9 Great Military Leaders of the Past
Winston Churchill famously remarked that “battles are won by slaughter and maneuver. The greater the general, the more he contributes in maneuver, the less he demands in slaughter.” History has seen some extraordinary military figures, but these leaders are as yet unmatched in the legacies they left behind.
Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)
King of Macedonia, Alexander personally lead the military campaign that created an empire stretching from the Ionian Sea in the west to India in the east, with his greatest victory being the Battle of Gaupamela (modern day Iraq).
Genghis Khan (c.1162–1227)
Known as the founder of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan united the nomadic tribes of the Mongolian plateau to create the largest land-based Empire in history, controlling between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles at the peak of his leadership.
William the Conqueror (c.1028-1087)
Often credited as the man who forged the Britain of today, William defeated the Normans in the 1066 Battle of Hastings, employing 600 transport ships carrying 7,000 men, 3,000 of whom were cavalry.
Hannibal Barca (247-183/182 BC)
Dubbed “the father of strategy” by his peers, the Carthaginian general fought against Rome during the second Punic war, gaining unprecedented fame for his crossing of the Alps with 100,000 troops and approximately 40 war elephants.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
A trained artillery officer and the first Corsican to graduate from the military academy in Paris, Bonaparte quickly rose to superior rank during the height of the French Revolution, conquering Europe and North Africa in an astonishingly short period of time.
Julius Caesar (100 BC-44 BC)
General, lawgiver, builder, and politician, Caesar conquered Gaul (now modern day France, Switzerland, Belgium, and northern Italy) and was the first Roman emperor to lead a military expedition of Britain.
Attila the Hun (c.406-453)
Ruler of the barbarian Huns who terrorized the Roman Empire, Attila lead an infantry army that differed from other barbarian tribes on the Roman frontier in their ability to conduct successful sieges of fortified cities.
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)
Largely responsible for defeating Napoleon and ending 23 years of war, Wellington is said to have won all 44 engagements as commander between 1809-1815.
Though each of the aforementioned leaders exercised varying tactics and degrees of diplomacy, they all shared the unique ability to unite their troops as a single force, and adapt mid-way through a battle to secure victory. Many of the military strategies first employed by these eight men are still in use today and most military history degree programs go into more depth as to why these men succeeded where others couldn’t.