9. Genghis Khan
Born around 1162 not far from the contemporary capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator, Genghis Khan’s family were nomadic tribespeople. After his father was poisoned by a rival tribe, Genghis Khan’s family was left destitute and survived by hunting and foraging. Worse came when he was captured and enslaved, but he escaped and in time came to be the greatest of the Mongol warriors.
His great achievement was to unite the warring tribes of Mongolia and to turn them into the formidable force that rode across the steppes sweeping all before them. Probably his most outstanding victory came at the Battle of Yehuling in 1211 when he routed the army of the Chinese Jin dynasty. This precipitated the empire’s collapse.
8. Julius Caesar
Perhaps the best known Roman of them all, Julius Caesar was born into an aristocratic family in 100 B.C. Caesar was only 16 when his father died, thrusting him into the position of head of the family. It was a turbulent time in Rome with civil war smoldering. Caesar fell victim to a rival faction and lost his inheritance and the priesthood he’d been endowed with. But losing his career as a priest left him free to follow a path in politics as well as in the military.