Being a military commander is one of the most stressful and high-stakes positions out there. You’re in charge of other people’s lives and the outcome of a battle depends on your decisions and ability to lead. Many of the greatest commanders fight alongside their soldiers to boost morale and provide support, putting their own lives on the line. Whether they were giving orders with spears in-hand or assault rifles against their shoulders, these are the military commanders throughout history who never suffered a loss.
See how Ashoka the Great was more bloodthirsty than tactical.
Alexander The Great Created The Greatest Empire In The World
Alexander the Great is one of the most renowned ancient military generals, if not of all time. He inherited the throne of Macedonia when he was just 20-years-old, and spent the majority of his rather short life conquering a massive percentage of the known world. During his military conquests, he conquered Greece and the Balkans, as well as Asia, Egypt, and India.
By the time of his death, he had created the greatest empire the world had ever seen. A few of his most memorable victories included the battles of Issus and Gaugamela in which he secured Persia. Dying from an illness at age 33, he had never lost a battle.
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck Held Back Hundreds Of Thousands Of British Troops
During World War II, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, better known as the Africa Lion, was a German general and commander of forces in the German East Africa Campaign. During a four-year period, Vorbeck led a force of only 14,000 soldiers and fought a continuous war against 300,000 British, Belgian, India, and Portuguese forces. He was essentially undefeated during the war and was the only German commander to invade British soil.
While the Germans praised him, others claim his campaign was one of “supreme ruthlessness where a small, well-trained force extorted supplies from civilians to whom it felt no responsibility… it was the climax of Africa’s exploitation,”
Ashoka The Great Was Bloodthirsty Until He Had Seen Enough
Emperor Ashoka was the third ruler of the Mauryan Empire, one of the largest in the world at the time. He ruled from 304 to 232 BCE, and at the beginning of his rule, he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather. He was known to be so ruthless that it was rumored he had been to Hell himself.
He expanded the Mauryan Empire by leading a war against the feudal state named Kalinga, which led to the slaughter of over 300,000 of Kalinga’s citizens. Although he never lost a battle during the war, he felt so much guilt after that he vowed to never fight again. He died in 232 having never lost a conflict.
You won’t believe what Yi Sun-Shin did to save Korea.
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Was A Hero Of Rome
Scipio is regarded as one of the most successful Roman generals and politicians during the height of the Roman Empire. His most notable achievements occurred during the Second Punic War, a conflict between Rome and Carthage. He swept across Carthaginian territories and later went to North Africa where he defeated the infamous Hanibal Barca in the Battle of Zama. His triumph earned him the nickname Africanus.
After winning one of Rome’s greatest wars, he continued on further expeditions. For his successes and defense of Rome, he was loved by the people. He later worked as a politician and retired having never been defeated.
Alexander Suvorov Is One Of Russia’s Most Legendary Generals
Considered a Russian national hero, Alexander Suvorov Suvorov joined the Russian military at just 17. A gifted soldier, he was quickly promoted to Colonel for his valor in the Seven Years’ War. After many decisive victories in the position, he was later appointed to General, leading troops in the two Russo-Turkish Wars.
For his accomplishments, he held numerous positions including the Count of Rymnik, Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince of Italy, and the Generalissimo of the Russian Empire. He was never defeated during his military career and is honored not only by Russia but other countries that his military achievements impacted as well.
Pepin The Short Was Charlemagne’s Father
Father of the legendary Charlemagne, Pepin the Short jointly reigned over Francia with his eldest brother Carolman. Eventually, Pepin became the sole leader of the Franks and was named king in 751. As King, Pepin was determined to expand his power and defeated several revolts during his lifetime as well as led numerous campaigns into Germany in hopes of bolstering his kingdom.
Although he is often overshadowed by his forebears and his son Charlemagne, Pepin was key in establishing the Kingdom of France and a great conqueror, remaining undefeated until his death in 768.
