My List of the Greatest Commanders in History

Lord Oda Nobunaga

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  1. Yarim-Lim I (Yamhad) (1800 BC-1764 BC) - King of Yamhad/Aleppo who battled the powerful Shamshi Adad as part of a coalition. After defeating that ruler's son he campaigned in Mesopotamia and became the main hegemon until Hammurabi about a decade later.
  2. Horemheb (18th Dynasty) (1350 BC-1292 BC) - Egyptian general who campaigned in the Levant during Tut's reign. Later overthrew Ay's successors, restored rule in Egypt, campaigned in the Levant, but was defeated by the Hittites at Carchemish.
  3. Merneptah (19th Dynasty) (1280 BC-1203 BC) - Son of Ramesses II, he defeated the Sea People and campaigned in the Levant. Also campaigned in Libya and Nubia.
  4. Shoshenq I (22nd Dynasty) (970 BC-922 BC) - Libyan King of Egypt who campaigned in Canaan, first campaign outside of Egypt in centuries.
  5. Cyaxeres (Median Empire) (645 BC-585 BC) - Rebelled against Assyria and with his Babylonian allies invaded and destroyed the Assyrian Empire. Also cemented his power in Iran, conquered Urartu and invaded Anatolia, battle with Lydians was a stalemate.
  6. Harpagus (Median Empire/Achaemenid Empire) (600 BC-535 BC) - Originally a Mede general who defected to Cyrus. He was Cyrus' deputy in Anatolia, which he conquered in various campaigns.
  7. Xanthippos (525 BC-475 BC) - Took part at Marathon and Salamis. Athenian naval commander who defeated the Persians at Mycale and besieged Sestos.
  8. Galerius (Roman Empire) (260-311) - Roman general who campaigned in the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Was adopted by Emperor Diocletian and battled the Sassanid Persians.
  9. Ferdinand II (Aragon, Castile) (1452-1516) - King of Aragon, he battled in Isabella's succession war with Portugal, took Granada from the Moors and was the ruler and mastermind behind conflicts with France and taking control of Naples.
  10. Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha (Ottoman Empire) (1500-1580) - Leading Ottoman political figure at the end of the 1500's. He campaigned in Yemen, conquered Cyprus and invaded Georgia and Iran.
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

