I’ve recently been reading a number of works by Voltaire (Candide is absolutely hilarious if you’re in the mood for an Enlightenment era soap opera) and really wish the famous philosophe was still alive so I could invite him to dinner. So that got me thinking about who I would invite to my ideal dinner party of old dead people.

(Because yes, this is what I spend my free time thinking about).

So here’s my list of famous dead people (would they technically be zombies?) that I’d like to pop open a bottle of wine and share a plate of coq a vin with. (And because you all know I’m obsessed with Theodora and Hatshepsut, I’ve left them off the list, but if I ever invent a time machine they’re at the top of my list of people to stalk. In fact, I’ve restricted anyone from ancient Egypt, the Byzantine Empire, or the Mongol Empire from being invited. *sigh*)

1. Voltaire As I said, this guy was incredibly funny, (he makes my students and me laugh out loud, which is pretty impressive considering he’s been dead for over 200 years) with a biting wit that meant I’d have hated to be on his bad side. Just ask Liebniz and everyone else he lambasted in Candide. Oh yeah, and he had all sorts of great ideas on social reform.

2. Theodore Roosevelt I’m not kidding when I say I’ve pretty much gotten as close to stalking this dead president as I possibly can. (My students think it’s creepy that I’ve been to his grave). Any man who can survive being shot and still give an hour long speech (while bleeding!) is pretty freaking awesome. Not to mention other cool stuff like building the Panama Canal, charting Rio Roosevelt in Brazil, and being the first Progressive President. (You know, stuff we all do in our free time).

3. Leonardo da Vinci Because really, you’d have to be living under a rock the past 500 years to not want to meet him. I could spend hours just talking to Leo about his sketches, especially the giant crossbow (we’re talking GIANT here people–27 yards across!) and his flying machine.

4. Catherine the Great I’ve pretty much been obsessed with Catherine since I read her new biography by Robert Massi. The woman got the short end of the stick of life with her poxy-liked-to-play-with-dolls husband, Peter III, but things worked out pretty well once she seized the throne and he kicked the bucket. (Because her lover’s brother killed him). And really, who wouldn’t want to talk to one of the only women known as an “enlightened despot?”

5. Caligula- Two reasons to invite Caligula: He was born on my birthday (or vice versa) and he was crazy. If Catherine, Roosevelt, and Voltaire spent too long discussing how to improve the plight of man (all three were sort of progressive that way) and da Vinci started doodling, I could rely on Caligula to pull out his sword and make things interesting. Who wouldn’t want a madman at their dinner party?

So that’s my guest list. There are a number of other interesting humans I could have chosen–Jesus, Frederick II, Lucrezia Borgia–but that’s my list and I’m sticking to it.

So… who would you invite to your dinner party?