15 Greatest Military Leaders of the Ancient World

Today we will discuss about the 15 greatest military leaders of ancient times that every one of you must know about. The ancient world saw many a great commanders and generals that won hundreds of fierce battles not merely with their tact, courage but also because these men had true virtue. The commanders that we will talk about were known to be well respected men that made solemn promise to protect and serve their motherlands to the last breath. All these generals infused so much passion into their followers that saw them winning many unthinkable feats. Till today, all historians love to speak and discuss about these courageous men. Our ancient history wouldn’t be the same if these valiant men hadn’t existed. So dear readers, let’s get on with this post to know in detail some of the best generals in history and enlighten ourselves!

1. Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)

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The courageous king of Macedon, Alexander the Great was one of ancient world’s finest generals who was a venerated leader of thousands of soldiers that he commanded with aplomb. He commanded 50,000 armies and led his men in four greatest battles of all times, In all his battles, he emerged a victorious man, conquering hundreds of territories all around the world. He along with his men marched the uncharted lands for 12 long years so as to further his father’s mission which was to acquire as many foreign lands as possible. Alexander the Great mastered in the science of logistics which led him to conquer lands from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River. This is not all, he, because of his foresight conquered lands from the Danube River to the Nile. With a unique charisma and a passionate persona, Alexander became a name to reckon with as far as military prowess was concerned. Till date, no military General can come close to the feat achieved by this majestic king we all know today.

2. Cyrus the Great (c. 600-529 BC)

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In the list of ancient world’s greatest military leaders, the name of Cyrus the Great must find mention because he was the first man who took action to get the whole country of Iran united. He was a warrior commander who had an impeccable sense of logistics and also introduced the concept of human rights for the first time in history. A Persian commander, Cyrus the Great was the conqueror of Medes and lived with the sole aim to make his empire the biggest on the planet. Cyrus the Great was the first king of Persia who took measures to eradicate slavery. It was during his time that Iran was considered a kingdom where slavery was considered illegal. His rule was also called the golden rule as it was during his reign that citizens were free to live lives as per their own choices and could also follow any customs as they liked. He conquered kingdoms of Greek, Antonia and Ledia with much ease and led a strong army of soldiers who considered him to be their god.

3. Sun Tzu (ca. 5th century BC)

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Sun Tzu was a great Chinese military general who brought about a revolutionary change to the art and technique of fighting wars. He authored the famous book called ‘The art of war’ which included his findings about new and better ways of fighting battles. His strategies were well regarded by other intellectuals and military commanders of other empires who followed the principals propagated by Sun Tzu. The book went on to become a must read for most Asian military commanders. The art of war was a masterpiece to have influenced the European as well as American politics and business in the 20th century.

4. Julius Caesar (100-44 BC)

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What maketh a man‘? Well it’s many attributes that make a man but what are generals made of? Generals are brilliant men who command thousands of men who follow them like demi gods. As for the ancient world, it had many powerful generals, but the one man that we have to mention is Julius Caesar, a great reformer, a politician, a warrior, an emperor and an administrator. Caesar was a fearless commander who exercised his intellect and judgement to rectify a problematic situation in any war or battle. He was a charismatic commander who led a strong army of thousands of men who followed his commands without even flinching for one moment. A tactical man, he brought newer concepts to the art of siege warfare. The military schools today study his field works and war tactics that are unmatched and offer an insight into his brilliant mind.

5. Pyrrhus of Epirus (c. 319 – 272 BCE)

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Pyrrhus of Epirus, according to Hannibal Barca was the second best military commander of ancient times and was a man with great military prowess and intellect. His innovative approach to the art of warfare earned him great respect from Alexander the Great and one of the greatest generals Hannibal Barca. Pyrrhus fought two major battles with the Roman Empire and defeated them after which he spread his campaigns to take over Carthaginians. But as fate would have it, the general was defeated by the Romans because he left for pursuing his mission at Sicily and this gave much needed time for the Romans to prepare against him. The Roman encounter at Beneventum is best remembered for it is here that the mighty Pyrrhus of Epirus faced an unfortunate defeat. But, whatever said and done, this general was a man who was bestowed with a shrewd mind and was a legendary commander of ancient times.

Also Read: 11 Forgotten Kingdoms that are vanished from History

6. Hammurabi (ca. 1792-1750 BC)

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Hammurabi was one of the greatest generals of all time not merely because he was the first king of Babylon but also because of his immense sense and knowledge of warfare that earned him this title. It was because of him that the modern world has its hands on the famous Hammurabi Code. The Hammurabi’s Code is the first ever written sets pertaining to various laws. This great commander rose to power once his father died in the year 1792 BC. Some of his major conquests include the conquest of Elamites, Uruk and Lsin. After Hammurabi had captured the towns of Uruk and Lsin, he took measures to establish connections with Nippur and Lagash, thereby conquering these towns. This general not only showed tactical prowess for fighting off great wars and battles, but also had great administrative capabilities. He innovated many a breakthrough technologies in building canals, and other infrastructure like buildings. He is famously referred to as the ‘ancient law giver‘ by modern day historians.

7. Ramses II (ca. 1303-1213 BC)

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One of the greatest military leaders of ancient Egypt, Ramses II was the most famous and widely respected pharaohs during ancient times. He was a great administrator who also exercised unique battlefield tactical ability and farsightedness. Ramses II can be credited with getting the whole of Egypt unified under his able rule that saw hundreds of temples, buildings and monuments being built along with a peaceful atmosphere for the citizens to live and prosper. His military consisted of 100,000 men who worked day and night to keep the borders safe and unified the territories of Nubian and Hittite. In 1247 BC, Ramses II fought the great Battle of Kadesh and showed his prowess to fighting this war with a huge number of soldiers under his command. His name will always find mention whenever we speak about greatest generals of the ancient world.

