This article discusses the historiography of the concept of "decisive battles" and tries to explain both its popularity and its present eclipse, focusing in particular on the ideological and aesthetic foundations of the concept. The article further considers whether the concept might still be useful for the writing of world history. It concludes that there is some merit in the traditional view of decisive battles as events that change the course of history and bring a signifi cant element of chaos into it. There is, however, less merit in the view of decisive battles as symbols for long-term historical developments.