The Top 13 Famous Battles Of All Time
How many of these do you remember from your history classes?
The Battle of Troy – ~1200 BCE
Perhaps one of the most famous battles in Western history, the Battle of Troy was fought in the second millennium BCE between the Achaeans of Troy and the Greeks of Sparta. Paris, the prince of Troy, took Helen from her husband, Menelaus, king of Sparta. A 10 year siege ensues, as recounted in Homer's Iliad. Things get interesting when the Spartans use a tactic we know now as the "Trojan Horse." An elite group of Spartans enter the city of Troy by stowing themselves in a hollow wooden horse, given to the Trojans as a gift. When all was quiet and the hour was late, the Trojans emerged and slaughtered everyone, taking the city. Now that's a siege.
The Battle of Britain – 1940
World War II was perhaps the most brutal conflict in all of human history. But, the Battle of Britain was definitely one of the most intense of its conflicts. At this point, France was already out of the war and Hitler had secured most of the European continent for his Nazi Reich. For nearly four months the German air force, the Luftwaffe, pummeled mainland Britain with barrage after barrage, night after night, with the poorly equipped Royal Air Force the country's only defense. Ever see one of those "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters? Yeah, they're about being bombed by the Nazis.
The Battle of Gettysburg – 1863
The American Civil War was by far the bloodiest of all the wars of the United States, and that's saying something. But of the entire Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg might've been the bloodiest of all. Gettysburg is located in southern Pennsylvania, so this would've been a real blow to Northern morale if the Battle had been won by the Confederate States of America. Most notable in this three-day-long battle was Pickett's charge: an assault of 12,500 Confederates which was torn to shreds by Union rifle and artillery fire. It meant the end of General Lee's invasions of the North, as well as looked back on as the turning point of the Civil War.
The Siege of Constantinople – 1453
After Rome fell, it is widely thought that its light had gone out for good, except for the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly known to history as the Byzantine Empire with its capital being Constantinople. This city was the center of civilization, trade and Christianity for over 1,000 years after Rome was sacked!That is, until Mehmet the Conqueror set his sights on it. For centuries, the Byzantines were in a state of constant warfare with the Persians and Arabs in the east and south respectively. By 1453, Byzantium had become little more than a city-state defending the most valuable waterway on the planet with its formidable walls. It took years and giant game-changing cannons to finally bring down the mighty city, signaling the end of an era, and changing history forever.
The Battle of Tours – 732
This battle may not be as famous as some of the others on this list, but it may in fact be the most important. The Battle of Tours (or Pointiers) essentially defined the religious future of Europe as a whole. This was a literal battle of religions centuries before the First Crusade. The year was 732, and the Umayyad Caliphate had conquered Spain and pushed past the Pyrenees into France. The Frankish and Burgundian forces led by Charles Martel held back the Islamic forces, essentially ensuring that Europe would remain a Christian continent from then on. Its result would set the stage for the rest of history!
The Battle of Saragarhi – 1897
Probably the least well-known battle on this list is the Battle of Saragarhi. This was one of the greatest last stands in all history, and certainly in British militaryhistory.In 1897, a British Indian army contingent of 21 men defended a communication post against at least 10,000 Afghan Pashtun tribesman. Let me say that again: 21 against 10,000. According to reports, those 21 guys took out at least 180 down, that's 8 times their own numbers at the least, as British reports record more than double those in kills, and literally uncountable wounded. It's a veritable modern day Thermopylae!
The Battle of the Somme – 1916
The Battle of the Somme was the largest battle of the first World War and represented the absolute worst that trench warfare and modern military technology could possibly offer. Meant as an attempt to hasten the stalemate that 1914 had presented, the Somme was a major assault by the Allies. For the British, there had been almost 60,000 casualties in just the first day alone. After months of battle, the total casualty list topped 1.2 million, making it one of the bloodiest days in war ever. Ultimately, it is seen as a turning point in the war, but that honestly might be more hope than fact.
The Battle of Yorktown – 1781
A major battle that would change the entire face of the modern world if reversed: The Battle Of Yorktown. It was this pivotal battle that ended the American War of Independence in 1781. The final battle of the Revolution was a grand assault by Washington's Continental troops supported by the French Navy in the harbor; the British General Lord Cornwallis was surrounded and forced to surrender. This ended hostilities on the North American continent, and gave the fledgling nation enough peace to build itself a foundation for a free government for, by and of the people.
The Battle of Hastings – 1066
There is no question that England, despite its diminutive size, has had a massive impact on civilization over the last 1,000 years. So, following that logic, a battle that of monumental proportions for England counts as one for world history as well.In 1066, William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy, sailed across the channel and made himself King of England. If not for this single battle, the whole of English history and kingship would be drastically different. The monarchs who stand out in history might be completely dissimilar. Even the modern age is thrown into question, as it was an England, shaped by the Battle of Hastings, which would preside over the Industrial Revolution.
The Battle of Waterloo – 1815
The Napoleon Wars were imperative to toppling the old monarchial order and spreading the ideals of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment all across the European Continent. The Battle of Waterloo decided whether or not Napoleon himself would rule over this change.The Battle of Waterloo was the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France. The battle was almost won, but the French were ultimately flanked by the Prussians in support of the British, which spelled the end for Napoleon. Who knows what would've happened if he had been able to continue shaping Europe to the image of the French Revolution?
The Battle of Thermopylae – 480 BCE
This is one of the most widely known ancient battles ever. Why? Because three hundred Spartans staged a last stand against an ever-increasing number of Persian Immortals. Seriously, it goes from 70,000, to 300,000, to (according to Herodotus) 2.5 MILLION. It has been talked, debated, and written about by more thinkers and historians and writers than perhaps any other ancient conflict. And for good reason. Not only is the story incredible, but the context of the battle has been used as a lesson for tacticians for thousands of years. The location of the stage was a strategically important–and narrow– pass which had to be crossed by the Persians in order to conquer Greece. Defending such a pass exemplified the vital importance of geography in tactics.
Operation Overlord – June 4th 1944
No famous battle list is complete without Operation Overlord, better known to the public as D-Day. It was the single largest naval assault in military history. The Nazis had taken control of France, and by extension, the Southern shore of the English Channel. In order to successfully take back the continent, the Allies had to make a landing somewhere. They sent one of their best generals with a fake army to trick Hitler into thinking the landing would be at Calais. No attack came to Calais, but it came to Normandy, where German defenses were weaker and not as well supplied. It is widely seen as the turning point in the war on the western front.
The Battle of Stalingrad – 1942 to 1943
The number one famous battle is the Battle of Stalingrad during the second World War. Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, proved by far to be Hitler's worst mistake, costing him the war. The Nazis besieged the city of Stalingrad for over a year with artillery and raids, but the Soviets never gave up. The Nazi soldiers had outrun their supply lines and only had to be starved out. It was when the German army was at its weakest did the Soviets break the siege. Without the eastern front, Hitler could've easily maintained his advantage in western Europe. But ultimately, his megalomania was his undoing. He fell into the same trap as Napoleon, not understanding that the Russian winter is immune to any Blitzkrieg, putting the final nail in the coffin for Hitler's Reich.
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