Legends of war

legends of war - military legends
Great military leaders that become true legends.

Alaric The Goth

Born: c. 370, Peuce Island [now in Romania]
Died: 410, Cosentia, Bruttium [now Cosenza, Italy]

Chief of the Visigoths from 395 and leader of the army that sacked Rome in August 410, an event that symbolized the fall of the Western Roman Empire. A nobleman by birth, Alaric served for a time as commander of Gothic troops in the Roman army. He was born on the coast of the Black Sea, at the mouth of the Danube River on the isle of Peuce, on December 18, 371 A.D. Alaric was the first barbarian to successfully capture the city Rome in 410 A.D. Although his troops spared most of the residents and the architecture (Alaric was a known lover of beauty and literature) they pretty well looted the place. Interestingly enough, a vision of his some 15 years before had predicted that he would successfully capture Rome. After the capture, he traveled south with the intention of crossing over into Africa, but was hindered by the storms along the Mediterranean coast. Allegedly he took ill suddenly and died during this expedition, and is supposedly buried near the river Busento. However, legends and some historical evidence also claims that he "faked" his death to save his people from capture from the Romans and Vandals, and went "underground" so to speak, where he continued to "rule" the later Visigothic kingdoms for several decades, dying of old age finally in the year 470 A.D. (he would have been 98 years old!). His descendants, the Visigoths, migrated to the Iberian peninsula, and eventually became the Spaniards; an indication of their heritage lies in the fair hair and blue eyes of the Northern Spaniards. See also Stilicho below.
Born: c. 450 BC, Athens [Greece]
Died: 404, Phrygia [now in Turkey]

Brilliant but unscrupulous Athenian politician and military commander who provoked the sharp political antagonisms at Athens that were the main causes of Athens' defeat by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC). During the course of the Peloponnesian War, Alcibiades changed his allegiance on several occasions. In his native Athens in the early 410s BC, he advocated for an aggressive foreign policy, and was a prominent proponent of the Sicilian Expedition, but fled to Sparta after his political enemies brought charges of sacrilege against him. In Sparta, he served as a strategic advisor, proposing or supervising several major campaigns against Athens. In Sparta too, however, Alcibiades soon made powerful enemies and was forced to defect to Persia. There he served as an advisor to the satrap Tissaphernes until his Athenian political allies brought about his recall. He then served as an Athenian general (strategos) for several years, but his enemies eventually succeeded in exiling him a second time. He favored unconventional tactics, frequently winning cities over by treachery or negotiation rather than by siege. Alcibiades' military and political talents frequently proved valuable to whichever state currently held his allegiance, but his capacity for making powerful enemies ensured that he never remained in one place for long.
Alexander The Great
Born: 356 BC, Pella, Macedonia
Died: June 13, 323 BC, Babylon

Also known as Alexander III or Alexander of Macedonia king of Macedonia (336–323 BC). He overthrew the Persian Empire, carried Macedonian arms to India, and laid the foundations for the Hellenistic world of territorial kingdoms. Already in his lifetime the subject of fabulous stories, he later became the hero of a full-scale legend. Alexander seems to have inherited much from his brilliant father: physical courage, arrogance, extreme intelligence, and, most importantly, unbridled ambition. For when his father died in 336 BC at an assassin's hand, Alexander quickly consolidated his power and set out to conquer the world at the age of 21. Physically handsome, strong, brave, and nothing short of brilliant, he had been schooled by no less a person than Aristotle. With all these qualities, he took up his father's ambition and prosecuted it with a swiftness that is almost frightening. In 334 BC, Alexander crossed over into Asia Minor to begin his conquest of Persia. To conquer Persia was to conquer the world, for the Persian Empire sprawled over most of the known world: Asia Minor, the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Iran. His strategy was simple. He would move quickly and begin with a few sure victories, so he could gain money and supplies. He would focus on the coastal cities so that he could gain control of the ports. That way, the Persian navy would have no place to make landfall. Finally, he took the battle right to the center of the opposing forces, and he threw himself into the very worst of the battle. His enemies were stunned and his troops grew intensely loyal to this man who threw both them and himself right into the teeth of the wolf. He quickly overran Asian Minor after defeating the Persian forces that controlled the territory, and after seizing all the coastal cities, he turned inland towards Syria in 333 BC. There he engaged the main Persian army under the leadership of the Persian king, Darius, at a city called Issus. In 331 BC, he crossed the Euphrates river into Mesopotamia. Darius met him near the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh. This was the last battle between Darius and Alexander. The Macedonian king again put the numerically superior Persian army to flight but he was defeated again and Darius ran also. In January of 330 BC, Alexander entered Babylon. He had conquered Mesopotamia and now controlled its greatest and wealthiest city. Darius, meanwhile, met his death at the hands of a conspiracy. Alexander and his army pushed east, through Scythia (northern Iran) and all the way to Pakistan and India. He had conquered Bactria at the foot of the western Himalayas, gained a huge Bactrian army, and married a Bactrian princess, Roxane. But when he tried to push on past Pakistan, his army grew tired, and he abandoned the eastward conquest in 327 BC. In 324 BC, Alexander returned to Babylon. He was now, literally, king of the world, and began to lay down his strategies for consolidating his empire. He began to plan cities and building works, new conquests, and even considered deifying himself. But like so many human gods, his own death caught up with him. In 323 BC, at the age of 33, he fell into a fever and died.
Attila The Hun
Born: c.406
Died: 453

