The Greatest Ancient Generals of All Time

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Aristotle tutoring Alexander the Great

These men help to redefine battle strategy and tactics which would go on to shape over 1,000 years of the geopolitical spectrum.

Alexander, the Great (356 – 323 BCE), succeeding his father, Phillip II who was killed, Alexander brought Macedon from a second tier civilization, to the forefront of any civilization on the Eurasia continent in less than 10 years of his tenure. Alexander, the Great never lost a battle and lost lesser soldiers than any of the foreign armies he faced. If the Greeks revolutionized warfare, Alexander did more of the same.

Alexander extended the Macedonian empire as far east as India and would have kept on going had it not been for rumors of soldier uprisings. Sadly, Alexander died while on his quest to unite the known world, but what he did was spread the Hellenistic way into foreign parts of the world.

Sun Tzu (544 – 496 BCE), sometimes with dispute, he is known as Sun Wu or even Sun Bin in different time periods in Chinese history, but even after his death, his influence can be felt in current military schools throughout the world. Sun Tzu, perhaps, was the greatest military strategist, in the ancient Asian world. He is often credited as being the author of The Art of War, a renowned Chinese military treatise which is widely accepted by both the Eastern and Western world as one of the finest books ever written on warfare and military responsiveness and preparedness.

Gaius Julius Caesar (100 – 44 BCE) He changed Rome from a republic into a powerful empire. He help to extend the Roman world into the North Sea by 55 BCE by outlasting the fierce Britons in Brittany.

Julius Caesar was also victorious over Pompey the Great, a powerful and noted Roman Senator and general of the time in the Roman Civil Wars which was to rule the entire Roman Empire. As the Roman Civil Wars raged on, Pompey would lose much of his popularity and would commit suicide later because of it.

Julius Caesar was opposed by the Roman Senate for many of his cavalier actions, one which included having an affair with Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. She would have a son which threatened Rome because it would put an heir, who was Egyptian and not an actual true aristocratic Roman linage, on the Roman throne. He would quarrel with the Roman Senate and dismiss their recommendations. As a result, Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 11, 44 BCE by them.

Africanus Scipio was an outstanding Roman general who studied the military strategy and tactics used by Hannibal Barca, a general of Carthage considered the greatest ancient African general of all time. Scipio was called Africanus which meant Roman Hannibal after he defeated Carthagean general Hannibal in the last of the battles of the Second Punic Wars. He used a strategy back then called Fabian strategy (from general Fabius Maximus) where both armies try to wear each other down through a proxy known as the attrition technique. In the end, General Africanus Scipio would lift Rome over Cathage, something no other Roman general seemed incapable of doing.

Hannibal Barca is noted as the general who almost destroyed the entire Roman Army at the Battle of Cannae. Interesting figure is that the Roman Armies outnumbered the Carthagean Armies, yet, the tactics employed by Hannibal were considered some of the finest ever conceived among all ancient battles. He also, during the Second Punic War, won the Battles of Lake Trasimene and Trebia exercising great battlefield skills. In 202 BCE at the Battle of Zama, Hannibal’s forces were defeated by those of Africanus Scipio’s which ended 17 – years of fighting and the Second Punic War. The fact that Carthage led a campaign against Rome in both Punic Wars make Cathage and general Hannibal Barca the worst thing Rome has ever faced on the field.

Other Great Ancient Generals include: Fabius Maximus, Phillip of Macedon, Cincinnatus, Pompey the Great, Leonidas I, Hydarnes Mardonius, Themistocles, Lucius Cornelius, Sulla Gaius Agustus, Shapur I Chandragupta, Maurya, Han Xin, Samudragupta, Flavius Stilicho, David of Israel, Sargon of Akkad, Thutmose III, Tiglath Pileser III, Cyrus the Great, Xerxes I, Darius I, Cao Cao

Sources:

  1. Bennett, Bob.17 Sep 2009. The Wars of Alexander’s Successors 323 – 281 BC. Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 1844159248
  2. Miles, Richard. 10 Mar 2010. Carthage Must be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization. ISBN 0713997931
  3. Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt. 1992. Understanding war: History and Theory of Combat. London, England. Cooper, Leo. ISBN 0850522935
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