The Conqueror

Mirror Archer: Great men are not peacemakers. Great men are conquerors!
Star Trek: Enterprise, "In A Mirror, Darkly"

Throughout history, there have been a few individuals who have had a marked personal effect on the course of events around them. Some did this through political or sometimes aesthetic means, but most of those who were single-handedly instrumental in deciding the path of history have been military leaders. It seems that certain men combine a rare set of natural traits - leadership ability, tactical thinking, staggering ambition, copious ego, and a large dose of suicidal bravery, all combined with a visionary drive to rule the world and the imagination to see it done - to create a whole individual who is patently capable of turning even a ragtag band of woefully underfed and poorly equipped vagabonds into a fighting force that is not only formidable but easily capable of crushing any opposition that stands before it.

A true Conqueror strives to claim the whole of the known world through military, and often succeeds. (Note that he often doesn't put much thought into running it once he's taken it; he just wants the bragging rights). This is in contrast to those characters who rise to universal power through other means (such as subverting the democratic process or literally being appointed dictator by a legislative body).

The easiest way to recognize this character is by what he manages to accomplish. If he doesn't take over two or three countries (at least) in the course of the story, he's not The Conqueror.

Most Conquerors are by nature Magnificent Bastards. Some even dip into Omnicidal Maniac territory. They are also their own Trope Namers. Quite often, these characters appear in the Backstory of a setting, and all that is left of their conquests is a Vestigial Empire.

Conqueror From The Future is a Sub-Trope of this when the Conqueror in question has, in fact, actually managed to conquer something. Galactic Conqueror and Young Conqueror are specific variants. Multiversal Conqueror is this trope taken to its logical extreme.

These fellows often get "The Conqueror" as a sobriquet—frequently one of many.


Anime and Manga
  • Lelouch of Code Geass tried and aimed for this. He didn't particularly need to be in control, of course.
    • By the Grand Finale, Lelouch conquers the ENTIRE PLANET by taking control of a near-indestructible flying fortress that fires super nukes, now manned by elite scientists that are mind controlled to be absolutely loyal to him. YAY. Then he dies intentionally but gives the empire to his little sister, so that's a happy end for everyone else.
  • Reign The Conqueror has Alexander the Great as the main character.

Comic Books
  • Marvel Comics has Kang the Conqueror, Rama Tut, the Scarlet Centurion and Immortus. The catch is that these are all actually the same guy: He's traveled through time so often, and created so many Alternate Timelines, that there is now an entire Legion of Doom called the Council of Kangs made up entirely of his own iterations. Immortus, it seems, is the original Kang, who is now a Boxed Crook: forced to spend eternity undoing the Continuity Snarl that is the Marvel universe thanks largely to him.

  • The Conqueror was a 1956 Biopic about the life of Genghis Khan, who by his death had taken over a whacking big chunk of Central Asia.

  • General Tacticus, from whose name the the word "tactics" is derived, was a famous Morporkian leader of the Discworld. Not only did he win countless wars for the Empire of the time, but when placed in command of a satellite city-state, he promptly did what he regarded as the best move in the interest of said state's defensive self-interest, and attacked Ankh-Morpork. And won, of course. He also famously wrote a book that is the Disc's equivalent of The Art of War, which is standard reference material for military leaders the Disc over.
  • Artur "Hawkwing" Paendrag of The Wheel of Time not only managed to take over the entire continent, but also ran it so well that "a child could carry a bag of gold from one coast to the other without fear", although his justice system became a bit draconian in later years. The only group he failed to conquer were the Aes Sedai, and possibly only because he died before his war against them was concluded. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the Vetinari Paradox, and his hard-won Empire collapsed soon after he died.
  • The Malloreon had Emperor Korzeth, who managed to unite his continent after their patron god and king, Torak, was felled (but not killed) in battle, spending his entire life in a series of bloody wars so that he could pass the empire on to his descendants. His ultimate descendant, Zakath, had aims to finish the job and take the whole planet, but his ambitions cooled over time.
  • Part of the irony in Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias is that the empire of the Great Conqueror Ozymandias is now nothing more than sand and ruins. The message being that all things pass away, even Empires.
  • Aegon the First, also called The Conqueror, in A Song of Ice and Fire, went from ruling a small volcanic island to ruling the better part of a continent in only a few years. Being a Dragon Rider helped.
  • Kieron in Steven Brust's Dragaera. In addition, Sethra the Younger is a wannabe The Conqueror, though she has not succeeded (yet).
  • Robert Asprin's Myth Conceptions introduces Big Julie, the general in charge of one of the largest armies anyone has ever seen. He's conquered a fair bit of the entire world by the time he's stopped by the heroes. Of course, he's a Captain Ersatz of Julius Caesar.
  • In the Back Story to the first Gor book, Marlenus, the Ubar of Ar, has captured the Home Stones of about a hundred other city-states, which in practical terms means those city-states are vassal to Ar. It is Tarl's assignment to steal Ar's Home Stone, thereby breaking their power.
  • In the distant backstory of Deep Secret, there's Koryfos, a pseudo-Alexander the Great who conquered entire universes. By the time of the story, his empire has dwindled and is on the verge of total collapse. Then he comes back at the end to fix it.
  • In the Black Company series, The Lady qualifies as this, having subjugated an entire continent. In the past, her husband The Dominator was even worse.
  • Rider in Fate/Zero is none other than Alexander the Great and is known by the additional title King of Conquerors.

