“The warrior doesn’t win the war by virtue along.” Ancient military commander leads thousands of their men in the vicious battle and triumphed over their enemy. Their flourishes speech prior to the battle, inspired thousands of their men in the battlefield, which is still invoked by various historians. Ancient Warfare were completely different than modern warfare. Numbers of armies and their strength were the primary factor considered to win the war. Some of the ancient military commander confutes it by showing the inconceivable strategy and tactics in the battlefield that are still adored and appraise by many historians. Here is a list of top 12 Ancient military commanders that are still remembered till today.
12. Tiglath-Pileser III (unknown -727 BC, Assyria)
Tiglath-Pileser III was the founder of a modern military force and the pioneer of the political system in Assyria Empire. During his reign, he expanded the kingdom that dominated in the Middle East for a century. In the first year of his reign, he defeated one of the powerful kingdom of Uartu, ruled by the Sarduri II. Sarduri II had expanded his kingdom in Asia Minor, northern Mesopotamia, western Iran, and Syria. It was one of the significant victory of Tiglath-Pileser III.
11. Chandragupta Maurya (340 BC – 298 BC, India)
Chandragupta was the founder of the Mauray Empire and the ruler from Kshatriya Varna. He reunited the India into the single sub-continent. Chandragupta is usually considered as the first historical emperor of India. Before Chandragupta, India is divided into small private kingdoms. He conquered all the small kingdom and create a central government that established the unified central kingdom.
10. Leonidas (540 – 480 BC, Greece)
Leonidas was the military king of the Sparta. Leonidas, the third son of Anaxandrius II of Sparta, is mostly applaud for the extraordinary performance on the Thermopylae Battle. Leonidas fought against Xerxes and his army with his small, yet strong force. The 300 Spartan men fought the battle till their last breathe.
The Parisian army was outnumbered. Even though, the army was claimed to be millions, many historians’ questions about it, and the real figure was estimated between 100,000 to 150,000.
The smallest assembled forces of 300 Spartiates fought the war for seven days (3 day official war) holding the Persians armies of thousands. In the fifth and sixth days of battle, Leonidas and his army killed roughly 20,000 Persians’ army. On the seven days of battle, Leonidas sent all of his Greek troops and stayed in the pass with his 300 Spartans, 900 helots, and 700 Thespians. Leonidas and his armies had the glorious death that are still embraced by several legends.
9. Hammurabi (1810 -1750 BC, Babylon)
Hammurabi was the first king of Babylon from the Amorite Dynasty. He abdicated the power from his father, Sin-Muballit in 1792 BC. Hammurabi is popularly known for the Hammurabi’s Code – one of the first written set of law. He is now widely praised by many historians as the ancient-law giver.
When the Elamites (present day Iraq) invaded the central plains of Mesopotamia from the east, Hammurabi allied with Larsa, and defeated them. After the defeat, he broke the alliance and invaded the cities of Lsin and Uruk, occupied by Larsa, forming the alliances with Nippur and Lagash. He then conquered Nippur, Lagas, and Larsa. His brilliant strategy was blocking the water source to the city until the city surrendered.
Apart from the brilliant fighting strategy, Hammurabi was widely popular among his people. He built many buildings, canal, and introduced the law system that was rare in his time. He tried to improve the life of the people throughout his reign.
8. Ramses II (1303 – 1213 BC, Egypt)
Ramesses II was the greatest and most celebrated Pharaoh of the Ancient Egypt. Although Ramesses primarily focused on the development of the empire by building cities, temples, and monuments, he was atrociously known for his bravery and strategy in the battlefield.
Ramesses commence several campaigns to secure the Egypt’s border. During his reign, the total army of 100,000 men held back the territories held by the Nubian and Hittite.
Battle of Kadesh was the earliest battle (1247 BC), where the strategy, army formation, and use of different tactics were first discovered. Despite of the technical error in the battle, he is widely known for his strategy and the size of the army in his reign.
