My List of the Greatest Commanders in History

Dec 2019
68
Fryslân, Netherlands
I'll take a look at those guys. Neither the Byzantines nor Justinian are my best area... when you said Solomon I thought you meant the Biblical king. Although there is a case to be made that Saul, David and Solomon etc were historical figures. I am more skeptical of anything in the Bible prior to that.

By the way did anyone end up reading my post about Suppiluliumas? I was going to put it in my blog, maybe include a map if I can find or make one. But also I was planning to follow it up by making posts about his son Mursili II and grandson Muwatallis II, possibly even his other grandson Hattusili II (commonly referred to as Hattusili III but in my opinion this is incorrect numbering).

The Reign of Murshili II (or Mursilis)

The short version is that after Suppiluliumas died in 1322, he was succeeded by his eldest son Arnuwanda II, he also succumbed to the plague the next year. Somehow this led to his other son Mursili II gaining the throne, not sure how since his other two sons were still alive, perhaps it was stipulated in their contract when they were made kings of Carchemish and Aleppo that they could not become King of Hatti. Early in his reign the new king put down various rebellions by the Kaska people in the north. Mursili II faced many challenges including the plague killing many of the people in Anatolia, a famine probably brought about by over-farming and overpopulation, but also wars against the Luwian kings in Anatolian, who were themselves supported by the Ahhiyawans (presumably the Mycenaean Greeks), more raids by the Kaskan tribes, the threat of the growing Assyrians Empire, and eventually an Egyptian attempt to invade Syria, during the middle of his reign Mursili II also fell ill and maybe became incapacitated. It was believed that the Hittite Empire was having its death throes, Mursili II begged the gods to forgive him for the great sins of his father (namely usurping and killing his brother, breaking treaties and raiding and burning Syria), which to us these prayers have become valuable sources. But in spite of all of this Mursili II recovered his health, managed to prevent the empire from collapsing and defeated the Luwian coalitions, bringing West Anatolia over to his control. He was also able to defeat Pharaoh Horemheb in battle and force him to give up most of his claims in Syria. It seems that the Assyrians did not dare to challenge Mursili II and so they quietly grew in power in their corner of the Tigris and would become a major threat in later generations.

As in his second year the Assyrians attempted to besiege Carchemish, Mursili II brought an army in support of his brother Sharri-Kushuh and the Assyrians withdrew. In his third year he defeated the Arzawans in the west, defeated their army in battle and took Uhha-ziti's capital at Ephesus. The next year he took Mira and the Seha River Land, completing the conquest of Anatolia. In his seventh year a man called Pihhuniya declared himself king of all the Kaskan tribes, however Mursili II defeated and captured him, putting a quick end to his massive revolt. The Assyrians returned again in the ninth year taking advantage of the king's absence on a campaign in Anatolia and a revolt in Nuhassi and Kadesh (in Syria). This was his most dangerous year but the Hittites held out on all fronts, Mursili II personally defeated the King of Kadesh, relieved Carchemish, and marched into Mesopotamia as far as Harran, where he increased the defenses, then marched up through eastern Anatolia and attacked the Kaskans. Then the next year he invaded Azzi in the east and besieged their mountain citadels, truly these were his finest campaigns.
Mursili II was not like his father at all; he was not a great conqueror, he was not militant, he was extremely pious, his general demeanor was very mild rather than wrathful. Perhaps he was someone who felt more at home carrying out administrative duties and giving offerings to the gods than campaigning in the field, in spite of that he was able to keep the empire together and defeat his enemies.

The Arzawan enemy king Uhha-ziti said of Mursili II:
"You are a child; you know nothing and instill no fear in me. Your land is now in ruins, and your infantry and chariotry are few. Against your infantry, I have many infantry; against your chariotry, I have many chariotry. Your father had many infantry and chariotry. But you, who are a child, how can you match him?"

Mursili first prayed to the gods, then he declared his intentions to the Arzawan King Uhha-ziti:
“Concerning what servants of mine came to you - because I repeatedly requested them from you, and you did not send them back to me, and you kept calling me a child and belittling me; now, come! We will do battle! May the Storm God, My Lord, judge our case!"

A good omen was seen when Mursili II marched out for war, which appears to have come to pass as Mursili not only defeated the Arzawans in battle, took their city and then Uhha-ziti died from illness the next year:
"The mighty Storm God, My Lord, showed his divinely righteous power and hurled a thunderbolt. All of my troops saw the thunderbolt. All the land of Arzawa saw the thunderbolt. The thunderbolt passed (us) and struck the land of Arzawa. It struck Uhha-ziti’s (capital) city Apaša. It settled in Uhha-ziti’s knees, and he became ill."

Manapa-Tarhunta the King of Seha River Land had taken arms alongside Uhha-ziti, but seeing the Hittite victory he panicked:
“My lord, do not kill me! My lord, take me in subjugation! I will give back to my lord the men who came in to me (as fugitives)!”