By name Flagellum Dei (Latin: Scourge of God) king of the Huns from 434 to 453 (ruling jointly with his elder brother Bleda until 445). He was one of the greatest of the barbarian rulers who assailed the Roman Empire, invading the southern Balkan provinces and Greece and then Gaul and Italy. In legend he appears under the name Etzel in the Nibelungenlied and under the name Atli in Icelandic sagas. He was a member of the ruling family of the Huns, a nomadic Asian people who spread from the Caspnian steppes throughout the Roman Empire in search of global conquest. By AD 432, the Huns had gained so much power that they were receiving a large annual tribute from Rome. By AD 451, Attila's army consisted of 700,000 warriors, and was content with nothing less than the ransacking of Rome itself. They had earlier moved against the Chinese Empire but were turned away. The Huns had a reputation for cruelty and barbarism that was not undeserved. They ate their meat raw (often human flesh), had little use for virgins, and possessed a strong appetite for murder and mayhem. No one could look Attila in the eyes, not even any of his 400 wives.
Bayezid I
Born: c. 1360
Died: March 1403, Aksehir, Ottoman Empire

By name Yildirim (The Thunderbolt) Ottoman sultan in 1389–1402 who founded the first centralized Ottoman state. Bayezid represents both a continuation of the building of state structures in the empire, as well as the most dramatic downturn so far in its history. For the empire as a whole he established the first centralized state. His main achievements, however, were realized in Asia. Although he successfully completed many important military campaigns in Europe, he put most of his emphasis on widening Ottoman suzerainty over Turkman rulers in Anatolia. In the battle of Ankara (20.7. 1402) against Timur Lenk, Bayezid's forces are defeated and Bayezid is put in jail. He dies in Aksehir while in capitivity.
Charles Martel
Born: c. 688
Died: Oct. 22, 741, Quierzy-sur-Oise [France]

Latin Carolus Martellus, German Karl Martell mayor of the eastern Frankish kingdom of Austrasia. Charles Martel (688 - 741 A.D.) was most famous for the Battle of Tours (732 A.D.), near Poitiers, in which he successfully defeated the Saracen Moors in their invasion of France, thus preserving Christian Europe from the encroachment of Islam. He held the title of Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, but in actuality wielded the power of a king. His name, "Martel," meant "hammer" and was used to describe the way he indefatigably drove back the Moorish invasion.
Constantine I
Born: February 27, 272 or 273, Naissus, Moesia [now Niš, Serbia.]
Died: May 22, 337, Ancyrona, near Nicomedia, Bithynia [now Izmit, Tur.]

By name Constantine the Great, Latin in full Flavius Valerius Constantinus the first Roman emperor to profess Christianity. Was proclaimed Augustus (latin for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable) by his troops on July 25, 306. He ruled an ever-growing portion of the Roman Empire until his death. In addition to reuniting the empire under one emperor, Constantine won major victories over the Franks and Alamanni (306–308), the Franks again (313–314), the Visigoths in 332 and the Sarmatians in 334. In fact, by 336, Constantine had actually reoccupied most of the long-lost province of Dacia. Constantine's main goal was stability, which he tried to achieve by immediate, often brutal, punitive expeditions against rebellious tribes, demonstrating his military power by conquering the enemies on their own side of the Rhine frontier. The strategy proved successful, as the Rhine frontier remained relatively quiet during the rest of his reign. His Edict of Milan put an end to institutionalized persecution of Christians in the Empire.
Cyrus The Great
Born: 590–580 BC, Media, or Persis [now in Iran]
Died: c. 529, Asia

By name Cyrus The Great conqueror who founded the Achaemenian empire, centred on Persia and comprising the Near East from the Aegean Sea eastward to the Indus River. During his twenty-nine year reign, Cyrus fought against some of the greatest states of the early Classical period, including the Median Empire, the Lydian Empire, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, as he himself died in battle, fighting the Massagetae along the Syr Darya in August 530 BC. He is also remembered in the Cyrus legend that was first recorded by Xenophon, Greek soldier and author, in his Cyropaedia. Xenophon marked Cyrus as a tolerant and ideal monarch.
El Cid
Born: c. 1043, Vivar, near Burgos, Castile [Spain]
Died: July 10, 1099, Valencia

Spanish El Cid, also called El Campeador (“the Champion”), by name of Rodrigo, or Ruy, Díaz de Vivar Castilian military leader and national hero. His name, "El Cid" was given to him by the Moors. In the mixture of the Spanish and Arabic language they used, they called him "As-Sid" (Lord or Chief). In 1067 he fought alongside Sancho against the Moorish stronghold of Zaragoza, making its emir al-Muqtadir a vassal of Sancho. In the spring of 1063, he fought in the Battle of Graus, where Ramiro I of Aragon, had laid siege to the Moorish town of Graus which was in Zaragozan lands. He also fought on Al-Muqtadir side, accompanied by Castilian troops against the Aragonese. The party would emerge victorious, Ramiro I was killed, and the Aragonese fled the field. After Sancho´s death he served for Sancho´s brother Alphonso who become king of Leon and Castile. The Cid died in Valencia of natural causes on July 10, 1099.
Erwin Rommel
Born: Nov. 15, 1891, Heidenheim an der Brentz, Württemberg, Ger.
Died: Oct. 14, 1944, Herrlingen, near Ulm

