My List of the Greatest Commanders in History

Jan 2015
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Ontario, Canada
For now here are some of the commanders which I have added to the list so far.

Thutmose I (1530 BC-1493 BC) - The Pharaoh who campaigned in Nubia, Canaan and Syria and crossed the Euphrates. He was the first Pharaoh to go as far as the Euphrates. His reign saw the beginning of Egyptian involvement in Syria as well as the conflicts against Mitanni.

Ramesses II (1303 BC-1213 BC) - While reckless and not at all the victor at Kadesh, his reign was still a significant portion of military history, especially in the Bronze Age. He commanded five campaigns into Syria: his first campaign against the Canaanites being successful; his second a resounding defeat at the hands of the Hittites; his third an overwhelming success against the Canaanites, Edomites and Moabites and retaking Damascus from Prince Hattusili and advancing as far as the mountains of Lebanon; his fourth and fifth campaigns in Syria were somewhat successful, he did advance into the north as far as the Euphrates but the Hittites adopted an attrition strategy and withdrew, only to recapture their territory when the Egyptians returned home. Aside from this Ramesses also campaigned in the Nubian and Libyan frontiers and defeated the Sherden pirates.

Nabopolassar (Nabu-apla-usur) (658 BC-605 BC) - For his revolt against the Assyrians in Babylonia and his campaigns in reducing the Assyrian heartland. In fact he was of the Chaldean peoples and during his uprising he successfully made himself King of Babylon. After defeating multiple Assyrian armies sent to put down his revolt, he then invaded Assyria itself and took the cities of Ashur and Nineveh. With the help of the Medes under King Cyaxeres He established the Neo-Babylonian Empire and reorganized the post-Assyrian world together with the King of Lydia, King of the Medes and King of Egypt.

Kimon (510 BC-450 BC) - An Athenian who was the son of Miltiades the Younger. He was an officer during the Battle of Salamis against the Persian invaders. He was given command of a fleet and campaigned in the Aegean Sea against islands and coastal cities which were controlled by the Persians. He took Eion and Strymon in Thrace. He defeated a Persian fleet at the mouth of the Eurymedon River near coastal Cilicia and Lycia. Around 463 BC he took the island of Thasos, which had rebelled. Kimon was influential and had positive views towards Sparta, he also opposed Perikles and his Democratic Faction. Perikles had him put on trial for bribery at some point. Kimon led an expedition of 4000 hoplites to aid Sparta against a helot revolt, but when he arrived the paranoid Spartans turned him back. Losing political prestige yet again, Perikles convinced the citizens to have him exiled in 461. Kimon returned around 451 BC, Perikles sent him to Cyprus to conquer it from the Persians and also supported an Egyptian revolt. He besieged Kition and defeated a Persian force in a land-naval operation at Salamis-in-Cyprus. Supposedly he died just prior to the battle and his death was kept secret until after the campaign.

Pelopidas (410 BC-364 BC) - Had served as an officer or soldier in the siege of Mantinea in 384 BC to support their Spartan allies. In 383 or 382 BC the Spartans turned on their allies and attacked Thebes. Pelopidas fled to Athens then returned in 379 BC and established a Democratic faction to oppose the Spartan backed oligarchy. He ambushed the political rivals in Thebes and with an army raised from Boeotia and Attica he surrounded the Spartans and reclaimed Thebes, with the support of Epaminondas and Gorgidas. He took part as a general in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 which defeated the Spartans. In 370 BC he and Epaminondas raided the Peloponnese. Then in 369 BC he undertook a campaign into Thessaly to chase out Alexandros of Pherae and expanding Theban Hegemony. Continuing into Makedonia he installed his own claimant on the throne (Perdikkas III). Returning to Makedonia in 368 his mercenaries mutinied and he was captured by Alexandros of Pherae. Thebes sent two expeditions into Thessaly to procure his release. He spent 367 BC in Persia trying to secure Persian support for the Theban Hegemony over Greece. In 364 BC he went on another campaign into Thessaly and defeated Alexandros of Pherae at Cynoscephalae. Although winning the battle he was killed in battle. In 363 BC Epaminondas invaded and defeated Alexandros of Pherae. The loss of Pelopidas was a serious blow to Thebes.

