There is a lot of them isn’t there?
I’m trying to do what Creasy did and narrow down what I think are the most decisive battles in history. As you can imagine, a lot of problems with that process.
Am I giving preference to clashes of macro-historical importance or more contemporary significance? How many spaces go for battles where technology is the notable factor? Should I only allow one battle per war? What era gets neglected?
For now, this is what I have, in chronological order:
Marathon (490 BC) – The Greeks beat the Persians for the first time, proving they can do it. Major significance in the use of hoplite infantry.
Zama (202 BC) – Ensured Roman victory in the Punic Wars, making them the sole great power in the Mediterranean.
Pharsalus (48 BC) – Led to the dominance of Ceasar in Rome and, by extension, his heirs. No other battle in that time period did more to usher in the Empire.
Alaric’s Sack of Rome (410) – Did not signal the death knell of the Romans, but was the most obvious proof of their decline. Never the same power afterward.
Hastings (1066) – Radically altered England on nearly every level. The end of Saxon dominance of the isles.
Hattin (1187) – The decisive battle of the Crusades. Allowed the easy re-capture of Jerusalem by Islam, and insured the Crusader Kingdoms could never regain their former strength.
Ain Julut (1260) – The first major stumbling block in the Mongol conquests, stopping the previously invincible tide.
Crecy (1346) – Major English victory in the Hundred Years War, that saw the beginning of the end for the chivalric mounted knight class.
Orleans (1429) – The reverse of the above, the rallying cry of France.
Gravelines (1588) – Saved England from Spanish invasion and began her dominance of the waves, something that would remain until 1944/45.
Vienna (1683) – One of biggest defeats the Ottomans ever suffered at European hands, ending their advances westwards. Also had the biggest cavalry charge in history.
Valmy (1792) – Before, Revolutionary France was a weakling waiting to be gutted. After, everyone took them seriously.
Cowpens (1781) – No other battle did more to ensure American independence.
Borodino (1812) – The losses suffered meant Napoleon could never achieve his ambitions of conquering Russia.
Waterloo (1815) – The end of the Great French Wars and Napoleon.
Hampton Roads (1862) – The first clash of Ironclads and the dawn of a new age in naval warfare.
Wilderness/Spotsylvania (1864) – Forget Gettysburg. These interconnected clashes did far more to defeat the Confederacy.
Sedan (1870) – With victory here, the French Empire was defeated, the German Empire proclaimed and the major seeds of World War One sown.
Tsushima (1905) – Small, brave boats could defeat larger opponents. Huge influence on contemperary battle tactics.
The Marne (1914) – The halt of the German advance saved France and the entire war effort…and led to four years of bloody stalemate.
The (Second) Somme (1916) – In my opinion, no other battle of the last century has done more to affect the public perception of war.
Madrid (1936) – The first large-scale aerial bombardment of a city, something that is now the norm of urban military operations.
Pearl Harbor (1941) – The first major proof that the Aircraft carrier was now king of the waves. Awoke the sleeping giant of America, paving the way for its role as a superpower.
Stalingrad (1943) – The major turnaround of Nazi Germany, and the bloodiest battle in human history.
Aside from there not being many candidates, I choose to not include battles post-1945. Not enough time has passed to judge their historical impact.
I will whittle these choices down to a more manageable number, but I ask you, the reader, am I right? Have I left out something? Do you disagree with my assessment? Please, let me know.