Unfortunately, much of human history is written with blood, with people being involved in violent conflicts since written records began. Throughout history, some of these conflicts have stood out, ranging from ancient times to the modern era, with these battles being considered some of the deadliest of all time. While most people may never know that a battle took place in a particular location, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen, but that time has covered up the violence that took place there. Take a look to see what these famous battlefields look like today.
The Battle Of Thermopylae – 480 BC
The Battle of Thermopylae was a conflict fought between an alliance of Greek city-states led by the Spartan King Leonidas I and the Achaemenid Empire of Xerxes I. The battle took place over three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece in August or September 480 BC. The Greeks strategically chose to fight at the coastal pass of Thermopylae, known as the “Hot Gates,” to funnel the Persian army through.
The Greek force was vastly outnumbered by the Persians in one of history’s most famous last stands and held off the invading force for three days of intense fighting until their rearguard was finally overwhelmed. However, the Greeks defense helped to inspire the rest of the country to eventually force the Persians out.
The Battle Of Cannae – 216 BC
The Battle of Cannae was a conflict during the Second Punic War between the Roman Republic and Carthage. The battle was fought on August 2, 216 BC, near the village of Cannae in Apulia, in southeast Italy.
Hannibal, who commanded the Carthaginian army, surrounded the much larger Roman army under Lucius Aemilius Pallus and Gaius Terentius Varro. The Carthaginians then proceeded to demolish the Roman army in a battle that is considered to be one of the greatest tactical moves in military history and one of the worst defeats of a Roman army.
The Battle Of The Little Bighorn – 1876
Otherwise known as Custer’s Last Stand, the Battle of the Little Bighorn was an armed conflict between the combined force of the Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle took place on June 25-26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana Territory.
The result of the battle was an overwhelming defeat of the United States force of 700 men. Five of the 7th Cavalry’s twelve companies were completely destroyed, with the leader, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, losing his life as well.
The Second Battle Of Fort Wagner – 1863
Taking place during the American Civil War, the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, also known as the Second Assault on Morris Island was fought on July 18, 1863. During the battle, Union army troops led by Brig. Gen. Quincy Gilmore launched an unsuccessful attack on the Confederate stronghold of Fort Wagner in the south of Charleston Harbor.
The 54th Massachusetts on the Union side that was made up of African Americans was hailed for their valor and sacrifice in the battle, leading the Union to begin recruiting more black soldiers.
The Battle Of Gettysburg – 1863
Fought between July 1-3, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the major battles of the American Civil War, fought between the Union and Confederate forces in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Considered to be the war’s turning point, it had the most significant number of casualties in the conflict with the Union Army defeating the Confederates, preventing their invasion of the North. It is estimated that between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies lost their lives during the three days of fighting. The battlefield was also the site where President Lincoln would deliver his historic Gettysburg Address.
The Battle Of Marathon – 490 BC
The Battle Of Marathon took place in 490 BC during the first Persian invasion of Greece. The battle was fought between the people of Athens with the help of Plataea against the Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes.
The battle was the first attempt of Persia under the leadership of Darius I to invade Greece. Incredibly, the Greek army managed to defeat the significantly larger Persian army and is considered to be a major turning point in the Greco-Persian wars, proving to the rest of Greece that the Persians could be defeated.
The Battle Of The Somme – 1916
The Battle of the Somme was a conflict during World War I that involved the British Empire and the French Third Republic against the German Empire. It occurred between July 1 and November 16 on both sides of the River Somme in France.
Considered to be one of the bloodiest battles in human history, there were 3 million men that fought in the battle with more than one million being killed or wounded. Unfortunately, there is still debate over the necessity and the overall outcome of the battle.
The Battle Of Iwo Jima – 1945
Taking place between February 19 and March 26, 1945, the Battle of Iwo Jima was a battle during World War II in which the United States Marine Corps and Navy captured the island of Iwo Jima in Japan from the Imperial Japanese Army.
Referred to as Operation Detachment, the goal of the attack was to secure the entire island as well as three Japanese-controlled airfields to create a secure place for allied forces to prepare for attacks on the Japanese mainland. The five-week-long battle is described as some of the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
The Battle Of The Hydaspes – 326 BC
The Battle of Hydaspes was fought in 326 BC between Alexander the Great and King Porus of the Paurava kingdom on the banks of the Jhelum River in what is now modern-day Punjab, Pakistan. The result of the battle was a victory for the Greeks and the surrender of Porus.
Before the battle, Alexander made the risky decision to cross the monsoon-affected river to attack Porus’s army’s flank, which is considered to be one of his great military strategies. Although the Macedonian’s won, they suffered the most losses than any of their other battles.