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Jan 2015
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Ontario, Canada
  1. Luis Alves de Lima e Silva (Brazilian Empire) (1803-1880) - Brazilian military leader who had fought in Uruguay during that country's infancy. He then put down several large revolts in Brazil and although he missed the great Battle of Tuyuti, he was instrumental in finally beating the Paraguayans.
  2. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff (Austria-Hungary) (1827-1871) - Austrian naval commander who fought against Denmark in the 2nd Schleswig War. In 1866 he defeated the Italian navy in the Adriatic. He also led various naval expeditions around the world.
  3. Friedrich Karl von Preussen (Prussia, Germany) (1828-1885) - Prussian military commander who fought in the 2nd Schleswig War. Later commanding an army against Austria in 1866 and then an army in 1870 against France.
  4. Ito Sukeyuki (Japan) (1843-1914) - Japanese naval commander who destroyed the Beiyang Fleet in the 1st Sino-Japanese War.
  5. Aleksei Brusilov (Russian Empire/Russian SFSR) (1853-1926) - Russian general who commanded in army at the start of WW1 in Galicia. He is best known for the Brusilov Offensive and his inovative tactics later in the war. After WW1 and the Bolshevik Revolution, he became an adviser for the Reds.
  6. Noel Edouard de Castelnau (France) (1851-1944) - French general in WW1. Commander an army in 1914 and army group from 1915 to 1918. He was one of the more successful and well renowned leaders of WW1.
  7. Joseph Joffre (France) (1852-1931) - French marshal in WW1, he is known for saving the French army at the 1st Marne in 1914. But also known for his many setbacks as well. Early in 1914 he was unable to invade Alsace nor to hold back the German invasions in Belgium. In 1915 he ordered costly offensives which did not break the German line. However the overall picture was largely that of a stalemate. In part his offensives were intended to weaken the Germans and to prevent them from sending forces east to attack Russia. The Salonika Front was opened in the Balkans, the forces here while holding the line were also unable to break out into the Balkans. Finally in 1916 he ordered more costly offensives and in the wake of the Somme and Verdun he was removed by political maneuverings and given advisory roles.
  8. Zivojin Misic (Serbia) (1855-1921) - Main Serbian commander during WW1. Serving intially as chief of staff he won many battles against the Austrians. After the defeat of Serbia he retreated into Albania and continued fighting in the Balkans until the end of the war,
  9. Svetozar Boroevic (Austria-Hungary) (1856-1920) - Austrian general fighting in the Eastern Front in WW1. Later sent to the Italian Front where he held out against consecutive Italian offensives. Finally however, Austria was defeated in Italy and in the Balkans.
  10. Louis Franchet d'Esperey (France) (1856-1942) - French Army commander in WW1. Promoted to Army Group during the war. Near the end he was sent to the Balkans where he achieved a breakthrough into enemy lines.
  11. Armando Diaz (Italy) (1861-1928) - Led the Italian forces in 1918, he successfully broke the Austrian lines at the end of WW1. Prior to this he served as chief of staff for the Italian commander.
  12. Henri Gouraud (France) (1867-1946) - French colonial officer who fought in West Africa and Morocco. Was sent to the Eastern Front in 1915 in command of an army. Performed well, especially at 2nd Marne by 1918. After the war he was sent to invade Syria, he then set up colonial administration over Syria and Lebanon.
  13. Gerd von Rundstedt (Germany) (1875-1953) - Largely due to his command of Army Groups in WW2. He commanded the thrust through Silesia in 1939, the Ardennes thrust in 1940 and the attack in the Ukraine in 1941. Was then sent West, was unable to halt Allied landings at Normandy. Was removed but sent back as OB West, was in command after September 1944 where he carried out Battle of the Bulge, and tried to defend the Rhine.
  14. Douglas MacArthur (United States of America) (1880-1964) - Famed WW2 general. Lost the Philippines to Japanese invasion in 1941. Was the main army commander in the Pacific; fought in the Pacific Islands, Solomon Islands, Indonesia and the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. In 1950 he commanded the Coalition army against North Korea, landing at Inchon and cutting off the North Korean army. Pressing into North Korea his overstretched army was defeated by a surprise concentrated attack by the Chinese, his army withdrew back to Seoul.
  15. Matthew Ridgway (United States of America) (1895-1993) - General who commanded the Airborned Division in WW1. He fought in Korea at the end of 1950 as Army commander, later promoted to command all forces in the East. He successfully defended South Korea and contained Red Chinese attacks.
  16. Li Mu (Zhao) (280 BC-229 BC) - Zhao commander who battled the Xiongnu tribes in the steppe. He eventually became chancellor. When Qin Shi Huangdi invaded Zhao, he led an army to exploit the gap between the armies of Wang Jian and Huan Ji. He encircled Huan Ji's army and defeated them, forcing Wang Jian to retreat. Qin bribed court officials so that the King of Zhao would execute him. Afterwards Qin invaded again and Zhao fell.
  17. Wang Ben (Qin) (250 BC-210 BC) - Qin general and son of Wang Jian. He took part in his father's campaigns against Zhao and Yan. Was sent to subdue the Yan leaders that fled to Liaodong. He would later conquer the state of Wei.
  18. Meng Tian (Qin) (250 BC-210 BC) - A general of Qin Shi Huandi. Together with Li Xin he had invaded Chu, after a clever ruse and the betrayal of their allies they were defeated. Later on he was put in charge of the north and battled the Xiongnu. He also was in charge of building the Great Wall. After the death of Qin Shi Huangdi a palace conspiracy led to Meng Tian and the crown prince being executed.
  19. Liu Bang "Emperor Gaozu" (Chu/Han) (256 BC-195 BC) - The founder of the Han Dynasty. Originally a peasant leader and rebel against Qin. He fought other rebel leaders afterwards, such as Xiang Yu. The two battled, Liu Bang taking the worst of it, but the conflict was largely a stalemate. Outmaneuvering Xiang Yu and concentrating his forces he was able to defeat Xiang Yu. Then becoming Emperor of China, he put down many revolts by former comrades and invaded many vassal kingdoms. He also suffered a major setback against the Xiongnu later in his reign.
  20. Zhou Yafu (Han) (190 BC-143 BC) - Han Dynasty general who put down the dangerous Seven States Rebellion. He was later purged by Emperor Jing.
  21. Huo Qubing (Han) (140 BC-117 BC) - A Han Dynasty general under Emperor Wu. He and his uncle were given commands to end the century old grudge with the Xiongnu. Huo Qubing invaded the Gansu Corridor and the Mongolian steppe and defeated the Xiongnu.
  22. Ma Yuan (Han) (14 BC-49) - One of Liu Xie's generals during the Han Restoration. He was later sent to subdue the far southern states and tribes. He had also garrisoned in Gansu and defeated the Qiang tribes.
  23. Zhang Liao (Lu Bu/Cao Wei) (165/169-222) - Originally one of Lu Bu's generals, when that warlord was defeated he served under Cao Cao. Leading a unit during the Guandu campaign and other wars, he was later sent to defend Hefei in the south east. He successfully defended the city together with Yue Jin and Li Dian. Later under Cao Pi he held off the Wu army in Dongkou.
  24. Xu Huang (Cao Wei) (169-227) - Serving under a minor warlord he eventually came into the service of Cao Cao. Leading a unit in many of these wars he was promoted to command larger formations. In the western areas he battled against many tribes together with Xiahou Yuan. He successfully foiled Liu Bei's attack in his part of Hanzhong in 215. In 219 Liu Bei's subordinate crossed the Yangtze River to invade Cao Cao's realm in the north. Cao Ren was besieged in Fancheng, reinforcements under Yu Jin were defeated, finally Xu Huang was sent to relieve the city. Xu Huang outmaneuvered and tricked Guan Yu, attacked his siege lines and forced Guan Yu to withdraw back into Jing province. Xu Huang did garrison duty under Cao Pi died and died in 227.
  25. Hong Taiji (Qing Empire) (1592-1643) - Manchu Khan who defeated Korea, invaded the Ming Dynasty (being defeated in some cases), conquered Inner Mongolia and consolidated his control over Manchuria.
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

