Politics The Most Important Military Leaders in World History  

Mike Rothschild
Originally by
95.9k votes 5.8k voters 52.2k 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
1,835 536
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
1,381 510
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
1,358 620
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
1,199 458
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
1,010 491
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
1,106 580
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
759 390
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
710 333
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
748 384
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
713 544
Georgy Zhukov is listed (or ranked) 10 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.

11
681 441
Erich von Manstein is listed (or ranked) 11 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.

12
666 202
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 57 (1881-1938)

13
631 393
Scipio Africanus is listed (or ranked) 13 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.

14
725 364
Peter the Great is listed (or ranked) 14 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.

15
654 425
William the Conqueror is listed (or ranked) 15 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.

16
613 408
Heinz Guderian is listed (or ranked) 16 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

17
551 420
Charles Martel is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
RobLein added Dec. at 55 (686-741)

18
479 319
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Arnold Ricker added Dec. at 91 (1800-1891)

19
842 310
Sun Tzu is listed (or ranked) 19 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.

20
600 372
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount N... is listed (or ranked) 20 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.

21
375 172
Charlemagne is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added

22
375 133
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 38 (1594-1632)

23
501 307
Paul von Hindenburg is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Arnold Ricker added Dec. at 87 (1847-1934)

24
476 344
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Arnold Ricker added Dec. at 77 (1742-1819)

25
479 200
Arminius is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added