... and Mursili responded to him, however at the end of it all Manapa-Tarhunta sent his old mother to beg on his behalf, this appears to have worked and Mursili accepted him as a vassal:
“Formerly, when your brothers expelled you from your land, I commended you to the men of Karkiša. I paid off the men of Karkiša for you. But you did not support me in Šeha River Land! You supported Uhha-ziti, my enemy! Now will I take you in subjugation?”
*I like to think that if this were Suppiluliumas, he would have just killed all of them.

After rebelling several times the Kaskan tribes changed strategy and accepted the rule of one man as king, such that Mursili remarked:

“Pihhuniya did not rule in the Kaškan manner. Suddenly, even though the rule of one man did not exist in Kaška, that Pihhuniya ruled in the manner of kingship.”

But the Kaskan menace was so great that they began to invade Hittite lands, conquering the city of Ishtitina, Pihhuniya said to the Hittites:
“I will give back nothing to you! If you should come for battle, I will certainly not wait here for you in order to fight in my own field and fallow! I will approach you for battle in the midst of your land!”
Pihhuniya was soundly defeated and captured, most likely executed.

Mursili would thus declare near the end of his reign, and in many regards this shows the contrast with his father:

"Thus speaks My Sun Mursilis, Great King, King of Hatti, the Valiant, son of Suppiluliumas, Great King, the Valiant.

Even before I sat on my father's throne, all the enemy lands were hostile to me. When my father became a god, my brother Arnuwandas sat on his father's throne. Afterwards, he too became ill. When the enemy lands heard Arnuwandas ill, the enemy lands began to be hostile.

When my brother Arnuwandas became a god, the enemy lands who had not been hostile, but now these enemy lands also were hostile. The surrounding enemy lands spoke as follows. "His father who was Great King of Hatti before him: he was an heroic king, he had conquered enemy lands. He has become a god; and his son, who sat on his father's throne after him, he also was a warrior. Now it has afflicted him, and he too has become a god. But he who has now sat on his father's throne, he is a child. The borders of Hatti, and the land of Hatti he will not save."

Because my father was garrisoning in Mitanni, he stayed over in garrison, and they neglected the feasts of my lady Sun Goddess of Arinna. When I My Sun sat on my father's throne the surrounding enemy lands which were hostile to me even before I went to any enemy land, I went back to the regular feasts of the Sun Goddess of Arinna, my lady, and I celebrated them. I took up my hand to the Sun Goddess of Arinna, my lady, and I spoke the following: "O Sun Goddess of Arinna, my lady, the surrounding enemy lands which have called me a child, and they have made small of me, secondly they have made to attack your borders. O Sun Goddess of Arinna, my lady, stand with me: forward and smite the aforementioned surrounding enemy lands!" And the Sun Goddess of Arinna, my lady, heard my word, and she stood with me, and while I sat on my father's throne, I conquered these surrounding enemy lands in ten years, and I destroyed them."
Somewhere in the last bit (the quote) you say ”an heroic king.“ Thought you might want to know.

In my earlier post I did not mention Mundus and Germanus. I don’t know how much information about them is available but they are also worth checking out. Witigis and Gelimer did not win their most famous campaigns (those against Belisarius) but they served as commanders before that (both seem to have one at least one campaign, Gelimer reportedly won decisively against the Moors).

I don’t know wether he has been mentioned yet (this thread has become very big, I don't remember all of it) but Quintus Ceacilius Metellus Pius was one of the best commanders of his era. He won many battlefield victories and heavily contributed to Sulla’s victory in his Civil War(s) and victory over Sertorius.
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,687
Ontario, Canada
Somewhere in the last bit (the quote) you say ”an heroic king.“ Thought you might want to know.

In my earlier post I did not mention Mundus and Germanus. I don’t know how much information about them is available but they are also worth checking out. Witigis and Gelimer did not win their most famous campaigns (those against Belisarius) but they served as commanders before that (both seem to have one at least one campaign, Gelimer reportedly won decisively against the Moors).

I don’t know wether he has been mentioned yet (this thread has become very big, I don't remember all of it) but Quintus Ceacilius Metellus Pius was one of the best commanders of his era. He won many battlefield victories and heavily contributed to Sulla’s victory in his Civil War(s) and victory over Sertorius.
That is that way it was translated.

I don't know anything about Mundus and Germanus or Witigis and Gelimer. I can try to find something about them but I probably won't find much.

I think the user Duke Valentino mentioned Metellus Pius. From what he mentioned Metellus Pius fought against Sertorius.
Actually checking my list, I did in fact include Metellus Pius.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
8,008
Cornwall
. Witigis and Gelimer did not win their most famous campaigns (those against Belisarius) but they served as commanders before that (both seem to have one at least one campaign, Gelimer reportedly won decisively against the Moors).
Probably by far and away the best leader of his era was Genseric - strategically, militarily, politically and inspirationally - the only 'power' I've heard of to properly 'harness' the mauri without trouble in 2000 years. His death led to the inevitable decline of the Kingdom of the Vandals and the Alans - to the point where the hapless Gelimer was in charge. He deposed/blinded/killed Justinian's pal Hilderic - in fact he probably had a better claim to the throne and Hilderic's defeat to the Mauri weakened his position.

