Military history has a few figures who didn't just win battles or campaigns, but changed the world and the destiny of their nations. From the earliest world conquerors, men who laid waste to the entire known world; to modern tactical geniuses using weapons that previous generations only dreamed of, these are the best military leaders, those who were known, feared and respected by both their people and their opponents.
Some of the best army generals in the world and best international army leaders are known even by people who know little else about military history. Others are less well-known but no less important. And every country in history has their own heroes, leaders who commanded forces in the battles that shaped their destiny. This list is far from comprehensive, and can never be, but attempts to find a cross-section of legendary warrior-kings, great strategists, modern innovators, and legendary blood and guts men and women who personally fought in combat.
Vote up the greatest military leaders below, and vote down the ones who might be overrated. Be sure to add other famous military leaders who aren't already listed to make the debate even more complete.
- 2,8411,014Never lost a battle and spread Hellenistic civilization across the known world.
- 2,4441,004Conquered continental Europe and revolutionized military tactics.
- 2,049836Personally led the Roman armies at the height of their power.
- 2,258932Brutal conqueror who sacked much of the known world.
- 1,559810Legendary Carthaginian general who nearly sacked Rome and spread fear through the Empire.
- 1,310733Destroyed the First Crusade and conquered Jerusalem.
- 1,231694Laid waste to much of Central and Eastern Europe.
- 1,244595Wrote The Art of War, which is still a seminal military text 2,500 years later.
TimurDec. at 69 (1336-1405)
SubutaiDec. at 72 (1176-1248)Primary field commander of the Mongols. Said to have conquered 32 nations and won 65 battles.
- 930582Roman tactical genius who beat Hannibal in the Second Punic War.
- 622361Conquered huge parts of Europe and Asia, and was known as the "King of the Four Corners of the World."
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount NelsonDec. at 47 (1758-1805)Legendary leader of British naval forces at the Battle of Trafalgar.
- 1,000630Military leader who transformed Russia into a world power.
- 1,4841,006Legendary field commander who virtually created modern tank warfare.