7. Khalid Bin Walid (592–642 AD), Arabia
Khalid is a companion of the Prophet Muhammad who remained undefeatable in more than hundred battles. During his military leadership, Arabia united under a single political entity for the first time in the history. He was among the only three military generals who remains undefeatable in the battle. Khalid was also among the military commander other than Hannibal, who had successfully executed the pincer movement against a numerous superior opponent..
Khalid played a major role in the battle of Uhud, He played a vital role in commanding Medinan force after the death of Muhammad’s (pbuh) in the battle of Ridda wars. He conquered central Arabia and subduing Arab tribes. His fabulous tactics, lies in annihilating enemy troops rather than defeating them. He was an architect of the most of the early Muslim military doctrines.
6. Trajan (53 AD – 17 AD, Rome)
Tarjan dedicated his life for different military campaigns. He was mostly known for the conquest of Dacia (modern-day Romania and Moldova), that had troubled Roman throughout the 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)
The Chinese military general, war strategist, and the author of “The art of war”, Sun Tzu changed eminently the way war was fought in the ancient time. His book “The art of war” was followed by many military commander, nations and intellectual. It remained the most important military treatise in Asia for the last 2,000 years. In the 20th century, The Art of War started to influence in Europe and America in various fields like culture, politics, business, sport and also in modern warfare.
4. Julius Caesar (100 – 44 BC, Rome)
Julius Caesar was the brilliant military general, lawgiver, builder, and politicians. He was one of the most famous figures in the ancient history. His influence created a significant impact in the ancient and the modern world. The word “emperor” was derived from his name in different languages – “kaiser” in German and “czar” in Russia. The month July was renamed from his name (Julius), which was previously known as Wuintilis in Rome.
He conquered Gaul (modern day – France, Switzerland, Belgium, and northern Italy). He was also the first Roman emperor that led a military expedition to Britain.
3. Cyrus the Great (600 – 530 BC, Persia)
Cyrus the Great was the leader of the Persians who conquest the Medes and unified the whole Iran under the single ruler for the first time in the history. Cyrus became the first king of the Persian Empire and vision to established one of the largest empire in the world. Cyrus started to expand his territory from the western portion of present day Iran. He conquest the major nomadic tribe who lived in the eastern section of the Iran. He invaded the kingdom of Lydia and Greek and conquered it along with the cast of Antonia, which gave him access to the sea port of the Mediterranean.
He issued the first human right concept in the ancient world. All the 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 and properties.
2. Hannibal Barca (247 -183 BC, Carthage)
Hannibal was perhaps one of the audacious military commanders with the affluence military tactics and strategy. The young 8 years boy was raised loathe towards Rome by his father, Hamilcar, who fought Rome in the first Punic war. His ingenious military tactics, imperil risk taking behavior, makes him applaud by many historians.
Hannibal was mostly known for his courageous attempt to cross mountain Alps with his 50,000 infantry, 9,000 cavalry, and 37 elephants which was practically thought impossible at that time. The never-ending conflict between Rome and Carthaginians result 2nd Punic war, where Hannibal shows his brilliant military tactics. Despite of all his effort and greatest military strategy, his life mission to conquered Rome came to an end. He committed suicide to avoid falling into the Roman hands.
1. Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC, Greece)
The military genius and the king of Macedon, Alexander is one of the most respected military commanders of all time. After the assassination of his father, Alexander inherit his power and became the king. The 20-year-old king continued his father’s mission to expand the kingdom. He took 50,000 armies on a 12 years march with a mission to expand his territory He expanded his kingdom Adriatic Sea to the Indus River in India and Danube River to the upper-reaches of the Nile which was thought to be obscure at that time.
Undoubtedly, Alexander the Great and Hannibal were the two biggest inspirational military commander of the ancient world. The list is based on the ancient period. Thus other greatest commander like Napoléon Bonaparte, Genghis khan are excluded from the list.