Top 10 Conquerors In History


These are the greatest conquerors in human
history ranked solely by the amount of land they brought under their control while in
power. Hernán Cortés is a big reason why Spanish
is the second-most spoken language in the world. Starting with just a few hundred armored
soldiers, about 15 horses, and – most importantly, guns and cannons – Cortés left Cuba and made
his way deep inside the Aztec empire, ruthlessly forcing indigenous warriors to fight for him.
When he reached the capital, Tenochtitlan, the Aztec ruler – Moctezuma – fatefully decided
to welcome Cortés and his men. This was a huge mistake and led to the destruction of
the great city and the Aztec empire, giving Spain a foothold in the American mainland. Francisco Pizarro admired the success of his
distant cousin, Cortés, and became determined to achieve glory himself. He targeted the
Incan empire in Peru, a land rich with gold. Pizarro and his force of 170 gun wielding,
horseriding men, began in Panama and made their way south through foreign territory
until they were confronted by the Inca emperor Atahualpa and his 80,000-man army. The Spaniards
lured the natives close, then ambushed and easily overwhelmed them. After murdering Atahualpa,
Pizarro took the emperor’s 10-year-old widow as his mistress–she eventually gave birth
to two sons by the conquistador. The sacking of Cuzco sealed the fall of the Incas, and
Pizarro went on to found the city of Lima, now the capital of Peru. Mahmūd was the first to carry the banner
of Islam into the heart of India. After many attempts, he finally vanquished his main adversary
– the ruler Jaipal of the Punjab – in an epic battle near Peshawar involving more than 25,000
horsemen and 300 war elephants. Seven years later his army would defeat Jaipal’s son,
Anandpal, in an equally ferocious showdown, sealing Mahmūd’s victorious advance into
the heart of India. When he was finished conquering, Mahmūd’s empire expanded far beyond its
original territory of Afghanistan and northeastern Iran, to cover northwestern India and most
of Iran. He also transformed his capital, Ghazni, into a world class cultural centre. Napoleon Bonaparte took full advantage of
the power vacuum that existed after King Louis the XVI was beheaded in the French Revolution.
One of the most ambitious conquerors in history, Napoleon vastly expanded the French Empire
to its peak size, covering Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and even Poland. This
spread the democratic ideals that had taken root in France during the revolution. However,
Napoleon wasn’t satisfied with a thriving empire, he wanted complete control, and so
when Russia defied his economic blockade of the British, he foolishly led more than 680,000
troops to Moscow. But Russian tactics and severe weather killed more than half his men,
and another 200,000 were captured or deserted. This catastrophic defeat directly led to the
downfall of his empire. Another man whose thirst for power could not
be quenched was Adolf Hitler and his fanatical Nazi party that controlled Germany after the
country’s devastating defeat in World War I. Hitler used powerful, emotional speeches
to reach millions through the radio, which had just become widely used. The Nazi’s
popularity gave Hitler the political capital he needed at home to aggressively expand his
conquests abroad. In the first four years of the second World War, Germany seized control
of most of the European continent and initiated the horrific holocaust of millions of innocent
Jews. Thankfully, Hitler’s forces were stretched too thin, and in 1945, he took his own life
as the western front was overrun by the Allies and the Soviet Red Army was within two blocks
of his bunker in Berlin. Attila was the first leader of an army of
archers on horseback to achieve great success as a conqueror, though little firsthand accounts
remain of his personality, except that he was a shrewd negotiator and a ruthless warrior.
Attila killed his elder brother, Bleda, whom he was supposed to share the empire with in
order to rule it on his own. He eventually controlled lands from the Caspian Sea in the
east, all the way to the North Sea and the Northern borders of the Roman Empire in the
west. Unintimidated, Attila invaded the Roman empire numerous times and forced the Romans
to make peace-treaty payments worth hundreds of pounds of gold a year. Although he tried
several times to invade the fortified city of Constantinople, he was never able to take
it. In 559 BC, Cyrus the II of Persia, founded
the Achaemenid Empire, the largest the world had ever seen. He began by bringing all the
civilized states of the ancient Near East under his control and over the course of his
30 year rule, Cyrus eventually conquered all lands from the Mediterranean Sea in the west
to the Indus River in the east, earning him the title King of the Four Corners of the
World. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus created a clay cylinder that scholars say
is the first known attempt at laying down the principles for running a diverse society
of different nationalities and faiths. Cyrus’ achievements in human rights, politics, and
military strategy made him one of the most influential figures in ancient history. Timur built most of his empire in the lands
that were still reeling from the conquests of Genghis Khan a hundred years earlier. Like
Khan, Timur was ruthless. Estimates are that his military campaigns caused the deaths of
17 million people, that’s a staggering 5% of the world population at the time. After
defeating the Mamluks, the emerging Ottoman Empire, and the declining Sultanate of Delhi,
Timur emerged as the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world. He’s considered the last
of the great nomadic conquerors of the Eurasian steppe before gunpowder brought the rise of
more structured and lasting empires. Tutored by the philosopher Aristotle, Alexander
succeeded his father to the throne at the age of 20, inheriting a strong kingdom and
an experienced and battle-tested army. He used his authority to enact his father’s
well-planned roadmap for military expansion and, by the age of 30, had greatly grown the
Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon through an unprecedented military campaign through Asia
and northeast Africa, creating an empire stretching from Greece to Egypt and into northwest ancient
India. Undefeated in battle, he ruled as the shah of Persia, the pharaoh of Egypt and the
king of Asia at the same time. Alexander the Great was either killed by poison or typhoid
at the age of 32 in Babylon, the city he planned to make the capital of his new, vast kingdom. The most land and blood-thirsty man in human
history is easily Genghis Khan, who conquered more than twice as much land as Alexander.
Called Temüjin when he was born, he founded the Mongol Empire by unifying the nomadic
tribes of northeast Asia. After being proclaimed “Genghis Khan,” he launched the brutal
Mongol invasions that resulted in the conquest of most of Eurasia, and the deaths of as many
as 40 million people, mainly by ruthlessly executing entire populations of a lot of the
cities he conquered and by spreading the bubonic plague, often on purpose. Despite his murderous
reputation, Khan’s legacy is a complex one. His rule is credited with expanding the cultural
horizons of Northeast Asia, the Muslim world and Christian Europe, by bringing the Silk
Road under a single authority, thus increasing communication and trade between all three
areas. That’s our mini-documentary on history’s
greatest conquerors. Thanks for watching. If there’s a topic you want us to tackle,
let us know in the comments below. Until next time, for TDC, I’m Bryce Plank.

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