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Scipios conquest of Spain

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  Quote TheodoreFelix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Scipios conquest of Spain
    Posted: 01-May-2005 at 17:21

 I used different sources at my side(Goldworthy, unrv, barca.fsnet, roman-empire.com) to write this. Any comments on it are appreciated.

"You will in actuality attack the walls of a single city, but in that city you will have made yourselves masters of Spain" Scipio Africanus (Livy)

Rise of Scipio

After the disaster that had struck the Romans, under the command of the Scipio's , in 211,  the remaining Roman armies had dispersed north of the Ebro in Spain. Under the command of Lucius Marcius, the self-appointed "propreator", the Carthagenians suffered minor defeats. But lacking in men and supplies he was no longer a threat to them and they set their attentions to the rebel areas of Spain where opposition to Carthaginian control had been pretty deep. The senate, offended by this "self entitlement" by Marcius, had recalled him and replaced him with Nero (victor at Metaurus). After some short and minor victories in Spain, Nero was called back to carry on the war in Italy and was replaced by the younger Scipio.

Publius Cornelius Scipio (later added 'Africanus') took command of the war in Spain and was given the proconsul 'imperium'. While he was young, 25 when given control of the Spanish campaign, Scipio was not new to warfare. He is believed to have distinguished himself at the Battle of Ticinus River when he rushed in the middle of the heat of battle to help his wounded father. However there is a contradictory story saying that his father was saved by his Ligurian slave. Scipio's story became the popular one no doubt due to his already beloved character. He was supposed to have also been a tribune at Tresemino and Cannae. A story of how he rallied routing Roman soldiers, organized them and led them back to battle at the famous battle had made him a favored character in Rome. Although evidence is weak it is assumed that he was present in some of the skirmish battles against Hannibal. He was now also the oldest man and heir to one of the most powerful families of Rome, the Cornelii family.  Goldsworthy mentions Scipio as:

"One of the most charismatic figures produced by the Romans during the Punic Wars. In many respects he conformed to the ideal of heroism since Alexander the Great."

This unprecedented event has perplexed historians for a while. It was a unanimous decision, however completely out of the ordinary. Scipio had not held any major magistracies before hand being to young to have held a preatorship or consulship in the past. He had been a curule aedile in 213 but this was a minor role. Livy mentioned how a comitia centuriata for a vote on the next general willing to continue the campaign in Spain was held but nobody was said to have wanted control of the foreign war until Scipio stepped up and was unanimously picked. This is a very strange occurrence as pro-magistracies were not elected but picked by the senate. It is very likely that the intentions of Scipio were already aware in the closed senatorial world and this move was made to completely legalize it. There have been many attempts to try and understand this event. Goldsworthy was not one favoring any speculations. Putting it as:

"Attempts to understand the incident in terms of factional politics once again fail to convince and rely on far too many unjustified assumptions about the 'policies' of different families."

Command in Spain was not all that popular with the people of Rome. It was a foreign land where shortage of supply was common and you faced massive armies. Something the past Scipios were constantly complaining about. The recent defeats had also heavily demoralized the people. Unlike in Italy where you are in an environment that you are well aware of the surrounding and are in friendly territory. Being in Spain meant being in an enemys territory. Add to the fact of how the "loyalty" of the Spanish tribes had a habit of switching as things turned bleak. Proven by their shifty movement between Carthage and Rome and by the sudden abandonment of the Scipio's in their time of need. It can be assumed that the Romans now had little trust for these people.

Scipio in Spain

According to Livy, Scipio was given 12,000 infantry, half Roman and half Italian, and 1,200 cavalry, of which 300 were Roman and 800, were Latin. Appian gives a different number; he stated 10,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry. This was to be added to the men in Spain. In total the number of army in which Scipio was to command was about 28,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry. A very small number compared to the large armies that the Carthaginian generals in Spain controlled. Scipio simply could not chase one without fear of unexpectedly meeting another one.

After spending the winter in Spain, negotiating alliances between the Spanish tribes in the area, Scipio decided on a very risky idea. His plan was to take New Carthage or Carthago Nova. The center of Carthaginian control in Spain and the holder of much needed and desired supplies. Scipio was confirmed by many of the near inhabitants that the three main Carthaginian armies were well distributed throughout Spain in their fighting against the Spanish tribes. Hasdubral was in present-day Toledo fighting the Carpetani, Mago was near the present day Straits of Gibraltar, and Gisgo was with the Lusitanian's. This allowed Scipio to head to the Barcist founded city unopposed. He already heard from the nearby inhabitants that the city was poorly defended. The general who was defending the city only had about 2,000 citizen fighters and about 1,000 mercenaries. Nevertheless, the size of the city and the relatively small size of the Roman army meant that the city would not be easy to take.

