History’s Greatest Military Geniuses and Wartime Leaders

Throughout the annals of history, many myths and narratives revolve around military commanders who defied insurmountable odds and harnessed their brilliance to eventually triumph over a superior enemy force. From those early stories, kings, admirals, generals, and conquerors have been revered as tactical prodigies. Some of these men and women perished during their most pivotal battles, while others etched their legacy into history long after the conclusion of their military careers.

Using research conducted by history site Historynet, 24/7 Wall St. chose 60 of history’s most important military commanders. These leaders — who due to long-standing inequality in military eligibility are almost exclusively men — are listed in chronological order of the year or years during which they fought their most important battle or waged their most important campaign. (Also see, The Most Mass-Produced US Navy Ships of World War II.)

Within this roster, many figures transcend the realm of military command  to rule civilizations. Among them, geniuses like Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great assumed roles as conquerors, expansively redrawing the borders of their empires. Others leveraged their public acclaim garnered from battlefield exploits into political appointments and elected positions. Notably, several of America’s triumphant generals ascended to the presidency, including the very first commander-in-chief. (check out: These are the presidents who served in the U.S. military.) 

It should go without saying that while these leaders were exceptionally adept at military tactics, they were in many cases far from admirable human beings. Many acted in support of genocidal regimes or themselves led brutal campaigns of total war, laying waste to cities and doing far worse to their enemies. The qualities that make great commanders are by no means guaranteed to make great men.

Click here to see the greatest wartime leaders in history

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