The World’s greatest general was NOT Adolf Hitler. You probably thought that given this thumbnail because that’s the only man most people know that is related to War and Destruction. But Hitler technically wasn’t even a general, shocking right? While he had the position of Supreme commander of the German Armed forces, he was technically not an actual general since he didn’t make all the small decisions on the ground but instead only decided on general strategy – the rest was given to his actual Generals. Well… who was the greatest General of all time then? First we have to even decide what makes a general great and then who is the best at achieving it.

There are few things in history that are as defining as war has been. From a group of native tribes arguing over food to colossal empires clashing it out in massive wars to rule the world, war has been an almost integral part of human nature. The men leading these wars are known as generals and there have been many successful ones and many failures. Today, I want to look at the most successful of them all and why they were so good. I also want to highlight that one of the major facts I found while researching this video is that there are almost no major female generals in history – a stark sign of the gender inequality that has been running for thousands of years and still runs today.

Going back to the main question, the easiest way to define a good general is to simply ask how many battles that general won – the highest answer of which would be Napoleon Bonaparte with 53. But it’s never that easy since this doesn’t tell us how good the general really is since he could’ve won 10 but lost 20 which would easily tell us he was a bad general. It also doesn’t tell us the situation of each battle since a general winning a battle when he has 20,000 men vs 10,000 is not nearly as impressive as one winning with 10,000 against 20,000. Thus, this statistic isn’t very accurate or conclusive.

Another way we can define a general as ‘great’ is looking at the legacy that they gave us and how that affects the modern world. While this is a great way to look at them, it is very hard to make numbers for this and rank the generals.

So now we have two main ways to rank generals – one which isn’t fully accurate but easy to rank and another which is far more inclusive but nearly impossible to rank. So what if we combine the two? Lets look at some of the generals who are the best fit for this combination:

4 – Hannibal Barca = Widely considered one of the most brilliant tacticians and strategists of all time, Hannibal would eventually be the man that would make Rome shake in the Second Punic Wars. Almost never in history had a man come so close to destroying the mighty Roman Republic then Hannibal. A general of Carthage (nowadays modern Tunisia), Hannibal won fame by his conquest of Hispania (Spain), crossing the alps with a massive army into Italy and absolutely crushing the Roman Armies in a series of brilliant battles. Eventually, when another famous Roman general named Scipio Africanus crossed from Spain to North Africa, Hannibal was forced to retreat back to defend the homeland where he was eventually defeated and exiled. Throughout his peak years, Hannibal pulled off some of the most brilliant manoeuvres and victories that are still widely doted on today although his great Carthaginian homeland would eventually fall to the mighty Roman war machine that we know today.

3- Alexander the Great = his name itself would easily tell you how important he is. After taking up the throne of Macedonia ,which ruled most of Greece at the time, he lead his army into modern day Turkey to face the superpower of the Persian Empire. Fighting 9 major battles, he won all of them and manged to conquer the whole Persian Empire in just 10 years. His empire caused Greek and Persian ideas to fuse and usher in the Hellenistic Age. Unfortunately, his empire would collapse shortly after his death but many ideas and inventions lived on. Importantly, many of the successor states to his Empire would also have massive impacts on history – this includes the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt. Overall, Alexander is still remembered as one of the greatest generals and leaders of all time and his name still lives on almost 2000+ years later.

2 – Julius Caesar = Famous for his many successful campaigns, his rise to dictatorship and his spectacular death, Julius Caesar is still remembered as of the beast and most influential generals of all time. Born in the Roman Republic, Caesar quickly gained fame for his many successful campaigns in Gaul and his victory in the Civil War. Having expanded Rome’s borders far and wide and proved himself as a brilliant and daring commander, he rose in political power and was eventually made Dictator for Life. At the time, Rome was still a republic and many resented the ideas of a singular figure to rule and subsequently plotted to remove Caesar. In one of the most famous spectacles in history, he was brutally stabbed and killed in 44BC. His legacy, however, would endure as one of Rome’s greatest generals and his ideas of Dictatorship would lead Rome into another civil war which would eventually turn it into the Roman Empire we all know today.

1 – Napoleon Bonaparte = If you thought these other generals were good, you haven’t seen Napoleon. Borin in 1769 on Corsica, he made his way to France where he rose to power during the French Revolution thanks to his military victories. He then crowned himself Emperor and what followed was 10 years of Brutal military conflict and strife for Europe as Napoleon managed to win battle after battle after battle. He redrew the maps of Europe and spread the ideas of liberalism and unity through nationality. Eventually, Napoleon invaded Russia and was defeated but the impact he had on Europe and the world was colossal. Not only did he completely reshape the ways armies were used and how battles were fought but he managed to administer over a massive Empire that dominated the continent. To this day, Napoleon remains by far the most successful general of all time – having won 53 battles which is far more than any other. He lost only 7 battles, all of which he was at a disadvantage. In terms of his legacy, he had completely shattered the existing order and turned any medieval states into well-functioning modern ones. His ideas of unity through nationality would be the driving cause for the Birth of both Italy and Germany – the later of which would alone have massive impacts on history. Napoleon, however, can also be attributed as responsible for the deaths of roughly 3 million people in his wars and the massive increase in the size of armies which, as we all know, would play a big role just a century later in WW1.

To conclude, the greatest generals of all time where probably not who you thought. It is undoubtable that these men had a massive impact on histories and their legacies are some of the most important you can learn.