Siege of New Carthage

Scipio took with him 25,000 of his infantry and 2,500 cavalry while Gaius Laelius took on the attack on the coast of the city with 30 ships. He arrived at New Carthage in about seven days and caught the city by surprise with his speed. From the start it can be assumed that Scipio had little interest in besieging and starving the city. He made no attempt to surround it through circumvallation. Starving it out was nearly impossible due to the proximity of the Carthaginian armies and the small size of the Roman force. If Scipio was to take the city, he would have to do it fast and he would do just that.

Mago, the garrison leader at New Carthage not to be confused with Hannibal's brother Mago, had split his mercenary troops in two. He placed one in the citadel of the city and the other on the hillock on the eastern side of the city. He then placed his citizen militia in the gate of the city reading them for a sally. Mago then ordered his militia troops to sally out and meet the Roman force near their camp. Expecting this, Scipio had organized his troops in an area where the advantage would be entirely his. As the two sides met a fierce struggle ensued. However the Roman soldiers soon overwhelmed the small citizen force and routed them, inflicting many casualties as they could barely fit in through the small city gate. Scipio now decided to use this momentum and ordered his men to scale the walls with ladders. Simultaneously Laelius took his fleet and attacked the seaside of the city. Scipio himself took part in the siege. Fighting alongside his men gave them confidence and allowed him to see everything around him. However he took care to properly defend himself placing long shielded men around him to cover him from arrows and other attacks. The first attack failed due to heavy missile fire that took men off their ladder. By noon, Scipio called off the attack. The attack had failed both in damaging the cities defenses and actually putting a dent in the garrison. This definitely gave courage to the Carthaginian army adding to their belief that they would be able to hold until a relief army arrived.

The Fall

To the cities great shock, Scipio now decided on another attack this time he ordered even more ladders setup and men to storm the walls. Giving many historians the belief that Scipio had simply organized the first attack to survey the defenses and the city. This time though, the cities defenses had nearly depleted their missiles. The defenses could barely hold the Romans off the walls. While this was going on Scipio had organized a group of 500 men that would go around the city lagoon and the north of the cities defenses. It is believed that Scipio waited until later in the day because he had heard from fishermen nearby that the tide of the lagoon would lower. As the attack began the lagoon did just that. Perhaps this was due to wind or a regular occurrence. Either way it exposed the northern city walls. To Scipio's men, this seemed like a divine aid of Neptune, before the siege Scipio had claimed that Neptune had given him the plans for the siege. This gave the entire army a boost of morale and they renewed the battle, which had been going on for most of the day. Mago had abandoned that side of the walls due to the hard fighting on the other side. The group of 500 then proceeded to climb the walls unnoticed and made quick work of the  walls defenders, opening them to the outside army. The city was now overrun but not conquered.

The Romans took great care to secure the walls and allow all the men to enter the city before they went after it. This could be due to their lack of  knowledge of the city and fear of that Mago could rally the troops and use their knowledge of the internal setup of the city to drive the Romans out. As Scipios army dispersed throughout the city they were ordered to kill any person they saw. As this happened Scipio moved with his troops to the citadel to secure it. This was one of the special occasions where the Romans were almost uncontrolled in their slaughter and sack of the population. Later Polybius would mention seeing with his own eyes the remains of the sacking. He saw for himself the dismembered bodied. Later excavations would prove this. The sacking was composed of the traditional raping of women and the slaughter of men. The Roman soldiers had been especially cruel in this case, most likely due to the hard defenses they put up with and the high loss of life. This was also done to put down remaining resistance and put fear into the citizens of the city.

