The 30 Greatest Warriors in World History

Who are the greatest warriors in world history? Often when we look back at history, it can seem a bit tough to swallow. It can seem almost impossible for a single person to turn the tide of a battle after all. Today’s list covers some very real people who were renowned for their martial prowess.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great never experienced defeat in the field.©The Guardian/Public Domain – Original / License

Kicking off our list of the greatest warriors is the man who unified the Greek city-states. Alexander the Great certainly lived up to his name, going undefeated in every engagement he entered. Sadly, this wasn’t meant to last due to his sudden passing at the age of 33.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan’s death is the only thing that stopped his campaign of conquest.©National Palace Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Few of the greatest warriors on the planet can lay claim to affecting the climate. However, the Temujin, otherwise known as Genghis Khan, carved a bloody path through Europe and Asia to the point that the earth cooled off.

Leonidas

The Battle of Thermoplyae bought valuable time for Sparta’s Athenian allies.©Ward / Public Domain – Original / License

Leonidas might not have looked like Gerard Butler in a loincloth, but his martial prowess was nothing to laugh at. The King of Sparta rightfully earned his spot among the greatest warriors of all time, thanks in part to a final stand that held back a Persian invasion.

Skanderbeg

greatest warriors
Skanderbeg brought the fight to the Ottomans.©Antonio Maria Crespi / Public domain – Original / License

Albanian history isn’t covered too much in the United States. As such, you certainly need to hear about Skanderbeg, one of the greatest warriors to ever live. Skanderbeg was a hostage of the Ottomans as a child and ultimately benefited from a military education from his captors. He’d turn the tables in a 25-year-long rebellion.

Miyamoto Musashi

greatest warriors
Musashi was undefeated in one-on-one duels, slaying every one of his opponents.©Yoshitoshi / Public Domain – Original / License

Musashi is elevated to mythological levels in his native Japan. The reality isn’t quite as grand but is still equally impressive. The swordsman ranks among Japan’s greatest warriors and was an undefeated duelist. He died of old age, rather than at the end of a sword or spear.

Saladin

Greatest Warriors
Saladin came away victorious in the Third Crusade.©Gustave Dore / Public Domain – Original / License

It takes a man of resolve and courage to stand against the tide of Europe’s mightiest powers. Saladin’s nickname, The Victorious, is well-earned. He ranks among the greatest warriors thanks to beating back European forces during the Third Crusade.

Hannibal of Carthage

Hannibal Barca
Hannibal Barca terrorized the Italian peninsula for months before finally being stopped.©Louvre Museum / Public Domain – Original / License

Few states could rival the power and reach of Rome like Carthage. Hannibal took the time to haul elephants across the Alps and fully invade Rome. A series of bloody battles where he emerged as the victor helped make the Carthaginian general one of the greatest warriors to walk the earth.

Boudica

Queen Boudica
Boudica’s rebellion was one of the toughest Rome had to crush.©John Opie / Public Domain – Original / License

The first and far from the last woman on this list, Boudica is revered as the Queen of War. In world history, she spearheaded a violent rebellion against the Roman Empire. While she would ultimately lose, the ferocity of her rebellion while leading tribal forces helped make her one of history’s greatest warriors.

Shaka

King Shaka
Innovative tactics and weaponry made Shaka a force to be reckoned with.©James King / Public Domain – Original / License

Shaka led a life filled with conflict and violence but served a role similar to Alexander the Great. The illegitimate son of royalty, Shaka’s adaptation of tactics made for easy victories on the battlefield. What makes him one of the greatest warriors of history is his means of consolidating power. The man was a born leader.

Xiang Yu

Xiang Yu
Xiang Yu was instrumental in defeating the Qin Dynasty of China.©ShangGuan Zhou / Public Domain – Original / License

While Rome was a fledgling republic in the west, China’s great wars waged on. For Xiang Yu, his conquest would end up shattering China and scattering power to warlords. However, what makes Xiang Yu one of history’s greatest warriors is going against the dominant Qin dynasty. Rebellions are nothing new on this list, but Xiang Yu toppled a kingdom and took control.

