Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (2023)

Ancient military commanders have led thousands of men into battle in order to triumph over the enemy. Their elaborate speeches prior to battle, many of which are still remembered today, have inspired thousands of men on the battlefield.

Ancient warfare was completely different to modern warfare. Generally speaking, armies relied on their sheer size and strength to win a war, but some ancient military commanders also used strategy and tactics that are still applauded by many historians.

Here is a list of the top 12 ancient military commanders:

Contents show

12. Tiglath-Pileser III (Unknown–727 BC, Assyria)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (1)

Tiglath-Pileser III was the founder of the modern military force and a pioneer of the Assyrian Empire’s political system. During his reign, he expanded the kingdom so that it dominated the Middle East for a century.

In the first year of his reign, he defeated the powerful kingdom of Urartu, ruled by Sarduri II. Sarduri II had expanded his kingdom into Asia Minor, northwestern Mesopotamia, Iran, and Syria. It was one of Tiglath-Pileser III’s most significant victories.

(Video) Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders

11. Chandragupta Maurya (340 BC–298 BC, India)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (2)

Chandragupta was the founder of the Maurya Empire and a Kshatriya varna ruler. He reunited India into a single sub-continent. Chandragupta is usually considered the first historical emperor of India. Before Chandragupta, India was divided into small private kingdoms.

He conquered all these small kingdoms and created a central government and a unified central kingdom.

10. Leonidas (540–480 BC, Greece)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (3)

Leonidas was a military king of Sparta. The third son of Anaxandridas II of Sparta, he is mostly remembered for his extraordinary performance at the Battle of Thermopylae. He fought against Xerxes’ army with his small, yet powerful force.

The 300 Spartan men fought valiantly but were completely outnumbered. Even though Xerxes’ army was said to be in the millions, many historians believe that the real figure was between 100,000 and 150,000.

The small assembled force of 300 Spartiates fought the battle for seven days, holding back the Persian army of thousands. On the fifth and sixth days of battle, Leonidas and his army killed roughly 20,000 Persian troops.

On the seventh day, Leonidas sent out all of his Greek troops and stayed in the pass with his 300 Spartans, 900 helots, and 700 Thespians. Leonidas and his men had a glorious death and are still remembered in the many legends that have been told about them.

9. Hammurabi (1810–1750 BC, Babylon)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (4)

Hammurabi was the first king of Babylon from the Amorite dynasty. He inherited the throne from his father, Sin-Muballit in 1792 BC. Hammurabi is popularly known for the Hammurabi Code, one of the first written sets of laws. He is now widely praised by many historians as an ancient law-giver.

(Video) Top 10 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders

When the Elamites (present-day Iraq) invaded the central plains of Mesopotamia from the east, Hammurabi joined forces with Larsa and defeated them. After the defeat, he broke the alliance and invaded the cities of Lsin and Uruk which were occupied by Larsa, forming alliances with Nippur and Lagash instead. He then conquered Nippur, Lagash, and Larsa. His brilliant strategy was to block the water source to the cities until they surrendered.

In addition to his brilliant fighting techniques, Hammurabi was very popular among his people. He constructed buildings and canals and introduced a system of law that was rare in his time. Throughout his reign, he constantly tried to improve the lives of ordinary people.

Read more about the Contributions of Hammurabi.

8. Ramesses II (1303–1213 BC, Egypt)

Ramesses II was the greatest and most celebrated pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Although Ramesses primarily focused on the development of the empire by building cities, temples, and monuments, he was also well known for his bravery and strategy on the battlefield.

Ramesses started several campaigns to secure Egypt’s borders and during his reign, his army of 100,000 men fought the Nubians and Hittites for their territories. The Battle of Kadesh was the earliest battle (1247 BC) where strategy, army formation, and the use of tactics were first noticed.

Despite some technical errors on the battlefield, he is widely known for his strategic approach to battle and the sheer size of his army.

7. Khalid Bin Walid (592–642 AD, Arabia)

Khalid was a follower of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and was one of only three military generals who have remained undefeated in battle. Under his military leadership, Arabia was united as a single political entity for the first time in history.

He was the only military commander apart from Hannibal who successfully executed the pincer movement against a larger superior opponent.

