The most famous rulers before the coming of the Turks were Croesus (r.560–546 BC ), a king of Lydia noted for his wealth and for the loss of his kingdom to the Persians; Constantine I (the Great; Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, b.Moesia, AD 280?–337), the first Roman emperor to accept Christianity and to use Constantinople as a capital; and Justinian I (the Great; Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus, b. Illyricum, 483–565), a Byzantine emperor whose collection of laws and legal principles has been the model for European law down to modern times. Outstanding political figures since the arrival of the Turks include Sultan Mehmet II (1429–81), conqueror of Constantinople in 1453; Sultan Süleyman I (the Magnificent, 1495–1566); the Barbarossa brothers, Aruj (1473?–1518) and Hayreddin Pas¸a (Khayr ad-Din, 1466?–1546), naval commanders, born in Mytilene, who established Turkish supremacy in the Mediterranean; Mehmet Köprülü Pas¸a (1583–1661), Mehmet IV's grand vizier and founder of a family line of outstanding grand viziers; Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1842–1918), a despotic ruler whose tyranny led to the formation of the Young Turk movement; Enver Pas¸a (1881–1922), Young Turk leader who was the ruler of Turkey during World War I; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938), World War I military commander, nationalist leader, and first president of the republic; Ismet Inönü (Pas¸a, 1884–1973), Atatürk's chief of staff and prime minister, who succeeded him as president (1938–50) and was the first prime minister of the Second Republic (1961–65); Celâl Bayar (1883–1986), who helped found the Democrat Party and was president (1950–60) until ousted by the military; and Adnan Menderes (1899–1961), prime minister (1950–60) until he was forced to resign and then executed. Outstanding religious figures include Haci Bektas¸ Veli (1242–1337), founder of the Bektashi dervishes, and Mevlana (Celâleddin-i Rumi or Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207–73), author of the epic Mesnevi (or Mathnavi ) and founder of the Mevlevi dervishes.
Revered literary figures include the mystical poets Yunus Emre (1238?–1320?) and Süleyman Çelebi (d.1422), author of Mevlidi Sherif (Birth Song of the Prophet ). Other significant poets of the imperial epoch are Ahmedi (1334–1413), S¸eyhi (d.1429?); Fuzulî (1494–1555), renowned for his lyrical verses about platonic love; Ali S¸ir Nevâí (1441–1501); Nef'î (1582?–1636); Nabî (1642?–1712); Ahmet Nedim (1681–1730), perhaps Ottoman Turkey's greatest love poet; and S¸eyh Galib (1757–98), the last great poet of the mystical and classical tradition. Renowned for his geographical and historical writings is Kâtip Çelebi (known in Europe as Haji Khalifa, 1609–57); the great traveler Evliya Çelebi (1611–82) is noted for his books on travel and history. The greatest folk poet was the 17th-century minstrel Karacaoglan.
Sinasi (1826–71), a dramatist, journalist, and essayist, was the first Turkish writer in the Western tradition. Other significant playwrights are Musaipzade Celal (1870–1959), Haldun Taner (1916–86), and Necati Cumali (b.1921). The poet Ziya Pas¸a (1825–80) was the outstanding literary figure of the reform period. Namik Kemal (Ahmed Kemal, 1840–88) and Mehmet Emin Yurdakul (1869–1944) dedicated their poetry to the achievement of political ideals. Four widely read novelists are Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar (1864–1944), Ahmet Rasim (1864–1932), Halit Ziya Usakligil (1865–1945), and Mehmet Rauf (1871–1931). Omer Seyfettin (1884–1920) was a major short-story writer. Ziya Gökalp (1875–1924) was a noted poet and sociologist. Significant contemporary novelists include Halide Edib Adivar (1884–1966), Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu (1888–1974), Refik Halit Karay (1888–1974), Res¸at Nuri Güntekin (1892–1957), Kemal Tahir Demir (1910–74), Orhan Kemal (1914–70), and Yasar Kemal Gokceli (b.1922). Two fine modern poets were Yahya Kemal Beyatli (1884–1958) and Nazim Hikmet Ran (1901–60). Two prominent journalists and political writers were Hüseyin Çahit Yalçin (1875–1957) and Ahmet Emin Yalman (1889–1973). Outstanding historians were Naima (1752–1815), Mehmet Fuat Köprülü (1890–1966), and Ahmet Zekî Velidî Togan (1890–1970).
Other famous Turks include the architect Sinan (1490–1588), the miniaturist Abducelil Celebi Levni (d.1732), and the modern painter Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu (1913–75). Famous contemporary composers include Ulvi Cemal Erkin (1906–72) and Ahmet Adnan Saygun (1907–1993). The operatic soprano Suna Korad (b.1934) and bass-baritone Ayhan Baran (b.1929) have won renown in European musical circles.