The Battle Of Agincourt – 1415
The Battle of Agincourt was a major victory for the English forces against the French during the Hundred Years’ War. The battle was fought on October 25, 1415, near the town of Agincourt in Northern France. King Henry V led his troops into battle himself and participated in the fighting, and although the English were outnumbered, their use of the English longbow gave them the upper-hand.
With nearly 80 percent of Henry’s army made up of archers, they outmatched the French crossbowmen. The victory is considered to be one of the greatest in English history and was glorified in Shakespeare’s play Henry V.
The Battle Of Actium – 31 BC
Taking place in 31 BC, the Battle of Actium was a naval battle that was fought in the last war of the Roman Republic. It was between the fleet of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt.
The battle was fought in the Ionian Sea near Actium in Greece, with Octavian being victorious. This allowed him to consolidate power and marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.
The Battle Of Blenheim – 1704
The Battle of Blenheim was a battle that was fought on August 13, 1704, and was a key battle in the War of the Spanish Succession. The Allied victory protected Vienna from the Franco-Bavarian army, therefore preventing the collapse of the reconstituted Grand Alliance.
During the battle, the French troops suffered catastrophic losses, including their commander-in-chief, Marshal Tallard. The battle was a turning point in the war that had previously been leaning on the side of the French and Spanish Bourbons.
Battle Of Tours – 732
Also referred to as the Battle of Poitiers and the Battle of the Highway of the Martyrs, Battle of Tours was fought on October 10, 732, and was a crucial battle during the Umayyad invasion of Gaul. The battle resulted in a victory by the Frankish and Aquitainian forces under Charles Martel over the Umayyad Caliphate.
Although details of the battle are still not well known, it’s agreed upon by many historians that even though the Umayyads had a larger force, they suffered greater casualties. The battle took place somewhere between the cities of Poitiers and Tours in western France.
The Battle Of Shiloh – 1862
The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was an event that happened in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. The battle was fought between April 6-7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. After the Union force known as the Army of the Tennessee set up camp at Pittsburg Landing on the bank of the Mississippi River, the Confederate Army of Mississippi launched a surprise attack.
Although the Union was victorious, they suffered more casualties than the Confederates, and the Battle of Shiloh became the bloodiest Civil War battle up until that point, with nearly double the amount of casualties than usual.
The Battle Of Waterloo – 1818
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, June 18, 1815, near Waterloo in Belgium, which was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time. During the battle, the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by two of the armies of the Seventh Coalition, a British-led force under the command of the Duke of Wellington.
The battle took place after Napoleon’s return to power, and his defeat marked the end of his rules as the Emperor of the French and of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Battle Of Antietam – 1862
The Battle of Antietam was fought during the American Civil War on September 17, 1862, between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac. The battle took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek.
As part of the Maryland Campaign, it was the first engagement in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War to happen on Union soil. The Union victory led to President Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, and, at the time, was the bloodiest day in the United State’s history with more than 22,000 dead, wounded, or missing.
The Battles Of Saratoga – 1777
The Battles of Saratoga took place between September 19 and October 7, 1777. The battles were decisive victories for the Americans over the British in the American Revolutionary War.
British General John Burgoyne found himself trapped against superior American forces with no help in sight, so he retreated to Saratoga, where he surrendered his army on October 17. According to historian Edmund Morgan, it “was a great turning point of the war because it won for Americans the foreign assistance which was the last element needed for victory.”
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive – 1918
The Meuse-Argonne offensive was a key part of the final Allied offensive of World War I along the Western Front. The fighting took place for a total of 47 days from September 26 until the Armistice of November 11, 1918, northwest of Verdun.
It is considered to be the second deadliest battle in American history with over 350,000 deaths, including 28,000 German soldiers, 26,277 American soldiers, and an unknown amount of French. Americans suffered even further casualties due to the inexperience of the troops, some of the tactics used, and the outbreak of the “Spanish Flu.”
The Battle Of Leipzig – 1813
Otherwise known as the Battle of the Nations, the Battle of Leipzig was fought from October 16 to 19, 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony.
It involved The Coalition armies of Austria, Prussia, Sweden, and Russia, led by Emperor Alexander I and Karl von Schwarzenberg against the French imperial army commanded by Emperor Napoleon I and resulted in Napoleon’s defeat. The battle involved 500,000 soldiers and 127,000 casualties, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.
The Battle of Stalingrad – 1942 to 1943
During the Battle of Stalingrad, Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union over control of the city of Stalingrad, now Volgograd, in Southern Russia. The battle is known for its close-quarters combat and the killing of civilians during air raids.
It is one of the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare, with an estimated 2 million in total casualties. At the beginning of February 1943, the Axis forces in Stalingrad were forced to surrender after the depletion of their food and ammunition after five months, one week, and three days of vicious fighting.
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, Indian, 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.
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.
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.
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.