Khalid played a major role in the Battle of Uhud and was instrumental in commanding the Medinan force at the Battle of Ridda after the death of Muhammad. He conquered central Arabia and subdued the Arab tribes. His fabulous tactic was to annihilate the enemy troops rather than simply defeat them. He was the architect of most of the early Muslim military doctrines.

6. Trajan (53 AD–17 AD, Rome)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (5)
(Video) 100 Greatest Generals in History

Trajan dedicated his life to different military campaigns. He was mostly known for the conquest of Dacia (modern-day Romania and Moldova), which had troubled the Romans for a decade. After Dacia, Trajan started a war with the Parthians and defeated them. He conquest Mesopotamia and created a new province.

5. Sun Tzu (544 BC–496 BC, China)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (6)

Sun Tzu, Chinese military general, war strategist, and author of The Art of War, completely changed the way war was fought in ancient times. The Art of War has been studied by many military commanders, nations, and intellectuals and has remained the most important military treatise in Asia for the last 2,000 years.

In the 20th century, The Art of War became influential in Europe and America in various fields such as culture, politics, business, sport, and modern warfare.

4. Julius Caesar (100–44 BC, Rome)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (7)

Julius Caesar was a brilliant military general, lawgiver, builder, and politician. He was one of the most famous figures in ancient history, and he has had a significant impact on the ancient and modern world. The word for emperor often comes from variations of his name in different languages, such as “kaiser” in German and “tzar” in Russian.

The month of July, which was previously known as Quintilis in Rome, was named after him. He conquered Gaul (modern-day France, Switzerland, Belgium, and northern Italy) and was also the first Roman emperor to lead a military expedition to Britain.

3. Cyrus the Great (600–530 BC, Persia)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (8)

Cyrus the Great was a Persian leader who conquered the Medes and unified the whole of Iran under a single ruler for the first time in history. Cyrus became the first king of the Persian Empire and established one of the largest empires in the world.

He expanded his territory from the western part of present-day Iran and conquered a major nomadic tribe who lived in the eastern part of Iran. He invaded the kingdoms of Lydia and Greece and conquered them along with the coast of Antonia, which gave him access to the sea ports of the Mediterranean.

(Video) Top 10 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders | Strategical Leaders | Mastermind Digital Services

He issued the first human rights declaration of the ancient world which stated that all inhabitants of the empire were free to practice their own religions and social customs. He made slavery of any kind illegal and prohibited the seizure of any farmer’s land or property.

2. Hannibal Barca (247–183 BC, Carthage)

Top 12 Greatest Ancient Military Commanders (9)

Hannibal was an audacious military commander who also had the advantage of superior military tactics and strategy. Hannibal’s hatred of Rome was instilled in him from a young age by his father, Hamilcar, who fought against Rome in the First Punic War. Hannibal’s ingenious military tactics and risk-taking behavior have earned him much admiration from historians.

Hannibal was mostly known for his courageous attempt to cross the Alps with his 50,000 infantry, 9,000 cavalry, and 37 elephants which was thought to be impossible at the time. The never-ending conflict between Rome and the Carthaginians resulted in the Second Punic War, where Hannibal shows his brilliant military tactics.

Despite all his efforts and great military strategies, his life mission to conquer Rome came to an end when he committed suicide to avoid falling into Roman hands.

1. Alexander the Great (356–323 BC, Greece)

Military genius and King of Macedon, Alexander is one of the most respected military commanders of all time. After the assassination of his father, Alexander inherited the throne and the 20-year-old king continued his father’s mission to expand the kingdom.

He took an army of 50,000 on a 12-year march with the intention of expanding his territory. He grew the kingdom from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River in India, and from the Danube to the upper reaches of the Nile.

See also:
Top 10 Most Important People in Ancient Greece

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, Alexander the Great and Hannibal were the two biggest inspirational military commanders of the ancient world. The list here includes only ancient leaders, and therefore other great commanders such as Napoléon Bonaparte and Genghis Khan are excluded from the list.

