The history of war goes back thousands of years. Some of the earliest known wars took place in Egypt and Sumer around 3000 BC. The so-called Warring States period in China (476-221 BC) united this country. Alexander the Great conquered empires through a series of battles around 330 BC.
While some of these early wars probably claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, modern warfare, with larger armies and more advanced weaponry, has driven the death toll much higher. The deadliest battle in world history, however, took place around 762 years ago, when the Mongols and their allies rampaged, killing perhaps up to 2 million people.
In terms of global warfare, World War II killed the most people of any conflict in history. During its journey, an estimated 70 million people died, mostly civilians. However, it should be considered that there are “wars within wars” – individual battles – which are often particularly deadly and decisive. Among the best known of these is the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1 to July 3, 1863. It helped the Union turn the tide against the Confederacy. (These are the deadliest battles in US history.)
The lethality of a war and the battles that take place in it often depends on the evolution of weapons. What is called “modern warfare” began around the year 1800. It was characterized by the widespread use of gunpowder and heavy weapons, including cannons. The first of these modern conflicts were the Napoleonic Wars (1803 to 1815). These had another feature. They were fought over large geographical areas that included several nations.
A more recent, but major, change in warfare tactics has been the use of aircraft as weapons. Aircraft were not widely used until World War I, but eventually evolved to the point of being able to level entire cities, which first happened in World War II. (These are the greatest battles of World War II.)
To determine the deadliest battles in world history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed The deadliest battles in human history of the World Atlas.
The deadliest battle in modern times took place in what is now western Ukraine during World War I – the so-called Brusilov Offensive, which pitted the Russian Empire against the combined forces of the empires German, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian (the Russians were victorious). This three and a half month struggle claimed the lives of 1.6 million people.
Even more devastating, however, was the sack of Baghdad in the 13th century, in what is now Iraq, by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan, aided by Armenian, Georgian and Persian forces. By invading the city, capital of the Abbasid Islamic Caliphate, the Mongols massacred up to 2 million people, mostly civilians.
Here are the 10 deadliest battles in history