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20 Greatest historical warriors ever known

September 23, 2011


In this list we see a combination of two of my favorite things – ancient (well mostly) history and warriors. While most of these warrior groups come from ancient history – one or two come close to modern history. They all, undoubtedly, belong on this list. Please mention other groups who might be considered for a future list in the comments.

10. Aztecs


The Aztecs were famous soldiers and ruthless in battle. They were usually dressed like animals like the eagle or the jaguar. They used pretty primitive weapons like clubs and bows but used them with great effectiveness. The “Shorn Ones” (Cuachicqueh) were the greatest warriors and as soon as the enemy came they swore they would not take another step back. They were eventually defeated by the Spaniards with much more modern weapons but they were a great empire in large part due to their great warriors.

9. Mongols

Historical Mongol Warriors 1

The Mongols were considered barbarians and savages. They dominated Europe and Asia and were most famous for riding on horseback lead by one of the greatest military commanders in history, Genghis Kahn. They were highly disciplined and masters with using the bow and arrow on horse back. They used a composite bow that could rip through armor and were also pretty good with lances and scimitars. They were masters of psychological warfare and intimidation, and built one of the largest empires the world has ever seen.

8. Mamluks


A mamluk was a slave soldier who converted to Islam and served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid sultans during the Middle Ages. Over time, they became a powerful military caste often defeating the Crusaders. On more than one occasion, they seized power for themselves; for example, ruling Egypt in the Mamluk Sultanate from 1250–1517. After mamluks had converted to Islam, many were trained as cavalry soldiers. Mamluks had to follow the dictates of furusiyya, a code that included values such as courage and generosity, and also cavalry tactics, horsemanship, archery and treatment of wounds, etc.

7. Roman Legion


The backbone of the Roman army that led to an empire that was unrivaled in terms of size and power. They were usually heavy infantry with armor and a shield modeled after the ancient Greeks. They were masters of the sword and spear combination going along with a shield. They were made up of the wealthiest soldiers that could afford to make the best weapons and armor. They were disciplined, well-armed, and had great strategy which lasted beyond their empire.

6. Apaches


The apaches were like the ninjas of America. They would sneak up behind you and slit your throat without you even knowing. They used primitive weapons made mostly of wood and bone. They were also the greatest knife fighters the world has ever seen and were pretty good with the tomahawk and throwing ax. They terrorized the southwest United States and even the military had trouble beating them. They were great hit and run fighters and their descendants teach modern day special fighters how to fight in hand to hand combat.

5. Samurai


The samurai were the knights of Japan and the masters of the katana. They were heavily armed soldiers covered in armor and willing to die for their masters. They wielded the sharpest sword the world has ever seen and it could easily slice a man in two. They were also masters of the yumi (bow) and were some of the best shots of the ancient world. They were like professional soldiers and were harshly trained and fought knowing their honor was on the line. Due to their violent habits, peasants soon rose up against them and the ninja was born.

4. Ninja


The ninja were the masters of stealth and sabotage. They were originally peasants trained to defeat marauding samurai, but the eventually became the legendary assassins that most people think of today. They are known for using a Kanata like sword, blowgun, ninja stars, and kusarigama which would be my weapon of choice. They are known for being stealthy shadow warriors of the night. They greatly feared for their ability to kill and just disappear. They were also great martial artists and underwent rigorous training.

3. Vikings

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Vikings – the terror of Europe. The most feared warrior of the ancient world. They terrorized Europe with their raids and pillaging. They were ferocious in battle and used weapons that suited their stature. They were big and mean and used their axes, swords, and spears expertly in the conquering of cities. Even their religion was about war and they believed when you died in battle you fought once again in a never ending battle. They were all you would want in a soldier and proved it on the battlefield by destroying all in their paths. On the flip-side, they were also incredibly good traders so they also brought much good to Europe.

2. Spartans

Screen Shot 2010-04-20 At 5.17.05 Am

You thought they would be number one didn’t you? The Spartan culture was all about war and training men for war their entire lives. They had a saying: “come back with the shield or on top of it” which means don’t come back unless you are victorious. They were some of the toughest soldiers the world had ever seen and have become infamous for their last stand at the battle of Thermopylae. They were masters of the shield and spear combination that was later copied by many other armies.

1. Knights


Knights were great warriors clad in full body armor on horseback. The warrior of feudal Europe, the protector of kings. They were the richest, most trained warriors, and had the armor, weapons, and horses to get the job done. They were among the toughest soldiers in history to kill because of their armor. They were highly effective soldiers that had trained almost their entire lives (due to boys of the day wanting to grow up to be one) and became the tank of the ancient world. The reason they are listed as item 1 – instead of Spartans (which most people would have expected) is that knights were also expected to behave in a moral manner and from the fact that most did, we have the term chivalrous which comes from old French chevalier meaning “knight”. The knight was the perfect example of a warrior and a gentleman.


Some features in this 2nd list are more on classes, while others are more groups of people. I hope you enjoy this list and please offer any other warriors for a possible third list. This time I tried to focus a little less on major known warriors, but I put a couple of well known ones in there too.

