The Ten Greatest Military Tacticians in History

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


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.

  • 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 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


    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.

      • Davis K.

        Spartacus was amazing, but his victories were short lived because he couldn’t keep his army together (half of them split to Gaul), and he was eventually trapped by Crassus’ forces. This list is more deserving of tacticians that left a victorious legacy behind them. If anything, Joan of Arc deserves to be on this list.

  • 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.

    • Davis K.

      Subutai alone deserves to be top 3

  • 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.

      • thatpageguy

        He learned from the French and Indian War, something the British never did. Also, don’t forget that that was his first experience in leading men into combat.

    • jim

      The truth behind the American Revolution is that if the French did not enter to help the Americans and if Washington did not get Baron Friedrich von Steuben to train the Americans at Valley Forge it would have been a lost cause. Washington was a great leader but not one of the greatest tacticians.

    • thatpageguy

      A number of people here discounting Washington. While he may or may not be in the Top 10, he proved to be the best general, perhaps, in the 18 Century. His escape from the British in New York was brilliantly done, as was his victory in the Battle of Trenton. He was also excellent in manoeuver, keeping out of the clutches of the much better British Army and his “army” was usually a rag tag collection of poorly trained militia. Considering how little he had to work with, it was a major accomplishment that he didn’t lose the war.

  • 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.

    • Piotr Del Real

      Napoleon was greatly outnumbered. He didn’t stand much of a chance winning against even an average general.

  • 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.

    • David Hoover

      Rommel wasn’t as great as people think. As soon as the Allies realized he had broken their code and changed it, he was done for soon after.

  • 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.

    • D_Kellhr

      I will admit that MacArthur was a genius at Inchon, where he conceived and personally directed a brilliant attack, but the Army’s work was a minor sideshow in the Pacific theater of WWII.. It was the Marines and the Navy who did the heavy lifting there. And while MacArthur can claim some credit for being in overall command, it was really his subordinates in the Navy and Marine Corps who led and won the great island-hopping battles of WWII in the Pacific.

  • 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.

    • David Hoover

      Upon whom Gene Roddenberry based Captain James Tiberius Kirk!

  • 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.

    • Davis K.

      This discussion is about warfare, not politics.

    • D_Kellhr

      I disagree with Robert Coats. Conquering a country counts plenty. Especially if you are a soldier. A General’s job is to win battles and wars. It is absolutely not a soldier’s job to govern, unless you are one of the few who believe that governments should be run by the military.
      If not, then you must consider that is the politicians who must make wise decisions about when and whether to wage war, and about whether military victories can be politically sustained afterwards.
      So when a conquered country like Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq falls, don’t blame the soldiers or their Generals. They did their job correctly – Instead, you should blame the politicians.

  • Trace

    Hello? Robert E. Lee? Stonewall Jackson? Nathan Bedford Forrest?

  • Davis K.

    Genghis Khan at 9? Seriously? He is top 3, if not number 1. Had Genghis not died and his general Subutai not been relocated, he would’ve conquered Europe and changed history:

    -Most mobile army in the world until the 20th century (and this was back in the 1200s, so that says a lot)
    -Utilized revolutionary tactics (ie. feigned retreat)
    -Decimated armies exponentially larger than his
    -Had the worlds largest postal service at the time
    -Ruled the Silk Road with an iron fist, keeping it virtually bandit free for hundreds of years.

    Even early gunpowder empires were at the mercy of Mongol tactics (Temujin vs the Turks before his untimely death). It’s safe to bet that no pre-industrial army in history would defeat Genghis Khan and his general Subutai.

    • David Hoover

      Ugh! Decimated? Decimated means to kill ONE TENTH, not to destroy.

  • Rommel and Patton both studied who? The father of Total War. The man who saved Lincoln from losing reelection in 1864.

  • djibson

    Napoleon at # 2? He stranded and abandoned an entire army in Egypt, lost half a generation of french men in Russia and finally gave up after losing most of the rest of that generation in Belgium. There were essentially no men left in France who could fight. GENIUS.

    • Piotr Del Real

      Napoleon almost conquered all of Europe by himself. The last people to do that were the Romans roughly 2000 years ago! He overthrew the Spanish Throne and put his brother on it and conquered much of Europe. Everyone makes mistakes and just because Napoleon made some doesn’t make him a bad general. He was one on the greatest generals of all time.

    • D_Kellhr

      Fair enough, Napoleon hadsome big failures. But In fairness i think he should be given credit for ten times as many successes in battle.

  • Moishe the Beadle

    Where’s the prophet Muhammad? He’s the only one on this list who has 1.6 billion followers with an organization of 57 Islamic countries (OIC).

    • Bill Reich

      That is a major problem with the way the question is worded. “Tactician” really doesn’t apply to most of the people named. Their genius was in the broader field of strategy. The Prophet’s leadership was in the even broader fields of grand strategy and policy.

      • Moishe the Beadle

        The ProMo’s greatest “inventions” were jihad, the killing of apostates and the category of Dhimmitude for non-believers. Those were and still are the overarching strategy of Islam even today.

  • TheLastBattalion

    I really think that Stonewall Jackson should have been on the list.

  • David W. Landrum

    Glad they put Sun Tzu in.

  • Jack Diep

    What about Zhuge Liang from the Three Kingdoms? His strategic abilities are as successful, if not more successful, than Sun Tzu’s. Not to mention the legends of some of the actions he has done to outwit his opponents – the “calling” of the east wind to set a blaze on an entire army, the gathering of 130,000 arrows by sending a fleet of boats covered in straw, and the infamous Empty Fort where he stands alone on the gate playing music and drove an entire army away from the fort. Talk about preventing head-on combat.