Related posts:

  1. Top 12 Facts about Hannibal Barca
  2. Top 10 Biggest Events of the Second Punic War
  3. Top 14 Decisive Ancient Battles in History
  4. Top 8 Contributions of Hammurabi
(Video) Top 10 Ancient Military Commanders

FAQs

Who is the greatest commander in history? ›

The Results. Among all generals, Napoleon had the highest WAR (16.679) by a large margin. In fact, the next highest performer, Julius Caesar (7.445 WAR), had less than half the WAR accumulated by Napoleon across his battles. Napoleon benefited from the large number of battles in which he led forces.

Who is No 1 commander in the world? ›

1. Alexander the Great (356 bc-323 bc). Alexander was king of Macedonia who conquered the Persian empire, invaded India and spread Grecian culture across much of the ancient world. Tutored by Aristotle at a young age, he became king after his father, Phillip II, was assassinated.

Who is the only undefeated generals in history? ›

Khalid ibn al-Walid.

What was the strongest ancient army? ›

According to Megasthenes, Chandragupta Maurya built an army consisting of 30,000 cavalry, 9000 war elephants, and 600,000 infantry, which was the largest army known in the ancient world.

Who is the greatest military leader in ancient history? ›

Alexander the Great, King of Macedon from B.C.E. 336 to 323, may claim the title of the greatest military leader the world has ever known. His empire spread from Gibraltar to Punjab, and he made Greek the lingua franca of his world.

Who never lost a battle in world history? ›

Baji Rao is one of the world's Generals who never lost a battle. At an early age, Rao was trained as a warrior, going on various military campaigns with his father, and as a diplomat.

Who is the greatest undefeated commander? ›

Sher Shah Suri - (1486 – 22 May 1545), born Farīd Khān, was the founder of the Suri Empire in India, with its capital in Sasaram in modern-day Bihar. In this seven years of his reign he never lost a battle.

Who are the three generals who never lost a battle? ›

Commanders who never lost a battle
  • Ahmose I - founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the New Kingdom of Egypt after defeating the Hyksos and leading a successful siege into their capital Avaris. ...
  • Thutmose I - pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. ...
  • Thutmose III - pharaoh of Egypt from the Eighteenth Dynasty.

Who is the bravest general in history? ›

Napoleon Bonaparte

After 43 battles, he has a WAR score of more than 16, which blows the competition away. There can be no question: Napoleon is the greatest tactical general of all time, and the math proves it.

Who is the youngest general in history? ›

Uriah Galusha Pennypacker (June 1, 1841/1844 – October 1, 1916) was a Union general during the American Civil War. He may be the youngest person to hold the rank of brigadier general in the US Army; at the age of 20, he remains the only general too young to vote for the president who appointed him.

Who were the best trained soldiers in history? ›

This article focuses on the following 7 most elite fighting forces in history:
  • Hoplite (Ancient Greece)
  • Immortals (Persia)
  • Praetorian Guard (Roman Empire)
  • Samurai (Feudal Japan)
  • Knight (Medieval Europe)
  • Longbowman (Medieval Europe)
  • Janissary (Ottoman Empire)
2 Sept 2022

What was the most feared army in history? ›

Though they existed more than eight centuries ago, Genghis Khan and the Mongols are still regarded as the most-feared military of all time. This is due to their reign over an incredible empire that they conquered in a short period of time.

Which is the most intelligent army in the world? ›

The United States has the most powerful military force in the world, according to a rating of the world's greatest militaries. This post will give you a full list of the world's top ten armies as of 2022.

Who has the hardest military? ›

To recap: The hardest military branch to get into in terms of education requirements is the Air Force. The military branch with the toughest basic training is the Marine Corps. The hardest military branch for non-males because of exclusivity and male dominance is the Marine Corps.

Who are the toughest soldiers in the world? ›

10 Best Special Forces in the world 2022
  • Joint Force Task 2 (JTF 2), Canada. ...
  • Special Service Group (SSG), Pakistan. ...
  • National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN), France. ...
  • Sayeret Matkal, Israel. ...
  • MARCOS, India. ...
  • Navy Seals, USA. Country – United States of America. ...
  • Special Forces, USA. Country – USA. ...
  • 19 Comments. Add a Comment.
21 Oct 2022

Which country will never go to war? ›

Sweden and Switzerland are independently of each other famed for their armed neutralities, which they maintained throughout both World War I and World War II. The Swiss and the Swedes each have a long history of neutrality: they have not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 and 1814, respectively.

