The 7 Most Fearsome Armies of All Time
Imagine a lethal threat was heading for your community and had to be put down with force.
As a community leader, you have two choices. Your first choice is quickly assembling a local militia made up of farmers, shop owners, and merchants who would arm themselves with everything from pistols to pitchforks. There is no shortage of them, and there is no doubt that your militia army would vastly outnumber your foe.
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Or you could pay for a fierce mercenary army whose soldiers have studied combat and warfare their entire lives. It is a much smaller force, but one with the latest weapons and is well versed in battlefield tactics.
Not much of a choice.
Perhaps you could choose from the seven armies listed below — who have been legendary throughout history. We acknowledge them with the full understanding that our list is subjective and that other armies could have been easily included.
The Ninja has had such an indelible reputation in our society that many products today use the term ‘Ninja’ in their product name. What is often overlooked is the fact that they were the masters of sabotage and stealth.
The Ninja began as peasants who were explicitly trained to confront the marauding Samurai¹. However, over time their warrior skills became legendary. They were exceptionally skilled at assassinations.
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They are best known for using blowguns, Ninja stars, Kanata like swords, and kusarigama. And since they became so adept at striking from the shadows of the night with ferocity and precision, they were greatly feared. The Ninja was also extremely skilled martial artists and were known for their rigorous training regimen.
Many people considered the Mongols as savages and barbarians. They exerted supreme domination over Asia and Europe during their reign². They were best known for their prowess on horseback, and many see them as the greatest Calvary in history.
Perhaps the primary reason for their legendary reputation was their leader, Genghis Kahn. Many historians believe Kahn to be among the great military commanders ever to exist. He demanded devotion, discipline, and excellence from his soldiers.
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The Mongols masterfully used composite bows capable of ripping through most armor, and there were also skilled with scimitars and lances. Their fierce reputation allowed them to use intimidation and psychological warfare effectively. As a result, they built the largest empire the world has ever seen — in terms of landmass.
The Apache were often seen as American Ninjas³. They, too, were skilled at stealth tactics and often sneaked up behind enemies and slit their throats. The Apache were amazingly effective warriors who often used simple primitive weapons made from bone and wood.
They mastered the use of the knife and were legendary knife fighters. Other weapons they used skillfully were the throwing ax and the tomahawk.
For many years, the Apache terrorized the white people who ‘invaded’ the southwestern region of the United States. Even the US army struggled with them — despite having superior weaponry and numbers. They excelled at hit and run tactics, and their attacks were quite effective. Today, many of their descendants are teaching special forces on how to conduct hand to hand combat.
When you build one of the most powerful Empires in all of history, you must have a superior fighting force. This is what the Roman Legion was to the Roman Empire⁴. It was the backbone of everything the Romans accomplished.
The Roman army comprised heavy infantry who used armor and a shield — much like the ancient Greeks. Their soldiers were taught to be masters of both the spear and the sword in combination with their shields.
The Romans spared no expense when it came to outfitting their soldiers. But perhaps the most compelling aspect about the Roman Legion was its discipline. It was not unusual for a Roman force to destroy an opposing army three times its size. They were incredibly trained to work as a unit.
Because of their legendary reputation, the Samurai is still very well known today. They served as the official knights of Japan and welded the katana sword better than anyone⁵. They were heavily armed when entering battle and conflict and were more than willing to die for their cause.
You could always expect the Samurai to have the sharpest swords. Legend has it that their swords could easily cut an opponent in half.
The Samurai were also well versed in using the yumi bow and among the most accurate archers in the ancient world. Their lives were 100% dedicated to warfare and battlefield tactics. They were subjected to harsh training and fought each day with their honor at stake.
The Vikings were seen as the terror of Europe. Like the Mongols, they benefited greatly from intimidation as they were the most feared warriors of the medieval world⁶. They were solely devoted to raiding, raping, and pillaging — and Europe was their playing field.
The Vikings’ reputation was well earned as they were ferocious in battle and employed destructive weapons like axes, clubs, and spiked hammers — which complimented their stature. They were physically bigger than average men, and they were also meaner than average men. The most fearful thing about them was that they were beholden to no man or country.
Even the Viking religion was dedicated to war, as they believed that death on the battlefield only meant that you would rise up to fight in the afterlife. This belief was reflected in their conduct as soldiers because they were known to destroy everything in their path.
The culture of the Spartans was devoted to training men for warfare for their entire life⁷. As boys, Spartan soldiers would begin harsh training to mold them into an invincible fighting force. Very few nations have demanded as much from their soldiers.
The Spartans were famous for telling their soldiers to ‘come back with the shield or on top of it’ — in other words, claim a victory at all costs. Their soldiers were taught to become masters of using their spear and shield in combination. Their methods were so effective that many future armies (such as the Romans) mimicked them.
The Spartans were well-known for instilling toughness in their soldiers. One of the biggest demonstrations of bravery and grit was how the three hundred Spartans famously stood against the mighty Persians at the battle of Thermopylae.
: Kallie Szczepanski. (July 18, 2019). The History of Japanese Ninjas. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-ninja-195811.
: Dattatreya Mandal. (January 25, 2019). Mongols: The Armies, Organization, Armor, And Tactics. https://www.realmofhistory.com/2019/01/25/mongols-nomads-largest-land-empire/.
: Kathy Weiser. (April 2020). Apache — The Fiercest Warriors in the Southwest. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-apache/.
: KnowtheRomans.co.uk. Roman Legion. https://www.knowtheromans.co.uk/roman-army/roman-legions/.
: Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Samurai: Japanese Warrior. https://www.britannica.com/topic/samurai.
: History.com. (November 4, 2009). Vikings. https://www.history.com/topics/exploration/vikings-history.
: Plarium.com. (May 30, 2019). The Spartan Warrior, Who Were They? https://plarium.com/en/blog/the-spartan-warrior/.