In full Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, by name The Desert Fox, German Der Wüstenfuchs German field marshal, best known for his spectacular victories as commander of the Afrika Korps in World War II. Rommel was given command of the 7th Panzer Division that invaded France in May, 1940. Rommel's troops moved faster and farther than any other army in military history. As a result of his exploits in France he was promoted to the rank of general. When Benito Mussolini asked for help in North Africa Adolf Hitler sent Rommel to command the new Deutsches Afrika Korps and successfully drove the British 8th Army out of Libya. He moved into Egypt but was defeated at El Alamein. With the USA Army landing in Morocco and Algeria, his troops were forced to leave Tunisia. Rommel was now sent to head the German Army in France that was preparing for the Allied invasion. Unable to halt the Allied troops during Operation Overlord, on 15th July, 1944, Rommel warned Hitler that Germany was on the verge of defeat and encouraged him to bring the war to an end. In the autumn of 1944 Hitler discovered that Rommel was plotting against him. On 14th October, 1944, Rommel was visited by two generals who had been sent by Hitler with an ultimatum: suicide with a state funeral and protection for his family and staff, or trial for high treason. Erwin Rommel took poison and officially it was stated that he had died of a brain seizure.
Francis Drake
Born c. 1540, –43, Devonshire, Eng.
Died Jan. 28, 1596, at sea, off Puerto Bello, Panama

English admiral who circumnavigated the globe (1577–80), played an important role in defeating the Spanish Armada (1588), and was the most renowned seaman of the Elizabethan Age. Drake was, essentially, the greatest of all the Elizabethan sailors. He was a man ready for any adventure, beloved and followed by his men, yet absolute master on his own deck. A man, moreover, of the highest practical intelligence in all walks of life and, of this, no better example can be given than the 'leat' which still bears his name and still carries the pure water of Dartmoor to the town of Plymouth. His letters are models of shrewd common sense and many picturesque touches in them are still remembered. Though considered a hero in England in his own time and regarded as a significant historical figure even now, Spanish history perceives him as a mere pirate who used to sack Spanish harbours. In 1596, he died of dysentery, at age 56 while anchored off the coast of Porto Belo, Panama where some Spanish treasure ships had sought shelter. He was buried at sea in a lead coffin, near Portobelo, Panama.
Frederick II The Great
Born Jan. 24, 1712, Berlin
Died Aug. 17, 1786, Potsdam, near Berlin

By name Frederick the Great, German Friedrich der Grosse king of Prussia (1740–86), a brilliant military campaigner who, in a series of diplomatic stratagems and wars against Austria and other powers, greatly enlarged Prussia's territories and made Prussia the foremost military power in Europe. He inherited a small, northern German kingdom, which he turned into a first rank european power, mostly through his incredable military acheivements. On coming to the throne, he began the War of the Austrian Succession with an attack on Austria, intended at gaining control of Silesia, which he secured by the Treaty of Dresden (1745). During that war Frederick and Prussia had been allied with France. In the Seven Years War, he was instead allied with Britain, against Russia, France and Austria, an apparently overwhelming alliance. British aid consisted of money rather than troops, and ended abruptly with the death of George II (1760). However, the armies Frederick faced were almost always badly led, and he successes show him to have been one of the greatest generals in history. By the time he died, Prussia was the dominant power in Germany, and an international power of the first rank.
Gaius Octavian
Born: September 23, 63 BC in Rome or Velletri
Died: August 19, AD 14 in Nola

Was Julius Caesar adoptive son and the first and among the most important of the Roman Emperors. He ended a century of civil wars and gave Rome an era of peace, prosperity, and imperial greatness. The Roman senate gave him the titles Augustus (from latin word Augere, "to increase") and Princeps (lat. "the first"). Octavian was a shrewd, brilliant and astute politician. Through cold, hard political calculation he was able to achieve ultimate power in Rome. At the time of Caesar's assassination, Octavian held no official position. Only after he marched on Rome and forced the senate to name him consul, was he established as a power to be reckoned with. In 43 B.C., Octavian, Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony—one of Julius Caesar's top lieutenants) and another Roman General, Marcus Lepidus, formed the second Triumvirate, an explicit grant of special powers lasting five years and supported by law to rule Rome. After taking power, the Triumvirate proscribed and slaughtered thousands of political enemies, firmly establishing their control of the Roman government. Like the First Triumvirate, the Second Triumvirate was ultimately unstable and could not withstand internal jealousies and ambitions. Antony cordially detested Octavian and spent most of his time in the East, while Lepidus favoured Antony but felt himself obscured by both his colleagues, despite having succeeded Caesar as Pontifex Maximus in 43. Consequently, Lepidus cooperated in Octavian's campaign against Pompeius (son of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus) but foolishly attempted to seize control of Octavian's victorious legions. Octavian unilaterally expelled Lepidus from the Triumvirate, but allowed him to retain his Pontificate. Octavian's forces decisively defeated Antony's and Cleopatra's at Actium in Greece in September 31 BC and chased them to Egypt in 30 BC. Both Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide in Alexandria, and Octavian personally took control of Egypt and Alexandria. With the complete defeat of Antony and the marginalisation of Lepidus, Augustus was left sole master of the Roman world, and proceeded to establish the Principate as the first Roman "emperor".
Genghis Khan
Born: 1155, or 1162, or 1167, near Lake Baikal, Mongolia
Died: Aug. 18, 1227

