Throughout the history of this great big planet there have been thousands of generals who have led countless armies. Many have been forgotten by history and delegated to irrelevance. Many have weathered the test of time and stood on their own. Some were truly innovative when it came to warfare and will surely live on in history. These men had immediate and total control of large armies, and those armies won or lost because of one man’s ability.
These are our top 5 commanders:
5. Napolean Bonaparte
Napolean was trained as an artillery officer in France and rose to fame under the First French Republic. He distinguished himself as a military commander fighting in Italy. In 1799, he led a coup d’état and installed himself as First Consul. He then crowned himself emperor five years later. He led the armies of the French Empire against every major European power and dominated continental Europe through a series of military victories. He won at least 50 major battles while usually outnumbered. Napolean escaped exile and rallied the French army for one more battle at Waterloo where he was ultimately defeated.
4. Leonidus I
If you have seen the movie “300” then you can appreciate why we rank Leonidas so high. His army consisted of 300 fellow Spartans and about 5000 other Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. His mission was to hold the narrow pass at Thermopylae so the rest of Greece could mobilize their forces to meet the threat of the Persian King Xerxes. Xerxes had a force of approximately 200,000 by modern day accounts. Leonidas held the pass for 3 days until he was betrayed by another Greek and surrounded and killed. It is estimated he killed 20,000 Persians during the battle.
3. Julius Caesar
Caesar’s troops were always loyal to him and fought hard for him for a variety of reasons. One being that he always led from the front at a time when most generals led from the rear. He was an excellent swordsman and horseman. he conquered all of Gaul (modern France and Belgium) and invaded Britain. His army defeated the Gualic leader Vercingetorix and his 80,000 man army at the Battle of Alesia after a long seige. This was a major victory for Caesar and ensured the Gauls would no longer be a threat to Rome. Caesar also fought against Pompey as part of the Roman Civil War. He defeated Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus by having his troops stab the enemy in their faces to unnerve them. Not having experienced this before they panicked helping Caesar win. Caesar’s last major battle was at Munda which he won decisively. Returning to Rome, Caesar became dictator for life until his murder the following year.
Hannibal was a Carthaginian military commander and tactician who won many battles against the Roman Army. Hannibal lived during a period of great tension in the Mediterranean, when Rome had established its supremacy over other great powers such as Carthage. One of his most famous achievements was a marching an army, which included war elephants over the Pyrenees and the Alps into Italy. In his first few years in Italy, he won three dramatic victories at Trebia, Trasimene and Cannae. At the Battle of Cannae, Hannibal used an enveloping strategy to defeat the Romans. His army killed 70,000 Romans compared to just 8000 of his own. He roamed Italy for 15 years, but could not get reinforcements from Carthage and had to leave. Hannibal returned to Carthage, where he was decisively defeated by Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama. Hannibal fled Carthage and became a military consultant for governments fighting Roman control. He continued to be hunted by the Romans for the rest of his life and finally commited suicide as the Romans closed in on him.
1. Alexander the Great
Alexander became King of Macedonia at the young age of 20. His initial army consisted of 30,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 cavalreymen. His first engagement was against the Persians in modern day Turkey. Defeating the Persians he swept through western Asia Minor. His next campaign was against the Persians led by the Persian king Darius III. Darius had an army of about half a million to stop Alexander. Alexander’s tactically superior attack routed the Persians, despite being outnumbered about 13 to 1. He then marched south, conquering Gaza and then moving into Egypt where the people welcomed him as a deliverer from their Persian rulers. He defeated the Persians for the third time at the Battle of Gaugamela despite superioir odds for the enemy. Persia was now under the complete control of Alexander. Never wanting to stop, he then marched into India and conquered a great Indian army. Alexander adopted many of the customs of his defeated subjects endearing himself to the people. He died at the age of 33 from malaria. By the time of his death, he had conquered over 2 million square miles.