Picture a wunderkind.
The names of tech giants like Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates tend to come to mind when we’re thinking about people who achieved extraordinary success at a young age.
However, the idea of the young prodigy is by no means a modern phenomenon.
From Alexander the Great to Alexander Hamilton, here are 18 individuals throughout history who accomplished incredible things early in life:
Alexander the Great conquered countries at 18
Hellenistic conqueror Alexander the Great accomplished extraordinary things during his short time on earth.
After the assassination of his father, Philip II of Macedon, Alexander ascended to the throne. Two years later, at the age of 18, he began expanding his domain. He spent most of his reign conquering lands from Greece to India. The result was one of the largest ancient empires and the spread of Hellenistic culture throughout the Mediterranean world.
Alexander never lost a battle. In the end, he simply burned out, succumbing to a fever at the age of 32.
Augustus Caesar (Octavian) became a Roman Senator at 20
Today, Augustus is remembered as the first emperor of Rome.
However, his career began long before securing this unprecedented role in 27 B.C.E.
In 44 BCE, Augustus was still known as Octavian. He was Julius Caesar’s 19-year-old grand nephew, adopted son, and heir.
On the Ides of March, Caesar was assassinated while the teenage Octavian was undergoing military training. Instead of fleeing in the aftermath of the murder, Caesar’s heir returned to Rome and threw himself into the simmering political intrigue.
For years, he navigated multiple shifting alliances, mass killings, and all-out war. Octavian finally prevailed in 31 B.C.E. when his forces defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, according to Roman-Empire.net.
Joan of Arc turned a war around at 17
The bloody Hundred Years’ War devastated medieval France.
However, in 1429, a teenage peasant girl helped turn things around for the country.
Backed by a small coterie of supporters, Joan of Arc managed to convince her country’s leadership to give her a commanding role in the army. She was 17 years old when she chopped off her hair, donned men’s clothes, and rode off to battle, according to History.com.
Nine days after she arrived at the besieged city of Orléans, Joan beat back the English forces and became a national hero.
Unfortunately, she was eventually captured, given a sham trial, and burned at the stake by the English. She was only 19 when she was executed. The charges were debunked and she was declared a martyr several decades too late. Centuries later, Joan of Arc was canonized as a saint in 1920.