Live-Action TV
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys'
    • In the "Armageddon Now" two-parter, Callisto's time travel leads to a changed timeline in which Hercules was never born, and thus never "unchained" Xena's heart. She ended up the cold and ruthless Conqueror. As the name implied, she brought most of Ancient Greece and the Mediterranean region under her boot.
    • Earlier that season, "Stranger In A Strange World" introduced a parallel universe where Hercules is a ruthless conqueror known as the Sovereign.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Abaddon takes on this role.

Tabletop Games
  • In the official setting for Champions, there's Istvatha V'han, "The Empress of a Billion Universes", an immortal time-travelling Dimension Lord who really has conquered a billion other dimensions.
  • Two major examples from the lore of Warhammer 40k:
    • The great human conqueror, Lord Commander Solar Macharius of the Imperium, who deliberately draws parallels to Alexander the Great, waged a seven year long Crusade to expand the borders of the Imperium, with the stated goal of creating the largest such campaign since the days of the Great Crusade (he succeeded, adding nearly a thousand worlds to the Imperial fold). His troops halted only because they had reached the edge of the Astronomican, which permits (mostly) safe Warp travel, although he was game to press onwards.
    • The great conqueror of the Rising Empire of the Tau, Shas'O'Shovah or Fire Commander Farsight. One of three foremost students of the legendary warmaster, Puretide, Farsight was the first Tau commander to claim major victories against both the Orks and the Imperium; he literally Wrote the Book on both foes, The Book of the Beast and the Mirrorcodex (after the Space Marines' Codex Astartes) respectively. After defending the nascent empire from the Imperium's invasion fleets in the Damocles Gulf Crusade, he spearheaded an assault back across the Gulf, conquering several Imperial worlds in quick succession before turning his attention to the Orks nearby and driving them from their worlds as well. During this time his Etheral "guides" were killed by enemy action, leaving him adrift and separate from the Empire's command structure, so he took direct control of his newly-conquered worlds and declared independence from the rest of the Tau to form the Farsight Enclaves, the first and only Tau known to do so.

Video Games
  • Most 4X games, by definition, involve the player trying to be this, or at least offer it as an option.
  • In Everlong, Emperor Daevus hopes to become this.
  • Lord Median the Conqueror from Soul Nomad & the World Eaters united the game's war torn world under his own rule.
  • Walhart of Fire Emblem Awakening may as well be the trope page provider, as he unified the warring states of Valm into a mighty empire through force prior to the events of the game. He now sets his eyes on the neighboring continent of Ylisse. His unique class is even called Conqueror and his special class skill "Conquest".