Aftermath

The capture of the city silenced Roman doubts of Scipio. He had accomplished what everyone doubted. Access to the city also brought many Spanish tribes in the area to the Roman side. Many Spanish hostages, probably taken to secure their allegiance, were returned home. Merchants hostages were temporarily enslaves until the end of the war and the rest of the hostages served in the Roman fleet. The city had vast amount of wealth that was now in Roman control. This included siege engines, material and a large treasury
 
There have also been many stories of Scipio being offered a beautiful Spanish girl by the soldiers in the city but was returned by him to her father. This could be nothing more then Romanitization to once again add to Scipios persona. But it could have also been a great political move by Scipio in a way to make himself and Rome seem better then the Carthagenians, whom had often been especially cruel to the Spanish tribes. New Carthage would now serve as a base of operations in Spain.



Edited by Iskender Bey ALBO
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  Quote TheodoreFelix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2005 at 17:22

Reorganizing the Legion

The sudden capture of New Carthage was a heavy hit on Carthage. Its pride in Spain was now Roman along with much needed supplies and its base of operations. The Punic generals in Spain now focused on preventing further defection of Spanish tribes in the area. Due to their past defection to Rome, Carthage had been especially cruel to many of the tribes. Now that the tide in Spain was once again changing the mistake Carthage made would be one it would start to regret. More and more tribes began siding with the Romans including tribes whom had been loyal to Carthage throughout the long span of the war.

With a base, Scipio was no longer in a hurry. He sent ships out to bring the news of the victory to Rome in order to get further support from the senate. While he spent his time in the city making further improvement in his army. He discarded the old short sword used by Rome in the past and replaced it with the Spanish gladius (gladius Hispaniensis). The sword would become the standard hallmark of the legion. With a large number of released Spanish hostages, large quantities of the sword were distributed to all the legionaries. Not only that but the Spanish javelin was also adopted as the new Roman pilum. Improvements and hard training programs were also done to his army before he retired to Tarraco for the winter. Due to their overlong services, by the end of the war Scipio's legions would be the closest thing Rome would get to a professional army before the Marius reforms to the military.

The Battle of Baecula 208B.C.

Publius Cornelius Scipio:35,000-40,000 infantry
Hasdubral Barca: 25,000-30,000 infantry

Throughout the winter, Scipio had sent out scouts throughout Spain to keep him informed of his enemies plans. By Spring he decided to march his army out and caught the Carthaginian general Hasdubral by surprise near Baecula. As soon as Hasdubral heard of Scipio's approach and facing a reasonably larger army, he quickly moved to a high plateau which was flanked by rocky hillocks and protected in the rear by a river. This was a great defensive position that would have made any general think twice before attacking. Scipio waited two days planning and observing the surrounding before he decided to march out and meet his opponent before another Punic general came to Hasdubrals aid.

Scipio's velites and other light infantry and a small force of heavy infantry went straight up the slope to face the Carthaginian army directly and surprise Hasdubral. The group suffered many casualties but succeeded in making headway up the hill. Livy claims that great enthusiasm overcame the Romans and even the slaves joined in the attack, picking up stones and flinging them at the Carthaginian soldiers. After a while the Hasdubral's forces became overwhelmed and he ordered the rest of his forces out of camp. While this was going on Scipio split the rest of his army in two, each side taking a flank of the Carthaginian army. The hard training now proved its worth as the Romans were able to reach the peak of the hill and outflank the opponent before he could had been able to fully form his army. Too late to do any new maneuvering, Hasdubral ordered the retreat of the troops who had not yet engaged the Romans.

Polybius claimed that 10,000 Punic infantry were killed in the battle and 2,000 horses captured. Livy gives a different number; stating the Carthaginians lost 8,000 total. Both however seem to agree that Hasdubral ordered his troops to withdraw early in the battle. First sending away his elephants and his treasury then his infantry. This assured Hasdubral's plans of moving to Italy and was soon replaced in Spain by another Hanno. Scipio made no attempts to stop Hasdubral; this was most likely a precaution as Carthaginian presence in Spain was still heavy. Scipio also relied on foraging for supplies, had he chosen to follow Hasdubral he would have difficulty foraging on group his enemy had already stepped on.

The Battle of Ilipa 206B.C.

Publius Cornelius Scipio: 45,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry
Hasdubral Gisgo, Mago and Masinissa: 50,000-70,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, 32 elephants

The Carthaginians were now feeling the pressure in Spain. In 207 the officer sent to replace Hasdubral, Hanno, was caught off guard by a Roman column. Worse yet, controlling the Spanish tribes more and more difficult due to the heavy Roman presence. Little by little the tribes were showing allegiance to Rome and deserting their Punic oppressors.  Poybius stated that before the battle of Baecula only two leaders called Scipio king. Now an entire assembly came to honor him with this title. In a show of restraint and a clearheadedness Polybius stated that Scipio declined the title and said that he replied by saying that;

"...he told that he wished to be called kingly by them, and actually to be kingly, but that he did not wish to be king or to be called so by any one. Having said this, he ordered them henceforth to call him General."

