Military

The Worst Admirals Of All Time 

Aaron Edwards
Updated March 25, 2020 36.9k votes 7.1k voters 316k views 22 items

List Rules Vote up the most heinously incompetent admirals in history.

For as long as humans have sailed the seas, battles have been waged on water. Whether fought with oars and ramming or sails and cannons, the outcomes of these battles have sometimes changed the course of human history. Like any battlefield, oceans have seen both great and terrible commanders. 

Disregarding orders, failing to press advantages, and not understanding supply lines are among the worst mistakes a commanding officer can make, and they happen in every war. From Roman ships fighting in the Mediterranean to modern aircraft carriers, a keen commander is essential for keeping a battle from falling apart. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. Read on and vote up the guys you think deserve the most infamy. 

Zinovy Rozhestvensky is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Worst Admirals Of All Time
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
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Zinovy Rozhestvensky

Zinovy Rozhestvensky was a Russian admiral who fought in the Russo-Japanese War. After disregarding orders to stay away from the enemy, Rozhestvensky engaged the Japanese in what would become known as the Battle of Tsushima.

The Japanese outmaneuvered him and he subsequently lost his flagship and most of his fleet. 

Age: Dec. at 61 (1848-1909)

Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia

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Pierre-Charles Villeneuv... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Worst Admirals Of All Time
Photo: Musée de la Marine/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Pierre-Charles Villeneuve was a French admiral during the Napoleonic Wars. He's often credited with Napoleon's failed 1805 invasion of England, during which he failed to meet allied forces in the English Channel.

Instead, he attacked the fleet of British commander Lord Nelson and was completely defeated. He returned to France and took his own life.  

Age: Dec. at 43 (1763-1806)

Birthplace: Valensole, France

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Xerxes I is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Worst Admirals Of All Time
Photo: Dynamosquito/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 2.0
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Xerxes I

As the leader of the Persian Empire, Xerxes I steered a massive invasion of Greece in 480 BC. After several victories over the Greeks, he attacked their navy instead of starving them out.

The resulting Battle of Salamis was a massive defeat for Persia, and led to the beginning of the end for Xerxes's invasion plans. 

Age: Dec. at 54 (519 BC-465 BC)

Birthplace: Iran

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Mark Antony is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Worst Admirals Of All Time
Photo: Amadscientist/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Though a feared Roman commander in many land battles, Mark Antony made critical mistakes at sea against fellow Roman Octavian in the Battle of Actium. After Octavian gained the upper hand early, Antony's lover Cleopatra fled the battle and Antony followed her.

The remaining Roman ships promptly surrendered to Octavian, who cornered and defeated Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt a year later. 

Age: Dec. at 53 (82 BC-29 BC)

Birthplace: Rome, Italy

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