Politics
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The Most Important Military Leaders in World History

Updated November 13, 2020 132.2k votes 9.5k voters 90.5k views410 items

List RulesList 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.

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  • Alexander the Great1
    2,798
    1,000

    Alexander the Great

    Dec. at 33 (355 BC-322 BC)
    Never lost a battle and spread Hellenistic civilization across the known world.
  • Genghis Khan2
    2,238
    938
    Brutal conqueror who sacked much of the known world.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte3
    2,379
    1,002

    Napoleon Bonaparte

    Dec. at 52 (1769-1821)
    Conquered continental Europe and revolutionized military tactics.
  • Julius Caesar4
    2,015
    841

    Julius Caesar

    Dec. at 56 (99 BC-43 BC)
    Personally led the Roman armies at the height of their power.
  • Hannibal Barca5
    1,533
    826

    Hannibal Barca

    Dec. at 64 (246 BC-182 BC)
    Legendary Carthaginian general who nearly sacked Rome and spread fear through the Empire.
  • Attila the Hun6
    1,219
    676

    Attila the Hun

    Dec. at 47 (406-453)
    Laid waste to much of Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Saladin7
    1,282
    720
    Destroyed the First Crusade and conquered Jerusalem.
  • Sun Tzu8
    1,213
    582

    Sun Tzu

    Dec. at 48 (543 BC-495 BC)
    Wrote The Art of War, which is still a seminal military text 2,500 years later.
  • Mustafa Kemal Atatürk9
    1,381
    760

    Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

    Age: Died at 57 (1881-1938)
  • Charlemagne10
    804
    453
  • Timur11
    723
    390

    Timur

    Dec. at 69 (1336-1405)
  • Khalid ibn al-Walid12
    668
    247

    Khalid ibn al-Walid

    Dec. at 50 (592-642)
  • Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden13
    678
    377

    Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden

    Dec. at 38 (1594-1632)
  • Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington14
    510
    300
  • Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson15
    856
    532

    Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson

    Dec. at 47 (1758-1805)
    Legendary leader of British naval forces at the Battle of Trafalgar.
  • Philip II of Macedon16
    445
    233

    Philip II of Macedon

    Dec. at 46 (381 BC-335 BC)
  • Subutai17
    611
    340

    Subutai

    Dec. at 72 (1176-1248)
    Primary field commander of the Mongols. Said to have conquered 32 nations and won 65 battles.
  • Constantine the Great18
    368
    167

    Constantine the Great

    Dec. at 65 (272-337)
  • Frederick II of Prussia19
    1,086
    729

    Frederick II of Prussia

    Dec. at 74 (1712-1786)
  • Scipio Africanus20
    924
    606

    Scipio Africanus

    Dec. at 53 (235 BC-182 BC)
    Roman tactical genius who beat Hannibal in the Second Punic War.
  • Kanuni Sultan Süleyman21
    657
    287

    Kanuni Sultan Süleyman

    Dec. at 72 (1494-1566)
  • Simón Bolívar22
    361
    174

    Simón Bolívar

    Dec. at 47 (1783-1830)
  • Peter the Great23
    994
    643

    Peter the Great

    Dec. at 53 (1672-1725)
    Military leader who transformed Russia into a world power.
  • Erwin Rommel24
    1,502
    1,036

    Erwin Rommel

    Dec. at 53 (1891-1944)
    Legendary field commander who virtually created modern tank warfare.
  • Cyrus the Great25
    593
    368
    Conquered huge parts of Europe and Asia, and was known as the "King of the Four Corners of the World."