In 1885, you told Edison that you could redesign his inefficient motor and generators, and Edison remarked, “There’s $50,000 in it for you if you can do it.” You worked on the problem for months—and you accomplished the task. Edison then told you he was joking about the money and offered you a $10-per-week raise instead. Though this was a sizeable increase over your $18 weekly salary, you immediately resigned.
Your own company
In 1886 you formed your own company, but your investors did not agree with your project list and fired you. You spent the ensuing winter in misery, working as a ditch-digger and questioning the value of your education. After this existential crisis, you are more determined than ever to succeed.
In 1887 you start a new company with two new investors, one a New York–based attorney and the other the director of Western Union. They are to underwrite your efforts in exchange for 50% of your venture’s profits. They set up a lab for you in Manhattan and you are on your way.
You are Nikola Tesla, founder of the Tesla Electric Company. You will go on to patent a brushless alternating current induction motor based on a rotating magnetic field principle. The invention will attract the attention of the Westinghouse company, and your investors will sell it to them for $60,000 in cash and stock and generous royalties. Westinghouse will also hire you as an independent consultant at their Pittsburgh laboratories.
The year 1891 will be a banner year for you. You will demonstrate wireless energy transmission, which will become known as “the Tesla Effect”; you will patent the Tesla Coil; and you will become a naturalized citizen of the United States shortly after your 35th birthday. You will establish two more New York laboratories—one on Houston Street and the other on Fifth Avenue—and light them both with wireless electric lamps.
Two years later, you will electrify the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and will give riveting talks and sensational demonstrations at the building devoted to electrical energy. You will go on to research harvesting energy in space, Roentgen rays (x-rays), radio waves and radio transmissions. In 1898 you will, with much fanfare, demonstrate a radio-controlled boat at Madison Square Garden. (Efforts to interest the military in this technology will prove premature.)
You will go on to do groundbreaking work on atmospheric electricity, telegraphy and new types of engines including a steam-powered device dubbed “Tesla’s oscillator.” In 1905 you will complete a huge transmitting tower intended to power a worldwide network for the transmission of information and energy. In 1917 you will develop the first primitive radar unit and in 1928 you will patient a design for a biplane that could take off vertically. Some of your wilder theories, coupled with your personal behaviors, will lead to your being categorized as a “mad scientist”—but in 1931 you will appear on the cover of Time Magazine.
Unlike other prototypical mad scientists, you maintain your fastidious appearance all your life, and your personal habits are regular to a fault. You probably suffer from what we would now call an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Though you are 6'2" and quite dashing, you lead a secluded life, are celibate and will never marry. You will live to the age of 86; after your death, your ashes will be placed in a gilded sphere and displayed at the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia.
In 2003, sixty years after your death, a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs will set out to prove that “electric vehicles can be awesome.” They will name their company Tesla Motors in your honor. The Tesla Roadster will arrive in 2008.
The year is 1895. You have plenty of money, but your social situation is a bit tenuous. What you really need is to somehow gain respectability and social status as quickly as possible.
An 18-year-old heiress, you are the daughter of a married Frenchwoman and her lover, scion of a banking fortune. Your life is good—your biological father sees to your needs and you enjoy indulging your every whim—but in this day and age one must have the respectability and social status of a good marriage.
A match made in heaven.
In the Edwardian age, it is all the rage among “new money” heiresses to marry into the aristocracy; several of your friends have become engaged to or have already married various members of the House of Lords. In fact, British aristocrats have taken to traveling to America to seek brides that come with a much-needed infusion of cash. Enter the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, recent heir to one of England’s great houses, whose noble-born family is free-spending yet poor, like so many others at the time.
Your marriage to this young man, complete with a detailed prenuptial contract involving certain financial guarantees, is a match made in heaven for you both. You instantly become a member of the aristocracy, and your money finances the dashing lifestyle to which your husband and his family have become accustomed. The two of you enjoy all the accoutrements: the yachts, the foreign travel, the collecting of rare books and artifacts. Still a teenager, you are now the châtelaine of your husband’s great family house, staffed by nearly 100 workers.
You are Lady Almina—née Almina Victoria Maria Alexandra Wombwell—new mistress of the spectacular Highclere Castle. Though your mother is married to Captain Frederick Charles Wombwell, your biological father is Baron Alfred de Rothschild, a Cambridge man who became director of the Bank of England; he has contributed handsomely to your support.
Your husband, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, is destined (thanks to your money) to be known as the financial backer of many of explorer Howard Carter’s expeditions to Egypt, in which he also participates as an Egyptologist. He will be present when King Tut’s tomb is opened in 1922—in fact, he will die in Cairo in 1923, and some will attribute his untimely demise to the curse of Tutankhamun. After his death, you will continue to finance Carter’s work in the Valley of the Kings. You will survive both World Wars and live to the great age of 93, passing away in 1969; your two children will also live to a ripe old age.
The present 8th Countess of Carnarvon—current châtelaine of Highclere—is the Lady Fiona (née Aitken). She too married into the aristocracy, though the house’s current staff numbers closer to 60. Highclere Castle—which still has some Egyptian artifacts displayed in the basement—has gone on to star in the popular, award-winning television series, Downton Abbey; one of the series’ most prominent characters, the Lady Cora Grantham, played by actress Elizabeth McGovern, is based loosely on you. The current Countess published a book about your life in September of 2011; the author’s name is given as “Lady Almina.”
You took on the Roman Empire, fighting three wars against two different emperors. As a general and then king of your people, you opposed what was then the world’s greatest power, winning the grudging admiration of your enemies. Roman historian Dio Cassius wrote of you, “The man was shrewd in his understanding of warfare and shrewd also in the waging of war.”
Though your conquests were in 88, 102 and 106 A.D., you are still a national hero.
You had the sheer audacity to take on an invincible enemy: the Roman Empire. Emperor Domitian advanced into your kingdom in 87 A.D. to punish your people for resisting him and to conquer the area once and for all. As your army’s general, you made sure the Roman campaign was not successful—you ambushed their legions, engineering a major victory for your side. The following year the Romans sent more troops; not only were they defeated but after this battle the Romans were required to pay your people large tributes each year to maintain the peace.
In 98 A.D., Trajan became the Roman emperor. Determined to end the humiliation, he dispatched some troops, conquered you and left you on the throne as a “client king” with a Roman garrison standing by to keep things under Roman control. Three years later, you destroyed this garrison. Trajan was furious; in 105 he constructed a bridge over what is now the Danube River and sent numerous reinforcements. This time, the Romans conquered your people, establishing permanent control in 106. You escaped with your family, but the Romans hunted you down so they could take you prisoner and parade their vanquished opponent through the streets of Rome. Ever the proud leader, you slashed your own throat rather than be taken alive.
The Romans took your head and right hand as trophies—but their admiration for you was so great that your bravery was depicted on Trajan’s Column, built in 113 A.D. to commemorate these very wars and still visible in Rome today. Roman historian Dio Cassius wrote that you were shrewd in the ways of war and continued, “He judged well when to attack and chose the right moment to retreat; he was an expert in ambuscades and a master in pitched battles; and he knew not only how to follow up a victory well, but also how to manage well a defeat. Hence he showed himself a worthy antagonist of the Romans for a long time.”
You are the Dacian emperor Decebalus. Your birth name was Diurpaneus, but after your victories against Emperor Domitian you were crowned King of Dacia, taking the name Decebalus, meaning “with the strength of ten men” or simply “The Brave.” You have been a legend to your people and a national hero for more than 1,900 years, portrayed in numerous literary works, sculptures and several films about your life. During the 1990s, a team of 12 sculptors carved a 40-meter-tall statue of your face from a stone outcrop near the city of Orsova, Romania. Completed in 2004, Europe’s largest stone sculpture is visible from ships cruising along the Danube through the glorious Iron Gate region.
You are a young German university law student—and you are bored. Your father was educated in the law and you are trying to follow in his footsteps. But what you are really interested in is historical linguistics—you want to know everything there is to know about the history and structure of the German language and its precursors.
You make short work of your legal studies, then you and your younger brother start wandering around the German countryside, gathering data.
Your academic career
You begin your research early in the 19th century, just after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The Germany you know is a confederacy of 39 states unified only by their use of the German language. You are fascinated by what comprises this language—where its characteristics begin and end and how its dialects work. You make an extensive study of contemporary German speech by traveling from town to town, interviewing the citizenry and carefully noting their pronunciation and vocabulary. Since they must have something to talk about, you ask them to tell you folk tales they know from their childhood.
You and your brother publish an important law of linguistics bearing your name that has to do with phonetic shifting. After much hard work, you both secure positions at the University of Göttingen; in 1830 you achieve the rank of professor (and head university librarian) and your brother becomes a professor in 1835. A couple of years later you lose your positions for political reasons, but resettle in Berlin at the invitation of the King of Prussia and continue your work there. In your final years, you focus on producing a comprehensive German etymological dictionary; since your 39 volumes only cover letters A through F, others finally complete this work in 1960, 97 years after your death.
What you will be remembered for
In the course of your research, you collect more than 200 German folk tales and nearly 600 German sagas. You begin publishing collections of these stories in 1812, during a wave of popular interest in German folk culture, and continue expanding and refining the collections throughout your lifetime. You and your brother work hard to precisely record the stories as told to you and to render them faithfully.
You are Jacob Grimm; you and your brother Wilhelm are known as “the Brothers Grimm.” Your comprehensive fairy tale collection, known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, has been published in many languages and is considered one of the founding works of Western culture. Some of the best-known stories include Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White; these and more have been made into animated and live-action films, TV shows, stage plays and comic books. Grimm’s Law, describing principles of phonetic shifting, is studied and used in the linguistics field to this day.
You have occupied your kingdom’s throne since your late teens. Fortunately, very early in your reign you figured out the secret to immortality. You know that your physical death will be only a gateway to an afterlife even more glorious than your worldly kingdom—but you also want to be remembered by generations to come, forever.
You are the third ruler of the 19th dynasty.
