The Greatest, and not so Greatest, Commanders of History

Spartan JKM

New Member
Hello everyone. This is a terrific and judicious site, evidenced by Mark Conley's welcoming posts.

Glad to be here :)

I love the specific topic of military commanders, and would like to share my list, one which has been revised with the contributions of others for the past 16 months. I originally posted this list in July 2004. I expect much constructive criticism and reprovals.

What I would like to do is explain why I chose whom I did as the greatest military commander in history was, and we can go from there. I'll relinquish the task of writing a long narrative as to what the other commanders excelled at etc., and why 'this one achieved this task better than this one'. Hopefully, the discussions will yield much light.

My intention behind this list is simply to enthusiastically discuss with other students the great and flawed attributes of history's greatest commanders. I realize it's improbable for any list to be objective, as the criterion for 'ranking' the generals must be specified, and even then it boils down to opinions.

From a balanced point of view, my rankings, the best I could assess within the bounds of my erudition and acumen, were influenced by what the commander achieved from his decisions in all branches of warfare. I am steadfast about the top few on my list, but found it impossible to come to definite conclusions about the rest on my top tier.

I have broken the list into 3 categories. Only the first tier do I rank the commanders. The following commanders on the next 2 tiers are in chronological order by their deaths.

I would like to point out that I am very well aware that comparing commanders from different eras seems flawed. I disagree; the circumstances of war may never be repeated, but the essence of major tactics and strategy have not changed. It is the methods of their applications, due to the changes in technology, that have altered. Thus we can indeed compare the ancient commanders with the modern ones. But it should be understood that the ancient greats were a little more the thinking head of the army than later commanders (meaning by the 19th century), as subordinates played a more pivotal role.

But perhaps a list such as this could be broken up into two major TIERS - before gunpowder, which would comprise all the commanders before the 1420s or so, and after gunpowder. Gunpowder did indeed exist in China in the 9th century, but was used almost exclusively for pyrotechnics. The knowledge and technology of gunpowder was transmitted to Europe via the Middle East. The first known use of gunpowder, which occured in China, was in c. 1167. The Arabs produced the first known working gun in 1304. Gunpowder was used in warfare from the 14th century but it was not generally adapted to civil purposes until the 17th century, when it began to be used in mining.

In my opinion, Alexander the Great was the greatest military commander in history. His ability to successfully adapt strategy and tactics to virtually every branch of warfare sets him apart from every other great commander. He took his army some 20,000 miles in 13 years, not once suffering a major setback, let alone a defeat. His opponent always chose the battlefield and usually heavily outnumbered him.

Speaking of which, I would like mention something I consider important when discussing Alexander: propaganda reasons were probably behind the certain wild overestimates by Greek writers of antiquity of the size of Persian armies, for it pleased the Hellenes to think their armies were able to beat the enemy's of 3 or 4 times the size of theirs. They are not exclusive regarding this historical tradition. Moreover, many ancient writers simply assumed that the Asiatic kingdoms could raise and field enormous armies because of the huge territiory and large populations of the Persian realm. In reality, the combined city-states of Greece could theoretically field a larger military force than the Persians, as the Persian military force was not composed of the citizenry at large but of the core of the nobility. Thus the overwhelming mass of Persian subjects were not part of the empire's military force pool. But in times such as Alexander's invasion, infantry could be levied quite substantially from the empire's peasants etc. In Greece, practically the entire male population was highly trained and superbly equipped for war, and men considered this an integral part of their civic duty. These martial values were extremely evident in Rome later on, and the primary reason that saved her during Hannibal's campaign. In Persia, the effective soldiery were drawn from the aristocracy at the tip of the manpower pyramid. Thus the size of the effective military contingents of Greece and Persia, basically, was closer than the size of their respective populations would indicate.

Lastly, the Persians could usually mobilize some 40-50,000 heavy cavalry, their elite striking arm. They raised huge horses for close-order charges, and the heavy defesive armor of both man and horse made them invulnerable - to revolting satrapal cavalry and infantry levies. They overpowered rebelling internal contingents within the empire, but when faced against Alexander and his Companions etc., they were outclassed by superior maneuvering and close-in fighting. The heavily encumbered Persians could not move as effectively as could the Thessalian and Macedonian horsemen, and their armor weighed them down to the point that the rider's ability to wield his weapon effectively was diminished.

I stress this because people often ask how the Persians fared so dismally against Alexander, and question whether he was truly great or he faced dismal opponents. Well, it was more the former than the latter, and though he inherited his greatest tactical asset, his army, from his father Philip II, he innovated the efficacy of combined arms to a much further degree than his great father. He also introduced the use of reserves on the battlefield that could take advantage of any unforeseen opportunities or reverses against the front lines. He also was the first great commander to use catapults tactically on the battlefield. In the Balkans, he lined the machines hub-to-hub along the bank of the Apsus River to cover the crossing of his withdrawing troops against the attacks upon him by the Illyrian tribes under Cleitus and Glaucius. Contrarily, 6 years later in 329 B.C. on the other side of the 'world', he effectively used catapults to drive the Scythians from the riverbank of the Jaxartes as he conducted an amphibious assault against them.

His siege of Tyre was one of the greatest feat of arms in history, as was the great Battle of Gaugamela (Arbela). Though the Greeks withstood the invasions by Persia 160 years earlier, the Persian Empire was on the verge of defeating the Greeks economically this time - like a giant black hole sucking the Greek states, full of civil strife, into it by economic gravity, if you will. Alexander changed that; the idea of democracy had already crossed westwards where the Roman Republic was growing stronger annually. But his accomplishment, among many, was that he shifted economic and military power from the Asia to Europe. For better or worse, this had influence upon the Europe of colossal proportions.

