Meaning “swordsman” in Latin, most of these Roman warriors were seen as slaves and lived out their lives not only fighting each other but also wild animals and condemned criminals in huge arenas. Having sworn to live and die by the sword many times it was left up to the crowds to decide the fate of a downed Gladiator. Few of these warriors survived more than 10 matches or lived passed the age of 30.
Known for their ferocity and bravery in battle Apache warriors were certainly a force to be reckoned with. By the time the Apache nation surrendered to the United States in 1886 there were only about 50 warriors left including their fearless leader, the now famous Geronimo. Come on, how many countries do you know of in history that waited to surrender until they barely had enough soldiers to play a game of football?
As you may have learned in our article on 25 Popular Myths Debunked, the idea of Vikings running around with horns on their helmets is little more than a fairy tale, as is the idea that they drank out of human skulls. Its worth noting that there is a reason for these misconceptions however. The Vikings were scary, especially to their European neighbors due to their aggression and unorthodox fighting style, notably the use of battle axes.
Combining class with pure deadliness the musketeers were a group of elite bodyguards to the King of France. With the ability to both spear you at close range and snipe you from a distance they did their job and they did it well.
As Thucydides once reported, when a Spartan man went to war his wife would present him his shield and say, “With this or upon this.” Trained from the age of 7 boys were taken from their mothers and sent to military boot camps. Here they were introduced to enormous hardship including scarce food and clothing. This would often lead to them becoming prolific thieves. If they were caught, however, they were punished severely – not for stealing, but for being caught.
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The equivalent of a modern day tank, the medieval knight was covered in armor and would plow through enemy lines with ease. Not just anyone could achieve knight status however, and often it was a fairly expensive title to hold. A good war horse could cost roughly the same amount as a small airplane.
Literally meaning “force of special purpose” in Russian, little is known about these warriors due to intense secrecy surrounding their training and operations. They have managed, however, to create a fierce reputation for themselves as one of the most elite special forces units in the world and have been responsible for the training of many anti-western military forces.
French Foreign Legion
Founded in 1831, the French Foreign Legion is a unit that allows foreign mercenaries to come and fight for French interests around the world. Having achieved a reputation in pop culture as being a place where wronged men go to restart their lives, it is in fact an elite fighting force whose members many times are recruited by other armies.
As one of the first militaries to incorporate gunpowder into their ranks, the Ming were a formidable force to be reckoned with and managed to expand China’s frontier significantly. Not only were they ruthless warriors however, they were also very efficient as each division of the Ming army was required to be sustain itself and produce its own food.
The Mongols had a mission concentrated in one word – destruction. Their take-no-prisoners mentality led them to conquer more of the world than any other empire in history. And it wasn’t just that they could ride horses. It was that they could snipe you through the heart with an arrow while riding their horses.
According to Herodotus the Immortals were a group of heavy infantry that stood 10,000 strong…always. It didn’t matter how many you killed. As soon as one died another would step in. Ten thousand, no more no less. This is also how they allegedly received their name. They just never seemed to die.
Tracing their lineage back to the Colonial Army when American generals combined European technology with Indian tactical warfare the Rangers are well known for their fearlessness as the worlds premier light infantry attack force.
Literally translated to “son of a king” you cannot just wake up one day and decide to be a rajput warrior – you have to be born into it. These legendary harbingers of death are still very much active in the Indian military. It has been theorized that the source of their skill is derived from the fact that their homeland, Rajasthan, was located right on the Indian border making them the first line of defense against enemy invaders.
As Jay Redhawk, a Comanche by ancestry once said, “From the time we hit the Earth, we are warriors.” Having an almost legendary status, they have often been referred to as the “Lords of the Plains”. In fact, word has it that the Comanche could fire arrows at his enemy while hanging from the neck of his horse.
The concept of the Centurion was revolutionary for its day as it was the first time in history that a man could make a legitimate living entirely off of warfare and killing. In order to attain this position though, a Roman soldier had to work his way up through the ranks of the most powerful military on the face of the planet and prove that there were none better.
The Zande are a tribe that was feared throughout central Africa for their brutality on the battlefield. They would even file their teeth to take on frightening appearances and use a chant of “nyam-nyam”, which was a name given to them by neighboring tribes meaning “great eaters.”
Tasked with defending one of the smallest nations on Earth from almost every military within a thousand miles the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) has no choice, it has to be good. Naturally, from among the ranks of the best emerge the best of the best. Known as the Sayaret, or Commandos for short, this elite group of fighters sees no rest as they take the battle to the enemy.
The Aztecs had two objectives when they attacked you. First, they wanted land in order to exact tribute. Second, they wanted captives in order to sacrifice them during religious ceremonies. War was such an integral part of their culture in fact that when a new leader was elected he was expected to stage a military campaign immediately in order to prove his worth.
Having a reputation for eating their enemies in order to capture their “Mana”, that is their respect, the Maori were fierce warriors who would engage in a Peruperu, or war dance, prior to attacking their enemies in order to intimidate them and even give them a preview of the ensuing slaughter.
These Japanese swordsmen led their lives according to the code of Bushido, meaning “way of the warrior”. Although they have been romanticized in recent years, the Samurai were heavily bound by honor. One notable result of this was Seppuku. This was a form of ritualistic suicide where the warrior would disembowel himself to regain his honor.
A member of the US Army Special Forces, Green Berets are specialists in unconventional warfare. As dangerous as they are on the battlefield though they are also required to be highly intelligent. Due to the nature of their job assignments they must be fluent in an assigned foreign language which they will learn over the span of a few months while in training.
These covert agents of feudal Japan specialized in unorthodox arts of war. Often the “whatever it takes” mentality of these warriors is contrasted against the Samurai who upheld a strict code of honor and combat. Essentially spies, ninjas specialized in espionage, sabotage, and assassination.
America’s amphibious special force, the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) are so good at unconventional warfare that it doesn’t even matter what they’re holding – it’s a weapon. Trained for one purpose, to neutralize the enemy, they have been known to operate outside of international law and military protocol (SEAL Team 6) in order to maintain plausible deniability in case of capture.
Similar to SEAL Team 6, there is not a whole lot of information concerning Delta Force available to the public. Their operations are generally considered high profile and extremely classified. Moreover, most Delta Force operators are pulled from other special forces divisions like the Army Rangers.
Originally from Nepal, these reckless warriors caught the eye of the British Empire during the East India Company’s invasion of Nepal in 1814. Impressed with their skill and courage, the British offered them the chance to fight for them. Gurkhas have since fought for numerous countries (including the United States) in multiple conflicts (including both World Wars).