There have been many great individuals in various fields of human endeavor throughout history from science to the arts, philosophy to politics, business to technology, but none of these greats has spilled more blood than the greatest warriors in history.
Alaric the Visigoth
Alaric was a Visigoth king who has the distinction of being the one who sacked Rome. That upgraded him to an honorary Roman civilian and magister militum, “master of soldiers,” making him a valued member of the Roman Empire. Following the sack of Rome, Alaric led his troops south to Campania, taking Nola and Capua along the way.
Alaric headed toward the Roman province of Africa where he intended to provision his army with Rome’s personal breadbasket, but a storm wrecked his ships, temporarily blocking his crossing. Only Mother Nature could defeat Alaric the Barbarian.
Roland was a great French warrior and a medieval folk hero who was immortalized in the poem Chanson de Roland, which was written sometime during the eleventh and twelve centuries.
Historically Count Roland was Charlemagne’s commander on the Breton border and his very best warrior. According to legend, he was killed in a pass in the Pyrenees when Basques cut off the rear guard of the Frankish army returning from its invasion of Spain in 778.
Horatius Cocles was a legendary Roman hero who defended the bridge across the Tiber when the city was attacked by the Etruscans. We could write pages inspired by his achievements on the battlefield.
However, to make a long story short, just keep in mind that Horatius lost his eye in a battle thanks to an arrow that he removed (with his eye still on it) and continued fighting like a beast, hence the name “Cocles,” which means “one eyed.” I don’t think this man’s heroism can be questioned, do you?
Prince Rupert of the Rhine
Despite Prince Rupert looking like a softy and coming from a ridiculously rich family the man was really ambitious. By age fourteen the German prince had already joined the military and went on to have a very diverse, colorful career though he is most known for commanding the royalist cavalry during the English Civil War.
Even though Prince Rupert was also an inventor, an artist, a businessman, and a few other things, it was his fighting skills and ruthless warrior spirit that made him stand out. For the record, he was that good of a warrior that his enemies believed at some point that he had supernatural powers and couldn’t be killed.
Revered in France as its first national hero, Vercingetorix managed to unite several sovereign Celtic tribes to do battle against the aggressive Romans.
He battled valiantly and ferociously to keep the Roman army from overrunning Gaul, as France was then called. His troops were eventually defeated at Alesia, and Vercingetorix was forced to surrender after battling the powerful Roman army with all he had.
William Wallace became famous worldwide thanks to Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, but those who know European history already knew what a great warrior the legendary Scotsman was.
Wallace is considered one of the most significant Scottish national heroes for fighting to his death to free Scotland from English rule.
Basil II (The Bulgar-Slayer)
Basil “the Bulgar-Slayer” was one of the most brutal, ruthless emperors in history, thus his nickname. He was a Byzantine emperor of Greek origin from the Macedonian dynasty and ruled the vast Byzantine Empire for nearly fifty years, from January 976 to 1025.
At his death, the empire stretched from Southern Italy to the Caucasus and from the Danube to the borders of Palestine, its greatest territorial extent in over four centuries, and trust us, its conquest included lots of bloody battles in which Basil II was always fighting more viciously than any other member of the army.
Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun was born in what is today Hungary and became one of the most violent and merciless rulers of the area. He was notorious for his fierce gaze and according to historian Edward Gibbon, he frequently rolled his eyes as if in pleasure at the terror he inspired.
He also terrorized his enemies by claiming to own the sword of Ares, the Greek god of war, and judging from his vicious attacks and battles against the Roman Empire, his intimidation tactics worked just fine.
During a twenty-five-year military career, Yue Fei fought in 126 battles, mainly in central China, and never lost a single encounter. Furthermore, he rose through the ranks from private to Overall Commander of the Imperial Forces.
He also invented many martial arts styles and wrote a bunch of epic poetry about how he was going to kick his enemies’ asses. Nowadays he is regarded as a national hero in China and the ultimate symbol of integrity, patriotism, and loyalty.
Arminius was a German chief during the early part of the first century CE, and is remembered for being a brutal warrior and a certified badass who gave the Romans the beating of their lives at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, where he literally destroyed three Roman legions and their auxiliaries.
Even though Arminius was finally defeated and murdered, his victory at that battle was so impressive—and so bloody—that it had an incredible long-term effect on both the ancient Germanic tribes and the Roman Empire. The Roman legions would never again attempt to permanently conquer and hold Germania beyond the Rhine River.
According to the historian Herodotus, the sacrifice of King Leonidas and the three hundred brave Spartans wouldn’t mean much if it wasn’t for Miltiades. The brilliant Athenian military strategist and statesman led the Athenians and their allies to victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.
He literally destroyed the Persian fleet and forced the most powerful empire in the world at the time to retreat in shame and return home after failing to subjugate Greece.