Hasdubral Gisgo(not to be mistaken for Hasubral Barca, the general at Baecula and future Mataurus) hade made a show of force in southwest Spain, near Gades. Dispersing his garrison around the cities. Scipio ordered his brother Lucius to take the city of Orongis to ensure a Roman victory before winter came.
By summer 206 Gisgo decided on a major offensive to overwhelm the young general. Polybius stated that Gisgo's army was as high as 74,000. With 70,000 making up the infantry force and 4,000 being cavalry. Scipio had 45,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry only half of which was made up of his trained and disciplined legions. Much of Scipio's army had been weakened by the need to garrison his newly acquired territory. Once again, the later Livy gives a different number; stating Gisgo's army was 50,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry both stated that Gisgo had about 30 elephants.

Gisgo moved near Ilipa setting up camp in a high defensive position as a clear message to the Romans that he had come to fight. Near the very grave of his father, it is very likely that Scipio's mind wondered there, the very men whom made up half of his army had betrayed his father. He then decided to meet Hasdubral at his location, setting up camp on the foot of the opposing hill in such a way that he cut Hasdubrals men from gaining an escape to Gades. Seeing Scipio setup camp, the Carthaginian and Numidian cavalry led by Masinissa and Mago decided to do a surprise attack on him however an unexpected charge by the Roman horses in the flanks was able to beat back the attack.

For the next three days the Carthaginian and Roman army would meet in the exact location but never engage in full-blown battle. The meeting would likely involve sporadic skirmishers between cavalry and light troops. Neither one would attempt to provoke a conflict or attempt to surprise the enemy. Scipio set his army up in the classical Roman formation with the legions in the center, Spanish and allied infantry in the right and left supported by cavalry in the flanks. Very soon, the two armies got the idea that this would be the formation for the battle and this allowed Scipio to put his plan into works

The Battle

The last few days allowed for Scipio to study the enemy army and prepare for his actual attack. By the third day Scipio had had enough of the skirmishing and decided on a strategy to surprise his enemy. He ordered his men to wake up early and to properly feed themselves. Before dawn Scipio ordered his light troops and cavalry to attack the enemy camp. Rushed out and harassed by the velites, The Carthaginians formed the battle line in the original formation when they realized Scipio had altered his. Instead of the heavy infantry in middle, Scipio had placed them in the flanks with the cavalry and had put his Spanish troops in the middle.
The legions, which were placed in the flanks, were in the usual triple axes formation. Scipio had them turn to the right while the left wing turned to the left, Goldworthy states that:
 

"A narrow-fronted column will always move faster then a line, for it faces fewer obstacles and there is less need for its officer's to halt and reform the ranks at regular intervals"

They then began marching toward the enemy moving faster then the Spanish auxiliary in the center. As they approached the enemy they wheeled at 90 degrees and reforming the triple axes facing the enemy flanks. This brilliant maneuver was able to completely outflank the enemy and cavalry. As this happened they began to engage the flanks. With the slower Spanish infantry moving in the center, the powerful Libyan mercenaries were not able to come to the aid of their comrades for fear of retaliation from the weaker Spanish troops. The heavy infantry then proceeded to attack the elephants causing them to panic and rush to the middle where they crushed many of the Libyan troops.

Completely outflanked and surrounded, the Carthaginians were facing a fate similar to the Roman one at Cannae. The sudden surge of the Roman army broke through the Carthaginian lines and caused them to flee. They were rallied on a nearby hill but without any aid they faced certain doom. Just as luck would have it aid did come, in the form of nature. A large storm began and Scipio decided not to continue the battle. The Romans retired and the Carthaginians were able to safely return to camp. The damage however, had been done.

Aftermath


Sources do not give any number on casualties. However one must assume that they must have been rather high. Much like Hannibal, Scipio was able to dictate how and when the battle would be fought. The legion maneuvering gives little doubt as to how high their skill and discipline was. This type of maneuver would be impossible under the army of the earlier battles. The skill and discipline of the legionaries under Scipio would be the highest the pre-Marius legions would see. Something that would be lost following the years of the Second Punic War.

