5 Great Military Commanders

The great nations we know of today have been marked by their leaders and undoubtedly their success in battles, here is a top 5 list of those who fought with skills and success, leaving their names written on the hall of fame of military commanders.

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5 – Julius Caesar.

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Gaius Julius Caesar

Born around 100 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman Statesman, general, Consul and then Dictator of Rome. Caesar became the famous ruler we know in history thanks to his military battles. He is the one who helped Rome extend its territory in Gaul, after defeating Gallic Leader Vercingetorix at the siege of Alesia, thus extending roman borders to the English Channel and the Rhine. These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, the other Roman Consul. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome, fearing his popularity will grow out of proportion. Caesar refused the order, and instead defied the senate in 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon River with his legion, therefore illegally entering Rome under arms. Such defiance resulted in a civil war that saw Pompei and his allies lose before the might of Caesar. Ironically, Caesar did not kill his enemies but pardoned them, going as far as allowing them back to Rome. During the 5 years of his rule, Caesar enacted significant reforms and was known to be popular among romans, especially since he named them in his will to receive a substantial sum of his fortune. He was assassinated in the senate by fellow senators who had conspired against him. It is believed that among them were some of those he forgave during the civil war that led him to power.

Number 4 – Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Napoleon during his coronation in 1806

Napoleon Bonaparte (born on the 15th of August 1769), the legendary French emperor who is known to be one of the greatest military commanders in history who ever lived, was of course a man driven by his desire for conquest. Coming from a middle class family of Corsica, He joined a prestigious military academy thanks to his father, and from a very young age, he impressed his superiors, who promoted him quickly when they saw how skillful he was regarding battlefield tactics. He then quickly climbed the ladder of the French society to be both a fierce general and a great politician, who just happened to be needed in post-revolutionary France. Managing to be crowned emperor (although not of royal ascendance), He led his armies to many victories, among which the famous battle of Austerlitz, whose favorable outcome marked the end of the Holy Roman Empire. He practically invaded all of Europe, defeating one nation after the other or compelling them to ally themselves with France. Such conquests came with a high number of casualties and of course a long list of enemies, a one led by the British and the Prussian empires, whose numerous coalitions against the French failed prior to the Russian invasion. Historians believe his greatest mistake was to invade Russia with nearly 700,000 men. He was convinced that by defeating the Russian army, he will force them to stop trading with the British, their main enemy. His plans did not take into consideration the Russian resolves to burn whatever they left behind (including Moscow) while retreating, therefore denying the large French army the ability to rely on Russian crops. Although he did beat the Russians, the campaign was not a total success, since the starving Russian winter claimed tens of thousands of his men. He was therefore forced to retreat, having lost nearly half a million men in this campaign. Greatly weakened, Napoleon will lose twice in battle to a great coalition led by the British, being betrayed by some of his allies (including his father in law from the Austrian empire). His last stand at the battle of Waterloo, marks the end of his reign as an emperor. Captured by the British, he will be sent to the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean where he will live his last days, dying on the 5th of May 1821.

Number 3 – Hannibal Barca

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Bust of Hannibal Barca

Born in 247 BC, Hannibal Barca is certainly reputed in history to be the great military commander who became a serious threat to Rome over a long period of time. Son of Hamilcar Barca, leader of Carthage, he grew famous when he launched a campaign against Rome, starting the second Punic war (from 218 to 201 BC). The success of Hannibal lies on his ingenuity. He managed to cross the Alps with his troops against all odds, making alliance with Gallic tribes in order to defeat Rome. Among his great tactics, the crossing of the Rhone is with no doubt an insane achievement, since it was not possible to human logic to cross the river with tens of elephants. He made his way through roman territory, occupying some significant parts for more than a decade. A Counter invasion led by Rome in Carthage forced him to retreat in order to defend his homeland. He was defeated in Carthage by Scipio Africanus, whose father he defeated at the start of his invasion of Italy. Hannibal is the first commander who almost captured Rome, bringing fear in the heart of the romans and for good reasons, he was definitely a fierce foe. He ended is life on 183 BC after several failures to defeat Rome.

 

Number 2 – Attila the Hun.

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Coin with the Face of Attila the Hun

Attila the Hun, was the Leader of the Hunnic tribes. They were located all across central and eastern Europe. He was known for being ruthless, commanding a deadly army that spread fear all around Europe during the time of the western and eastern roman empires. His armies mainly consisted of horsemen, whose deadly arrows could reach any target 150 meters away. Among all the enemies of Rome, he is the one who inspired the most fear thanks to his efficient raids. He first led the Huns with his brother Bleda, and at one point, they managed to impose a tribute to Rome, consisting of Gold payments and many other arrangement. Since he wanted power for himself, he had his brother killed to ensure supreme command of the Huns. His 19 years of rule are marked by brutal campaigns all across Europe, Invading both roman empires, though not being able to conquer Rome. He died on 453 AD, possibly after being poisoned, but no clear account confirm that thesis. After his death, no other leader was able to unite the Hunnic tribes, thus resulting in the collapse of their Kingdom.

 

Number 1 – Alexander the Great.

Mosaic of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great Mosaic

This list could not be complete without the number 1 spot claimed by Alexander the Great. Son of Phillip the second, king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, Alexander was born in June 356 BC. He was tutored by the famous Philosopher Aristotle until he was 16. When his father was assassinated in 336 BC, Alexander was just 20. Becoming King, he was now at the command of a strong kingdom as well as an experienced army. The Persian Empire on the other hand, had its eyes set on Europe and mainly Greece. Alexander cherished a vision his father had to subdue the Persians. He therefore launched a campaign against the mightiest empire on earth at that time. When facing the Persians, his armies were always outnumbered, but this never had a significant impact on the outcome of the battle. Alexander had a great sense of leadership and was an accomplished military commander at a very young age, inspiring respect among his men. Victory after victory, he finally overthrew Darius the third, claiming the Persian Empire for himself. His military achievements allowed him to hold several titles at once: King of Macedon, Pharaoh of Egypt (where he founded Alexandria), King of Persia, and King of Asia. By the time he was 30, he conquered most of the known world, undoubtedly establishing a mighty empire for himself. At the peak of his might, he died of sickness, leaving his great empire without an heir. His main 4 generals divided it between themselves, thus starting another chapter of the Greek empire, dominated by intrigue and conspiracy, opening the way for the Roman Empire.

 

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