Vlad the Impaler
Very few people in history have cast more terror into the human heart than Vlad the Impaler, or as he’s better known, Dracula. The man who became a legend and regarded as the Lord of Darkness was a real person and, for that matter, a hell of a warrior. He was born in 1431 in Transylvania, the central region of modern-day Romania, and ruled for many years.
Vlad’s victories over the invading Ottoman Empire were viewed and celebrated throughout not only Romania but the rest of Europe and it is recorded that even Pope Pius II was impressed by his skill and fighting spirit. As for the reason he is remembered as the Impaler? He showed no mercy to his enemies, whom he impaled, and according to legend he drank their blood too.
Skilled and experienced in warfare matters during a time of unprecedented political and military turmoil, Sun Tzu was a military specialist active during the turbulent late Chou dynasty.
However, he became a legend for writing about Chinese military strategy and martial arts in The Art of War, a book that continues to have an immense impact on both Asian and Western culture.
Scipio Africanus was one of the most capable and successful Roman commanders in history and the one who defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in the Second Punic War.
Even though Scipio was one hundred percent Roman, since his victory was in Africa, following his triumph he was allowed to take the agnomen (the nickname) Africanus. He later received the name Asiaticus when serving under his brother Lucius Cornelius Scipio against Antiochus III of Syria in the Seleucid War, where he did what he knew best—kick ass.
Xiahou Dun offered his services as military general to warlord Cao Cao in the late Eastern Han dynasty and became a legend when during a battle he was hit by a stray arrow and lost his left eye.
In front of his amazed soldiers and enemies alike, he pulled out the arrow and swallowed his own eyeball. Following this incident, enemy armies across China were afflicted by fear of “Blind Xiahou, The One-Eyed Warrior.”
Hannibal was born in 247 BC, in Carthage (the capital of what is now Tunisia), during a period when the kingdom had just lost a long important war with Rome and with it many territories. But Hannibal was meant to re-conquer many of these lands once he became an adult.
It is believed that Hannibal was one of the greatest generals and military leaders of the ancient world and a brilliant strategist, who developed tactics of outflanking and surrounding the enemy with the combined forces of infantry and cavalry. His wars with the Roman Empire were some of the most epic of all antiquity.
Pyrrhus of Epirus
Pyrrhus of Epirus was king of the Greek Molossians, and the one who gave the Romans hell. He was the first and only threat to Rome during its prime at the beginning of the empire. Actually, he was the only man who kept beating the Roman legions.
Some historians think that history would have been different if Pyrrhus had not been murdered in Argos. Hannibal Barca considered him the best general and the greatest warrior-king to ever live. Some of his battles, although victories, were so bloody and resulted in a terrible loss of life for his own men that they gave rise to the term “Pyrrhic victory,” an expression still in use today, especially in sports and politics.
Richard the Lionheart
Richard was king of England, later known as the “Lionheart,” and famous for his exploits in the Third Crusade, although during his ten-year reign he spent only six months in England.
He is described as an extremely skilled warrior who showed no mercy to his enemies and his most famous attribute was his courage and daring. They didn’t call him “Lionheart” for nothing.
Musashi was a skillful Japanese swordsman and an invincible rōnin (a samurai without a lord or master). He became a legend mainly because of his remarkable swordsmanship in numerous duels from the age of thirteen. He was the founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū or Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship.
Late in his life, after he had perfected his “Two Swords” fighting style, he ascended a mountain and wrote the definitive treatise on the Zen of Decapitation, which he titled A Book of Five Rings. Many historians and experts consider him the greatest swordsman who ever lived.
Julius Caesar is arguably the most famous and successful Roman statesman and general in history and was the one who led the Rome’s army in numerous victorious battles that expanded its territory.
Further, he wrote about his military adventures from which we learn about his genius and bravery on the battlefield.
Leonidas of Sparta
Leonidas I was one of the two kings of Sparta during the Greco-Persian wars and the leader of one of the most ferocious military units in history: the three hundred Spartan hoplites.
He’s remembered best for his unmatched boldness and fearless character, and rumor has it that during the end of the battle of Thermopylae he remained alone fighting against hundreds of thousands of Persian soldiers before he was killed.
The “Mongol destroyer,” as he’s known, set in motion the conquest of a quarter of the world’s population and is widely considered one of the greatest vanquishers of all time.
His people believed that he was the greatest man of all time and that he was sent from heaven, which is the reason why he was known as the “Holy Warrior.”
Alexander the Great
Though he died at age thirty-three, the famous Greek king managed to conquer most of the then-known world and this is the reason why most historians consider him the greatest general who ever lived. He also fought on the front lines of every battle (unlike many other kings who just watched their troops fighting).
He remained undefeated and took over every major kingdom of his day, such as Persia, India, and Egypt, among others, and he was the first king to spread Greek, and thus Western, civilization to other parts of the world.