However all was not lost for Gelimer as Justinian offered him for the Vandal kingdom to be incorporated in the Imperial sphere with him still in charge. But, arrogant to the point of stupidity, he rather rudely rejected Justinian's offer and the rest is history.

On any list of great commanders, Gelimer would be heading for relegation from the 4th division! Or firmly non-league!
 

mariusj

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,057
Los Angeles
Probably by far and away the best leader of his era was Genseric - strategically, militarily, politically and inspirationally - the only 'power' I've heard of to properly 'harness' the mauri without trouble in 2000 years. His death led to the inevitable decline of the Kingdom of the Vandals and the Alans - to the point where the hapless Gelimer was in charge. He deposed/blinded/killed Justinian's pal Hilderic - in fact he probably had a better claim to the throne and Hilderic's defeat to the Mauri weakened his position.

However all was not lost for Gelimer as Justinian offered him for the Vandal kingdom to be incorporated in the Imperial sphere with him still in charge. But, arrogant to the point of stupidity, he rather rudely rejected Justinian's offer and the rest is history.

On any list of great commanders, Gelimer would be heading for relegation from the 4th division! Or firmly non-league!
Sounds like my local rec league is getting a new challenger?
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,687
Ontario, Canada
Oda you're post on Suppiluliumas was excellent I read the whole thing. Don't want you feeling you posted all that for nothing lol. What was your source?
There are a few sources on the Hittites. I don't remember all of my sources because it was a while ago now. Trevor Bryce is a good place to start. There was another book which I think was called "Letters of the Hittites" or something like that, as well as another book or two of translations. Cambridge Ancient History is also a good place to start, I used volume 2 part 2 if I remember correctly. Although the Cambridge Ancient History is somewhat outdated but it isn't too bad for a basic account of the events.
 
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johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
8,008
Cornwall
Sounds like my local rec league is getting a new challenger?
Indeed!

What Gelimer did get was a nice cosy retirement in Byzantium, with honours. Which seemed extremely popular in the era. Remove the deposed monarch from the scene to another area to try and avoid any resurgence and also make them comfortable to avoid same.
 
Jun 2019
21
London
There are a few sources on the Hittites. I don't remember all of my sources because it was a while ago now. Trevor Bryce is a good place to start. There was another book which I think was called "Letters of the Hittites" or something like that, as well as another book or two of translations. Cambridge Ancient History is also a good place to start, I used volume 2 part 2 if I remember correctly. Although the Cambridge Ancient History is somewhat outdated but it isn't too bad for a basic account of the events.
LOL forgive me I thought you copied and pasted it somewhere that's why I asked you for the source. But that's a really good write up, more detailed than wiki. I remember wanting to buy that hittite book by Bruce and then seeing the price tag! Lol. I recall you mentioning somewhere that you had a blog?
 

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,687
Ontario, Canada
LOL forgive me I thought you copied and pasted it somewhere that's why I asked you for the source. But that's a really good write up, more detailed than wiki. I remember wanting to buy that hittite book by Bruce and then seeing the price tag! Lol. I recall you mentioning somewhere that you had a blog?
On Historum I have a blog. I also have an account on blogger where I back up my work. For whatever reason I enjoy writing articles on my blog. But I don't have too much on it. But some of my better posts I will post on there as well, easier to do since I can edit it whenever I want.

Try checking online for some of these books, there are all sorts of libraries and databases. Archive,org has a lot of old books on it, for example. I could make a post about Hittite sources, or books about the Bronze Age when I have time.
 
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Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,687
Ontario, Canada
Some books I have on the Hittites:

-The Hittites and Their World by Billie Jean Collins
-The Kingdom of the Hittites by Trevor Bryce
-Historical Dictionary of the Hittites by Charles Burney
-The Hittites and their contemporaries in Asia Minor by J.G. Macqueen
-Letters from the Hittite Kingdom b Harry A. Hoffner
-Letters of the Great Kings of the Ancient Near East by Trevor Bryce
-Hittite Diplomatic Texts by Gary M. Beckman
-Warriors of Anatolia: A Concise History of the Hittites by Trevor Bryce
-State Correspondence in the Ancient World by Karen Radner
-The Ahhiyawa Texts collaboration by Beckman, Bryce and Eric H. Cline
-The World of the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms by Trevor Bryce
-1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
-Life and Society in the Hittite World by Trevor Bryce
-The Trojans and Their Neighbours by Trevor Bryce
-Hittite Studies in Honor of Harry A. Hoffner Jr
-Cambridge Ancient History volumes 1 part 2 & volume 2 parts 1 and 2

*I recall another book with translations but I'm not sure now... Perhaps it was "Hittite Prayers"?
*Trevor Bryce is the leading writer at least as far as books go, since he also writes about Syria and Mesopotamia and other Anatolian topics.
*There are tonnes of papers on the subjects of Anatolia and Hittites.
*My interest in Anatolia and Hittites is due to these topics being so obscure, or at least far more than Mesopotamia and Egypt, so naturally I am drawn towards it.
 
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