Politics The Most Important Military Leaders in World History  

Mike Rothschild
Originally by
91k votes 5.3k voters 48.7k views 206 items

List Rules List includes military leaders from all countries and all eras.

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.
list ordered by

1
1,716 487
Alexander the Great is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 33 (355 BC-322 BC) - Never lost a battle and spread Hellenistic civilization across the known world.

2
1,270 459
Genghis Khan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Brutal conqueror who sacked much of the known world.

3
1,243 574
Napoleon Bonaparte is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 52 (1769-1821) - Conquered continental Europe and revolutionized military tactics.

4
1,104 419
Julius Caesar is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 56 (99 BC-43 BC) - Personally led the Roman armies at the height of their power.

5
939 453
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 64 (246 BC-182 BC) - Legendary Carthaginian general who nearly sacked Rome and spread fear through the Empire.

6
1,049 517
Erwin Rommel is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 53 (1891-1944) - Legendary field commander who virtually created modern tank warfare.

7
714 341
Frederick II of Prussia is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Arnold Ricker added Dec. at 74 (1712-1786)

8
636 295
Attila the Hun is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 47 (406-453) - Laid waste to much of Central and Eastern Europe.

9
690 339
Saladin is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Destroyed the First Crusade and conquered Jerusalem.

10
637 395
Erich von Manstein is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 86 (1887-1973) - Planned the invasion of France in 1940 and the defense of Kharkov in 1943. Fired for disagreeing with Hitler.

11
685 315
Peter the Great is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 53 (1672-1725) - Military leader who transformed Russia into a world power.

12
654 499
Georgy Zhukov is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 78 (1896-1974) - Led the Red Army from the brink of defeat in Moscow, to crushing Nazi Germany.

13
580 169
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 57 (1881-1938)

14
581 375
Heinz Guderian is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
PzGeneral added Dec. at 66 (1888-1954) -

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (German: [ɡuˈdeʀi̯an]; 17 June 1888 – 14 May 1954) was a German general during World War II, noted for his success as a leader of Panzer units in Poland and France and for partial success in Russia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_Guderian

15
584 369
Scipio Africanus is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 53 (235 BC-182 BC) - Roman tactical genius who beat Hannibal in the Second Punic War.

16
619 399
William the Conqueror is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 59 (1028-1087) - Led the Norman Conquest of England and planted the seeds for modern Anglo culture.

17
462 294
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Arnold Ricker added Dec. at 91 (1800-1891)

18
529 393
Charles Martel is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
RobLein added Dec. at 55 (686-741)

19
464 320
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Arnold Ricker added Dec. at 77 (1742-1819)

20
800 288
Sun Tzu is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 48 (543 BC-495 BC) - Wrote The Art of War, which is still a seminal military text 2,500 years later.

21
345 112
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 38 (1594-1632)

22
482 286
Paul von Hindenburg is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Arnold Ricker added Dec. at 87 (1847-1934)

23
572 356
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount N... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 47 (1758-1805) - Legendary leader of British naval forces at the Battle of Trafalgar.

24
469 182
Arminius is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added

25
340 159
Charlemagne is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added

26
305 82
Trajan is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 64 (53-117)

27
413 286
Erich Ludendorff is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 72 (1865-1937) - Led German military forces and strategy during World War I. Nearly broke the Allies in 1918.

28
845 557
Adolf Hitler is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
suneer-sunny added Dec. at 56 (1889-1945)

29
329 202
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
jon-preuss added Dec. at 94 (1870-1964)

30
276 92
Pompey is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 58 (105 BC-47 BC)

31
545 278
Carl von Clausewitz is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 51 (1780-1831) - Legendary military strategist and theorist who influenced every major commander after him.

32
274 98
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 84 (1867-1951)

33
248 82
Charles XII of Sweden is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 36 (1682-1718)

34
356 297
Vo Nguyen Giap is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
MaxoMarcMsl added Dec. at 102 (1911-2013)

35
266 78
Gaius Marius is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 71 (156 BC-85 BC)

36
372 234
Alaric I is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 40 (370-410) - Visigoth king who sacked Rome in 410 CE.

37
370 283
Alexander Suvorov is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 70 (1730-1800) - 18th century Russian generalissimo who won 60 battles in a row.

38
250 71
Cnut the Great is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 45 (990-1035)

39
341 87
Bohdan Khmelnytsky is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 62 (1595-1657)

40
461 157
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Independence added Dec. at 64 (1730-1794)

41
425 230
Leonidas I is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
gabriel-justo added Dec. at 60 (539 BC-479 BC)

42
386 250
Ivan Konev is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 77 (1896-1973) - Soviet armored general who led the capture of Berlin.

43
364 147
Jeanne d' Arc is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 19 (1412-1431)

44
285 84
Alfred the Great is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 50 (849-899)

45
378 182
Subutai is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 72 (1176-1248) - Primary field commander of the Mongols. Said to have conquered 32 nations and won 65 battles.

46
282 85
Gerd von Rundstedt is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 78 (1875-1953)

47
409 188
Karl Dönitz is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 89 (1891-1980) - Developed "wolfpack" submarine tactics that almost won Germany the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

48
302 127
Timur is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 69 (1336-1405)

49
298 138
Robert the Bruce is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 55 (1274-1329)

50
241 103
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 61 (912-973)