Tomyris

Queen Tomyris
Tomyris is said to have slain Cyrus the Great in single combat.©Mattia Preti / Public Domain – Original / License

One of history’s greatest warriors might be entirely apocryphal, but the story is too good not to tell. Tomyris is remembered for defending her lands against Cyrus the Great of the invading Achaemenid Empire. The warrior-queen defeated the great king in battle and severed his head as a trophy.

Marcus Claudius Marcellus

Marcus Claudius Marcellus
Marcellus was able to halt Hannibal’s advance for a time.©Capitoline Museums / Public Domain – Original / License

Rome has its share of the greatest warriors, but Marcus Claudius Marcellus is the stuff of legends. From a young age, he began winning campaigns and accolades for his conduct on the battlefield. Marcellus only found his match in Hannibal, who ultimately ended the general’s life.

Montezuma II

Cortez and Montezuma at Mexican Temple
Montezuma II’s empire held on against impossible odds until the very end.©Architect of the Capitol / Public domain – Original / License

Most of history’s greatest warriors squared off against nations or adversaries of similar statures. Montezuma II holds the distinction of holding off the invading forces of Spain. Despite lacking firepower, Montezuma II’s forces gave Spain a bloody nose.

Audie Murphy

Audie Murphy
Audie Murphy is one of the few recipients of the Medal of Honor to accept it in person.©NBC Television / Public domain – Original / License

Few of history’s greatest warriors live to see peace, but Audie Murphy is an exception. Murphy was originally turned away for being too small and young for the Army during World War II. He would prove his mettle in the field, waging a one-man battle against German forces in 1944. This was done atop a burning tank destroyer with a machine gun while wounded.

Alaric

Death of Alaric
Rome ended up getting sacked by Alaric, a bit of poetic justice after years served in a Roman legion.©Heinrich Leutemann / Public Domain – Original / License

Alaric is perhaps one of Rome’s greatest students when it comes to warfare. He is also responsible for toppling the Eternal City, as king of the Visigoths. Alaric served in Rome’s armies years before taking the throne, and it seems his lessons helped cement him as one of history’s greatest warriors.

Vercingetorix

Vercingetorix
The wild king of the Gauls was a thorn in Julius Caesar’s side.©Lionel Royer / Public Domain – Original / License

Rome’s history is filled with conquest and bloody rebellions. It doesn’t come as a shock that some of history’s greatest warriors surfaced during Rome’s time as the great power of Europe. Vercingetorix was a Gallic king and tribal chief. He had the distinction of giving Julius Caesar a difficult time, uniting Gallic tribes to square up against the Roman conquerer.

Yue Fei

Yue Fei
Yue Fei was a compassionate general, a rarity in the annals of history.©Morio / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

China’s history is filled with moments of heroism and valor. What elevates someone like Yue Fei to the ranks of history’s greatest warriors wasn’t just his conduct on the field. One of China’s Great Generals, Yue Fei took special care to forbid his soldiers from exploring the local population while they carved a path through China.

Arminius

Arminius
Arminius ground three Roman legions to dust.©Peter Janssen / Public Domain – Original / License

We’re back with yet another tribal leader who bloodied Roman forces. Arminius ranks among history’s greatest warriors thanks to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. An alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius crushed three Roman legions. His power marked him as a high-priority target from Rome, leading to his eventual assassination.

Scipio Africanus

Scipio Africanus
Scipio Africanus is the only Roman general to halt Hannibal’s advance, resulting in the loss of Carthage’s greatest general.©Domenico Beccafumi / Public domain – Original / License

Hannibal of Carthage sent many a Roman general home in a ceremonial urn. Scipio Africanus is the general who stopped the Carthaginians from rampaging across the Italian peninsula. The great Roman general cut a path through Iberia, defeating three armies in the process.

Richard the Lionheart

Richard the Lionheart
Richard was more at home in a warzone than in the comfort of a throne room.©Merry-Joseph Blondel / Public Domain – Original / License

One of England’s greatest warriors was Richard the Lionheart. His tenure as king was short, lasting only ten years. His military prowess was hard to top, and he spent most of his time on the throne participating in the Crusades.