Genghis also spelled Ching-gis, Chingis, Jenghiz, or Jinghis, original name Temüjin, also spelled Temuchin Mongolian warrior-ruler, one of the most famous conquerors of history, who consolidated tribes into a unified Mongolia and then extended his empire across Asia to the Adriatic Sea. The Mongol Empire was governed by civilian and military code, called the Yassa code created by Genghis Khan. Before becoming a Khan, Temüjin united many of the nomadic tribes of north East Asia and Central Asia under a new social identity as the "Mongols." Starting with the invasion of Western Xia and Jin Dynasty in northern China and consolidating through numerous conquests including the Khwarezmid Empire in Persia, Mongol rule across the Eurasian landmass radically altered the demography and geopolitics of these areas. The Mongol Empire ended up ruling, or at least briefly conquering, large parts of modern day China, Mongolia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Moldova, North Korea, South Korea, and Kuwait. Genghis Khan died in 1227 for reasons that remain unclear. The empire's expansion continued for a generation or more after Genghis's death in 1227. Under Genghis's successor Ögedei Khan the speed of expansion reached its peak. The Mongol military was one of the most feared and ruthless armies ever in the world discussed by many historians, chroniclers and writers from the time mentioning their ruthlessness and toughness among many other things. In contrast to most of their enemies, almost all Mongols were nomads and had experience in riding and managing horses from a very young age.
Born: 247 BC, North Africa
Died: c. 183–181 BC, Libyssa, Bithynia [near Gebze, Turkey]

Carthaginian general, one of the great military leaders of antiquity, who commanded the Carthaginian forces against Rome in the Second Punic War (218–201 BC). He is often considered to be one of the greatest generals to have ever lived, often being compared to Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Hannibal came very close to defeating the Romans during the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.) having crossed the Alps into Italy with his forces and achieving a series of victories against the Romans, including the Battle of Cannae (216 B.C.) in which he inflicted one of the worst military defeats the Romans had ever known. However, the Romans refused to acknowledge defeat and managed to renew their forces, thereby enabling them to drive Hannibal out of Italy where he was defeated on African soil at the Battle of Zama (202 B.C.) by the Roman general Scipio Africanus.
Horatio Nelson
Born: Sept. 29, 1758, Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, Eng.
Died: Oct. 21, 1805, at sea, off Cape Trafalgar, Spain

In full Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe, also called (1797–98) Sir Horatio Nelson, or (1798–1801) Baron Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe. British naval commander in the wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, who won crucial victories in such battles as those of the Nile (1798) and of Trafalgar (1805), where he was killed by enemy fire on the HMS Victory. elson, Horatio Nelson, Viscount: (1758-1805) British admiral. The most famous of Britain's naval heroes, he is commemorated by the celebrated Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square, London. He entered the navy at the age of 12 and became a captain at the age of 20. He saw service in the West Indies, in the Baltic, and in Canada. In 1793 Great Britain entered the French Revolutionary Wars, and Nelson was given command of the British ship Agamemnon. He served in the Mediterranean, fighting at Toulon and helping to capture Corsica. At Calvi he lost the sight in one eye. Under John Jervis, later earl of St. Vincent, he was largely responsible, acting boldly and without orders, for the victory over the Spanish off Cape St. Vincent (1797). He was made a rear admiral by seniority and was created a knight. In the unsuccessful British attempt (1797) to capture Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Nelson lost his right arm and was returned to England. Upon his return to service, he was sent on detached duty to find the French fleet. After a long pursuit the French fleet was destroyed in 1798 at Aboukir, stranding Napoleon I and the entire French army in Egypt. Nelson was showered with rewards and honors, but received only the comparatively modest title of Baron Nelson of the Nile. He defeated (1801) the Danes at Copenhagen, ignoring Parker's order to cease action by putting his telescope to his blind eye and saying that he could not see the signal. On Oct. 21, 1805, the combined Spanish and French fleets ventured out of port in Cadiz (Spain) and found Nelson waiting for them off Cape Trafalgar. Before the battle he gave the famous signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty." He won his most spectacular victory but died in the action.
Joan of Arc
Born: c. 1412, Domrémy, Bar, France
Died: May 30, 1431

By name The Maid of Orléans, French Sainte Jeanne d'Arc, or La Pucelle d'Orléans national heroine of France. A peasant girl who, believing that she was acting under divine guidance, led the French army in a momentous victory at Orléans that repulsed an English attempt to conquer France during the Hundred Years' War. By the beginning of 1429, nearly all of northern France and some parts of the southwest were under foreign control. The English ruled Paris, while the Burgundians controlled Reims. The latter city was important as the traditional site of French coronations and consecrations, especially since neither claimant to the throne of France had yet been crowned. The English had laid siege to Orléans, which was the only remaining loyal French city north of the Loire. Its strategic location along the river made it the last obstacle to an assault on the remainder of the French heartland. Battle for Orléans was Joan of Arc's first major military victory and the first major French success to follow the crushing defeat at Agincourt in 1415. She proceeded to lead the army in an astounding series of victories that reversed the tide of the war. A politically motivated trial convicted her of heresy. The English regent John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford had her burnt at the stake in Rouen. She had been the heroine of her country at the age of seventeen and died at just nineteen. Some twenty-four years later, Pope Callixtus III reopened the case, and a new finding overturned the original conviction.
Julius Caesar
Born: July 12/13, 100 BC, Rome [Italy]
Died: March 15, 44 BC, Rome

In full Gaius Julius Caesar celebrated Roman general and statesman, the conqueror of Gaul (58–50 BC), victor in the Civil War of 49–46 BC, and dictator (46–44 BC). He played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. A politician of the populares tradition, he formed an unofficial triumvirate with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus which dominated Roman politics for several years, but was fiercely opposed by optimates like Marcus Porcius Cato and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. His conquest of Gaul extended the Roman world all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and he also conducted the first Roman invasion of Britain in 55 BC. The collapse of the triumvirate, however, led to a stand-off with Pompey and the Senate. Leading his legions across the Rubicon, Caesar began a civil war in 49 BC from which he became the undisputed master of the Roman world. After assuming control of government, he began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He was proclaimed dictator for life, and he heavily centralised the bureaucracy of the Republic. These events provoked a hitherto friend of Caesar, Marcus Junius Brutus, and a group of other senators, to assassinate the dictator on the Ides of March (March 15) in 44 BC. The assassins hoped to restore the normal running of the Republic, but they provoked another Roman civil war, which led eventually to the establishment of the autocratic Roman Empire by Caesar's adopted heir, Gaius Octavianus. In 42 BC, two years after his assassination, the Roman Senate officially sanctified Caesar as one of the Roman deities.
Kublai Khan
Born: 1215
Died: 1294