10. Yanomami

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The Ya̧nomami are a large population of indigenous Amerindian people in South America. They reside in the Amazon rainforest, among the hills that line the border between Brazil and Venezuela. Due to the remoteness of their residence, they had remained largely untouched by the outside world until the beginning of the 20th century. Historically, more than a third of the Ya̧nomami males, on average, died from warfare. The accounts of missionaries to the area have told of constant infighting by men in the tribes, for women or prestige. There is historical evidence of continuous warfare for the enslavement of neighboring tribes, such as the Macu, before the arrival of European settlers and government. [Image Source]

9. Shaolin Monk

If Only

Shaolin monks are probably the most peaceful of the group, because they would avoid fighting wherever possible. Although when they did they were great fighters. They developed Kung Fu as a way to train both mind and body. They were known for fighting with weapons such as a wooden rod, twin hooks, or a whip chain. Based purely on the skill of the fighters, the monk should be ranked higher, but they were not the blood thirsty killers some of the others on the list were. Zhou Tong was a famous monk, known for his archery and almost legendary accuracy. The Shaolin reigned throughout China for many hundreds of years, and their temples and monasteries are found in China to this day.

8. Azande

Azande Warrior

The Azande were a tribe in Northern Central Africa – mainly in The Congo. They were ruthless killers, and even made a throwing knife that was considered so evil that it was banned for time in certain parts of Africa. They were also very good at using a makrigga, a barbed spear, or a Makraka, a curved knife. They would also never go into battle without their signature shield, and maybe a couple of poison tipped arrows for long distance fighting. They were at their strongest in the 1800s, and no European power ever took them over.

7. Scottish Highlanders

Lotd History

Scottish Highlanders were a group of people living in the highlands of Scotland. They were renowned for their fighting, and were especially good using a long sword. They had a similar fighting style to the Vikings, and other barbaric groups of northern Europe. They were very effective with weapons such as an ax, war hammer and dagger. The most famous highlander was William Wallace, who became legendary at the battle of Stirling Bridge, and to this day serves as inspiration to similar groups fighting for independence.

6. Huns

 Alphonse Marie Adolphe De Neuville The Huns At The Battle Of Chalons

The Huns were the fierce horseman warriors of Asia. They were feared throughout Asia and the Roman Empire. They are most well known for their great leader, Attila. They were masters of using their own hunic bow, that was unrivaled for almost a thousand years. Because of their ferocity, they contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. They were also pretty decent with a combination of swords and axes, but a skilled archer on horseback is what made them so deadly. Their empire spread all the way from parts of Europe to China, but as soon as Attila died everything eventually collapsed. They reigned from A.D. 370-469.

5. Thebans


Thebans were located around Greece. They were a major rival of Athens and other Greek city states. They had a great army, especially the Sacred Band of Thebes, an all-gay group of 150 male couples who were among the best fighters in the world. In battle they were able to stand their ground against the Spartans, and sometimes even beat them. These 150 gay couples formed the elite of the Theban army, and were recognized for their great passion in battle. The reason they aren’t higher is because, besides the sacred band of Thebes, the rest of the army was usually defeated by stronger Greek city-states. They reigned from the 6th century B.C. to 335 B.C., until they were defeated by the force of the Greek city-states and, eventually, the Greek empire.

4. Zulu


The Zulu were South African tribesman who built one of the biggest empires Africa had ever seen. They were led by Shaka Zulu, who greatly changed the way warfare was fought in Africa. He trained them to ignore pain, and they participated in Zulu stick fighting where they would try to hit their opponents. No one usually died, but it taught them to fight even if they are in severe pain. They dominated other tribes using their signature shield, ilkwa, a spear, the Zulu ax, and a throwing stick called an Iwisa. They ruled from 1816 to 1897, but were defeated by the British, using cannons and machine guns. Even though they did not rule for very long, they had some of the toughest and well trained warriors Africa had ever seen.

3. Rajput

Gurdan Saini- Rajput.342205257

Rajputs were warriors who fought in Northern India. Rajputs were very similar to the samurai of Japan, or the knights of Europe. They protected the country and fought with a great sense of honor. They would usually fight to the last man, and would almost never surrender. Similar to the Shaolin monks, they were also trained in martial arts and had a good variety of weapons. The Khanda, a long sword, was their main weapon, but they also used a talwar (a curved sword) after the 16th century. They also utilized a chakram, a flying disk, the katar dagger, and a form of “whip sword” called an Aara. They ruled India all the way from the 6th century to when the British ruled in the 1800s.

2. Scythians


Scythians were the original Huns. They were among the best horsemen the world has ever seen, if not the best. They were also master archers and, like the Huns, used the archer on horseback to win battles. They combined this with their ruthlessness in battle, which included scalping their opponents and drinking their blood. Besides being great horsemen and archers, they were also good with a spear, battle ax and dagger. They were masters of hit and run tactics, and built a good sized empire in modern day Ukraine, Russia and parts of Asia. They ruled from about the 8th century B.C. to the 3rd century B.C. They were conquered by a group of people including the Greeks, Huns and others from the “steppes of Asia.”

1. Byzantine Cataphract

Byzantine Greek Alexander Manuscript Cataphract (Cropped)

The Byzantine Cataphract is number one on this list because they were almost impossible to kill. They were similar to a knight but were fully covered head to toe in plate armor, that could weigh up to 88 pounds. The thing that separated them from the knights of medieval Europe was the fact that they covered their horses completely in armor, also. They were usually elite cavalry who would spearhead an attack using a pike or lance. While the Cataphract was a vague term for a soldier, I chose the Byzantine Cataphract because they perfected it first. They used them perfectly and this gave them a good ratio of speed and protection. This helped the Byzantine Empire rule for over a thousand years from 330-1453, until they were conquered by the Ottomans.

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From → Human history

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