Even the shortest of wars can last a long time for the parties involved. Unfortunately for those involved in the conflicts listed below, they had to endure such turmoil for dozens or even centuries. In some, soldiers fought their entire lives in a war they would never see decided, even when it had begun prior to their births!
10. Karen Conflict (1949-present; 67 years in progress)
The Karen conflict is the longest civil war in the world, started in 1949 and is still ongoing. The Karen conflict concerns the Karen people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Southeast Asia, who have been fighting for their own separate Karen Country in Myanmar (Burma) for centuries. The two main participants in this civil war are the Karen National Union and the Burmese Tatmadaw. The first is a political organization of the Karen people, equipped with an armed wing (the Karen National Liberation Army) and the Tatmadaw with Myanmar’s official military organization. The conflict is mainly fought in the Karen State of Myanmar, which was established by the Burmese government in 1952. The conflict has resulted in thousands of casualties over the years and has caused many Karen to flee to neighbouring countries of their own.
9. Dutch War for Independence (1568-1648; 80 years)
The Eighty Years ‘ War, also called the Dutch revolt, spanned a period of 80 years between 1568 and 1648. The period was marked by the revolt of the seventeen provinces in the Netherlands against the Spanish King. By the beginning of the Uprising, The King’s forces managed to subdue the rebels and suppress the rebellion. However, the rebellion grew stronger and in 1572 the rebels captured Brielle, which meant a major defeat for Spain. Finally, in 1648, the seventeen provinces achieved independence as the United Provinces of the Netherlands, also known as the Republic.
8. Seleucid-Parthia War (238 BCE – 129 BCE; 109 years)
The Seleucid-Parthian War involved a series of conflicts between the Seleucid Empire of Persia and the state of Parthia, resulting in the eventual expulsion of the former from its base to Persia and the establishment of a Parthian Empire. At first, the Seleucid Empire stretched from Syria to the Indus river. Maintaining such a vast kingdom was not easy and the Seleucids constantly faced problems from both the Hellenistic States in the west and Iranian people in the east. Taking advantage of the turmoil, two Seleucid Satraps, those of Bactria and Parthia, declared their outlying provinces as independent states. However, Parthia was in turn invaded by the Iranian Parni tribes from Central Asia in 238 BCE, who then took control of the country and referred to themselves as the Parthians. The Seleucids, who were too busy fighting Ptolemaic Egypt at the time, lost large parts of their territory east of Persia and Media at the hands of the Parthians.
However, Antiochus III, an ambitious Seleucid king, was ready to reclaim the lost territories of his ancestral Empire and began a campaign against the Parthians in 209 BCE. In doing so, Antiochus III managed to defeat them, reducing them to vassal status in their original conquered province of Parthia. However, the Seleucids began to lose control of the country when Antiochus was defeated by the Romans at the battle of Magnesia. Parthia now came under the power of the Arsacids, and the new Parthian king now began to conquer Seleucid lands. In 139 BCE, the Seleucids were defeated in a major battle with the Parthians, ending with the conquest of the Seleucid King Demetrius II, and thus the Parthians as the new rulers of the region.
7. Plantagenet-Valois / hundred years ‘ war (1337-1453; 116 years)
The Hundred Years ‘ War was a protracted conflict fought between two royal houses that claimed to be the rightful candidates for the French throne. The war was caused by the extinction of the older Capetian line of French kings, effectively leaving the French throne. The two main contenders for the throne were the House of Plantagenet (or House of Anjou) and the rival House of Valois. The first were the rulers of 12th century England and had originally belonged to the French regions in Anjou and Normandy.
While the Plantagenets claimed to be the combined rulers of England and France, the House of Valois also claimed to be the rulers of the Kingdom of France. Five generations of Kings from these two rival dynasties fought for the French throne between 1337 and 1453, with heights of victory and chivalry on both sides. At the end of this war, Joan of Arc played an important role in reviving the Valois dynasty.
She inspired a fighting spirit in Charles, The Disinherited Valois Prince, and made way for him to be crowned after her efforts helped lift the English siege of Orleans, the traditional site of coronations of the Valois dynasty. Seized by the English, Joan was detained and found guilty of Witchcraft and then burned at the stake in 1431. Joan’s efforts were not lost, however, and Charles was able to withhold his kingdom. Subsequently, by 1453, the English troops were forced to retreat from France.
6. Byzantine-Ottoman (1265-1479; 214 years)
The Byzantine-Ottoman wars were a decisive series of battles that spanned a long period of 214 years between 1265 and 1479. This war ultimately caused the demise of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the former territories of the Byzantine. By 1204, the Byzantine capital of Constantinople was occupied by the fourth Crusaders. The Sultanate of Rum took this opportunity to conquer Byzantine territory in Asia Minor. However, in 1261 Constantinople was taken over by the Nicaean empire from the Latin Empire.
The Byzantine Empire continued to face threats from a number of enemies throughout this period and one of the greatest threats was posed by a Turkish Bey named Osman I, who himself went down in history as the founder of the Ottoman Empire. Osman I first declared that he was Sultan of the Ottoman Beylik and that 1380 had conquered Thrace from the Byzantines. By 1400, the Byzantine Empire was reduced to extremely small territories of the original vast kingdom of the Byzantines and, by 1479, with the conclusion of the Byzantine-Ottoman Wars, Ottoman supremacy was well established in the eastern Mediterranean.