Kublai also spelled Khubilai, or Kubla Mongolian general and statesman, grandson of Genghis Khan. Mongol emperor, founder of the Yüan dynasty of China. From 1251 to 1259 he led military campaigns in S China. He succeeded (1260) his brother Mongke (Mangu) as khan of the empire that their grandfather Jenghiz Khan had founded. The empire reached its greatest territorial extent with Kublai's final defeat (1279) of the Sung dynasty of China. However, his campaigns against Japan, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Indonesia failed. Kublai's rule as the overlord of the Mongol empire was nominal except in Mongolia and China. He recruited men of all nations for his civil service, but only Mongols were permitted to hold the highest government posts. He promoted economic prosperity by rebuilding the Grand Canal, repairing public granaries, and extending highways. He fostered Chinese scholarship and arts. Although he favored Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism), other religions (except Taoism) were tolerated. Kublai encouraged foreign commerce, and his magnificent capital at Cambuluc (now Beijing) was visited by several Europeans, notably Marco Polo, who described it. It was long thought to be the city Xanadu, featured in Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan.
Mehmed II
Born: March 30, 1432, Adrianople, Thrace, Ottoman Empire
Died: May 3, 1481, Hunkârçayiri, near Maltepe, near Constantinople

By name Mehmed Fatih (Turkish: Mehmed the Conqueror) Ottoman sultan from 1444 to 1446 and from 1451 to 1481. A great military leader, he captured Constantinople and conquered the territories in Anatolia and the Balkans that comprised the Ottoman Empire's heartland for the next four centuries. His father, Murat II, tried to abdicate when Mehmet was only 12 years old, but in the wake of the son's unsuccessful first reign, the father returned to power. When the more mature Mehmet ascended the throne once more (after Murat's death), he tried to create a world empire like that of the Romans. He first conquered Byzantine Constantinople in 1453 and rebuilt it into the prosperous Ottoman capital of Istanbul. To counter the power of the Turkish aristocracy, Mehmet continued his father's policy of expanding the Janissary infantry corps. These Janissaries were made up of young Christians, recruited through the devshirme system, who were given salaries rather than fiefdoms to keep them loyal to and dependent on the sultan. Mehmet authorized autonomous religious communities to give his subjects religious freedom and gain the support of their religious leaders. Equitable tax and administrative systems were created, and justice for all was emphasized. Mehmet subsequently conquered Serbia in 1459 and the Morea by 1460, extending the empire in Europe to the Danube and the Aegean despite resistance from Albania and Venice, with which he warred between 1463 and 1479. By 1461 he had conquered Anatolia as far as the Euphrates from the Turkmen principalities, but Mehmed failed to push further due to resistance from the Mamelukes of Syria as well as from the White Sheep Turkmen of Iran. He was just beginning new campaigns to capture Rhodes and southern Italy when he died suddenly in 1481. Mehmet was succeeded by his son, Bayezid II. Mehmet The Conqueror was the seventh sultan in the Ottoman Dynasty.
Napoleon Buonaparte
Born: Aug. 15, 1769, Ajaccio, Corsica
Died: May 5, 1821, St. Helena Island

French in full Napoléon Bonaparte, original Italian Napoleone Buonaparte, by name The Corsican, or The Little Corporal, French Le Corse, or Le Petit Caporal. French general, First Consul (1799–1804), and emperor of the French (1804–1814/15). One of the most celebrated personages in the history of the West. He revolutionized military organization and training; sponsored the Napoleonic Code; the prototype of later civil-law codes. apoleon Bonaparte was born on 15 August 1769 in Corsica into a gentry family. Educated at military school, he was rapidly promoted and in 1796, was made commander of the French army in Italy, where he forced Austria and its allies to make peace. In 1798, Napoleon conquered Ottoman-ruled Egypt in an attempt to strike at British trade routes with India. He was stranded when his fleet was destroyed by the British at the Battle of the Nile. France now faced a new coalition - Austria and Russia had allied with Britain. Napoleon returned to Paris where the government was in crisis. In a coup d'etat in November 1799, Napoleon became first consul. In 1802, he was made consul for life and two years later, emperor. He oversaw the centralisation of government, the creation of the Bank of France, the reinstatement of Roman Catholicism as the state religion and law reform with the Code Napoleon. In 1800, he defeated the Austrians at Marengo. He then negotiated a general European peace which established French power on the continent. In 1803 Britain resumed war with France, later joined by Russia and Austria. Britain inflicted a naval defeat on the French at Trafalgar (1805) so Napoleon abandoned plans to invade England and turned on the Austro-Russian forces, defeating them at Austerlitz later the same year. He gained much new territory, including annexation of Prussian lands which ostensibly gave him control of Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, Holland and Westphalia created, and over the next 5 years, Napoleon's relatives and loyalists were installed as leaders (in Holland, Westphalia, Italy, Naples, Spain and Sweden). In 1810, he had his childless marriage to Josephine de Beauharnais annulled and married the daughter of the Austrian emperor in the hope of having an heir. A son, Napoleon, was born a year later. The Peninsular War began in 1808. Costly French defeats over the next five years drained French military resources. Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 resulted in a disastrous retreat. The tide started to turn in favour of the allies and in March 1814, Paris fell. Napoleon went into exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba. In March 1815 he escaped and marched on the French capital. The Battle of Waterloo ended his brief reign. The British imprisoned him on the remote Atlantic island of St. Helena where he died on 5 May 1821.
Peter The Great
Born: June 9 [May 30, Old Style], 1672, Moscow, Russia
Died: Feb. 8 [Jan. 28, O.S.], 1725, St. Petersburg