Alexander fought under natural and man-made handicaps perhaps more than any other great military leader. By any stretch of the imagination, at least mine, he was an incredible man (in terms of warfare). He was just a man though, and no man is infallible. He certainly had his faults, too.

If anyone has the right to be judged by the standards of his time, and not by the standards of our time, it is Alexander".

-Hermann Bengston

My entire compilation is geared towards land warfare, but I have integrated some admirals into the 3rd tier.

One last thing; this list is entirely subjective and extremely vulnerable to criticism. I would like to point out that there really is no such indisputable title 'greatest general of all time'. An attempt to 'prove' who was superior among great commanders is pointless and futile, but comparing great commanders and opining whom was 'better' makes for fascinating conjecture and debates.

This is my 'top 10' list (16, actually).

Alexander III Alexandros III Philippou Makedonon 'the Great' (Gaugamela 331 B.C.)

Hannibal Hannibal Barca (Cannae 216 B.C.)

Napoleon I Napoleone Buonaparte, Emperor of France (Austerlitz 1805 A.D.)

Chinggis (Genghis) Khan Temujin 'Universal Ruler' (Indus River 1221 A.D.)

Publius Cornelius Scipio Scipio Africanus Major (Ilipa 206 B.C.)

John Churchill Duke of Marlborough (Blenheim 1704 A.D.)

Gustavus II (Gustavus Adolphus, Gustaf Adolph) King of Sweden (Breitenfeld 1631 A.D.)

Belisarius Flavius Belisarius (Constantinople 559 A.D.)

Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington (Salamanca 1812 A.D.)

Subotai Subedei Ba'adur (Kalka River 1223 A.D.)

Gaius Julius Caesar (Pharsalus 48 B.C.)

Frederick II King of Prussia 'the Great' (Leuthen 1757 A.D.)

Epaminondas (Leuctra 371 B.C.)

Philip II King of Macedon (Chaeronea 338 B.C.)

Khalid ibn al-Walid the Sword of Allah (Yarmuk River 636 A.D.)

Horatio Nelson Viscount Nelson (Trafalgar 1805 A.D.) - Probably the greatest ever at sea

The next level. These commnaders may have possessed no less an ability than the top ones, but 'something' has them a notch down fromthe top tier.

Tuthmosis III Thutmose III, Pharaoh of Egypt

Cyrus Achaemenid King of Persia 'the Great'

Shi Huang-ti Chao Cheng, Emperor of the Qin (unified China in 221 B.C.)

Seleucus I Diadochi and Seleucid Founder 'Nicator'

Pyrrhus King of Epirus

Gaius Marius

Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Trajanus) Roman Emperor 'Optimus Princeps'

Aurelian (Lucius Domitius Aurelianus) Roman Emperor 'Restitutor Orbis'

Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus) Roman Emperor 'the Great'


Heraclius (Flavius Heraclius Augustus) Byzantine Emperor

Charles Martel (Carolus Martellus) Frankish Ruler 'the Hammer'

Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus) Charles I, King of the Franks 'the Great'

Alfred King of Wessex 'the Great'

Godfrey (Godefroy) Duke de Bouillon

Wanyan Aguda (Shizu) Jin Founder 'Taizu'

Saladin (Salah al-Din Yusuf bin Ayyub) Kurdish Muslim Leader

Richard I King of England 'Coeur de Lion'

Edward III King of England

Timur Timur Lenk, hence Tamerlane

Henry V King of England

Jan Zizka

Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba El Gran Capitan

Selim I Ottoman Sultan 'the Grim

Babur (Zahiruddin Muhammed Babur) Moghul Founder 'the Tiger'

Suleiman (Suleymaniye) I Ottoman Sultan 'the Magnificent'

Takeda Shingen (Kai-Shugo) Japanese Daimyo

Oda Nobunaga Warlord and Unifier of Japan

Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange

Oliver Cromwell Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England

Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter

Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne Vicomte Turenne

Louis II de Bourbon Duc d'Enghien and Prince de Conde 'the Great Conde'

Charles XII King of Sweden

Eugene Prinz Francois-Eugen of Savoy-Carignan

Nadir Shah (Nadir Qoli Beg) Shah of Persia

Maurice de Saxe Hermann Moritz

George Washington

Aleksandr Vasilevich Suvorov Generalissimus of Russia

Louis Nicolas Davout Duc d'Auerstadt and Prince d'Eckmuhl 'the Iron Marshal'

Charles Karl Ludwig, Archduke of Austria

Johann Josef Wenzel Radetzky Graf Radetzky von Radetz

Thomas Jonathan Jackson Stonewall Jackson

Robert E(dward) Lee

Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke Count 'the Elder'

Mustafa Kemal Kemal Ataturk 'Gazi'

Erwin (Johannes Eugen) Rommel the Desert Fox

George Smith Patton Old Blood and Guts

Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim Baron

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian

Erich von Manstein Fritz-Erich von Lewinski

William (Joseph) Slim 1st Viscount of Yarralumla and Bishopston

Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov

Moshe Dayan (Hebrew = 'Moses the Judge')

Vo Nguyen Giap

I hope this isn't too superfluous; I may have gotten carried away here, and realize this is very loose. Many may be missing and perhaps many on here should not be. I don't know too much about many of these commanders, but in some form or another, they achieved something positive, if not highly significant.