Julius Caesar

greatest warriors
Julius Caesar’s life was built around military conquest, and his personal legions were among the most formidable to see action in the Roman Civil War.©Lucian Milasan/Shutterstock.com

Few of Rome’s greatest warriors had the same stuff of legends as Julius Caesar. Historians often talk about the theory of a great man, someone who can change and shape history through will alone. Caesar’s machinations led to the fall of the Roman Republic, coming off a series of massive military conquests.

Cyrane

Agios Athanasios
Cyrane was a ferocious warrior, leading from the front like her half-brother.©Egisto Sani / CC BY-SA 2.0 – Original / License

Alexander the Great’s half-sister was one of history’s greatest warriors. While Cyrane could have fit the social conventions of the time, she commanded troops and acted as an important leader in the wake of Alexander’s death. She led her forces in battle, which ultimately would result in her death at a young age.

Lu Bu

Lu Bu
Lu Bu was a dangerous general to see on the field, and served every major faction during the Three Kingdoms era.©Luo Guanzhong / Public domain – Original / License

The War of the Three Kingdoms in China is the stuff of legends. Few of the many warriors who took up a spear or sword carry the same sort of legend as Lu Bu. Lu Bu was a hired sword, serving under the era’s great warlords. His penchant for switching sides during battle ultimately led to his downfall, sadly.

Spurius Ligustinus

Good Friday
Spurius Ligustinus would die of old age, a rarity for Rome’s greatest soldiers.©Frank Vincentz / CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

Few of Rome’s greatest warriors lived to see old age. Spurius Ligustinus may not have been one of the great generals to take the field, but he lived to tell the tale. He was highly decorated for valor and participated in six wars before retiring.

William Marshal

Statue of William Marshal
Marshal was the quintessential knight, being skilled with a lance and pen alike.©Poupipouw / CC0 – Original / License

William Marshal might just be the greatest knight to ever serve the English royalty. He spent some time as a knight errant and sellsword, plying his formidable service to those who would have him. Marshal lived to see old age, having served as a royal tutor, knight, and regent before his passing.

Jack Churchill

Jack Churchill
Churchill is the only British troop carrying a broadsword in this photo.©War Office / Public Domain – Original / License

Many of history’s greatest warriors wielded swords and spears in battle. Very few did this while engaging Nazi forces in a modern war. Jack Churchill holds the distinction of having England’s last recorded longbow kill, something he accomplished in 1940 against a German officer.

Elaine Mordeaux

French Resistance
Mordeaux paid the ultimate price in a risky operation that blunted the 101st Panzer Division’s efficacy.©National Archives at College Park / Public domain – Original / License

The Nazi occupation of France led to a fevered resistance against German forces. Elaine Mordeaux entered the ranks of history’s greatest warriors thanks to a single battle. Elaine and a group of 200 resistance fighters took on German armor, crippling 100 tanks in the process. She sadly met her end due to a sniper’s bullet striking her. Elaine was defiant to the last moments of her life, throwing explosives with her final breath.

Attila the Hun

Attila the Hun
Attila was frequently dubbed the Scourge of God by his enemies.©Ulpiano Checa / Public Domain – Original / License

The Steppes make for a different breed of the greatest warriors. For Attila, this meant squaring off against the Eastern Roman Empire. Attila’s constant barrage of attacks led to the construction of Constantinople’s famous sea wall. Attila was a master of the siege and ultimately defeated Roman emperor Theodosius’s forces in battle.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon’s Grand Armee changed the face of warfare forever while cutting a bloody path through all of Europe.©Andrea Appiani, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

The bloody aftermath of the French Revolution paved the way for one of history’s greatest warriors. Napoleon mustered French forces against a massive alliance of European powers who sought easy land claims. From there, he waged wars for over a decade, taking chunks of Europe for himself.

The image featured at the top of this post is ©Matthew Leigh/Shutterstock.com.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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