Who Were The Fifteen Greatest Commanders In History? (Podcast)

In this podcast we have a bit of fun suggesting who may be the fifteen greatest military commanders in history.  It is, of course, a highly subjective exercise, and I need not be told how rash the proposal is.  Nevertheless, we persist.  I based the selections on a specific criteria, and this method is discussed in the podcast.  The full list is shown below.  My hope is that this exercise will generate some animated discussion.


Here is the full list.  The names after the top five are not necessarily in strict order of “greatness.”

Genghis Khan (1162-1227)

Alexander the Great (356 B.C.–323 B.C.)

Hannibal (247 B.C.–182 B.C.)

Khalid Ibn al-Walid (A.D. 585-642)

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (1043-1099)

Saladin (1137-1193)

Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616)

Frederick the Great (1712-1786)

Napoleon (1769-1821)

Hernan Cortes (1485-1547)

Heinz Guderian (1888-1954)

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)

Tamerlane (1336-1405)

Qin Shi Huang (259 B.C.–210 B.C.)

Shaka Zulu (1787-1828)


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10 thoughts on “Who Were The Fifteen Greatest Commanders In History? (Podcast)

  1. I think Marlborough deserves a mention somewhere. The guy routed time and again what had once been the greatest fighting force of the past century in the French. And what makes it even more remarkable is that he had to deal haggling members of his alliance that tried to hamper and limit him, yet he held the alliance together, so he was a fantastic diplomat and also a superb organizer, and his victories ensured the rise of Britain which would become the most influential nation of the past 250 years.

    And just for thought, I want to mention Joan of Arc. Her career is probably too short to be considered, but there’s no doubt her victories saved France. She had an instinct for morale and new technologies. And obviously in terms of influence, if the French lost their independence the modern world would have been unrecognizable.

    Some people would pick Nobunaga in Japan over Ieyasu. Nobunaga was arguably more innovative with his use of firearms and did the lion’s share of the work in unifying the country, though others would pick Ieyasu. Sekigahara was the most significant victory in unifying Japan. What made you choose him?

    Liked by 2 people

      • Not a criticism my man. Just some food for thought on people that should also be in the conversation, although of those three Marlborough would probably be the only one I’d consider.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the podcast, always enjoyable. While listening I get the impression these are the 15 most romanticized commanders in history. Why Hannibal but not Scipio Africanus? Napoleon but not Wellington. Marborough mentioned above was never defeated and combined arms as mentioned in the Guderian has been around since Alexander the Great. Interesting choices and extra studying for me on the non Western leader, this is always a fun parlor game, thanks very much for taking the time making the podcast. (I hope some of these of listed in the upcoming book)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, also, I think I should add that Genghis is extremely influential. In the first place, the Central Asian region in which he campaigned was one of the wealthiest in the world at that time. Then the Mongols crushed it and it arguably still hasn’t recovered.

    The Mongols also opened up the Silk Road much more than it had been previously, giving Europe a stronger taste of Asian goods, so that when those paths were closed off, the Europeans set out to find new ones and open up the Age of Discovery.

    This influence just adds to the argument for his being ranked first.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You left out Osama bin laden. An evil man to be sure, but look at the damage to the USA he was able to effect with a couple of dozen engineering students. luring us into 2 wars that burn on today, costing us 6 trillion $ we don’t have. causing the usa to squander $trillions more on no value added security measures LIKE DHS and TSA that will continue to bleed our economy in perpetuity. wrecking our financial system to pay for the increased defecit spending on the above wars. Causing the west to pass draconian and hostile security laws like the patriot act against it’s own people. The full effects of his actions are not going to be understood for another 50 years. He changed the world irrevocably with less resources than the typical US army major has at his disposal . none of it is good, and he should live in infamy forever, but Genghis khan was not a nice guy either.


  4. Hello Quintus, thanks for this and your other podcasts and articles. I enjoy your work. Many thoughts are inspiring. From the Interview with Carlo Prater i wrote down: “As long as you don`t touch kids , i won‘t touch you.” Often People today are afraid to say things like this. Therefore it is not surprising that leadership in many areas is weak. Greetings from Bavaria. Maximilian

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am surprised you did not include Julius Caesar. His achievements in Gaul and in the Civil War earned him a place alongside Alexander and Hannibal as the Ancient World’s finest commanders.


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