Sargon King of Akkad 'the Great', Suppiluliumas Hittite King, Rameses II Pharaoh of Egypt, Gideon Jerub-baal, Wu Wang Chi Fa 'the Martial King', Tiglath Pileser I King of Assyria, Chou Kung Chi Tan, Ashurnasirpal II King of Assyria, Shalmaneser III King of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III King of Assyria, Sargon II King of Assyria, Sennacherib King of Assyria, Esarhaddon King of Assyria, Ashurbanipal King of Assyria, Ji Zhonger Duke Wen of Jin, Nabopolasser King of Babylonia, Cyaxeres King of Media, Nebuchadnezzar II King of Babylonia, Sun Tzu (Wu) Honorable Sun, Darius I King of Persia 'the Great', Artaphrenes the Elder, Miltiades, Leonidas I King of Sparta, Gelon Tyrant of Syracuse, Pausanius, Leotychides, Themistocles, Cimon, Leosthenes, Cincinnatus Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, Gaius Servilius Ahala, Sitalkes Odrysian King 'the Great', Pagondas, Brasidas, Hannibal son of Hanno, Gylippus, Alcibiades, Himilco, Lysander, Agesilaus King of Sparta, Iphicrates, Conon, Marcus Furius Camillus, Pelopidas, Dionysius Tyrant of Syracuse, Artaxerxes II King of Persia 'Mnemon', Xenophon, Marcus Valerius Corvus, Titus Manlius Torquatus Imperiosus, Timoleon, Memnon of Rhodes, Parmenio the Old General, Craterus, Antipitar, Antigonus I Cyclops, Chandragupta Maurya Mauryan Founder 'Sandracottus', Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, Agathocles Tyrant of Syracuse, Ptolemy I Soter, Demetrius I Demetrius Poliorcetes, Lysimachus, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, Spurius Carvilius Maximus, Appius Claudius Caudex, Manius Curius Dentatus, Xanthippus, Marcus Atilius Regulus, Asoka, Adherbal, Gaius Lutatius Catalus, Hamilcar Barca Lightning, Gaius Duilius, Ming T'ien, Chou T'o, Lucius Aemilius Papus, Gaius Atilius Regulus, Lucius Caecilius Metellus, Publius Cornelius Scipio the Elder, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, Gaius Flaminius, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Hasdrubal Barca, Gaius Claudius Nero, Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator, Mago Barca, Syphax King of the Masaesylii, Titus Manlius Torquatus, Marcus Valerius Laevinus, Marcus Livius Salinator, Attalus I King of Pergamum 'Soter', Hsiang Yu Xiang Yu, Liu Bang Kao-tse 'Gaozu', Manius Acilius Glabrio, Muttines (Mottones), Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiagenes, Manius Acilius Glabrio, Antiochus III King of Syria 'the Great', Prusias I King of Bithynia 'Cholos', Philopoemen the Last of the Greeks, Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, Mete Han Shanyu of the Xiongnu 'Maodun', Lucius Valerius Flaccus, Titus Quinctius Flamininus, Philip V King of Macedon, Antiochus IV King of Syria 'Epiphanes', Judas Maccabaeus the Hammer, Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, Gaius Laelius, Eumenes II King of Pergamum 'Soter', Masinissa King of the Massylii, Viriathus, Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Minor, Lucius Caecilius Metellus Dalmaticus, Wei Qing, Ho Qu-bing, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, Liu Che (Wu Di) Han Emperor, Jugurtha King of Numidia, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus, Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla 'Felix', Spartacus, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, Mithridates VI (Eupator Dionysus) King of Pontus 'the Great', Ariovistus King of the Suebi 'Friend', Lucius Licinius Lucullus Ponticus, Pompey Gnaeus Pompeius 'Magnus', Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives, Surena Eran Suren-Pahlev, Vercingetorix King of the Arverni, Juba I King of Numidia, Pharnaces II King of Pontus, Orodes II King of Parthia, Publius Ventidius, Titus Statilius Taurus, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Nero Claudius Drusus Decimus Claudius Nero.