Marcus Claudius Marcellus (270 BC-208 BC) - A Roman commander who started his career in a campaign against the Gauls of northern Italy in 225 BC. At the start of the 2nd Punic War he was sent to cover a potential naval invasion of southern Italy and to defeat an uprising in Syracuse in 216 BC. After Hannibal defeated the Romans at Cannae, Marcellus was held back and kept in Campania to check Hannibal's advance southwards. He prevented Hannibal from taking Nola three times from 216 BC to 214 BC. From 213 to 212 BC he besieged Syracuse and pacified Sicily. He fought again to a stand still at Numistro in Lucania (210) and Canusium in Apulia (209). In 208 BC he was ambushed by a scouting party and killed. During his campaigns he avoided open battles with Hannibal and halted the advance of his Punic armies, a similar application to Fabius Maximus' strategy.

Germanicus Julius Caesar (15 BC-10 AD) - Was the son of the Roman general Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, and the nephew of Emperor Tiberius. He had many political roles in the reign of Emperor Augustus and was made Proconsul of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and the three Gallic provinces. With eight legions he crossed the Rhine in 13 AD and carried out three campaigns against Arminius and his allies in order to avenge the disaster at Teutoburg. He defeated Arminius at Idistaviso and the Angrivarian Wall in 16 AD. Having marched as far as the Weser River, reclaimed the three lost eagles and broken up Arminius' coalition, he was recalled by Emperor Tiberius. He was largely regarded as the successor to his uncle Tiberius. In 17 AD Germanicus Caesar celebrated a triumph over the Germanic tribes. He was sent to exercise control over the whole of the Eastern provinces. Touring Greece and the east he then marched into Armenia to depose the vassal install Artaxias as king. He also organized the Kingdom of Cappadocia into a Roman province as its vassal king had died. In addition to that he made the Kingdom of Commagene a province as well. Germanicus then traveled to Egypt to aid in the relief of a famine. During his stay in the East he had made a few enemies from local officials and his trip to Egypt insulted Tiberius' paranoid sensibilities. He died of an illness in 19 AD while at Antioch, many have speculated that he was poisoned by one of these rivals. His son Caligula would become the successor for Emperor Tiberius.
 
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Jan 2015
5,455
Ontario, Canada
Aulus Plautius (4-57) - The general who commanded Claudius' invasion of Britain. He established the Roman foothold on the island and conquered the eastern region. Afterwards he served as governor of Britannia for 5 years and he expanded the Roman foothold out of the Cantiaci and Trinovantes lands.

Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo (7-67) - A Roman general that campaigned along the Rhine in the reign of Claudius and against the Parthians in the reign of Nero. Successfully invaded Armenia, organized the defense of Syria and invaded Mesopotamia to defeat the Parthians.

Vespasian (9-79) - His first command was under Aulus Plautius in Britain as the Legate of Legio II. According to the sources he performed well in the main campaign against the Catuvellauni and was then sent to subdue the south west. His career was at its peak under Claudius and Nero and so he took up many state positions such as governor of Africa. Under Nero he was commanded to put down the Great Jewish Revolt which he did systematically. After the murder of Nero and the death of Galba he became a contender for the Imperial title. He received much support from capable officials and the military. Vespasian appointed his son Titus to finish off the Jewish revolt while a portion of his army moved to secure Anatolia and Greece and he personally led a force to take Egypt. With such a shrewd strategy he made his success practically inevitable. At the same time the Danube legions commanded by Mucianus and Marcus Antonius Primus marched into Italy and defeated Vitellius at Bedriacum, then marched across the Appenines and took Rome. Vespasian proved more capable than most of his predecessors and succeeded in governing Italy. During his reign Lucius SIlva and Lucilius Bassus finished off the remnants of the rebellious Jews.

