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August 2017

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Godzilla, default

Under L's Top 15 Greatest generals of history list:

One thing that may surprise people about this list is that none of the Civil War generals, Grant included, are on it. In fact I would not include them on a Top 20 list. The reason is that General Grant was extremely competent and able to use both common sense and what in the 20th Century counted as basic tactics, and most generals on the Union and Confederate sides weren't even able to do *that*. Putting Grant on a top 20 list for all history for doing the military version of 1 +1 = 2 just ain't right.

Now, this is a Top 15 Greatest Generals of all history, meaning the 6,000 years that have elapsed since people in Mesoamerica and Mesopotamia discovered writing.

The list is divided into three sections, Ancient (defined as Sumer/Norte Chico to the rise of the Achaemenids), Classical (defined as Classical Mayans/Hellenistic era to the rise of the Abbasids), and  Medieval/Modern (from the Abbasids to the 21st Century).

As far as *the* greatest general of the Ancient World, I'd have to go with this guy:

1) Cyrus the Great of the House of Achaemenes. Under his rule, the Persians were the first to create a pan-Mediterranean Empire. It looks a lot less impressive after him, but prior to his ascension to power the Persian Empire extended to the Indus and most of present-day Iran. After his ascension it ruled all of Anatolia (a degree of conquest not seen after him, as conquering it thereafter was slow for *everybody*), and the Middle East to the Levant. To do this, he had to conquer a previous Empire under the Babylonians that was at its *peak* (it's more impressive to beat an empire at the height of its power than it is to pick up the pieces, IMHO) and he did this to such a degree that even Herodotus, as Xenophobic as he was, admitted he was a magnificent bastard.

2) I'd also include in this Sarru-Urrukin of Agade, the guy who pretty much pioneered most of the innovations of the imperial way of waging war. Less detail on him because he became a mythical figure (inspiring the motif of the Great Man found in the bullrushes) and it's pretty much impossible to separate Sargon the Man from Sargon the Legend. The degree of that legend can be seen in his being the inspiration for Nimrod of the book of Genesis.

For the Classical World:

3) Qin Shi Huang, previously known as Zheng of Qin. Why does he count? Well, he was the first Chinese Emperor which makes him a different kind of magnificent bastard, but to get there, he had to conquer six rival, independent states. This is akin to a Napoleon or Hitler who succeeded. Zheng was one very skilled warlord, and he managed to outfox and outmaneuver the other six rivals, and in the aftermath turned a place of six independent, closely-related countries (think a Far Eastern HREGN) into a singular Empire to such a degree that even the Chinese have never gotten to like the idea of multiple countries there.

4) Alexander of Macedon, Qin's earlier Western counterpart in the 4th Century BCE. One of the only Generals to have never lost a battle he commanded. The man took down the vast Persian Empire led by Cyrus's successor Darius, and his conquests in one lifetime extended from Egypt to the Indus Valley. He was a piss-poor administrator but like Qin he was one supremely good warlord.

5) Ashoka Maurya, one of the only rulers in the Indian subcontinent to do in one lifetime what took the Mughals three and the British centuries: he unified all of the Indian subcontinent that mattered under a single leader, creating a large empire. Interestingly his precursor had converted to Jainism but that religion remained a marginal, puritanical mutation of Hinduism. Where Ashoka converted to Buddhism and was the Ur-Example of a Constantine.

6) Diocletian. His persecution of the Christians has overshadowed the extent to which this particular magnificent bastard took a Roman Empire that had seen a Forever Civil War for the last century and put a stop to it. He was so successful at it that his battles are both named and he's considered one of the most influential Roman Emperors of his time, his program left intact by Constantine.

7) Count Theodosius, the last Roman Emperor to rule the entirety of the Empire. Given the time at which he took control, that in itself qualifies him for this list. Yes, he actually conquered all of it back and kept administering it as one unit.....

8) Belisarius. The single greatest general of the Medieval Roman Empire. 'Nuff said.

9) Khalid Ibn Al-Walid. The Muslim version of Alexander the Great.

Medieval to Modern:

10) Genghis Khan. Another Magnificent Bastard who never lost a battle in his entire career. The name alone is pretty significant. Has been romanticized a wee bit more than he should have been.

11) Gustavus Adolphus. He's on the list because it is he, the Swede, who re-introduced combined arms tactics to northern Europe, where at this point they were mainly an Ottoman innovation.

12) Alexander Suvorov. Another general who never lost a battle, even against Napoleon Bonaparte.

13) Napoleon. His career can be summed up in one phrase: He actually got to Moscow after a seemingly endless string of victories. However his position is here mainly because he, rightly or wrongly, became inspirational for tactics. He did, after all, lose the Napoleonic Wars.

14) Marshal Georgi Zhukov. The WWII general with the best claim to have been the "man that destroyed Nazism." His abilities were as much that Stalin trusted him and let him live even when he bungled as his actual battlefield achievements, though Khalkin Ghol, Leningrad, Moscow, and Bagration are pretty much enough to get him on this list for that alone.

15) Marshal Josip Broz/Tito. His career can also be summed up pithily thus: He came, he saw, he conquered, he flipped Stalin the bird, and he lived to die of old age.

Comments

You'll note I didn't count Skanderbeg, Basil II, or Julius Caesar on this list either (though on a 20 Greatest List, Caesar and probably Selim the Grim would also be on it). The people in this list were able to conduct extremely skilled campaigns with large numbers of men over wide areas, which doesn't fit Alcibiades and certainly doesn't fit Xerxes. ;P.
ROFL......actually if it came to a Hellenistic General I'd pick either Epaminondas or Xenophon.
Good list. Do you think there are any generals in the last century who would get honorable mention?
Well, from the USA I'd count Eisenhower and Bradley. Canada...Guy Simonds. 'Nuff said. From the USSR Konev, Rokossovsky, and Tolbhukin. From Imperial Japan Yamamoto (because without him Pearl Harbor would be considered improbable), and Nazi Germany Walter Model, the one Nazi general who actually should receive some fair hype.