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.
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 I, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ramses II Even Won At Peace Treaties
Ramesses II, also called Ramesses the Great, ruled Egypt in the early-to-late thirteenth century BC. He ascended to the throne as a teenager and kept it for 66 years. Ramesses lead three campaigns and dozens of battles in Syria, and he won them all.
Ramesses the Great rapidly expanded the Egyptian kingdom. He expanded his territory south of the Nile. Around 1258 BC, Ramesses II established a peace treaty with the Hittite king Mursili III. This was the first peace treaty ever recorded in history--slightly ironic for a vicious king.
Edward IV Grew Up With War
Those familiar with English history know how many king Edwards there are. But Edward IV deserves special attention as an undefeated king. Edward grew up in the early years of the War of Roses. He came to the throne through a controversial argument over who was the rightful heir.
Once Edward IV took the throne, the War of Roses was sparked again. Unlike other undefeated kings, Edward wasn't fully committed to the ongoing conflict. As he became more estranged, other nobles attempted to overthrow Edward IV. After he fled, he waited to compose his own army to take the throne back.
Subutai Was Genghis Khan's General
While Genghis Khan has received a lot of recognition as a war leader. But his general, Subutai, deserves credit as well. Subutai led over 20 campaigns in which he conquered 32 nations. He took over much of China, Central Asia, Russia, and Europe during his leadership.
According to sources, Subutai once said to Genghis Khan, "I will ward off your enemies as felt cloth protects one from the wind." And so he did. Subutai destroyed the armies of both Hungary and Poland, territories that were over 310 miles (500 km) away from each other in two days.
Tiglath-Pileser III Was An Assyrian King
Tiglath-Pileser III was a king of Assyria in the eighth century BC. Seizing the throne during a civil war, he killed the royal family and set to making extreme changes to the Assyrian government and society.
Considered one of the most successful military commanders in history, he stopped revolts before they could ever even start by establishing deportations of thousands of people throughout the empire. He is also renowned for conquering a vast amount of the world known to the Assyrians before his death.
Chandragupta Maurya United India
Founder of the Maurya Empire, and considered to be the first historical emperor of India, Chandragupta managed to establish one of the largest empires in the Indian subcontinent only to renounce everything he did to later become a Jain monk.
However, during his reign, he managed to conquer all of the private kingdoms that made up India, creating a central government and unifying it all into one empire. After becoming a monk he welcomed death by fasting.
Leonidas Held Off The Persians
The third son of Anaxandridas II, Leonidas was a military king of Sparta who is best remembered for his valor at the Battle of Thermopylae in which 300 Spartan soldiers fought against a horde of invading Persians during the Persian Wars.
Outnumbered by hundreds of thousands, Leonidas and his fellow countrymen fought bravely and managed to slay tens of thousands of the invading Persians before eventually being betrayed and overtaken. His deeds are still remembered today as was his bravery and skill as a leader, tactician, and warrior.
Trajan Was A Beloved Emperor
Trajan was a Roman emperor who ruled from 98 to 117. He was considered by many as “the best ruler” and was a soldier-emperor who was at the head of the greatest expansion in Roman history.
During his time, he was at war against the Parthian Empire which was ended by the sack of the capital of Ctesiphon and the annexation of Armenia and Mesopotamia. Regardless of all his success as a rule and a military commander, he died of a stroke while on his way back to Rome from his military conquests.
Julius Caesar Is An Ancient Hero
Julius Caesar is one of the most memorable names from the ancient world, known for his skill as a politician, military general, leader, and he played a critical role in the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.
He was an incredibly bold and successful military commander, conquering Gaul which today is France, Switzerland, Belgium and northern Italy. This made him the first Roman emperor to lead a military host into Britain, establishing himself in Roman and ancient history.
Hannibal Barca Is A Legend Today
Hannibal Barca was a Carthaginian general and statesman who is widely referred to as one of the greatest military commanders in both modern and ancient military history. His hatred for the Romans was instilled by his father as a young boy, who fought in the First Punic War. This hatred carried well into his adulthood.
One of his most notable actions was when he attempted crossing the Alps with an army of 50,000 infantrymen, 9,000 cavalry, and 37 elephants, a feat assumed to be impossible at the time. His knack for warfare became apparent during the Second Punic War where he won several campaigns. However, he committed suicide after falling captive to the Romans.
Cyrus The Great Was The First King Of Persia
Cyrus the Great was a Persian leader, who after conquering the Mendes managed to unify the entirety of Iran under a single ruler for the first time in human history. Upon doing so, he became the first King of the Persian Empire in which he went on to construct one of the largest empires in the known world.
His conquering took him throughout what is now today the Middle East, and even managed to reach parts of Greece along the way. On top of his military accomplishments, he was also the first ruler to establish a civil rights charter and was otherwise a progressive ruler.
Sun Tzu Wrote A Book That Changed The World
Best known for his ancient text which is still studied today, The Art of War, Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general and renowned war strategist. His mind and actions completely altered the way wars were fought and his influence can still be felt today.