Augustus Caesar Gaius Octavius, Germanicus Julius Caesar Nero Claudius Germanicus, Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, Cunobelinus King of the Catuvellauni, Arminius (Hermann der Cherusker) Chief of the Cherusci, Tiberius Tiberius Claudius Nero, Caratacus (Caradoc) King of the Catuvellauni, Publius Ostorius Scapula, Liu Xiu (Han-Guang Wu Di) Han Emperor, Aulus Plautius, Boudicca (Boadicea) Queen of the Iceni, Gaius Paulinus Suetonius, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Vespasian Titus Flavius Vespasianus, Eleazar bin Yair, Flavius Josephus Joseph ben Matthias, Decebalus Dacian King, Bar Kochba Simon bar Kochba, Marcus Aurelius, Yuan Shao Benchu, Severus Lucius Septimius Severus, Cao Cao Wei Wang 'Mengde', Zhang Liao, Chu-ko Liang Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei, Maximinus Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus 'Thrax', Ardashir I Sassanid Founder of Persia, Lu Yi Li Xun, Sun Quan, Gallienus Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus, Publius Septimius Odaenathus King of Palmyra, Claudius II Marcus Aurelius Claudius 'Gothicus', Shapur I Sassanid King of Persia, Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus Emperor of Gaul, Iberia, and Britain, Zenobia Queen of Palmyra, Shi Le Great Chieftain, Constantius II Illyricum 'Junior Emperor', Ran Min, Julian Flavius Claudius Julianus, Shapur II Sassanid King of Persia, Fritigern King of the Visigoths, Theodosius I Flavius Theodosius 'the Great', Flavius Stilicho, Alaric I King of the Visigoths, Ataulf King of the Visigoths 'Father Wolf', Wallia King of the Visigoths, Rua the Hun, Breda the Hun, Attila the Hun 'the Scourge of God', Flavius Aetius, Geiseric King of the Vandals, Odoacar (Odavacer) King of the Heruli, Clovis I King of the Franks, Theodoric King of the Ostrogoths 'the Great', Arthur King Arthur (legendary), Mundus, Priscus, and Totila (Baduila) King of the Ostrogoths, AEthilfrith King of Northumbria, Raedwald King of East Anglia, Muhammed the Prophet of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab Caliph of Islam, Amr-ibn-al-As, Rustam Farokhzad, Sa'ad ibn abu-Wakkas, Tariq ibn Zayid, Mohammed ibn-Kasim, T'ai tsung Lin Shih-min, Pepin II Pepin of Heristal, Pelayo Nobleman of Asturias, Eudes (Odo) Duke of Aquitaine, Leo III Byzantine Emperor 'the Isaurian', An Lu-shan, Hsuan-tsung, Harun al-Rashid, Egbert King of Wessex, AEthelwulf King of Wessex, Rhodri Mawr Ruler of Wales 'the Great', Basil I Byzantine Emperor 'the Macedonian', Arpad Chief of the Magyars, Edward King of Wessex 'the Elder', Simeon I Tsar of Bulgaria, Harold I (Harald Haarfager) King of Norway, Henry I German King 'the Fowler', John Kurkuas, Nicephorus II Byzantine Emperor 'Phocas', Otto I Holy Roman Emperor 'the Great', John I (John Tzimisces) Byzantine Emperor, Muhammed Almansour Abi emir 'the Victorious', Boleslav I (Boleslav Chobri) King of Poland 'the Brave', Rajaraja Chola Emperor of Tamil Nadu, Brian Boru, Basil II Byzantine Emperor 'Bulgaroktonos', Mahmud Sultan of Ghazni, Canute (Knut) II Danish King of Denmark, England, and Norway, Fulk III (Fulk Nerra) Count of Anjou 'the Black', Rajendra Chola Emperor of Tamil Nadu, Harold II (Harold Godwinsson) Earl of Wessex, Tughril Beg Seljuk Turk Founder, Alp Arslan (Muhammed ben Da'ud) Seljuk Sultan of Persia 'the Valiant Lion', Robert Guiscard the Resourceful, William I Duke of Normandy and King of England 'the Conqueror', El Cid or El Campeador Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, Bohemond (Marc Guiscard), Baldwin (of Boulogne) I Latin King of Jerusalem, Alexius I Byzantine Emperor 'Comnenus', Sigurd I (Sigurd Magnusson) King of Norway 'the Crusader', Baldwin (of Le Bourg) II Latin King of Jerusalem, Alfonso I King of Aragon and Navarre, Boleslav III King of Poland 'Wrymouth', Waldemar I King of Denmark 'the Great', Richard de Clare 2nd Earl of Pembroke 'Strongbow', Baldwin IV Latin King of Jerusalem, Alfonso I King of Portugal 'Henriques the Conqueror', Minamoto Yoshitsune Japanese Samurai, Frederick I (Frederick Hohenstauffen) Holy Roman Emperor 'Barbarossa', Kilij Arslan II (Izz ad-Din Kilij Arslan) Seljuk Sultan of Rum, Enrico Dandolo Doge of Venice, Muhammed of Ghor (Muizz al Din Muhammed) Muslim Sultan of Ghazni, Kaloyen Asen Johannizza 'the Roman Killer', Minamoto no Yoritomo 1st Japanese Shogun, Alfonso VIII King of Castile 'the Noble', Hojo Tokimasa Japanese Shikken, Simon de Montfort IV Lord of Montfort, Chepe (Jebe Noyan), Philip II (Phillippe Auguste) King of France, Alfonso II King of Portugal 'the Fat', Muqali, Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu Khwarezm Sultan, Hermann von Salza, Chormaqan Noyan, Waldemar II King of Denmark, Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor, Batu Batu Khan, Hulagu Hulagu Khan, Kaidu Kaidu Khan, Kadan, Alexander Nevsky (Alexander Vsevolodovich) Prince of Novgorad, Simon de Montfort Earl of Leicester, Baybars I Mamluk Sultan, Liu Cheng, Rudolf I German King 'Rudolf of Hapsburg', Kublai Khan, Jan I Duke of