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus (10-70) - Was appointed one of the governors of Britain in the reign of Nero. Upon succeeding Quintus Veranus he set to work putting down the Briton revolts in modern Wales. He also conquered new territories in northern Wales. In the meantime Boudicca of the Iceni rebelled and wreaked havoc in the east, Paulinus returned from the west and put down Boudicca's revolt. His methods were considered harsh and Emperor Nero preferred conciliatory policies so Nero recalled him to Rome. During the Year of Four Emperors (69) he sided with Otho and was his commander and adviser. In this capacity he and Aulus Marius Celsus commanded Otho's forces on their march from Gaul into Italy, defeating the forces of Vitellius in two battles and taking Placentia and Cremona. However at Bedriacum the forces of Otho were outnumbered by Vitellius, he suggested to Otho and his brother Titanus that they withdraw but Titanus advised Otho to battle while the Emperor brought reinforcements. Instead Vitellius defeated Paulinus' smaller army and was captured. Emperor Otho killed himself in his camp, upon hearing that his army was defeated.

Gnaeus Julius Agricola (40-93) - A Roman general who served under various governors of Britain. Eventually being promoted to the command of a legion he saw action in many campaigns. During the Year of the Four Emperors he supported Vespasian. Upon seizing power Vespasian appointed him governor of Britain. He put down a revolt in northern Wales and campaigned against the Brigantes in northern England. Then he undertook his famous campaign and invaded the territory of northern Britain, defeating the Britons at Mons Graupius and marched as far as the sea. Receiving tribute and hostages he withdrew into his borders and established the frontier as far as modern Perth.

Henry I of England (1068-1135) - One of the sons of William the Conqueror, he had two older brothers. William II succeeded as King of England and Robert II succeeded as Duke of Normandy. Henry was given no lands and so he purchased the County of Cotentin. In 1088 Normandy was in chaos and King William II and Duke Robert II were in conflict, many barons in Normandy and England also rebelled. Henry was arrested by his brother Robert but later set free. In 1090 he supported Robert against rebellious lords in Normandy and saved his castle of Rouen from these rebels. In 1091 William II invaded Normandy and forced his brother Robert to negotiate. Duke Robert was paranoid and banished his younger brother Henry. In the same year William II and Robert II declared war on their brother Henry and besieged him at Mont Saint-Michel, he surrendered and fled into France. Henry planned to overthrow Robert and take Normandy and in 1094 William II invaded Normandy again, Henry went to London. William's campaign ended in failure but Henry was gaining support from barons and was now loyal to William. Together they campaigned in Vexin in 1097 and 1098. King William II died in a hunting accident in 1100 and since Robert was on Crusade in Jerusalem it was Henry who took the throne of England as King Henry II. In 1101 Robert invaded England for the throne, many barons joined him. Henry II maneuvered and intercepted them at Alton and they made peace. Then in 1102 Henry II purged the barons which were not loyal to him, some rebelled and he took their castles of Arundel, Tickhill, Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth. Normandy was still in chaos so Henry II invaded in 1105, he defeated his brother Robert at Tinchebray in 1106. In 1113 Henry II supported his nephew Theobald II de Blois against rebel barons. In 1108 and 1114 he carried out campaigns in Wales. A revolt broke out in Alencon in 1118 and when Henry went to put them down he was defeated by count Fulk V of Anjou. In 1119 he took Breteuil from his son-in-law Eustace. Then made an alliance with Fulk V of Anjou. In Vexin he defeated the army of King Louis VI of France and Robert's son William Clito. In 1120 his son William Adelin drowned at sea and caused a succession crisis. Fulk V of Anjou turned on Henry once again and supported William Clito. In 1123 Henry besieged the rebels in Normandy and fought them at Bourgtheroulde where he captured them in 1124. To prevent the French from supporting the rebels, he had his son-in-law Emperor Henry V lead a campaign from the east. Emperor Henry V died in 1125 and needing a successor he had his daughter Matilda remarry count Geoffrey V of Anjou in 1127. In 1135 Geoffrey V and Matilda supported a revolt in Normandy so Henry campaigned against them, he fell ill and died at the end of the year. His nephew Stephen de Blois claimed the throne of England and began a war with Matilda and Geoffrey V of Anjou. Eventually Henry's grandson Henry II, the son of Geoffrey V and Matilda, would become king.