Yi Sun-Shin Prevented Japan From Invading Korea
Born in 1545, Yi Sun-Shin was a Korean naval commander that is renowned for his countless victories against Japanese forces attempting to invade Korea during the Imjin War. Although he had no prior naval training, he had a mind for war and never lost a battle or a single ship that was under his command.
He fought in a total of 23 battles against the Japanese and prevailed although usually outnumbered. Most of his victories are credited to his invention of “turtle ships.” These ships had their upper deck covered with armored plates and topped with spikes. They are believed to be the first ironclad battleships in victory, helping the Koreans defeat the Japanese.
Check out the Civil War general that not everyone knows about!
Tamerlane Was The Most Powerful Ruler In The Muslim World
Tamerlane was the founder of the Timurid Empire, in what is now Iran and Central Asia. After conquering the lands of the Chagatai Ahkanate in 1370, he began a military campaign through South, Western, and Central Asia. He even made his way through the Caucasus and into southern Russia.
During his campaigns, he defeated the Ottoman Empire, Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, and the Delhi Sultanate, becoming the most powerful ruler in the Muslim World. Personally never losing a battle, his campaigns are estimated to have caused the death of over 17 million people.
Bai Qi Was Known As The Human Butcher
Born in 332 BC, Bai Qi was a general of the Qin State during the Warring States period in China. He was the commander for more than 30 years and is assumed to be responsible for killing over one million people. This earned him the title Ren Tu or “Human Butcher.” Under his command, it is estimated that the Qin State conquered 73 cities from other states.
This has led Chinese historians to name him to be one of the four greatest military generals during the Warring State period. To date, there has been no evidence that Bai Qi ever suffered a military loss.
Fyodor Ushakov Fought In 43 Battles
Born into a Russian family of minor nobility, Fyodor Ushakov grew to become the most famous Russian naval commander of the 18th century. He joined the Russian Navy in 1761, where he served in the Russo-Turkish War defending the Mediterranean against the British. He further demonstrated his skill in warfare during the second Russo-Turkish war where he defeated the Turks on three separate occasions.
He was then promoted to the position of full admiral and was in command during the War of the Second Coalition Against France, conquering numerous French territories. Ushakov gave up command in 1807, never losing a battle or a ship in the 43 naval battles he participated in.
Yue Fei Helped Save The Southern Song Dynasty
Yue Fei was a Han Chinese general during the Southern Song dynasty. He was the main commander of the Southern Song armies during the wars in the 12th century that were fought between the Southern Song and Jin dynasty. Fei grew up as an impoverished farmer and joined the military in 1122.
Proving his military prowess over the years, he was named general of the Song military in 1133. He led numerous successful counter and offensive attacks against northern China, saving the Southern Song dynasty. He remained undefeated up until his death when he was executed in what was believed to be false charges.
George Henry Thomas Is An Unsung Hero Of The Civil War
After serving in the Mexican-American War, George Henry Thomas remained as a Southern Unionist in the US Army during the American Civil War. He served as a general and was one of the lead commanders in the Western Theater. During the war, he never lost a battle starting with his first victory at Mill Springs.
He won several decisive victories throughout the war, even saving the Union Army, earning the nickname “the Rock of Chickamauga.” Although he was undefeated during the war, his refusal to promote his legacy led him to be overshadowed by generals such as Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.
See which commander built tanks 500 years ahead of their time!
Thutmose III Established Egypt’s Greatest Empire
The sixth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Thutmose III ruled over Egypt for 54 years assumed to be between 1479 BC to 1425 BC. Becoming the ruler of the kingdom after the deaths of Thutmose II and Hatshepsut, he was ambitious to create the largest empire in Egyptian history and succeeded.
He commanded over 17 campaigns, all of which were successful, conquering over 350 territories from the Niya Kingdoms to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. For his achievements as a pharaoh, he was buried in the Valley of Kings following his death.
John Churchill Earned Quite The Name For Himself
Born in 1650, John Churchill’s career as both a soldier and a diplomat lasted over the course of five different monarchs. Beginning as a page under James, Duke of York, Churchill began training in both combat and diplomacy from a young age. He demonstrated his military value in the defeating of the Monmouth Rebellion as well as his success in the Nine Years’ War.
