The Ten Greatest Military Tacticians in History

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History has seen several numerous leaders who led their empires to greatness. Famous for their brilliance, tactical knowledge, facing incredible odds, expanding their empires and defending their homelands, the following men are some of the most renowned leaders who ever lived.

Although ranking military tacticians is a challenging task, we have made an list of ten some of history’s best military strategists. These individuals have been studied throughout the ages for the notable feats they were able to accomplish and the strategies that they developed.

10. Saladin

Saladin
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Formally known as Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb, Saladin was the West’s nemesis during the Second and Third Crusades. However, for people in the Middle East he was and still is, revered as the one who re-captured Jerusalem and Levant cities and returned them to Muslim hands.

He is also recognized for his generosity and chivalry toward his enemies and Christians. Born a Kurdish Muslim in modern-day Iraq in 1137/38 AD, he worked his entire life to consolidate power in the Middle East and unite the warring Arabs against the Crusaders. He started by disintegrating the Shi’ite Fatamid caliphate in Egypt (which he did by betraying them while serving as vizier) then he aligned the government with Sunni Abassid caliphate.  He was later proclaimed the sultan of Egypt and Syria.  He also took control of Palestine and northern Mesopotamia through skillful diplomacy and military accomplishments.

His success did not come from utilizing new techniques. Instead it came by uniting and training hundreds of thousands of unruly Muslim forces. His best achievement against the Crusaders was at the Battle of Hattin on Northern Palestine in July of 1187. It was there that overconfidence, thirst and lack of military sense defeated most of the panicked and trapped Crusader army in one blow. Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, and other generals were captured and beheaded, except for Guy himself who was later ransomed. Within three months the Crusaders lost most of their territory and Jerusalem fell after a long siege, ending 88 years of Frankish rule over the city. This prompted the Third Crusade, which re-conquered some territory back but not Jerusalem, and ended with a peace treaty between Richard the Lion Heart and Saladin after three years of belligerence. Saladin fell ill and died in Damascus months later.

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  • Tom

    Great article, really enjoyed reading it 🙂

    Though, I might suggest you proof read it once more, as there’s a few errors. For example “knowing teh penalty for failure”
    Made me chuckle though 🙂

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      oops! Thanks for catching that, I actually make that mistake a lot and I’m usually better about catching it. I’ll definitely take another look for errors!

  • Darren

    Actually Napoleon wasn’t a short man. He was above average height for the age.

  • Merlyn Dicks

    Must be an American list I can think of at least 6 that should be on the list. Putting Patton on your must be a joke a braggart and a blowhard.

    • phil

      No list of this nature…would be worth reading…without including George Patton. Do some research on 3rd Army, WW2. You’ll become educated…quickly. Patton was the MOST feared American General..by The Nazis. He was a military genius.

  • Damian

    Congratulation, a very interesting material.

  • PK77

    Stonewall Jackson should be no 1, did so much with so little, a genius

    • Sara Marie Brown

      I was just about to suggest he should have been on the list. 🙂

    • Butch

      Agree! When Stonewall Jackson died General Lee said it was if he lost his right arm. The Southern cause afterwards declined.

  • Kat

    How was Suvorov left off this list? Seriously? Why is he always forgotten?

    • Andre Stefansky

      Agreed, he was a magnificent leader.

  • Bob

    Zhukov….Wellington ?

  • Bill

    Scipio Africanus??? Defeated Hannibal at every battle they fought.

  • Tom

    Interesting. It really is hard to do a 10 best, especially with a subject like this. If it were me and I was limited to 10 I’d have Scipio Africanus, as mention above, and drop Saladin. Also I might insert Frederick the Great and remove Sun Tzu.

  • bimal

    how did patton get on this list? he only fought against beaten foes.

  • Hector

    Where is General Robert E Lee?

    • confused

      I agree with you Hector, R.E. Lee conducted a masterful retreat through Virginia in 1864 anticipating where Grant would move to and using interior lines to be there to block Grant at every stage of the campaign. It’s hard to rate him offensively due to the poor quality of the majority of the opposing generals. The biggest mistake he made was not listening to Longstreet and outflanking the union army at Gettysburg.

  • lol this list is a joke

    lolllll

    This list is ridiculous. Hannibal at number one, and Scipio doesn’t even make the list? Hannibal himself even said that Scipio was a better general than he was.

    • HootOwl

      Plus, only one single elephant survived the crossing of the Alps. One! Sparticus, Stonewall Jackson and Bobby Lee should have made the list too, along with Scipio.

  • confused

    I’m confused by the title of “The Ten Greatest Military Tacticians in History” since most of the people on the list were great Military Strategists or at the Operational level not Tacticians. Wikipedia defines Military Tactician as: In contemporary military science, tactics are the lowest of three planning levels: (i) strategic, (ii) operational, and (iii) tactical. The highest level of planning is strategy: how force is translated into political objectives by bridging the means and ends of war. The intermediate level, operational, the conversion of strategy into tactics, deals with formations of units. In the vernacular, tactical decisions are those made to achieve the greatest immediate value; strategic decisions are those made to achieve the greatest overall value, irrespective of the immediate results of a tactical decision.

  • jim

    Nathan Bedford Forrest wasn’t on the list.

  • Naathan

    You mentioned Sun Tzu. Why no Zhuge Liang? I was actually expecting him to be in first place… the man single handedly made an army of over 100,000 retreat by the power of reputation alone.

  • Timbot2000

    Subotai? Belisarius? Zhukov? Scipio Africanus? Zhou Yu?, Cao Cao?….Alexander Magnus, latin? Seriously? Alexander of Macedon people.

  • Carmen

    Where are Chief Joseph and Geronimo?

  • No George Washington? who defeated The British Army? Or Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson?

    • Washington was one of the greatest generals in American history, but he was no tactician. He influenced the tactics of guerrilla warfare, and he was great in inspiring his men and leading them on the battlefield, but he lost many battles, and, as a young officer, he basically starts the French-Indian War all by himself, and was defeated.

      • And also, we got kicked by the British so much, we had to make friends with the French so they can come help us in the nick of time.

  • Kenneth Penney

    Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. It’s possible that he would be worthy for this list.

  • Elvey *Viking for Elf Warrior

    Let us forget the dribble and just list the top 100 Generals in Everyone’s History. After all, Genius on the battlefield is still GENIUS!!!

  • DanO

    Frederick the Great! “Hats off gentleman, if he were alive today we wouldn’t be here.” -Napoleon upon entering the tomb of Frederick the Great. Just saying.

  • Rommel,seriously Nathan B.Forrest should have been on it.

  • 34th Infantry

    General MacArthur doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He went from New Guinea to Japan with fewer casualties then Ike took just in the Battle of the Bulge. Plus the landing at Inchon was a masterpiece.

  • Fred Pomeroy

    Since it says military, I am surprised at your elitism. Naval officers are also military. Perhaps you should consider Dutch Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, Korean Admiral Yi Soon Shin, or British Lord Admiral Sir Doctor Horatio Nelson.

  • JoCar
  • Robert Coates

    Every one of these men was a military success and a political failure. Conquering a country does not count for much if you cannot govern it afterwards.