Brabant 'the Victorious', Pedro III King of Aragon, William Wallace, Edward I King of England 'Longshanks', Hojo Tokimune, Robert I King of Scotland 'the Bruce', Alfonso XI King of Castile and Leon, Stefan Dusan, Orkhan Ottoman Sultan, Edward de Bailol, Edward Prince of Wales 'the Black Prince', Bertrand Du Guesclin, Louis I King of Hungary and Poland 'the Great', Pedro IV King of Aragon, Murad I Ottoman Sultan, John Hawkwood, Beyazid I (Yildirim) Ottoman Sultan 'Thunderbolt', Olivier de Clisson, Owen Glendower (Owain Glyn Dwr), Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc), Nun'Alvares Pereira the Great Constable, Ladislaus II (Ladislaus Jagiello) King of Poland, Andrew Procop Procopius the Great, Janos Hunyadi, Alfonso V King of Aragon and Alfonso I King of Naples 'the Magnanimous', Gjergj Kastrioti Prince of Albania 'Skanderbeg', Hosokawa Katsumoto Japanese Kanrei, Rudolph von Erlach Swiss Pike Leader, Muhammed II Ottoman Sultan 'the Conqueror', Stefan cel Mare Voivod of Moldova 'the Great', Isabella I Queen of Aragon, Castile, and Leon 'the Catholic', Henry VII (Henry Tudor) King of England, Francisco de Almeida, Gaston de Foix Duc de Nemours, Ferdinand V King of Castile and Leon and Ferdinand II King of Aragon and Ferdinand III King of Naples 'the Catholic', Ismail Shah of Persia, Georg von Frundsberg, Francisco Pizarro, Pedro de Alvarado, Khair ad-Din Barbarossa, Hernan Cortes (Hernando Cortez), Jan Tarnowski, Charles V Holy Roman Emperor, Yamamoto Haruyuki Japanese Takeda General 'Kansuke', Don Juan de Austria, Shimazu Tadayoshi Japanese Daimyo, Mori Motonari (Shojumaru) Japanese Daimyo, Fernando Alvarez de Toledo Duque de Alba (Alva), Ivan IV Tsar of Russia 'the Terrible', William I Prince of Orange 'the Silent', Stephen Bathory, Don Alvaro de Bazan Marques de Santa Cruz de Marcenado, Alessandro Farnese Duke of Parma, Yi Sun-shin, Toyotomi Hideyoshi Japanese Daimyo, Akbar Mughal Emperor 'the Great', Stephen Bocskay, Henri IV King of France, Tokugawa Ieyasu Japanese Shogun, Jan Chodkiewicz, Charles Howard 1st Earl of Nottingham, Nurhaci, Peter Ernst Graf von Mansfeld, Abbas I Shah of Persia 'the Great', Ambrogio Spinola Marques de Balbases, Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim, Johann Tserclaes Graf von Tilly, Albrecht von Wallenstein Duke of Friedland and Mecklenburg, Johan Baner, Bernhard Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Duo'ergun Dorgon, Franz Freiherr Baron von Mercy, Hargobind Guru, Stanislaw Koniecpolski, James Graham Marquess of Montrose, Lennart Torstensson, Ralph Hopton 1st Baron Hopton, Maarten Tromp, Robert Blake, Ottavio Piccolomini, Bohdan Chmielnicki, Tuhaj- Bej, Jinga Queen of Ndonga and Matamba, George Monck 1st Duke of Albemarle, Thomas Fairfax 3rd Baron of Cameron, John Maurice Prince of Nassau-Siegen, William Cavendish Marquis of Newcastle, Raimondo Montecuccoli, Shivaji Bhonsle Shri Shivaji Maharaj, Rupert Prince of the Rhine, David Leslie, Henry Morgan Morgan the Pirate, Abraham Duquesne Marquis Duquesne, Francois Henri de Montmorency-Bouteville Duc de Luxembourg, John III (Jan Sobieski) King of Poland, Niels Juel, Menno van Coehoorn Baron, William III King of England 'William of Orange', Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban, Louis William Margrave of Baden-Baden, Aurangzeb (Alamgir) Mughal Emperor, Louis Joseph Duc de Vendome, Kangxi Hsiian-yeh, Peder Tordenskjold Thundershield, Peter I (Pyotr Alekseyevich Romanov) Tsar of Russia 'the Great', James FitzJames Duke of Berwick, Claude-Louis Hector Duc de Villars, Robert MacGregor Rob Roy, Charles Mordaunt 3rd Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth, James Wolfe, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm Marquis de Saint Veran, William Augustus Duke of Cumberland, Leopold Joseph Maria Count von Daun, Robert Clive 1st Baron of Plassey, Emelian Pugachev, Casimir Pulaski, Charles (Karl Alexander) Prince of Lorraine, Haidar Ali, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Sardar, Nathanael Greene, Ethan Allen, Francois-Joseph Paul Comte de Grasse, Jacques Hippolyte Comte de Guibert, Grigoriy Potemkin, Tippu Sultan the Tiger of Mysore, Ferdinand Duke of Brunswick, John Burgoyne Gentleman Johnny, John Paul Jones, Richard Howe 1st Earl Howe, Benedict Arnold, Ralph Abercrombie, Daniel Morgan, Francois Toussant-L'Ouverture, Charles Cornwallis Lord, Horatio Gates, Jean Dessalines, Aleksei Orlov, Gerard Lake 1st Viscount, Jean Lannes Duc de Montebello, John Moore, Isaac Brock, Pyotr Bagration, Gerhardt von Scharnhorst Graf, Tecumseh, Mikhail Kutuzov, Josef Poniatowski, Hugh Robert Rollo Rollo Gillespie, William Howe 5th Viscount Howe, Joachim Murat King of Naples, Louis Berthier Prince of Wagram and Neufchatel, Michel Ney Duc d'Elchingen and Prince de la Moscowa 'le Brave des Braves', Pierre Augereau Duc de Castiglione, Karadjordje Djordje Petrovich, Andre Massena Duc de Rivoli, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Mikhail Barclay de Tolly, Gerbhard von Blucher Prince of Wahlstadt, Oliver