History has not always been fair.
Everyone has heard about great military leaders like Genghis Khan and Napoleon, but other generals demonstrated genius-level prowess on the battlefield.
For whatever reason, many of these great generals have not been adequately recognized for their accomplishments.
Let us now recognize four of these incredible military strategists.
Basil the Bulgar-Slayer
The Byzantine Empire resided in a turbulent region of the war. Fierce enemies often surrounded it. During the rule of Emperor Basil II during the late 10th century AD, their rivals were the Fatimid Caliphate located in the east and the Second Bulgarian Empire ruled by Tsar Samuel situated in the west.
Basil dealt quickly with the Fatimids, who had smashed Basil’s incompetent generals with regularity. Basil decided that he’d had enough and led his armies across the region of modern-day Turkey in only two weeks. This put the Fatimids in complete disarray, so they retreated.
However, it would be the western rival where Basil earned his grisly nickname —Bulgar-Slayer. After a few years of gradually making way into Bulgarian lands, he promptly annihilated the Bulgarian army in 1014 during the Battle of Kleidon. After his triumph, Basil ordered his men to blind 99 of every 100 Bulgar soldiers. Then he forced the one soldier with eyes to lead his blinded comrades back to their Tsar.
Allegedly, Tsar Samuel died of shock following the return of his army. As it turns out, the Tsar was lucky as Basil soon afterward killed all remaining members of the Bulgar royal family during battle. This marked the end of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
Basil conquered Sicily, which led to a reinvigorated Byzantium who went on to dominate the Mediterranean.
David IV of Georgia
As with Israel and Estonia, Georgia was conquered repeatedly by a different empire every few years. However, during the Middle Ages, they rose up to become a powerful force throughout the region for a brief time.
This brief Georgian golden age was the result of David IV, also called David the Builder. In 1089, after David assumed control of Georgia, he was essentially a vassal for the Seljuk Sultanate, who ruled most of the Middle East at the time.
David immediately ceased the tribute that Georgia had been paying to the Seljuks. In addition to this, he and defeated several armies that were sent to subjugate him. After liberating the region of modern-day Georgia, he treated the defeated Muslims with compassion and respect. This attitude won the support of the multi-ethnic subjects throughout his kingdom.
A big problem for David was that his army was very small. It was a common belief that the Seljuks had more than enough might to remove all Georgian independence. David addressed this deficiency by hiring mercenaries. Thus, he imported the entire tribe of Cuman-Kipchak from Southern Russia into Georgia. The Kipchaks were given enough land for some 40,000 families. This gave David the manpower he needed.
And David later needed all of these imported warriors. Because in 1121, the Seljuks declared holy war on Georgia. The Seljuk army was said to have numbered anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 men, while David’s force was a mere fraction of that number.
As with many great generals who faced impossible odds, David had to resort to deceit and trickery. He promptly ordered 200 of his cavalrymen to visit the Turkish camp. There they would express a wish to join the Seljuk army.
When the Turks emerged from the camp to greet their new soldiers, the Georgian army struck with its entirety. Although King David lost three horses, he won the battle. Finally, Georgia became free.
Iran has had a history of being one of the world’s most volatile locations. After the mighty Safavid Empire collapsed, the foothills were controlled by several petty chieftains and warlords. These hostile groups were constantly at odds with one another, trying to control what was left of the remaining Safavid territory.
Out of this anarchy emerged a man named Nader Shah, whose childhood was typical for the times. He was a shepherd’s son who was captured by slavers before he was ten years old. He later escaped from them and joined up with a group of wandering brigands. From this beginning, Nader Shah rose to become a powerful chieftain.
Tahmasb, the deposed shah of Safavid, urged Nader to reclaim his lost throne from the Afghan rebels. In 1729, Nader joined up with Tahmasb and defeated the Afghans in only two battles. This successful returned Tahmasb to power.
For a brief period, Nader was satisfied being the real power behind the throne, as he defeated the Ottoman Empire and subsequently conquered present-day Armenia and Georgia.
However, when Nader was off doing battle with the Afghans, Tahmasb had managed to lose all of Nader’s hard-fought gains in a foolhardy attack against the Ottomans. A furious Nader then returned from Afghanistan and captured Baghdad. He proceeded to defeat the Ottomans once again and then exiled the incompetent Tahmasb.
As an undisputed king of Persia, Nader decided to invade the powerful Mughal Empire of India. In a year’s time, Nader managed to capture the capital of Delhi. He returned to Persian with enormous riches from India – which included the infamous Koh-i-Noor diamond. Nader had brought home so much treasure from India that he suspended all taxation for three years.
While we have all heard about Genghis Khan, not many of us have heard about the conquests of Subotai, a poor blacksmith that Genghis adopted.
After assisting Genghis in defeating the Khwarezm Empire, which gave the Mongols control over most Central Asia, Subotai began on what many believe was the most remarkable military campaign ever. With just 20,000 soldiers, Subotai chose to circle the Caspian Sea on his return to Mongolia.
During his journey, Subotai demolished King George the Brilliant’s Georgian army. His forces then pillaged the Georgian countryside as what was left of the Georgian troops had retreated to the safety of their fortified capital. To their surprise, Subotai ignored the city and kept on riding. But this was a ploy. Subotai later returned with his forces right before winter, when no one expected, and annihilated the last of the Georgian army.
Later while crossing the frozen Caucasus Mountains, Subotai came across a strong coalition of local tribes that the Cumans led. The coalition had placed an army there to obstruct his path out of the area.
Having his horsemen trapped in hostile territory, Subotai decided to offer the Cuman tribe a substantial bribe to abandon the coalition. When the Cumans disappeared into the night, the Mongol force quickly overtook the chaotic remnants of the tribal alliance. After this, they caught up with the Cumans, defeated their army, and took back their bribe.
After agreeing to a secret treaty with the Venetians to act as his spies if his army destroyed their trading rivals, Subotai returned home. He would soon learn that a Russian army of 80,000 soldiers was waiting to annihilate his army.
While the Mongol army wasn’t really interested in fighting, the Russians killed ten of their envoys in the act of arrogance. This was a huge mistake.
Subotai pretended to retreat from the Russians when he was actually luring them onto terrain that greatly favored his horsemen. When the bait was taken, the Russian army was crushed along the bank of the Kalka River.
After the Xia Xia Chinese defeat alongside Genghis, Subotai became restless and went on another grand adventure in 1241 – when he was 67. After reaching Europe, Subotai once again destroyed the Russians and then burnt Kiev to the ground. Then his army arrived at the borders of the Kingdom of Hungary.
There on the plains, he faced some 70,000 Hungarian knights with his 50,000 Mongol horsemen.
In a bold and skillful maneuver, Subotai attacked the Hungarians on three sides while purposefully allowing them a single means of escape. After the Hungarians predictably retreated through the opening, Subotai’s hidden forces clamped down on them from this fourth direction. The entire Hungarian army was slaughtered.