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Jan 2015
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Nero rather than Livius is generally considered responsible both for the victory at the Metaurus (where his tactical manouvreing, unusually flexible for the time, won the day, and which is often considered the major turning point of the war - e.g. by Livy and in Creasy's The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World ) and for the strategic maneuvering in the lead-up to the battle, which Dodge described as “the finest strategic feat of the Romans during the entire war, as well as one of the exceptional marches in history”, whereby Nero shadowed Hannibal for some time, and then tricked the untrickable Hannibal into thinking he was still in his camp with his full complement of troops while he actually gunned it to northern Italy, won the battle and returned with Hasdrubal's head before Hannibal had realised all was lost. If Livy is to be believed, he also defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Grumentum, but Hannibal's casualties of 8000 men are admittedly probably exaggerated - Nero may have received a pretty good wrap from Livy by virtue of being an ancestor of Livia's family - but this wouldn't explain his importance in Polybius' narrative. We would probably know more about his career if not for Polybius' focus on his patrons, the Aemilii and Cornelii (Livy relies to a large degree on Polybius when narrating the later part of the war).
Didn't Nero also command in Spain at one point?
 
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His Spanish propraetorship in 210-11 appears to have been an interim command whereby he was expected to consolidate the remnants of Rome's forces in Spain (following the defeats and deaths of Gnaeus and Publius Scipio at Castulo and Illorca) before a new proconsul could arrive (which ended up being Scipio the Younger/the future Scipio Africanus). According to Livy he briefly trapped Hasdrubal's army in the Black Stones Pass, but by feigning a desire to negotiate Hasdrubal managed to escape. If true, Nero's later fatal victory over Hasdrubal may well have been pretty satisfying for him. But in the end Nero was commanding in Spain with a lesser authority than his predecessors and successor, and for a much shorter period of time, consolidating the Roman position following disaster.

He was also propraetor at the siege of Capua in 211, and fought with success as cavalry commander at that siege before being recalled and sent to Spain.
 
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His Spanish propraetorship in 210-11 appears to have been an interim command whereby he was expected to consolidate the remnants of Rome's forces in Spain (following the defeats and deaths of Gnaeus and Publius Scipio at Castulo and Illorca) before a new proconsul could arrive (which ended up being Scipio the Younger/the future Scipio Africanus). According to Livy he briefly trapped Hasdrubal's army in the Black Stones Pass, but by feigning a desire to negotiate Hasdrubal managed to escape. If true, Nero's later fatal victory over Hasdrubal may well have been pretty satisfying for him. But in the end Nero was commanding in Spain with a lesser authority than his predecessors and successor, and for a much shorter period of time, consolidating the Roman position following disaster.

He was also propraetor at the siege of Capua in 211, and fought with success as cavalry commander at that siege before being recalled and sent to Spain.
So I suppose you can sum up his successes as follows:
1. 211: Commands the cavalry at Capua with success.
2. 211-210: Consolidates the Roman position in Spain as an emergency interim commander.
3. 207: Wins a minor victory over Hannibal at Grumentum.
4. 207: Orchestrates the strategic maneuvering that includes shadowing, trickery and a daring couple of forced marches that allows the battle at the Metaurus. (Dodge: “the finest strategic feat of the Romans during the entire war, as well as one of the exceptional marches in history”)
5. 207: Orchestrates the tactical maneuver that wins the battle of the Metaurus, the tide-turning battle as far as Livy and Creasy are concerned.