Perry, Manuel Belgrano, Charles Dumouriez, Lazare Carnot the Organizer of Victory, Francis Rawdon 1st Marquess of Hastings, Shaka Shaka Zulu, Simon Bolivar, Antonio Jose de Sucre, Thomas Sydney Beckwith, Marie-Joseph du Mortier Marquis de Lafayette, Tomas Zumalacarregui, Andrew Jackson, Hari Singh Nalwa Sardar, Ranjit Singh Maharajah of India, William Harrison, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte Prince of Ponte Corvo (later became Charles XIV King of Sweden), Robert Stopford, Muhammed Ali Pasha of Egypt, Jose de San Martin, Juan Martin de Pueyrredon, Thomas Bugeaud, Zachary Taylor, Nicolas Soult Duc de Dalmatie, Francisco Castanos, Jose Ballivian, Auguste Marmont Duc de Ragusa, Charles Napier, William Beresford Viscount Beresford, Fitzroy Somerset 1st Baron Raglan, Pavel Nakhimov, Thomas Cochrane 10th Earl of Dundonald, Harry Smith Sir Harry, Ignacio Zaragoza, Frederick Ward, Colin Campbell 1st Baron Clyde, Samuel Houston, John Buford, John Morgan, James Stuart Jeb Stuart, Ambrose Hill, Winfield Scott, Francesco Serrano, Antoine-Henri de Jomini Baron, Justo Jose de Urquiza, David Farragut, George Thomas, Shamyl Imam Shamyl of Dagestan, George Meade, Henry Halleck Old Brains, Cochise Chiricahua, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Gordon Granger, George Custer, Braxton Bragg, Nathan Forrest, Crazy Horse Tashunca-uitco, Saigo Takamori the Last Samurai, Albrecht Theodor Emil Graf von Roon Graf, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Mikhail Skobelev, Abd al-Qadir Emir of Algeria, Cetchewayo, Charles Gordon Chinese Gordon, Muhammad Ahmad the Mahdi, George McClellan, Ulysses S(impson) Grant, Philip Sheridan, Sitting Bull Tatanka-ioytanka, William Sherman Uncle Billy, Francois Canrobert, John Chard, William Rosencrans, Piet Joubert, James Longstreet, Chief Joseph In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat, Bartolome Mitre, Gevork Chavoush, Maximo Gomez, Geronimo Goyathlay, Red Cloud Makhpiya-luta, Marasuke Nogi, Menilek II Emperor of Ethiopia, Garnet Wolseley Viscount Wolseley, Alfred von Schlieffen Graf, Koos (Jacobus Herculaas) de la Rey, Frederick Roberts 1st Earl of Kandahar, Pretoria and Waterford, Joshua Chamberlain, Iwao Oyama, Horatio Kitchener Earl of Khartoum and Broome, George Dewey, Frederick Maude, Emiliano Zapata, Louis Botha, Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Roosevelt, John Fisher 1st Baron of Kilverstone, Herbert Plumer 1st Viscount, Christiaan de Wet, Michael Collins, Henry Wilson, Francisco Villa Pancho Villa, Vladimir Lenin ne Ulyanov, Mikhail Frunze, John French 1st Earl of Ypres, Aleksei Brusilov, Ferdinand King of Rumania, Max Hoffmann, Andranik Ozanian Pasha, Douglas Haig 1st Earl Haig, Alvaro Obregon, Georges Clemenceau, Ferdinand Foch, John Monash, Omar Al-Mukhtar, Alexander Cobbe, Joseph Joffre, Arthur Currie, Albert I King of the Belgians, Louis Lyautey, Heihachiro Togo, Paul von Hindenburg, Thomas Edward Lawrence Lawrence of Arabia, Josef Pilsudski, Juan Vicente Gomez, Edmund Allenby 1st Viscount of Megiddo and Felixstowe, Hans von Seeckt, Erich von Ludendorff, Leon Trotsky Lev Bronstein, Walter von Reichenau, Isoroku Yamamoto, Raizo Tanaka, Franc Stane, Nikolai Vatutin, Charles Wingate Orde Wingate, August von Mackensen, Walther Model, Fedor von Bock, John Gort Viscount, Draza Mihajlovic, Masaharu Homma, Tomokjuki Yamashita the Tiger of Malaya, Phillipe Leclerc Vicomte de Hauteclocque, John Pershing Black Jack, Walther von Brauchitsch, Archibald Wavell 1st Earl Wavell, Sudirman Panglima Besar Sudirman, Petre Dumitrescu, Jan Smuts, Thomas Blamey, Gerd von Runstedt, Hugh Trenchard, George Marshall, Leslie Morshead, Albert Kesselring, Alan Francis 1st Viscount Alanbrooke, Andrew Cunningham 1st Viscount of Hyndhope, Bernard Cyril Freyberg 1st Baron Freyberg, Douglas MacArthur, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, Alvin York Sergeant York (heroic addition), Renya Mutaguchi, Chester Nimitz, Ernesto 'Che' Guevera, Konstantin Rokossovsky, Dwight Eisenhower Ike, Harold Alexander 1st Earl of Tunis, Raymond Spruance, Ho Chi Minh Nguyen Sinh Huy, Hugh Dowding 1st Baron, Semyon Timoshenko, Andrei Yeremenko, Charles de Gaulle, Lin Biao, Sam Bahadhur Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, Lewis Puller Chesty Puller, Chen Yi, Ivan Koniev, Frank Fletcher, David Ben-Gurion, Chiang Kai-shek Jiang Jieshi, Francisco Franco, Anthony McAuliffe, Chu Teh Zhu De, Mao Tse-tung Mao Zedong, Bernard Montgomery 1st Viscount, Aleksandr Vasilevski, Kurt Student, Karl Donitz, Anthony McAuliffe, Mark Clark, Josip Tito, Gunichi Mikawa, Omar Bradley, Richard O'Connor Sir, Claude Auchinleck the Auk, Aksel Airo, Bekor Ghoulian, Shahen Meghrian, Matthew Ridgway, Kim Il-Sung, Arthur Harris 1st Baronet 'Bomber Harris', Chaim Bar-Lev, Garegin Nzdeh, William Westmoreland, Abdul Haris Nasution, Suharto Kemusa Argamulj, Fidel Castro, Arkady Ter-Tadevossian, H. Norman Schwarzkopf Stormin' Norman, Charles Guthrie Baron Guthrie of Craigiebank, Wesley Clark, and Tommy Franks.