Which country has never fought? ›

The foundation of San Marino, one of the oldest-existing nations in the world, has never been involved in any wars at all.

What is the bravest battle in history? ›

I believe that the Battle of Thermopylae not only is the bravest in history but also one of the most important! The 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians that finally stayed in the Battlefield fought for both Glory and Freedom. They were undisputedly the bravest soldiers in the world.

Who was the greatest US general ever? ›

Who are the Five Greatest Generals in U.S. History?
  • Here's What You Need to Remember: Each was great in his own way, in the circumstances of his time and in the qualities that America needed.
  • George Washington:
  • Winfield Scott:
  • Ulysses Grant:
  • George Marshall:
  • Matthew Ridgway:
9 Oct 2021

Did general Lee ever lose a battle? ›

His invasion of Maryland that September ended with the inconclusive Battle of Antietam, after which he retreated to Virginia. Lee won two of his most decisive victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville before launching a second invasion of the North in the summer of 1863, where he was decisively defeated at the ...

Who was the most feared general in the Civil War? ›

He saw extensive combat during his 34-year military career, fighting actions in the Black Hawk War, the Texas War of Independence, the Mexican–American War, the Utah War, and the American Civil War.
...
Albert Sidney Johnston.
General Albert Sidney Johnston
Service/branchUnited States Army Texian Army Confederate States Army
12 more rows

Who said generals always fight the last war? ›

The lessons imparted by this 17th Century swordsman were echoed by Former US Secretary of State John Bolton - when he said “Politicians, like generals, have a tendency to fight the last war.”

Who is the only 6 star general? ›

So yes, there is an equivalent of a six-star general rank on the books in the US Military, but it has only been given to two people in history: John J. Pershing and George Washington, Generals of the Armies of the United States of America.

What is the maximum age to be a general? ›

(a) General Rule . —Unless retired or separated earlier, each regular commissioned officer of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps serving in a general or flag officer grade shall be retired on the first day of the month following the month in which the officer becomes 64 years of age.

Who was the last 5 star general? ›

Who was the last 5 star General? General of the Army Omar Bradley was the last general to achieve 5 stars and the 5-stars were retired in 1981 upon his death.

Who is the best warrior god? ›

The correct option is B Indra Indra was the warrior god of the vedic socety.
  • Who was known as the warrior God in Vedic religion?
  • Who was the founder of Sikh warrior community "Khalsa"?
  • Who amongst the following was a brave warrior in the 16th century?

Who is the greatest warrior god? ›

1. Ares (Greek): The powerful Greek god of war. Known for his physical valor, Ares is represented in violent aspects of war.

Who would win Spartan or samurai? ›

So one on one the samurai would have the edge. Who would win a fight, a Spartan or a samurai? Samurai due to superior technology. Sparts had bronze and iron weapons, but Samurai's armor and steel are superior to any equipment a spartan could deliver from his time.

Who are the most fearless soldiers? ›

Known as some of the most skilled and fiercest warriors in the world, the Gurkhas have impressed (and terrified) everyone around them. Here are some of the bravest soldiers and stories to ever come out of the Gurkha ranks.

What was the cruelest war? ›

World War II

Who did the Viet Cong fear the most? ›

Depending on where they were at, the communists feared a number of American infantry units. If they were up north near the Dong Ha River the communists feared the 101st Airmobile Division and the U.S. Marines. If they were in the center of S. Viet Nam they feared the 173D Airborne and the 4th Infantry Division.

What was the hardest war to fight? ›

1. World War II: Fought from 1939 to 1945, the Second World War is the deadliest conflict in history, with over 70 million fatalities.

Who was the most feared warrior of all time? ›

First on our list remains the most feared warrior of all time: Alexander the Great. Born in Pella, Macedonia around 356 BCE and died on June 13,323 in Babylon, Alexander the Great is known for his amazing feats. However, historians know him more as the king of Macedonia from 336 BCE up to his death.

What historical military commander was never defeated? ›

Alexander the Great - Macedonian King of the 4th century BC who led an army from Greece against the Persian Empire and into India. He is often regarded as one of the finest battlefield tacticians in history.

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