Russian in full Pyotr Alekseyevich, by name Peter the Great, Russian Pyotr Veliky tsar of Russia. Peter was a grandson of Tsar Michael Romanov. In 1682 Peter was proclaimed Tsar at the tender age of 10. But due to power struggles between different political forces in the country, the young Tsar was forced to rule jointly with his brother Ivan, under the patronage of their sister Sofia. In 1689, after a failed coup d'etat, Sofia was overthrown and exiled to a convent. When Tsar Ivan died in 1696, Peter remained monarch and engineered a series of reforms that were to put Russia among the major European powers of the day. Peter opened Russia to the influences of the West and modernize the country. Hundreds of Russians were sent to Europe to get the best education possible and learn the different arts and crafts that would sustain Russia in its future growth. One of Peter's main goals was to regain access to the Baltic Sea and Baltic trade. In 1700 he started the Northern War with Sweden, which lasted for 21 years, and resulted in a victorious Russia taking the vast lands on the Baltic coast as its spoils of war. During the course of the war St. Petersburg was founded (1703) on the delta of the Neva River and the city rapidly grew to become a major seaport, as Russia gained greater and greater access to European trade routes. In 1712 Peter the Great moved the Russian capital to St. Petersburg and continued to channel all the country’s energy and resources into the construction of his European "paradise". When the Northern War ended in 1721 Russia was declared an Empire and Peter the Great proclaimed himself its Emperor. He was a big strong man (6' 8'' inches - 2.04 meters) who, unlike previous Russian monarchs was not afraid of physical labor. He was an experienced army officer and navy admiral, a skilful shipbuilder and an amazingly energetic personality. It has to be said that Peter was also very cruel. Several coup attempts against him ended with mass executions. He personally interrogated his own son Alexei, whom he suspected of plotting against him, and installed him as the first inmate of a high security political jail in the Peter and Paul fortress.
Philip II
Born: 382 BC
Died: 336, Asia Minor

By name Philip Of Macedon 18th king of Macedonia (359–336 BC), who restored internal peace to his country and then, by 339, had gained domination over all Greece by military and diplomatic means, thus laying the foundations for its expansion under his son Alexander the Great. Philip II was a great Macedonian king, who turned the Macedonian kingdom into the mightiest nation in the world at that time. He was the father of Alexander the Great, who carried out many of his father's dreams of conquest. Although Philip did not live to see Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire, Philip made it possible. Philip, the youngest son of the Macedonian king Amyntas II, was born in Pella, the capital of Macedonia. In his early youth, he was a hostage in the powerful city Thebes from 367 to 365 B.C. During that period, Philip observed much of the military techniques from the foremost leaders. In 359 B.C, his brother was killed in a battle and Philip then at the age of 23 became king of Macedonia. Philip immediately began to carry out his plans of conquest by attacking the Greek towns on his border, and his military reforms were destined to change ancient warfare. Previously, the Macedonian army had consisted of a capable, aristocratic cavalry alongside a light infantry of peasant levies. With training and equipment, Philip created an expert heavy infantry, armed with 13 to 14 foot-long pikes, fighting in the formation known as a phalanx. Within a few years, he controlled most of the small states in Greece, and his power extended as far north as the Danube River. Among his other accomplishments, Philip was the most successful besieger of his day.
Pompey The Great
Born: Sept. 29, 106 BC, Rome
Died: Sept. 28, 48 BC, Pelusium, Egypt

Latin in full Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus one of the great statesmen and generals of the late Roman Republic, a triumvir, the associate and later opponent of Julius Caesar. He was initially called Magnus (the Great) by his troops in Africa (82–81 BC). From 60 BC to 53 BC, he was a member of the First Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Marcus Livius Crassus. Originally a supporter of Sulla, Pompey became consul with Crassus in 70 BC. He defeated Mithridates VI Eupator of Pontus, and annexed Syria and Palestine. He married Caesar's daughter Julia (died 54 BC) in 59 BC. When the Triumvirate broke down after 53 BC, Pompey was drawn into leadership of the senatorial faction. On the outbreak of civil war in 49 BC he withdrew to Greece, was defeated by Caesar at Pharsalus in 48 BC, and was murdered in Egypt. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus had routed, scattered, slain, or received the surrender of 12,183,000 people, sunk or taken 846 ships, received the capitulation of 1,538 towns and forts and subdued the lands from the Maeotians to the Red Sea.
Richard The Lion Hearted
Born: Sept. 8, 1157, Oxford
Died: April 6, 1199, Châlus, Duchy of Aquitaine