"War is all hell" - William T. Sherman

Thanks and enjoy, Spartan JKM :)
WoW Spartan, that's a hell of a BIG list and you've clearly put some effort into it. I'd like to critique it a little if I may, just general points really.

I agree that Alexander is one of the great military commanders of all time but I cannot agree that he is the greatest. In fact, I cannot agree that anyone is the greatest and I think you touched upon this yourself. It's not just a question of comparing commanders from different eras, although this is a huge variable. It's more of defining what is 'great' and what makes a commander 'great'. Do you measure outright military achievements or impact on history? Is a commander 'greater' than his peers because he has heralded in a new kind of warfare or is a commander that wins against all the odds to be more lauded? IMO there have to be clear goalposts before any kind of useful comparison can be made.

Aside from Alexander you haven't given any clear reasons why you selected the other 15 commanders in your Tier 1 list. I have to confess I'm always a little wary when looking at the achievements of ancient commanders. As you've alluded to yourself there has been some exaggeration of the facts when referring to battles of antiquity that have to be considered when measuring commanders of the ancient world. Despite this there's no doubt that Alexander was special. But was he more special than Subotai for instance?

You didn't include any modern era commanders in your top tier which I found interesting. It might be that your knowledge of modern warfare isn't as studied as that of other eras? I also doubt if you have enough knowledge of every single commander on your list to accurately or fairly place them. I know I certainly haven't. It seems to me that you've just listed names of well known commanders without any clear thought as to why they deserve credit. For example, you include Zhukov in your Tier 2 list but omit Konev and Vatutin, who were certainly as able as Zhukov and who both had as much to do with Soviet victory in WW2. You also place Patton equal with Guderian which is a little unfair on the latter when you consider he was largely responsible for an entirely new form of warfare which Patton then only copied, albeit to great effect. IMO there's nothing that separates Guderian or Manstein as a commander when comparing them to say Napoleon or the Duke of Wellington, two of your Tier 1 choices. All four were excellent commanders for different reasons.

Anyway, these lists are all subjective to a certain degree. We all have our favourites and I'm certainly guilty of that, as a glance at my avatar pic and signature will testify. 8)
some reall interesting names Spartan, but reading all this I got confused...but errrr, have u mentioned [Biabars or Baybars

he is an interesting figure really. :rambo:
Read a great book called "The mask of Command" by John Keegan. It analyses Alex the Great, Wellington, Ulyses Grant and Hitler.

It particularly raises the idea of heroic and non heroic leadership, thir differences and merits and their effectiveness. Heroic was like Alexander, fighing at the front (and getting hurt) and non heroic was like Wellington commanding very effectively and attacking only as a rallying example.

You put alot of work into that list Spartan and will be a welcome addition to the history contingent of this site.
dont i know u from somewhere else Spartan ?? thats if u are still alive..

Yes I am sure it was u.. gottchya ya bloody :cen: LOL 8)
I wouldn't Consider Alexander III (the Great) As one of the Greatest. He was a great general, but His father Philip II did raise and train the unbeatable army Alexander Inherited. Remember when Philip asended to the throne, Macedon could barely hold its own boarders. When Philip died, the only greek state not under his thumb was Sparta, and the Army to Invade Persia was already assembled. Alexander just used the army properly.
However, I wouldn't call Philip II the greatest either. He would never have been a great tactian had he not been a Hostage in Thebes for most of his Adolesent years. Philip learnt from and studied Epaminodas. Between the Three, you have the greatest Phalanx Commanders in History.
yeah..true that. shame. But I think u ment Alexander there lol. Alexandra? yeah..memories of the early days do tend to come back eh...must have been some story..

Thats an impressive list by Spartan, I dont think he's missed too many.

The top commanders are pretty well on the mark, they would probably be as good, if not better, then any commander in history for their individual brilliance, and the sheer size of their campaigns over many years.

A lot depends on who the opposition is and how good they are, which makes Hannibal's victories stand out, especialy the battle of Cannae . It's often viewed as the classical example of a smaller army thoroughly defeating a larger, stonger opponent, purely through the use of superior tactics on open terrain, and is still studied in most war collages today.
Rome put the largest army in it's history on the field, 80,000 well trained men against Hannibal's 40,000 Carthaginians.
On a small strip of land where the Romans were bottled up, estimates as high as 60,000 Roman corpses were piled one on top of another, slain in one day, some historians say the most men killed in a single days fighting until the 20th Century,[3 times more then the number of British killed on the first day of the Somme]
The Carthaginians lost 5,700.

A few others that deserve mention, who might not be so spectacular, but stayed the distance, no matter how hard the going, also against strong opposition, such as Vo Nguyen Giap, who fought a guerilla war for almost 30 years against powers like France and the U.S.A. and in the end defeated them.

Washington, another who held on for years against a well trained professional army until, with help from the French, winning the key battle of Yorktown.

And apart from Zhukov, who was the commander chiefly responsible for holding the Soviet Union together, and winning the most importent victories of the second world war, many other Soviet commanders are still often overlooked in the Russian recovery and eventual victory, such as Vasilievsky, Chernyakovsky, etc, and very able tank commanders like Katukov [stopping Guderian at Tula] and Rotmistrov [stopping Hauser at Kursk] being vital efforts among their many achievments.

As Spartan pointed out there really is no such indisputable title 'greatest general of all time', but again, as he said, it makes for fascinating
conjecture and debate.

You should place Saladin in the TOP TEN LIST!

He is one of the best muslim commanders in the history of muslim world and even respected in Europe.

He defeated the kingdom of Jerusalem and drove the christians out of the region completely.

He then resisted attacks of crusaders successfully for 4 years. At-least a total of 4 crusaders were defeated by him including the famous king of England: "Richard - The Lion hearted".
Last edited:
I would like to nominate one name for the not so Greatest Commander of History. Just to be a little more contemporary - I'd choose a name from modern history.........