Henry II of England (1133-1189) - Perhaps the most prestigious of the Plantagenets, he ruled an empire in all but name. His campaigns extended into Scotland, Wales and Ireland. At the start of his reign as Duke of Anjou and Normandy he was required to press the claim of his mother, Empress Matilda, in order to take the throne of England. This he managed to do militarily by defeating the enemy of his mother King Stephen (son of Adela of Normandy). Although the war was unpopular amongst the clergy and nobility, and so a peace was negotiated, Stephen's son died and the succession passed on to Henry. His real claim to fame was the defeat of the Great Revolt of 1173. He defeated his three sons Henry, Richard and Geoffrey as well as Louis VII of France. The rebels and their allies were defeated in Northumbria, East Anglia and Normandy. His final campaign against his rebellious son Richard and Philip II of France came at the very end of his reign, in which he acceded to Richard's demands and died within a few days. At the time there was an interest among the rulers of Europe to go on Crusade, what the Third Crusade would have been like under Henry is unknown but would have been interesting.
 
Sure thing. I'll quote myself from the 'underrated generals' thread:

"Galerius receives little positive attention, in part due to the lack of known details about his campaigns, and in part because Christian sources derided him for his persecution of the Christians. Nevertheless, he seems to have been the greatest general among the Tetrarchs.

He did the most campaigning among the Tetrarchs, and Diocletian assigned him the war against Persia (c. 296-298), the most important campaign of the period. Galerius' devastatingly decisive victory over the Persians was considered to have redeemed Rome and avenged the Romans upon Persia after the military embarrassments against the Persians during the mid-third century (one emperor killed, another captured, Antioch twice sacked, three armies destroyed, fortresses destroyed, a humiliating treaty, Palmyra taking matters into its own hands, etc). Famously, in the contested kingdom of Armenia Major, Galerius performed a surprise attack on the Shahanshah Narseh's camp, seizing much wealth and taking many important captives, including Narseh's wives, daughters and sisters. Supposedly he had personally scouted the enemy camp. Narseh fled into his own territories, and Galerius counter-attacked, invading Media, Adiabene and Persian Mesopotamia before linking up with Diocletian in Nisibis. The Persians sued for peace, and were forced to give up Armenia and seven trans-Tigritanian territories. The Persians would not regain these territories until the death of Julian in 363.

Galerius also defeated a coalition of Egyptian rebels and Nubians (293-294), and fought numerous successful campaigns against the Carpi, Sarmatians and Marcomanni (299/300 - 307/8).

He was also a successful general before he became Caesar. He was a career soldier who at some point in time became Diocletian's son-in-law, and is reported as campaigning on the Danube in c. 290.

The one campaign he is known to have lost was his march against Maxentius in Italy (307). However, unlike Constantine's later victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge (312), Maxentius did not leave the walls of Rome to confront his adversary. By the time of Constantine's campaign, Maxentius' Rome was suffering from food shortages. This was not the case in 307, and so Maxentius had no reason to risk his army in a straight fight against Galerius, by then the most successful military leader in the empire. Thus, Maxentius remained behind his walls and used bribery to provoke defections among Galerius' troops. Some troops also supposedly defected because they found such an action against Rome (and against his son-in-law) to be impious. Galerius was forced to withdraw, but gave his troops free rein to ransack the countryside as he marched north, for which he was condemned by the contemporary Christian writer Lactantius. Galerius never returned to Italy. He assigned the task of retaking Italy to the emperor Licinius and withdrew from active campaigning as illness took hold. Licinius himself was too cautious against Maxentius, and Galerius was dead by the time Constantine defeated him.

