Should it be a surprise? Not at all.
It's all Greek to me).
Rounding out the top five are also some surprises from history. The number two position is firmly occupied by Achilles. Granted, little to scant evidence exists that Achilles existed outside of Homer’s Iliad, but that text led to the discovery of Troy—and if there was a fall of Troy, might there not have been an Achilles? The ancients, including Alexander, believed Achilles lived. And scholars still debate the possibility—even if it is over a pint.
Nightingale was an interesting woman of her time—not only founding modern nursing, but few know that she was quite a statistician, or that she never married. Nightingale believed she should devote her life to Godly work.
And then there is the Red Baron. His full name was Baron Manfred von Richthofen and he is the most enduring brand from the First World War. His mark on history is the fact that he alone racked up 80 air combat wins during the war in less than three years. He is still universally regarded as the "Ace of Aces" and studied by aviators.
The takeaway here is that the popularity of these figures reveals what we admire: The heroism of the Spartans, the courage of Achilles, the compassion and intelligence of Nightingale, and the bold cunning and skill of the Red Baron. The other thing it teaches us is that the past is so much more than dates, mummies or dusty artifacts. These were people who often had an acute sense of their public images, and how to mold their personas. They were the first brand experts.