8. Hannibal (247-183 BC)

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If it wasn’t for Hannibal Barca who mesmerized the ancient world with his shrewdness and bold battle strategies, the modern world today would have been much different. This is because Barca was an imminent commander who led his army to fight many fierce battles and developed war strategies and logistics that are still spoken about today. Hannibal Barca was trained to be a commander from his childhood by his father who sowed the seeds of hatred for Romans in the young Hannibal. With a tactful mind that solved even the unthinkable war problems and a zeal to do the unattainable made Barca the greatest general of his times and made his contemporaries fear him. Barca is most famous for his boldness which he showed when he led his army to cross the Alps, a feat that was unthinkable at those times. He led 50,000 infantry men, 9000 cavalries and 37 elephants to cross the great mountains

9. Aurelian ( 214 or 215 – 275)

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Most of his contemporaries addressed Aurelian as ‘A Centurion of Genius’ because this great military commander exhibited will power, tactfulness and courage like no other in his time. Aurelian was a disciplinarian who earned the Title of ‘Restorer of the World’ as he helped a great deal in bringing peace and stability to lot of territories and empires. The feats achieved by him are incomparable with any other commander. For example, he along with his soldiers, defeated the Goths in the Balkan campaign, helped conquer Sudanese men in Egypt and did a lot of work in favor of the Romans. When the Roman rebels had captured Britain and Gaul, Aurelian marched ahead and conquered these two territories and freed them from the rebels.

10. Scipio Africanus (236–183 BC)

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The name of Scipio Africanus has to be counted in any list that speaks of the greatest military leaders of the ancient times. His name emerged during the second Punic War when he, along with the great commander Hanibal Barca, rose victorious in his campaigns at Trebia, Cannae and Ticinus. Scipio was a skilled and fast learner who took an immense interest to the way Barca fought and led his armies. It was because of Scipio’s tact and knowledge about battle fields that led his army to triumph against the Carthaginians. The master tactician that he was, Scipio was able to take on Hannibal Bara directly when he faced him in the Great War and won. Scipio Africanus was a prominent name in olden times and he was a commander who never lost a battle.

Also Read: 15 Facts about Peloponnesian War

11. Antigonus One-Eyed (382 -301 BCE)

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Antigonus One-Eyed was one of the most powerful generals among a vast crowd of Diadochi who fought with each other to gain control of the vast empire that Alexander the Great has left behind after his death in 323 BC. His full name was Antigonus Monophthalmus who was popularly called ‘Antigonus One-Eyed’. He was an able bodied commander who led a vast army and defeated Eumenes Of Cardia, another of the Diadochi who was considered an equally brilliant commander and had an army of ex generals who fought with Alexander. This one eyed general was 60 years old at the time of Alexander’s death but his old age couldn’t hamper his strong will power.

12. Leonidas (540 – 480 BC)

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Ancient Sparta couldn’t have reached its pinnacle if Leonidas wasn’t the military commander and king at that time. Leonidas was well known for his unmatched courage, vigour, war knowledge and tactics – the attributes that he projected in the famous battle of Thermopylae. This battle was fought between Leonidas’s 300 men and the Persian king Xerxes’s vast army consisting of 150,000 soldiers or even more. The battle of Thermopylae was fought for a total number of seven days during which Leonidas and his men killed 20,000 Persian soldiers. But unfortunately, the Spartan king lost his life and attained martyrdom along with his men on the last day of the battle, and became a legend.

13. Khalid Bin Walid (592–642 AD)

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The Arabian Khalid Bin Walid can be regarded as one of the greatest generals of all time as he fought over 100 battles and went undefeated or uncaptured in almost all of them. The commander was Prophet Mohammad’s companion and commanded the Medinan army when the Prophet died. He also had an important role to play in the battle of Uhud. He believed in the practice of exterminating his enemies once captured rather than leaving them alive. A hard core fanatic, Khalid Bin Walid united the whole of Arabia under one political entity.

14. Pompey the Great (106-48 BCE)

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Though, not in the same bracket as Alexander or Caesar, Pompey the Great was nevertheless a very able Roman military commander in the first century BC. He commanded a great respect from his men and enjoyed a grand stature. Some major achievements of this commander include his measures that helped in eradication of piracy from the waters of the Mediterranean and the ending of the Spanish Civil War. Though, Pompey was defeated at the hands of Caesar, the general will always be remembered for his role in annexing the remaining territories of the Seleucid Kingdom and unifying it with the Romans.

Also Read: 15 Interesting Facts about Genghis Khan

15. Seleucus Nicator (c. 358 BC – 281 BC)

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Counted as one among the best generals in history, Seleucus Nicator was a star military commander who served in the army of Alexander the Great. He was a tactful and articulate general among the Diadochi and rose to higher ranks in the hierarchy of Alexander’s army. In the historic agreement between the great Indian Emperor Chandragupta Maurya and the Macedonian Army led by Nicator, the Punjab territory was given back to the emperor in exchange of 500 war elephants. Thereafter, he went on to fight in the battle of Ipsus where he defeated another equally articulate general named Antigonus One-Eyed with the help of these war elephants. He went on to fight many a great battles, the last of which was fought when he was 79 years old.

So…this is the list we compiled for you all and hope we have done justice to it. Go through the points and let us know if you really loved this post that listed the 15 greatest military leaders of ancient times. Ciao!