Web Original
  • The deceased emperor Verek kel Aldeos desperately wanted to be one of these. After spending nearly his entire reign at war, he still wasn't very close, though.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Hernán Cortés
  • Napoleon Bonaparte, who almost succeeded in uniting Europe under his rule, if it weren't for those pesky British and a bad winter in Russia.
  • Gaius Julius Caesar. So effective his name became a title for emperors after him.
  • Alexander the Great, who holds the record for most land personally conquered by a single individual.
  • Qin Shi Huangdi, the conqueror of "all under heaven" (i.e. China). Not only did he conquer, the empire (and the idea) of China that he founded continues to this day as a major world power more than 2,000 years later, unlike most other conquerors' handiwork.
  • Genghis Khan, who ruled an empire that made Alexander's look like a postage stamp (but who did not personally conquer all of said land). What's said above under Literature about Artur Hawkwing's realm is actually adapted from a boast Genghis Khan made: "A virgin with a bag of gold around her neck could walk naked from one end of my realm to another without being attacked."
  • King William I of England (better known as William the Conqueror), first battled to secure his claim on Normandy, then invaded England in 1066. While he really only conquered one small island, the impact of that one small conquest on world history cannot possibly be overstated.
    • Also, prior to being known as William The Conqueror, he was known as William the Bastard: his father, Robert I, Duke of Normandy, had no legitimate issue. William himself was Robert's son by his mistress, the daughter of a tanner (or burgher who owned a tannery, it's not clear) and the aforementioned battling to secure his claim was on account of the somewhat irregular succession of a bastard to the duchy. No doubt he really appreciated the switch in titles.
  • Charlemagne, King of the Franks and later the original Holy Roman Emperor.
  • During his reign (1479 - 1425 BC), Pharaoh Thutmose III conquered Northern Africa and the Middle East from Niy in north Syria to the fourth waterfall of the Nile in Nubia, the largest extent ever covered by the Egyptian empire.
  • Cyrus The Great created the Persian Empire by conquering pretty much every other civilization in Southwest Asia, the Near East, and the Middle East, from Anatolia to the Indus River. Furthermore, he was a savvy statesman able to give his empire a lasting stability by being generous to the conquered peoples enough to secure their loyalty. Cambyses and Darius, Cyrus's successors, added Egypt, parts of Greece and even more of India to Cyrus's empire.
  • Attila the Hun carved out an empire that stretched from Germany to the Ural River and from the Danube to the Baltic Sea.
  • Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon united Spain under their joint banners and drove the Muslims out of Western Europe. And then they subsidized an ocean voyage by some guy named Christopher Columbus. (Modern Spaniards like to give the credit to Ferdinand alone because Isabella was an icon of the Franco regime, but Isabella was a far more capable ruler and a better general to boot; while she was leading troops—often while pregnant—he was off porking his various mistresses before showing up after the battle to take credit.)
  • Suleiman the Magnificent: Under his rule, the Ottoman's controlled everything from Algeria to Iran and from Ethiopia to Hungary. In a bit of a departure from some of the other Conquerors here, Suleiman was also known for the great improvements he made to the administrative system of his country. While in the West he was Suleiman the Magnificent, in the East he was known as Suleiman the Lawgiver.
  • Adolf Hitler
    • He accomplished what Napoleon Bonaparte tried to do: he ruled a Europe united under one banner. Unsurprisingly, he was overthrown by the same factors (that is, not being able to conquer the British and, most importantly, violating Montgomery's Second Law of War: "Never march on Moscow."
    • Hitler also launched Operation Barbarossa, his invasion of the USSR, on the same day Napoleon had invaded Russia. Because we all know how well that turned out. It's possible that unexpected developments in the Balkans forced him to postpone the attack until the Wehrmacht had dealt with Yugoslavia and Greece. For extra Tempting Fate points, he planned the later phases of the war from Poltava, where Charles XII's invasion of Russia had failed.
  • Timur-I-Lenk (aka Tamerlane), who claimed descent from Genghis Khan, and united both the Chagatai Khantate and the Il-Khanate, as well as various other Central Asian states under one banner—his own. He also earned a reputation for brutality that was pretty much unsurpassed until the modern eras of fascism and communism, building pyramids of skulls from his slain enemies, and massacring entire cities. He was once quoted as saying "As there is only one God in Heaven, there should be only one ruler on Earth."
  • Harald Fairhair: First king of Norway.
  • Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, descended from Tamerlane on his father's side, and Genghis Khan on his mother's side, followed in both of their footsteps. Hailing from modern Uzbekistan, he lost his kingdom after a series of setbacks, only to assemble enough followers to invade India. Originally planning only to reclaim some of Tamerlane's old territories, Babur ended up overrunning almost every state on the subcontinent, setting up the Islamic Mughal Empire, which would outlast him by several hundred years.
  • The first conqueror we have records for was Sargon of Akkad, aka Sargon the Great, a Semitic ruler (and son of a royal gardener) who, after launching a coup d'etat in his home city-state of Akkad, overran every Semitic and Sumerian city-state in Iraq, creating the Akkadian Empire. Akkadia would outlast Sargon by one hundred fifty years, and he has gone down history as the man who invented the concept of empire.