He would later go on earning the title of Captain-Generalcy of the British forces during the War of Spanish Succession. It was there he was victorious in the crucial battles of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet. It was these victories among others that made him one of Europe’s most respected and undefeated generals.
Darius I Expanded An Already Large Empire
During the rule of Darius I, the fourth Persian King of the Achaemenid Empire, the empire controlled over 44% of the world. After overthrowing the supposed usurer Guatama, Darius put down numerous rebellions before expanding the empire. One of his first and most notable victories was his conquest of Egypt. He then made his way through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and eventually to the Indus Valley, conquering the surrounding areas.
He also worked through parts of Europe taking control of Thrace and Macedonia. After his generals failed to conquer the rest of Greece during the Battle of Marathon, Darius planned on doing it himself but died of illness before he could, remaining undefeated himself.
Jan Žižka Is A Czech National Hero
Today, Jan Žižka is described by some as one of the greatest military leaders in history. Born into an aristocratic family in 1360, after being on the winning side during the Battle of Grunwald, he later became a military leader to the Hussites during the Hussite Wars. He is most famous for his innovative battle tactics such as utilizing armored wagons fit with small cannons and muskets, predating the tank by 500 years.
He amazingly led the Hussite army to victory against the Holy Roman Empire and Hungary, impressively training peasants to face highly trained warriors on the field. He died of the plague in 1424 as an unbeatable tactician.
Coming up: This commander fought in more than 200 battles!
Epaminondas Liberated Those Under Sparta’s Rule
Referred by Cicero as “the first man of Greece,” Epaminondas was a Theban general during the 4th century BC. He defended his city-state of Greece from the Spartans, miraculously defeating them at the Battle of Leuctra. Seeing that the Spartan’s weren’t the invincible force they were believed to be, he led successful offensive attacks himself, invading both Peloponnesus and Sparta.
It was during these invasions that he was able to liberate the Messenian helots, who had been under Sparta’s rule since they had lost the Messenian War. His final battle was the Battle of Mantinea against the Spartans in which he lost his life but still won the battle.
Khalid ibn al Walid Fought In More Than 200 Battles
Khalid ibn al Walid was born into a tribe who initially opposed Muhammad. After defeating the Muslims at the Battle of Uhud, he himself converted to Islam and joined the prophet, Muhammad. He then participated in the Battle of Mu’tah, the first Muslim battle against the Romans where his ferocity led him to be named “The Sword of Allah.”
After the death of Muhamad, he commanded armies, conquering central Arabia, Mesopotamia, and defeating the Sasanian Persian army. He was also in command during the capture of Damascus, a key victory over the Byzantine forces. After being relieved of military service, he was believed to have fought in over 200 battles.
Tariq ibn Ziyad Helped Conquer Most of Southern Spain
Although little is known about Tariq ibn Ziyad’s origins, what is known is that Julian, Count of Ceuta, hired Tariq for a military mission. Julian had Tariq sneak a Muslim army across the Straits of Gibraltar after the King of Hispania, Roderic, had supposedly raped his daughter.
Tariq’s army of 7,000 Berber horsemen landed in 711 and Tariq defeated Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete. Julian then encouraged Tariq to continue conquering southern Spain which led him to capture Córdoba, Granada, Toledo, Caracca, and more. Tariq was eventually ordered back to Damascus where he remained for the rest of his life.
August von Mackensen Was A Legendary German Field Marshall
A German field marshal during World War I, August von Mackensen was one of the German Empire’s most successful commanders. His career in the military began in 1869, where he served in various operations and quickly rose in the ranks. During World War I, he was in command of the German-Austrian 11th Army in Poland where he broke through the enemy lines and was promoted to Field Marshall.
He then experienced a string of victories such as defeating the Russians on two occasions, overrunning Serbia and occupying Romania. After being imprisoned for a year after the war he retired from the military in 1920.