#1 worst Commander in the entire history of man
George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States.

After all, he IS the Commander in Chief of the United States military and the ONLY reason we didn't lose the war in Iraq was NOT because of his military brilliance.
Chief Bones said:
I would like to nominate one name for the not so Greatest Commander of History. Just to be a little more contemporary - I'd choose a name from modern history.........

#1 worst Commander in the entire history of man
George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States.

After all, he IS the Commander in Chief of the United States military and the ONLY reason we didn't lose the war in Iraq was NOT because of his military brilliance.

You're clearly not a fan of Dubya are ya? :) I don't think you can call him what you did though, even if I don't like the man much either. I don't think the man has the moral character nor the intelligence to be the manager of a convenience store, nevermind the Presidency of the USA.
I'll have to say that I'm surprised at how excellently Spartan did at not leaving out any of the really great commanders in military history, especially those that are so often overlooked. (Subotai and Belasarius, for instance.) On the other hand, the list is enormous. So is the history of the world though. Zuhkov probably merits to have made the list though perhaps not too far up, I'll agree with Ashes on that one. I've got to disagree with TP_PAKI on Saladin. While he was excellent, he had so many things in his favor. The Holy Land was the Arab's "home field" and he had overwhelming numbers to work with. The Crusaders and defenders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem didn't. This does not detract from what he accomplished, but putting him in the top 10 may be going too far.

Because the history of the World is so big, your going to miss some great military commanders. This goes without saying. Spartan did an amazing job and I can't think of a truly outstanding battlefield commander that he missed.

The part that absolutely kills me is that a couple jokers here might successfully hijack this completely unrelated thread and turn it into a Bush-bashing festival.
godofthunder9010 said:
I'll have to say that I'm surprised at how excellently Spartan did at not leaving out any of the really great commanders in military history, especially those that are so often overlooked. (Subotai and Belasarius, for instance.) On the other hand, the list is enormous. So is the history of the world though. Zuhkov probably merits to have made the list though perhaps not too far up, I'll agree with Ashes on that one. I've got to disagree with TP_PAKI on Saladin. While he was excellent, he had so many things in his favor. The Holy Land was the Arab's "home field" and he had overwhelming numbers to work with. The Crusaders and defenders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem didn't. This does not detract from what he accomplished, but putting him in the top 10 may be going too far.

Because the history of the World is so big, your going to miss some great military commanders. This goes without saying. Spartan did an amazing job and I can't think of a truly outstanding battlefield commander that he missed.

The part that absolutely kills me is that a couple jokers here might successfully hijack this completely unrelated thread and turn it into a Bush-bashing festival.
If you're interested, there's a fuller thread regarding this over on the history channel boards, including the author's response to my reply and an added summary by him:

Personally I think Spartan has covered TOO many commanders. He can't possibly have good knowledge of every single one.
Last edited:
Or he knows people/books/websites that do know all those commanders intimately, and consulted them before his post. In that case it would have taken days to do.
Chief Bones said:
I would like to nominate one name for the not so Greatest Commander of History. Just to be a little more contemporary - I'd choose a name from modern history.........

#1 worst Commander in the entire history of man
George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States.

After all, he IS the Commander in Chief of the United States military and the ONLY reason we didn't lose the war in Iraq was NOT because of his military brilliance.

There is one key difference between "Commander-in-Chief" and "Commander." The President tells the Commander what to do and the Commander does it. Where President Bush has gone wrong is that he does not listen to his commanders in the field and the Pentagon who were telling him that half measures would not work and that he needed to commit more forces to Iraq. (Which means writing off some poor African nations.) Where Johnson went wrong is that he was a President with, to my knowledge, no prior military experience who was trying to micro manage a war from 10,000 miles away.

I can't really make a world wide top ten list, my limited knowledge of eastern military history means that I am probably missing at minimum 1/3 of the candidates for the top ten, so I wil just throw some honorable metions together and post them eventually.
Back To Alexander!

Now what happened to the Great Army of Alexandra then, once he decided not to go in India[unquote]------ LEE ENFIELD
Isn't that slightly wrong?Alexander the Great, defeated the mighty King Porus on the frontiers of the Indian Plains and took him captive.When the captive King was brought in front Of Alexander, the latter asked the captive King "how would u like to be treated, now that you are an captive", King Porus replied" As one King should treat another King", the answer pleased Alexander so much, that he set free the captive King and entered into an alliance with him. And so goes the story.

Prior to further exploiting his gains and moving south towards the mighty Gangetic plains and further south still ,Alexander afflicted by home sickness decided to revisit his home.It was on his way back thathe fell ill and subsequently died and his mighty great Army slowly disintegrated.So it was not his decision 'not to go to India',that saw the breakup of Alexander's forces.He did achieve a mighty and decisive victory in India which had thrown open the gates to the hitherto unconquered Indian Sub-continent.Before pulling out he left behind his Viceroy 'Seleucus Niketor' who later on formed an alliance with the great Indian General and Statesman of his times, 'Chandra Gupta Maurya'.

Till date their is a village in the remote mountains, in the state(Province) of Himachal Pradesh in India which is part of the Great Himalayan Range, where the culture, the traditions and the ethnicity of an ancient culture are preserved and anthropologists trace these villagers as the descendants of that ancient Hellenic race who under Alexander the Great had invaded the Indian Sub-continent.Probably Alexander's greatness lies in the wisdom , courage and mil sense for one so young and what possibly seals it is his humaneness tovanquished as seen from the anecdote above.:horsie: