Special Report

50 Most Powerful Leaders of All Time

Source: AishaAbdel / Wikimedia Commons

16. Muhammad
> Nation/Territory: Present-day Saudi Arabia
> Title: Prophet
> Time in power/Reign: 610-632

Muhammad was the prophet and founder of Islam whose revelations from Allah are the basis for the Koran. He spread Islam throughout the majority of Arabia by 630. Today, there are just under 2 billion Muslims worldwide. Muslims believe Muhammad was the prophet of God as in the prayer, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

Source: Sascha Schuermann / Getty Images

17. Charlemagne
> Nation/Territory: Holy Roman Nation/Territory
> Title: Emperor
> Time in power/Reign: 768-814

It was the ambition of Charlemagne, king of the Franks, to unite the Germanic tribes and convert them to Christianity. His empire included present-day France, western Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Charlemagne filled the power void left by the fall of the Roman Empire.

Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III as Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day in the year 800, marking the founding of the Holy Roman Empire. He presided over economic reforms and a standardized form of writing became the basis for printed alphabet.

Source: Andreyuu / iStock

18. Genghis Khan
> Nation/Territory: Mongol Nation/Territory
> Title: Khan or leader
> Time in power/Reign: 1206-1227

Ganghis Khan was a Mongolian warrior-ruler who conquered tribes across Asia, leading to a unified Mongolia. Under his rule, the Mongol armies pillaged and conquered from the Adriatic Sea to the Pacific coast of China. He is considered a military genius whose great success was due in part to organization, mobility, and brutality.

In addition to revolutionizing warfare, Genghis Khan presided over the largest empire in history. The Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan spread such technologies as paper and paper money, gunpowder, and trousers.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

19. Joan of Arc
> Nation/Territory: France
> Title: Military Leader
> Time in power/Reign: 1428-1431

Joan of Arc was an early symbol of French nationalism. She claimed God had chosen her to lead the French against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years’ War. Joan convinced Prince Charles of Valois to allow her command an army against France’s enemies, and she triumphed over them at Orléans. Joan was captured by the English and Burgundians, tried as a witch, and burned at the stake at age 19. Joan was officially canonized as a saint in 1920.

Source: A follower of Gentile Bellini / Wikimedia Commons

20. Mehmed II
> Nation/Territory: Ottoman Nation/Territory
> Title: Sultan
> Time in power/Reign: 1444-1446, 1451-1481

Mehmed II, or Mehmed the Conqueror, was an Ottoman sultan, statesman, and military leader. He captured Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453 and expanded the Ottoman empire to include territories in Anatolia and the Balkans. His actions resulted in the Turkish Empire becoming a major world power for four centuries.