Politics The Most Important Military Leaders in World History  

Mike Rothschild
Originally by
88.6k votes 5.2k voters 47.6k 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
1,667 475
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
1,234 444
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
1,211 562
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
1,064 412
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
908 440
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
1,023 507
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
690 329
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
612 284
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
663 325
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
625 380
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
667 302
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
635 487
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
572 364
Heinz Guderian is listed (or ranked) 13 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

14
570 355
Scipio Africanus is listed (or ranked) 14 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.

15
549 157
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 57 (1881-1938)

16
601 392
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
453 284
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
516 385
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
457 309
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
474 276
Paul von Hindenburg is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Arnold Ricker added Dec. at 87 (1847-1934)

21
461 174
Arminius is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added

22
778 282
Sun Tzu is listed (or ranked) 22 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.

23
560 349
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
329 106
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 38 (1594-1632)

25
295 75
Trajan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 64 (53-117)

26
406 277
Erich Ludendorff is listed (or ranked) 26 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.

27
320 156
Charlemagne is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added

28
323 193
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
jon-preuss added Dec. at 94 (1870-1964)

29
826 538
Adolf Hitler is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
suneer-sunny added Dec. at 56 (1889-1945)

30
266 85
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
269 92
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 84 (1867-1951)

32
535 271
Carl von Clausewitz is listed (or ranked) 32 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.

33
347 290
Vo Nguyen Giap is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
MaxoMarcMsl added Dec. at 102 (1911-2013)

34
237 77
Charles XII of Sweden is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 36 (1682-1718)

35
337 79
Bohdan Khmelnytsky is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 62 (1595-1657)

36
365 229
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
362 278
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
456 151
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Independence added Dec. at 64 (1730-1794)

39
252 75
Gaius Marius is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 71 (156 BC-85 BC)

40
278 76
Gerd von Rundstedt is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 78 (1875-1953)

41
238 68
Cnut the Great is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 45 (990-1035)

42
415 224
Leonidas I is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
gabriel-justo added Dec. at 60 (539 BC-479 BC)

43
378 244
Ivan Konev is listed (or ranked) 43 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.

44
354 141
Joan of Arc is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 19 (1412-1431)

45
372 175
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
277 79
Alfred the Great is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 50 (849-899)

47
404 181
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
235 97
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 61 (912-973)

49
291 121
Timur is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Алпан Балкыш added Dec. at 69 (1336-1405)

50
419 222
Isoroku Yamamoto is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders in World History
Dec. at 59 (1884-1943) - Japanese admiral who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor and helped conquer much of Asia.