When you were 10 years old, your father made you commander in chief of the army; you embarked on numerous campaigns to secure your country’s borders and vanquish attacks by powerful tribal enemies. Emerging victorious, you eventually established peace treaties with most of your neighbors. You also skillfully and decisively defeated the pirates who had been attacking and plundering your country’s sea routes.
By the time you were 20, the throne had passed to you. With a commanding presence, unusual height and distinctive red hair, you were born to rule—and you were determined to make your mark.
Drawing inspiration from the rulers of the past, you decided to embark on an extremely ambitious building campaign. You assembled a massive workforce and started constructing cities and temples—you even moved your nation’s capital to a new location. You are especially fond of statues of yourself—the bigger the better. As is only right, you are depicted in the trappings of various deities. On every wall that you have built—and on quite a few buildings you have restored and repurposed—your workers carved images, pictures and symbols about you and your glorious reign. Perhaps most importantly, you have built a massive mortuary temple complex to serve as a tomb for yourself and your many sons in the country’s royal burial place.
It is now late in your life, but you are satisfied with your long and successful reign. You have had many wives and more than 100 children. And as you had hoped, many of your monumental building projects still stand more than three millennia in the future for visitors to see, touch and admire.
You are the great Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses II. During your 67-year reign, you vanquished and then made peace treaties with both the Hittites and the Syrians; you cemented relations with the colony of Nubia in Upper Egypt. Your military conquests were so great that you were a legend in ancient Greece, where you were known as Ozymandias, or Ra’s Chosen One. Images of you and your favorite wife, Nefertari, can be seen all over Egypt; the most prominent are the massive colossi at Abu Simbel, moved during construction of the Aswan Dam to what is now the shore of Lake Nasser.
The year is 805 A.D. You have been sole king of Francia since 771. You have been leading military campaigns against Bavarian and Saxon states, the Saracens, the Spanish Moors, the Basques, the Slavs, the Avars and more. Finally, in the 34th year of your reign, you resign yourself to peace—and wonder how you will rule such a vast realm.
Born in 742 in what is now Germany, you ascended the throne along with your brother Carloman in 768. When Carloman died three years later, you became the sole emperor of your realm at age 29.
Life in Europe at that time was often short and violent, with many people living in tribal cultures that battled one another for power and resources. At the request of Pope Hadrian II you launched the first of many battles, besieging Pavia, assuming the crown of Lombardy and accepting the role of protector of the Church. During the next few years, you conquered and Christianized Bavaria and Saxony, destroyed the troublesome Avars, shielded Italy from raiding Saracens and strengthened your defenses against the expanding Spanish Moors. In the past 10 years you have annexed northern Spain and driven back the Slavs. You now rule all the peoples between the Vistula and the Atlantic, between the Baltic and the Pyrenees, with nearly all of Italy and much of the Balkans. How will you rule such a vast realm?
A kingdom for the ages
Not serving in the military will no longer be an option—you will make military service a condition of significant property ownership. You will create an imperial court and surround yourself with pomp and circumstance—not to mention nobles, clergy, scholars, servants and clerks. You will establish a system of local public assemblies where proposed legislation is discussed—and you will often appear at these assemblies yourself. Your government will develop a juried court system and enact legislation concerning agriculture, industry, finance, religion and public education. You will encourage commerce by standardizing weights, measures and tolls, building and repairing roads and bridges, taxing nobles and clergy and caring for the poor. And you will make a far-reaching plan to build a waterway running all the way from the North Sea to the Black Sea.
You are the great Frankish emperor Charlemagne. Your legacy is so majestic that you are sometimes known as the Father of Europe. But in spite of all your accomplishments, one of your greatest dreams will not come to fruition until the completion of the Main–Danube Canal in 1990.
You are standing in the Badaling Hills, contemplating your next move. By the age of 20, you have already achieved one of your main goals—conquering the kingdom of Chou and ending the period of the Warring States. Your cavalry has proved victorious. But still there are marauders—nomadic raiders who threaten your northern holdings.
How will you defend the Northern borders?
To keep these hordes at bay, you pull together the existing patchwork of defenses, uniting the ramparts into a single, huge defense system. This “great wall” will stretch some 1,400 miles along your northern and northwestern frontier. Thus, your empire will be well defended.
Will your life’s work survive?
As is customary, you start your funeral preparations in good time—in fact, you allow some 40 years for the work, assigning over 700,000 slaves and artisans to the task. Such an important ruler must be protected for the afterlife. Tradition has it many of your servants will be buried with you. But ever the maverick, you instead create a massive army of terra cotta soldiers. Armed with chariots and cavalry, molded in exquisite detail, accurate down to rank, insignia and individual facial features, they are ready to defend you when the time comes.
You are Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, known as the “First Autocratic Emperor” of China. Your army still stands, long buried near China’s city of Xian. Yes, the Terra Cotta Warriors are some 8,000 strong, even though they were only discovered by the modern world a few decades ago. And indeed, even your ramparts remain—one of the most famous landmarks of all time, the Great Wall of China.
Unprecedented offers on all upcoming river cruise itineraries!
©1997-2013 VIKING RIVER CRUISES | All Rights Reserved | CST# 2052644-40