Top 10 Longest Battles in Human History
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Jordy McKen
These are history's most grueling battles. For this list, we'll be looking at some of the longest-lasting battles to have taken place. Our countdown includes The Battle of Verdun, Siege of Leningrad, Siege of Candia, and more!
Top 10 Longest Battles in All History
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Longest Battles in All History.
For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the longest-lasting battles to have taken place. We won’t be looking at wars or campaigns, just single battles that rolled on for a long time.
Which empire or nation was the most dominant in your view? Let us know below!
#10: The Battle of Verdun
Two years into World War One, its longest and most intense battle happened in Verdun-sur-Meuse (vare-dun sur meuse), France. When Germany first approached to take Verdun, they expected it to be a quick and easy skirmish. But that's not what they got. Although the Germans fired two million shells at France within just the first eight hours, they were met with a resolute French resistance that lasted nearly ten months. Throughout, the two armies kept trading possession of key locations within Verdun. It looked like anyone would win this fight. In the end, France came out the victors in this battle. Altogether, around 800,000 soldiers from both sides were ultimately slain, injured, or missing.
#9: Siege of Constantinople
The second Siege of Constantinople occurred during the Arab–Byzantine wars that kicked off in 629. On one side, the Byzantine Empire was defending its capital city. On the other side was the Umayyad Caliphate (oo-MY-yid calli-fate), which had been sweeping up Byzantine territories for two decades. Now they saw the perfect opportunity to wipe out the Empire and take over. However, the Umayyad failed to cut off Constantinople's supply line completely as the sea was still controlled by the Byzantines. Soon, the Arabs were hit by famine and disease. Plus, they were attacked by the Bulgar Khanate (BUL-grr KAWN-nate) while the city rolled on. After a year of battle, the Umayyads left, bringing about the end of the first wave of the Arab–Byzantine wars, too.
#8: Siege of Leningrad
World War Two saw one of the longest and most devastating battles when the German military, the Wehrmacht (VARE-mocked), disregarded a nonaggression pact and took on the Red Army in Russia. The Wehrmacht took Leningrad by surprise, causing many civilians to take up arms. But with their experience, the Wehrmacht was gaining ground quickly. Eventually, more Red Army soldiers arrived to hold them back, and trench warfare took over. However, the city was cut off from supplies, and famine ran rampant. In the end, up to two million people are thought to have perished in this siege, both civilians and soldiers. In early 1944, Red Army reinforcements arrived and broke through the German line, ending the siege after two years and four months.
#7: Siege of Ostend
During both the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo–Spanish War, the Spanish Empire wanted the port of Ostend in present-day Belgium from the Dutch Republic. With a massive stack of Spanish reinforcements, it was likely that Ostend would struggle with their small garrison. But the English supported the Dutch, with Sir Francis Vere (veer) leading the defenders. Thanks to being supplied by sea, Ostend managed to keep fighting. So much so that this battle was nicknamed “New Troy." Spain had to build a tunnel under the city to strike and overwhelm Ostend forces, bringing the siege to an end after three years. Altogether, there were around 100,000 casualties.
#6: Siege of Carthage
As the Third Punic War began in 149 B.C.E, so did this long battle. Carthage was the capital of the Ancient Carthage, an empire based in modern Tunisia. After losing the previous war against the Roman Republic, Carthage was forced to sign a peace treaty. With the Roman allies, the Numidians, regularly stealing from them, the Carthaginians broke the treaty and attacked, forcing the Romans to step in. The Carthaginians tried to reason with them and gave up their arms. But the Romans wanted more and the Carthaginians prepared for battle. After three years, the Romans finally broke into the capital and won. Some estimates say that 450,000 Carthaginians perished, while the 50,000 survivors were enslaved.
#5: The Battle of the Atlantic
Shortly after World War Two was declared, the Battle of the Atlantic got underway. This was the longest single fight in the war, and it involved gaining control of the Atlantic sea routes. This area was vital for supplying the U.K, in particular. Over the years, the tide of the battle shifted between the Allies and the Axis powers. With the addition of aircraft carriers and a new mortar charge to deal with German u-boats, the Allies eventually took control of the battle. After five years and eight months, this sea-fight finally ended when the whole war did. There were over 100,000 casualties altogether.
#4: Siege of Veii
By 405 B.C.E, the Romans and the Etruscans had been fighting on and off for centuries, and it all came to a head when the Romans attacked the city of Veii. Most of what we know about the battle comes from the Roman historian Livy, who was born centuries later. The siege was slow to start with. The Romans arrived, were unsuccessful, went away for a bit, then returned with more equipment and reinforcements. By 396 B.C.E, Marcus Furius Camillus (cuh-MILL-iss), known as the Second Founder of Rome, took over command. He instructed his soldiers to build a tunnel into Veii, where the Romans finally overwhelmed their forces after nine years. The surviving inhabitants were enslaved, and the Romans began populating the city.
#3: Fall of Philadelphia
This vital battle turned into a key victory during the Byzantine–Ottoman wars. Philadelphia, located in modern Turkey, was the last independent Greek Christian settlement in Anatolia and was operated by the Byzantine Empire. Philadelphia had survived the fate of other similar settlements due to its remote location. However, the Ottoman Empire was now ready to capture it. Just before this, the Ottomans had turned the Byzantine into a vassal state after helping with a civil war. The Byzantines at Philadelphia didn’t know this. So, they continued battling the Ottomans. But by 1390, twelve years after the siege began, the Ottomans showed the defenders the new emperors of Byzantine and they laid down their arms. By 1453, the Byzantine Empire was no more.
#2: Siege of Candia
Shortly after the Cretan War started in 1645, the Ottomans quickly began taking over cities on the island of Crete. Only the capital of Candia was left. However, the Ottomans faced the combined forces of the Republic of Venice, the Knights of Malta, and France. But by 1669, France’s forces pulled out after losing their leader, François de Vendôme, and one of their best warships. With barely anyone left to defend Candia, the Venetians surrendered after 21 years of fighting. Altogether, there were nearly 150,000 casualties. But, even though they won, historians see the huge financial expense of the long siege by the Ottomans as a catalyst in their eventual downfall.
#1: Sieges of Ceuta
At the time, Ceuta was a Spanish stronghold in North Africa, having just left Portugal’s hands a few years prior. However, right next door was Morocco, and they wanted the city. With the blessing of their new sultan, Moulay Ismail Ibn Sharif (mao/mau-LAY iss-my-EEL ibbin sha-REEF), they surrounded Ceuta. But it soon became a battle of attrition. By 1720, Spain managed to repel Morocco with the Marquis of Lede organizing them, ending the siege after 26 years. However, in 1721, the Marquis left Ceuta after a plague broke out. Morocco immediately began attacking again. With the passing of Moulay Ismail in 1727, Morocco left Cueta as a war for its throne erupted. Altogether, excluding the brief gap, Ceuta was under attack for 32 years.