By name Richard The Lion-heart, or Lion-hearted, French Richard Coeur De Lion duke of Aquitaine (from 1168) and of Poitiers (from 1172) and king of England, duke of Normandy, and count of Anjou (1189–99). He spent all but six months of his reign abroad. He was the third son of Henry II, against whom he twice rebelled. In the Third Crusade 1191–92 he won victories at Cyprus, Acre, and Arsuf (against Saladin), but failed to recover Jerusalem. While returning overland he was captured by the Duke of Austria, who handed him over to the emperor Henry VI, and he was held prisoner until a large ransom was raised. He then returned briefly to England, where his brother John had been ruling in his stead. His later years were spent in warfare in France, where he was killed by a crossbow bolt while besieging Châlus-Chabrol in 1199. He left no heir. Richard's experience in warfare came from controlling his rebellious vassals in Poitou in the 1170s and against his father, Henry II, in 1183. He took up Henry's plans to recover Jerusalem on his accession in 1189 and set out to establish bases for crusades in Sicily in 1190 and Cyprus, which he took in 1191. Engaging in the Siege of Acre, which he brought to a swift conclusion, he set off down the coast to Jaffa, conducting a fighting march against Saladin. Once ransomed from the Germans, Richard recovered lands in France taken by Philip. In the Vexin, where he built Chateau Gaillard, the great castle on the Seine, and in the Touraine and Poitou, he thwarted the French king's every manoeuvre.
Robert E. Lee
Born: Jan. 19, 1807, Stratford, Westmoreland county, Va., U.S.
Died: Oct. 12, 1870, Lexington, Va.

In full Robert Edward Lee Confederate general, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, the most successful of the Southern armies during the American Civil War (1861–65). In February 1865 he was given command of all the Southern armies. His surrender at Appomattox Courthouse April 9, 1865, is commonly viewed as signifying the end of the Civil War. Robert E Lee will be remembered in History as one of the most honourable of soldiers and example of how to be an officer and a gentleman. Lee was a man of great presence standing nearly six feet tall with a noble bearing. He has become a symbol of the Southern States struggle and culture and will always have a special place in US History. When he took command of the Army of Northern Virginia on 1st June 1862 he was 55 years old, he had never commanded anything larger than four squadrons of cavalry. Yet this apparent lack of experience didn’t stop him leading the most important Confederate army for three years and achieving results far beyond the resources at his disposal. He was in many ways fighting a loosing battle from the very start of the war, but achieved a great deal while constantly outnumbered and under resourced.
Born: 1137/38, Tikrit, Mesopotamia
Died: March 4, 1193, Damascus

Arabic in full Sala h Ad-din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub (“Righteousness of the Faith, Joseph, Son of Job”), also called Al-malik An-na sir Sala h Ad-din Yusuf I Muslim sultan of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, and the most famous of Muslim heroes. In wars against the Christian crusaders, he achieved final success with the disciplined capture of Jerusalem (Oct. 2, 1187), ending its 88-year occupation by the Franks. He was the first Ayyubid sultan of Egypt. Saladin was of Kurdish heritage, and all through his career he used mainly Kurdish officials as his closest partners. Saladin managed to revitalize the economy of Egypt, he reorganized the military forces and with the advice of his father, he stayed away from any conflicts with Nureddin, his formal lord, after he had become the real ruler over Egypt. Instead he waited until Nureddin's death, before he started serious military actions first against smaller Muslim states, before directing it against the Crusaders.
Scipio Africanus

Born: 236 BC Rome
Died: 183 BC

Was a general in the second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic. He was best known for defeating Hannibal of Carthage, a feat that earned him the surname Africanus, the nickname the Roman Hannibal and recognition as one of the finest commanders in military history. He was the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio, and from a very early age he considered himself to have divine inspiration. He was with his father at the Ticino (218), and he survived Cannae (216). The young Scipio was elected (c.211) to the proconsulship in Spain. He conquered New Carthage (Cartagena) almost at once (209) and used the city as his own base. Within several years he had conquered Spain. As consul in 205, Scipio wanted to invade Africa, but his jealous enemies in the senate granted him permission to go only as far as Sicily and gave him no army. He trained a volunteer army in Sicily. In 204 he received permission to go to Africa, where he joined his allies the Numidians and fought with success against the Carthaginians. In 202, Hannibal crossed to Africa and tried to make peace, but Scipio’s demands were so extreme that war resulted. Scipio defeated Hannibal at Zama (202), returned home in triumph, and retired from public life. He was named Africanus after the country he conquered.
Born: c. 1787
Died: Sept. 22, 1828

Zulu chief (1816–28), founder of southern Africa's Zulu Empire, who created a fighting force that devastated the entire region. He was the creator of a revolutionary warfare style. Shaka was the illegitimate son of the Zulu chief Senzangakhona and the young girl Nandi, a member of the Langeni clan. As a young man, Shaka joined the army of Dingiswayo and soon became its highest commander. With the support of Dingiswayo he gained supremacy over the Zulu clan, enforcing his claimagainst his opponents with the most ferocious brutality. Under Shaka the Zulu territory expanded phenomenally. All the clans had to subject themselves to the one leader. At the beginning of the 19th century, Shaka had created the most powerful kingdom in the whole of southern Africa. owards the end of his reign, Shaka used his power even more destructively. He chased his army from one battle to the next, and the cruelties against his enemies became more outrageous. Eventually Shaka was assassinated by his half-brother Dingane in 1828.
Suleyman I, The Magnificent
Born: November 1494/, April 1495
Died: Sept. 6, 1566, near Szigetvár, Hung.

