Historians are having a difficult time in deciding whether a prolonged war is considered a single, continuous armed conflict or multiple consecutive wars. However, they do agree that some wars lasted for very long periods of time and took a significant death toll. In memory of what should never happen again, this is a list of the longest wars ever fought in recorded history.
Also see: 10 Deadliest Epidemics in Human History
10. The Vietnam War
Duration: 19 years (1955–1975)
Despite the fact that the Vietnam War had no official war declaration, the bloody event by all means was a full-scale war. In November 1, 1955, the United States began providing military support to some newly formed forces in South Vietnam to help them fight the communist-controlled government that is backed by the Soviets and the Chinese.
It wasn’t until 1963 that the fighting in Vietnam got really out of hand. The Vietnam War officially ended on April 30, 1975 with the last American soldier leaving Saigon.
9. The Great Northern War
Duration: 21 years (1700–1721)
This war was between Russian, ruled by Peter the Great at that time and the Swedish Empire, ruled by Charles XII, each with different allies fighting on their side. Fighting countries included Denmark, Norway, Poland Lithuania, the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain.
With Russia winning the war, the outcome had a drastic impact on the balance of power in Europe. The role of Sweden in Europe was reduced drastically with Russia gaining more influence over the continent.
8. The First Punic War
Duration: 23 years (264–241 BC)
This ancient war was the first of three wars between the Roman Republic and its arch enemy, the powerful North African city of Carthage. The reason behind this war was controlling important trade routes around the Mediterranean Sea. Controlling the island of Sicily was one of the major aspects of the dispute. The First Punic War ended by the victory of Rome and the destruction of Carthage.
7. The Aceh War
Duration: 31 years (1873–1904)
This war was between the Dutch and what is Indonesia today. The war was part of the Dutch efforts to strengthen their rule of their East Indies colony. The Dutch attacked the independent island in order to take control of the region’s black pepper industry.
Despite the Dutch managing to capture the capital of Kutaraja in 1874 and declaring victory, the war dragged on for 31 years with guerilla tactics being used intensively by the Indonesians. The war witnessed many atrocities committed by the Dutch forces, destroying so many villages and killing their civilian inhabitants.
6. The Peloponnesian War
Duration: 27 years (431–404 BC)
This war took place when Greece was still divided into smaller cities that went to war with each other. The war was between the powerful city of Athens and on the other side was the Peloponnesian Coalition. This coalition was made of allied states led by Sparta was set on destroying Athens. The war raged for 27 years in the area of southern Greece and reaching or the way to western Turkey. Athens lost the war and with it its domination over the region.
5. The Wars of the Roses
Duration: 30 years (1455–1485)
A real life Game of Thrones. This war was fought over the right to the English throne. The fight was between two royal houses claiming the throne: The House of Lancaster, whose symbol was a red rose and the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose. Despite the roses, this war was as ugly as any other war, and more.
Over the war’s 30 year duration, the throne has seen three kings. Kings dispatched from the throne at this time were mostly murdered one way or another. After the end of the war, a marriage between Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster and Elizabeth of the House of York resulted in the House of Tudor which ruled the country for a hundred years.
4. The Thirty Years' War
Duration: 30 years (1618–1648)
This bloody European war had a very bizarre start. On May 23, 1618 an angry Protestant mob stormed the royal castle of Prague and threw three members of the Catholic out of the castle window! Miraculously, all three members survived the fall. This event was the flare for Protestant rebellion all across the region that has spread to the rest of Europe resulting in a major war.
The battling countries in this bloody brawl were the Holy Roman Empire on one side with Sweden, Denmark and France on the other. The war ended with the Holy Roman Empire losing the war, and numerous people losing their lives.
3. The Guatemalan Civil War
Duration: 36 years (1960–1996)
After right-wing’s colonel Carlos Castillo Armas successful coup d’état against the democratically elected government of Guatemala, the company fell into a 36 year deadly chaos. For this entire duration, war between the military and left wing guerrilla groups wreaked havoc on the country.
During the time of the war, the military has kidnapped, tortured and killed many people, mostly civilian activists opposing the coup. The death toll of the National Police forces alone was estimated at 50,000, many of which have not been found till this day.
2. The Greco-Persian Wars
Duration: 38 years (between 499–449 BC)
A war between the two largest powers of the ancient world is sure to be a lengthy conflict, and a lengthy conflict it was. This war that took part over the period of 38 years was mainly a fight over territory making this the second longest war in history.
With attacks and counter-attacks taking part between the then-powerful nations, the war dragged on for deadly before the Greeks ending it in their favor.
1. The Hundred Years' War
Duration: 116 years (1337– 1453)
Despite what the names implies, The Hundred Years’ War didn’t last for 100 years, it lasted for 116 years! This war was between England and France over English-controlled territory and the control of the French throne. After more than a century of bloodshed, the French won the war and reclaimed their territory. This is hands down the longest war in the history of mankind.
Regardless of the reasons behind the, wars have one thing in common: being absolutely useless. All of those were lost in vain. Perhaps such a list can be a reminder for people of what war can do and how all sides, even the victorious, have indeed lost.
Also see: 10 Famous Political Assassinations