Call me basic, but I've done my fair share of learning about military history. While it's definitely not my favorite subject, it still has some really interesting events that are very understudied. Here are 5 of those battles you may not have heard of but will certainly pique your interest!
1. Battle of Alesia
Starting off strong with the Battle of Alesia, this is often called Julius Caesar's greatest victory. And yeah, this is the guy who is famous for winning battles against the odds all the time, so it's kind of a big deal. Basically, Caesar had surrounded some Gauls in a fortress on a hill but knew they had lots of reinforcements coming, so he could not siege the fortress; if he stayed, he'd be facing an attack from the reinforcements in the rear and an attack from the front by the Gauls on the hill. Caesar took this sticky situation and turned it to his advantage: he built a fort around the fort. He surrounded the Gaul's fortress on the hill with his own that completely surrounded it, forcing the Gauls to be the attackers and lay siege to him rather than the other way around. This truly brilliant and unorthodox strategy allowed Caesar to win the day and actually won him his first Triumph.
2. Great Siege of Malta
The Great Siege of Malta was a dramatic confrontation between the Ottoman Empire and the united forces of the Holy League that were drawn from across Catholic Europe. It's also the story of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds and extreme bravery by the defenders. The Ottomans were kind of this specter haunting much of early modern Europe, as they seemed to be invincible and quickly conquered a lot of land in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The Ottomans would land 40,000 soldiers on the island of Malta to remove the Knights' Hospitallers who had made it their home base for several decades, and who only had 6,000 to defend it. The Siege lasted for months and eventually resulted in an Ottoman defeat due to reinforcements from the Holy League - it marked the first time the Ottomans had ever been defeated and showed the capabilities of the resilient Maltese defenders.
3. Battle of Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino is probably the most unreal-sounding battle on this list for one reason: Corporal Wojtek (pronounced 'voy-tek'). Wojtek was unusual since he was not a human, but actually a bear. Let me explain just this Syrian brown bear made it all the way to fight in Italy. After Poland had been defeated and occupied during World War II, a few Polish divisions were able to escape across the Soviet border and march all the way to Iran with the intent of linking up with the British and French in the Middle East so they could continue to fight against Germany. One such Polish division traded some of their chocolate ration to a young Iranian boy they met while traveling in exchange for the bear cub and they raised him to be a friendly helpful bear, which is definitely the most adorable thing to come out of the Second World War. Anyways, when this Polish division was deployed to aid the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, Wojtek came with them. When the division was under fire and could not move to resupply, Wojtek came to the rescue and actually carried crates of ammunition and artillery shells to the soldiers! To this day, the Emblem of the company is still a bear carrying an artillery shell to honor Corporal Wojtek