Galerius4.jpg

Central panel: Galerius defeating the Persians on the Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki. Lower panel: The Tetrarchs."
 
I have not read the entire thread so this might be a premature post but I would like to comment on Napoleonic commanders. I see Massena and Davout but no Suchet, do you consider him lesser than Massena? Archduke Charles has already been discussed and what is your opinion on de Tolly? He is consistently considered as the greatest Russian general of the era from what I've seen but he is not on the list. Also, correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think Peter the Great held many field commands, I know he was present at Poltava and some other battles in Finland and the Baltics but I don't know if he actually commanded the army.
 
Jan 2015
5,455
Ontario, Canada
Another good spartan general was brasidas
Yes although my opinion of Brasidas is somewhat mixed. His strategy was good, he caused much trouble for the Athenians but I am wondering if his successes were even all that great. After falling in battle, many of his victories were undone by the Athenians, they reconquered the lost territory.

I have not read the entire thread so this might be a premature post but I would like to comment on Napoleonic commanders. I see Massena and Davout but no Suchet, do you consider him lesser than Massena? Archduke Charles has already been discussed and what is your opinion on de Tolly? He is consistently considered as the greatest Russian general of the era from what I've seen but he is not on the list. Also, correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think Peter the Great held many field commands, I know he was present at Poltava and some other battles in Finland and the Baltics but I don't know if he actually commanded the army.
Update 2 is on page 20.
I did add Suchet on update 2. I was going to put up update 3, where I included Barclay de Tolly and Soult, and I believe Blucher.

Not sure about Peter the Great. The criteria is essentially someone who calls the shots but does not necessarily carry out maneuvers or fight tactical engagements themselves. So by this criteria we very well could have say FDR, Alanbrooke or Churchill or even Obama or Putin. I am more open to including say George C. Marshall than FDR because FDR exercised very little command authority and delegated pretty much entirely to Marshall. My impression is that Peter the Great did call the shots, but if you want to argue that he did not at all and was basically just a figure head and want to suggest a replacement, that is perfectly fine. Or you could keep Peter and also argue that one of his generals should be included as well.

My List of the Greatest Commanders in History

Sure thing. I'll quote myself from the 'underrated generals' thread:
Thanks I will keep this in mind. Galerius does stand out as one of the many, but also more successful generals of that period. As I saw with Trajan, Hadrian, Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius for example, the details are very scarce.
 
Update 2 is on page 20.
I did add Suchet on update 2. I was going to put up update 3, where I included Barclay de Tolly and Soult, and I believe Blucher.

Not sure about Peter the Great. The criteria is essentially someone who calls the shots but does not necessarily carry out maneuvers or fight tactical engagements themselves. So by this criteria we very well could have say FDR, Alanbrooke or Churchill or even Obama or Putin. I am more open to including say George C. Marshall than FDR because FDR exercised very little command authority and delegated pretty much entirely to Marshall. My impression is that Peter the Great did call the shots, but if you want to argue that he did not at all and was basically just a figure head and want to suggest a replacement, that is perfectly fine. Or you could keep Peter and also argue that one of his generals should be included as well.
As it turns, my post was premature. I don't know of Peter's Involvement in military reforms so I can't really comment but this begs the question of who counts? If we look at people who call the shots then every political leader from a successful war should be on here, such as Lincoln, Pitt the Younger etc. but I think we can agree that they were not generals. Brooke and Marshall actively participated in planning and military organisation and held the military authority as Chiefs of Staff. Politicians who intervene in military affairs shouldn't really be classed with actual officers, if they are the list becomes much larger.

As a side note: I see Radomir Putnik in the WWI category, He was a Chief of Staff more so than a field commander in WWI, and I would say not a particularly brilliant one. I would nominate Stepa Stepanović or Živojin Mišić in his place.
 
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