By name Süleyman the Magnificent, or The Lawgiver, Turkish Süleyman Muhtesem, or Kanuni sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566, who not only undertook bold military campaigns that enlarged his realm but also oversaw the development of what came to be regarded as the most characteristic achievements of Ottoman civilization in the fields of law, literature, art, and architecture. At the age of 26 he became the 10th sultan of the Empire in 1520 and is known as "Kanuni", the Lawgiver, in his homeland, but for Europeans he has always been "Suleyman the Magnificent". During the course of his substantial extension of the Ottoman Empire he captured Belgrade in 1521 and Rhodes 1522, forcing the Knights of St. John to leave for Malta, defeated and killed King Lewis of Hungary at Mohacs in 1526, taking Buda (Budin) in 1529 and unsuccessfully besieging Vienna in September and October of that year, and Transylvania came into his possession in 1562. His domain extended far to the eastward and into Egypt and Persia, while his fleet was master of the Red Sea (including Yemen and Aden) and virtually the whole of the Mediterranean, waging war on the coasts of North Africa, Italy and Dalmatia under the command of its fearsome admiral Barbarossa. Suleyman died on September 6th 1566 during the war with Austria outside Szigetvar in Hungary led by his Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, which two days later fell to the Ottomans.
Sun Tzu
Born: c. 544 BC probably in state of Qi (China)
Died: c. 496 BC probably in state of Wu (China)

Also spelled Sun-tzu reputed author of the Chinese classic Ping-fa ( The Art of War ), the earliest known treatise on war and military science. A military strategist and general who served the state of Wu near the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC). He gained the name Sun after service in attacking the state of Ju during which he showed great ability. His father had been a military officer and Sun Tzu was brought up in a family of military officers and quickly became an expert in strategy, a highly respected profession at that time. When civil war broke out in Qi Sun Tzu went to the state of Wu (Suzhou , Jiansu Province). Already his 13 chapters on War were well known and he was appointed a general in Wu's army. His career was to be successful attacking the Chu three times and destroying the state of Yue for his sovereign expanding the state of Wu greatly. There is no record of his birth or death but accounts of his deeds are mentioned in the Shi Ji - the biography of Wu Zixu and it is clear that he was a great general as well as a brilliant strategist having far more military experience than the other great strategist Karl von Clausewitz.The impact on strategic thinking of the Art of War cannot be underestimated despite some of its concepts such as the use of fire in attack being out of date, it's key concepts of deception, and manoeuvre warfare are still very valid today nearly 2500 years after it was written.
Born: c. 524 BC
Died: c. 460 BC

Athenian politician and naval strategist who was the creator of Athenian sea power and the chief saviour of Greece from subjection to the Persian Empire at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. Themistocles was a briliant commander and an Athenian political leader. He began his political career after the battle of Marathon and the retreat of the Persians. Themistocles believed that the Persians would return and proposed to build a strong fleet to meet them at sea. This was opposed by Aristides, the leader of Athens. Themistocle's naval strategy prevailed and Aristides was banished. When the Persians returned, they defeated the Spartans at Thermopylae and occupied Athens. Themistocles had moved the Athenians to the island of Salamis, where he engaged and destroyed the Persian fleet. Themistocles had made Athens a great power but the people believed that he had accepted bribes, and in 471 BC he was banished from the city. Ultimately he lived in Persia, where King Artaxerxes made generous provision for him.
William The Conqueror
Born: c. 1028, Falaise, Normandy
Died: Sept. 9, 1087, Rouen

By name William The Conqueror, or The Bastard, or William Of Normandy, French Guillaume Le Conquérant, or Le Bâtard, or Guillaume De Normandie duke of Normandy (as William II) from 1035 and king of England from 1066, one of the greatest soldiers and rulers of the Middle Ages. He made himself the mightiest feudal lord in France and then changed the course of England's history by his conquest of that country. Duke William of Normandy, with only a few thousand troops behind him, crossed the English Channel and succeeded in conquering England. This was the last successful invasion of England. William was encouraged to invade by his own rather tenuous claims to the English throne, by his strong desire to enlarge his realm, and by a period of disarray that followed the death of Edward the Confessor. William's invading fleet was delayed on the French coast for several weeks. As King Harold of England waited on the south coast for the invasion, the Norwegian king attacked England from the north. Harold marched his army north and defeated and killed the Norwegian king. When William arrived on English soil, King Harold marched is army back south quickly, perhaps too quickly. The two armies met October 14, 1066, in the Battle of Hastings. Harold and his two brothers fell in battle, and no English leader remained that was able to contest the Norman invasion. William was crowned in London on Christmas Day. William established a strong central government, replacing the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy with his own Norman followers. He declared all land in England as his own personal property. In part to catalog his new holdings, he commissioned the Domesday Book, a detailed census of the property and population of England. William's conquest had an enormous influence on England. All subsequent English monarchs are his descendants. His reorganization of the English government brought greater power to England among European nations. Though perhaps the most important English ruler, he was born and died in France, and spent most of his life there. He spoke only French. The effects of the Norman conquest on English culture are profound, because of the strong French / Continental influence that it brought.
William Wallace
Born: c. 1270, probably near Paisley, Renfrew, Scot.
Died: Aug. 23, 1305, London, Eng.

Leader of the Scottish resistance forces during the first years of the long, and ultimately successful, struggle to free Scotland from English rule. Sir William Wallace is considered one of Scotland's greatest heroes, thanks to his opposition to English rule under Edward I in the 13th century. The son of a minor Scottish lord, Wallace was educated and rebellious. Named an outlaw for killing an Englishman in 1292, he fled for the hills and formed an army to harass English soldiers. In 1297 Wallace and his army drove the English from Scotland and then boldly invaded northern England. In December of 1297 Wallace was elected Guardian of the Kingdom and began to rule Scotland. Within the year Edward I defeated Wallace at Falkirk and Wallace was forced to withdraw his forces. Wallace resigned as Guardian, but for the next several years engaged the English occupiers in frequent skirmishes. He was captured in 1305 and taken to London, where he was convicted of treason and executed. Although much of his story is obscured by legend, it's generally agreed that he was a very large, well-educated man who fought with passion and brilliant tactics.