Throughout history, The Art of War has been meticulously studied by leaders, military commanders, and even common soldiers, who try to get into the mind of this general. While his own military accomplishments were impressive, his legend resides within his text.
Hammurabi Created The First Written Code Of Laws
Inheriting the throne from his father Sin-Muballit in 1792 BC, Hammurabi became the first King of Babylon from the Amorite Dynasty. Praised as one of the most successful ancient lawgivers for his creation of the Hammurabi Code, the first set of written laws, he was also a skilled military leader.
When the Elamites invaded Mesopotamia, he joined forces with Larsa and threw them back. He went on to break the alliance he had formed and ended up successfully invading Larsa's cities of Lisin and Uruk. He then went on to conquer Nippur, Lagash, and the rest of Larsa.
Akbar The Great
Akbar the Great was the third Mughal emperor who ruled during the late sixteenth century. As a confident general, he conquered much of the Indian subcontinent. He also entirely changed the Mughal army to the Mansabdari system, which revolutionized the empire’s battle tactics.
Some of Akbar’s reforms included using fortifications, cannons, and elephants. He used these strategies to win battles through India, Central Asia, and the Indus Valley. His empire even reached Portugal, a kingdom which he clashed with throughout the 1570s. Akbar’s reign lasted almost 50 years.
Ivan Sirko Became Immortalized Through Art
Ivan Sirko was a Ukrainian Cossack military leader in the seventeenth century. He is well-known for co-authoring the Reply of the Zeporozhian Cossacks. In the late-nineteenth century, artist Ilya Repin immortalized the general in a painting by the same name.
Sirko initially served in the French military, but he later teamed up with Moscow, despite opposing them initially. He seized many cities in Siberia and Turkey, although he failed to capture some of them. Ivan Sirko did not die in battle. He passed away in his Ukraine estate in 1680.
Pal Kinizsi Is One Of The Few Generals To Never Lose
Also known as Paulus de Kenezy, Pal Kinizsi was a Hungarian general who served under King Matthias Corvinus. He led Matthias’ infamous Black Army, named for their threatening black armor. Every soldier in this fifteenth-century army carried a firearm, which gave them the upper hand in many battles.
Not much is known about Pal Kinizsi. According to Latin documents, he led the Black Army under Matthias until the king’s death in 1490. Afterward, Kinizsi and his army disbanded into a band of robbers. Even so, he is one of the few generals worldwide who has never lost a battle.
Arthur Wellesley, The World’s Conqueror
Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington, served as Prime Minister twice in nineteenth-century Britain. His most famous victory was defeating Napoleon in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. Before then, he won several campaigns against the French Empire, specifically during the Peninsular campaign.
Wellesley is hailed as one of the greatest military strategists of all time. His adaptive defensive styles of warfare are still studied in military academies worldwide. Tsar Alexander I of Russia once called Wellington “Le vainqueur du vainqueur du monde,” which translates to “the world’s conqueror.”
Han Xin Helped Found The Han Dynasty
Serving Liu Band during the Chu-Han Contention, Han Xin was a military general who is credited with helping to establish the Han Dynasty. Along with Zhang Liang and Xia He, he was named one of the "Three Heroes of the early Han Dynasty."
He was best known for his military strategies, many of which became the source of particular Chinese idioms. For his skill, he was named "King of Qi" and later "King of Chu." He was accused of participating in a rebellion in 196 BC and was executed.
Sargon Of Akkad, The First Akkadian Ruler
Also referred to as Sargon the Great, Sargon of Akkad was the first ruler of the Akkadian Empire, who is recognized for his conquests of the Sumerian city-states during the 24th and 23rd centuries BC.
The dynasty he founded was known as the "Sargonic" or "Old Akkadian," and lasted for around a century after his death before the Gutian conquest of Sumer. He is seen as a legendary figure in Neo-Assyrian literature, having fought in 34 battles, winning them all.
Prince Henry Of Prussia Was Almost A Monarch Over The United States
Prince Frederick Henry Louis of Prussia, commonly just referred to as Henry, was the younger brother of Frederick the Great. Aside from being a prince, he also served as a successful general and statesman, who led armies during the Silesian Wars as well as the Seven Years' War.
During his time as a military leader during the Seven Years' War, he never lost a battle and grew to become a highly decorated commander. At one point, he was even nominated as a candidate to be a monarch over the United States.
Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Is A Spanish Hero
Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, otherwise known as "El Cid," was a Castilian knight and war hero in medieval Spain. Known by the Moors as El Cid, meaning leader, and El Campeador by the Christians which meant "Outstanding Warrior," he was respected by many.
During his time as a knight, he grew to become a national hero, and the protagonist in El Cantar de Mio Cid, a Spanish epic poem. He spent his life fighting countless adversaries from all over, consistently coming out on top, earning him his feared and beloved reputation.