It is a shame that he was not given significant commands more often in the war, and that we generally don't know more about this guy. Perhaps he was out-competed on the political stage by the likes of Scipio and his allies among others. The Roman generals of the Second Punic War who received the most opportunity for success were the three Scipios, Fabius, Marcellus, Laevinus, Gracchus and Flaccus, and we can locate them all somewhere on a scale from competent to brilliant (whereas the Carthaginian generals of the war, save Hannibal, seem to fit on a scale of incompetent to mediocre), but it seems as if Nero, except in the year 207, was a source of untapped potential, at least from what we can tell from the accounts.
 
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So I guess you guys want me to add Claudius Nero? :think:

By the way no one commented on the ones I just posted above.
I think he should be, yes. In the context of the Second Punic War I think he's on the level of Marcellus.

Of the ones you just posted I only really know about Galerius. Xanthippos seems like a good inclusion. From that period, what about Miltiades? I don't know much about him, but I wonder if he is worthy.
 
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In case you haven't, I present some of the clever tactics of Iphicrates, who was evidently a big fan of deception:

Frontinus, Stratagemata 1.4.7: When the Athenian general Iphicrates was engaged in a campaign against the Spartan Anaxibius on the Hellespont near Abydus, he had to lead his army on one occasion through places occupied by enemy patrols, hemmed in on the one side by precipitous mountains, and on the other washed by the sea. For some time he delayed, and then on an unusually cold day, when no one suspected such a move, he selected his most rugged men, rubbed them down with oil and warmed them up with wine, and then ordered them to skirt the very edge of the p31 sea, swimming across the places that were too precipitous to pass. Thus by an unexpected attack from the rear he overwhelmed the guards of the defile. (See also Polyaenus, Stratagemata 3.9.33)

2.1.5: Iphicrates, the Athenian, having discovered that the enemy regularly ate at the same hour, commanded his own troops to eat at an earlier hour, and then led them out to battle. When the enemy came forth, he so detained them as to afford them no opportunity either of fighting or of withdrawing. Then, as the day drew to a close, he led his troops back, but nevertheless held them under arms. The enemy, exhausted both by standing in the line and by hunger, straightway hurried off to rest and eat, whereupon Iphicrates again led forth his troops, and finding the enemy disorganized, attacked their camp. (See also Polyaenus, Stratagemata 3.9.53)

2.1.6: When the same Iphicrates had his camp for several days near the Lacedaemonians, and each side was in the habit of going forth at a regular hour for forage and wood, he one day sent out slaves and camp-followers in the dress of soldiers for this service, holding back his fighting men; and as soon as the enemy had dispersed on similar errands, he captured their camp. Then as they came running back from all quarters to the mêlée, unarmed and carrying their bundles, he easily slew or captured them. (See also Polyaenus, Stratagemata 3.9.52)

2.5.42: Iphicrates, the Athenian, on one occasion in the Chersonesus, aware that Anaxibius, commander of the Spartans, was proceeding with his troops by land, disembarked a large force of men from his vessels and placed them in ambush, but directed his ships to sail in full view of the enemy, as though loaded with all his forces. When the Spartans were thus thrown off their guard and apprehended no danger, Iphicrates, attacking them by land from the rear as they marched along, crushed and routed them. (For a more detailed account, see Xenophon, Hellenika 4.8.32-39)

Polyaenus, Stratagemata 3.9.58: When Iphicrates was commander at Chios, he suspected that a group of the Chians were supporting the Lacedaemonians. In order to prove their guilt, he ordered the captains of some ships to weigh anchor secretly during the night, and then to return into the harbour the next morning, dressed in Lacedaemonian clothes. As soon as those, who favoured the Lacedaemonian cause, saw the ships, they ran with joy to the harbour to greet them. Then Iphicrates advanced with a body of troops from the city, arrested them, and sent them to Athens to be punished. (See also Frontinus, Stratagemata 4.7.23)

3.9.62: Iphicrates captured many of the Odrysians in Thrace. When he was being harassed by the enemy's slings and arrows, he stripped his prisoners naked, and with their hands tied behind their backs placed them in front of his army. The Odrysians saw that their friends had been put in the place of danger, and stopped attacking from a distance with slings and arrows.