5. Byzantine-Seljuq (1048-1308; 260
The Byzantine-Seljuk Wars included a series of battles over a period of 260 years that led to a shift of powers from the Byzantine Empire to the Seljuk Turks in the regions of Asia Minor and Syria, and the emergence of an era of the Crusades. After the capture of Baghdad in 1055, the Turks expanded their kingdom westward and in 1064 conquered the Seljuk Sultan, Alp Arslan, Armenia from the Byzantines. In 1067, when the Turks attempted to invade Asia Minor, they were pushed back by a Byzantine counterattack.
However, the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 proved to be a major victory for the Seljuk Turks, as they managed to defeat the Byzantine forces and capture the Byzantine emperor himself. Despite this great victory, Byzantine rule over Asia Minor continued and it took another 20 years for the Turks to gain full control of the Anatolian peninsula. The call for the First Crusade was made when the Seljuk Turks captured Jerusalem. Within a hundred years of the Battle of Manzikert, the first crusades drove the Seljuks from the coasts of Asia Minor, and the Byzantines successfully regained some form of control over parts of their lost territories. The following crusades, however, did the Byzantines more harm than good, as the Crusaders, often ignoring or disrespecting their allies, also frequently sacked Byzantine cities and towns.
4. Arauco War (1536-1818; 282 years)
The Arauco war was one of the longest wars in the history of the world, lasting 282 years from 1536 to 1818. In their attempts to dominate South America, the Spanish repeatedly attempted to colonize the Mapuche people, the indigenous inhabitants of the region. In 1536, while the Spanish thoroughly explored the Strait of Magellan, the Mapuche refused to allow them to go further and attack the small Spanish army. Although outnumbered, the Spanish were well equipped with more advanced weapons that allowed them to kill large numbers of Mapuche and force the survivors to retreat.
The battles continued in the future and the Mapuche managed to maintain their independence, mainly due to the natural barriers that the region offered. However, despite the battles, trade exchanges were also established between both sides. During the Chilean War of Independence, the Spanish were defeated by the Chileans and Spanish rule in Chile was completely ousted, effectively ending the war between the Mapuches and the Spanish. However, the Mapuches opposed this transfer of power and their worst fears proved to be true when the new nation of Chile also used force and diplomacy to drive the Mapuches from their territory, leading to many deaths from starvation and disease, and crippling economic losses.
3. Dutch-Scilly War (1651-1986; 335 years)
One of the longest and even strangest wars in our world history, characterized by a complete absence of battles and bloodshed, is known as the three hundred and thirty-five years ‘ war. The conflict began on March 30, 1651, as a byproduct of the English Civil War. The Dutch, Old allies of England, decided to side with the MPs. The Royalists, with whom the Dutch had formerly had friendly relations, regarded this as a betrayal and, in their anger, invaded Dutch shipping as a punishment for their treacherous friends. However, by 1651 the Royalists had been driven from all of England except for a small group of islands, namely the ‘Isles of Scilly’. The Dutch, who had suffered trading losses at the hands of the Royalists, decided to teach them a lesson themselves by sending their naval forces into the area to threaten the Royalists.
Orders were also given to the Dutch commander Tromp to declare war if the Royalists did not cough up money. Subsequently, according to the most common story, the Royalists refused the money, forcing Tromp to declare war. The greatly reduced Royalist forces and the chances of poor profits from them caused Tromp to rescind his quest for engagement and return without a fighting paradise taking place. Soon the Royalists surrendered to the parliamentarians, and the Dutch had essentially forgotten that they had declared war. More than 3 centuries later, a local historian, Roy Duncan, stumbled upon a historical footnote in Scilly about the war, and he invited the Dutch ambassador to Britain to visit Scilly and negotiate an armistice. The peace treaty was signed on april 17, 1986, ending the ‘false war’ between the Dutch and the Isles of Scilly.
2. Persian-Roman Wars (92 BCE – 629 CE; 721 years)
The Roman Persian wars were a series of wars that took place over a period of 721 years between the Roman world and two successive Iranian Empires, namely the Parthians and the Sassanids. The first battle of this war is brewing in 92 BCE when the Roman Republic fought with the Parthians. After the cessation of hostilities with the Parthians, the Romans continued their struggle against the next Iranian empire to face them, that of the Sassanids.
The war was ended by the raids of the Arab Muslims in 629 CE, which devastated both the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid Empire. Throughout the prolonged war between the Persians and Romans, the frontier remained largely stable, while cities, fortresses, and provinces near the frontiers were continually conquered and reconquered by these two sets of warring rival empires. However, the war had devastating economic consequences for both the Romans and the Persians (both Parthian and then Sassanid), and as such made each extremely vulnerable to the sudden attacks of being hit by the Arab Muslims.
1. Iberian religious wars (711-1492; 781 years)
The Iberian religious wars, or the’ Reconquista’, was a period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula (including modern Spain and Portugal) that extended around 781 years, from 711 to 1492. The period marked by a long series of struggles between the Christian kingdoms and the Muslim Moors for control of the peninsula.
In 711, the Moors, Muslims living in the region of North Africa and now part of Morocco and Algeria, crossed the Mediterranean and gradually made their way to Europe, establishing their own territories wherever and whenever possible. The real beginning of the Reconquista in full force was marked by the Battle of Covadonga in 718 when the Christian King Pelayo of the Visigoths defeated the approaching Muslim army in Alcama. Over the following centuries, a series of battles were fought between the Christians and the moors, with victories and losses on both sides. In the final years of the Reconquista, the Catholic Church recognized the war as a ‘holy war’ similar to the Crusades, and several military orders of the church also participated in the war.
Finally, by the 1400s, the Moors had only a few territories that remained under their rule. In 1469, a historic marriage between King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile marked the end of the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula as the United Forces of Ferdinand and Isabella fought the Moors. They were successful in reconquering Grenada from them in 1492, thus ending the Reconquista.