By the morning Hasdubral found his Spanish troops deserting him. Seeing no hope in Spain, He ordered a full retreat. The difficulty of a retreat from a nearby enemy especially one as elated as the Romans after their recent victory meant that many of the soldiers were cut down. Masinissa and Hasdubral were able to reach a coast in time and get to Africa while Mago made it to Gades. Many of the Punic troops were abandoned and dissolved throughout Spain. A plan to betray Gades to Rome gave further proof to the dying Carthaginian hold in Spain. More and more tribes pledged their allegiance to Rome. Some that declared their freedom were attacked. In one occasion an entire village committed suicide rather then fall to the hand of another oppressor. In the light of all this success in Spain, one event would occur that would put Romes weak hold on Spain at risk and brought about a short mutiny.

Scipio fell ill, and soon rumors of his death spread like wildfire which caused a mutiny in his army due to the long years service some of the legions had  done and lack of pay or loot. Another insurrection occured among some Spanish tribes headed by Indibilis. As soon as Scipio recovered, he quelled the mutiny by using the large loot gained from the Spanish conquest. He then proceeded to attack Indibilis and handed him a defeat which stopped the Spanish tribes rebellion for the time being. Scipio then proceeded to capture Gades. This completed Roman conquest in Spain. However it would not be until Augustus reign that all of Spain would become completely pacified and annexed. Fierce fighting occurred there for time to time which handed Rome some heavy casualties.



Edited by Iskender Bey ALBO
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  Quote Imperator Invictus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-May-2005 at 22:13
Hi...and welcome to AE! Great article you have written. Would you donate it to the AE site?
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  Quote cattus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-May-2005 at 22:15
Enjoyed it here as well.
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  Quote TheodoreFelix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-May-2005 at 22:15
Unfortunately, I have given them for use to unrv.com

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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2005 at 12:29

Outstanding account on a pivotal campaign in military history, Iksender Bey ALBO. Kudos to you.

I find the 2nd Punic War fascinating. It was the first all-out war in Western history in which strategic endurance decided the war. The genius of Hannibal was revised and adopted against him by his enemy.

The war contained masterful displays of generalship - Hannibal's incredible plight against the Roman Republic. Scipio's masterful balance of tactics and strategy. Fabius' vigilant strategy. Marcellus' aggression towards Hannibal and captuere of Syracuse, which was paramount. Nero's march to the Metaurus. Hasdrubal's skillful march to evade Scipio in Spain. The tenacity and spirit of the Roman. The Carthaginian Suffete's ignorance and unwillingness to concentrate their resources on helping Hannibal, who had a wolf by the tail. Nothing is guaranteed; had the Senate succumbed to Hannibal after Cannae, they would have simply won the next war.

I think the Battles of Tarraco (Cissa) in 217 B.C. and Ibera in 215 B.C. might have been the most important battle of the war, if there is such a thing. Rome established a base in Spain, and Publius C. Scipio the Elder thwarted Hasdrubal in north-eastern Spain at Ibera, or Dertosa (?), preventing him from marching to Italy. Breaking Carthaginian power in Spain was not at all the gargantuan task of breaking Roman Italy. The Spanish tribes, endemic to a partisan-style of war, were loyal to success, and frequently changed sides after a setback by one side or the other. This was influenced by small bits of success or failure. Hannibal left Italy without breaking the Roman confederation, but no state has been bled white, as they had been rendered, and ultimately won. Except the Soviets of WWII. But  he never really failed in anything he had control over. He couldn't bring his horses from Italy for lack of transport material - a result of lack of resources on the Carthaginian side. My innuendo that Hannibal could have won at Zama is, of course, debatable. I think he could have. In northern Italy in 217 B.C., a Roman force had been ambushed and destroyed. After the setback caused by the Scipios, It was Hasdrubal who received reinforcements from Carthage, and not HannibalHannibal controlled southern Italy, Carthage had the alliance of Syracuse, and Philip V of Macedon planned to land in southern Italy. Rome acted swiftly and diligently to block these openings. The decision to reinforce Hasdrubal, sanctioned by Hanno the Great, a political enemy of the Barcids, was certainly an impasse. The Suffete seemed more interested in retaining Spain than helping Hannibal. If the Senate agreed to terms, Spain would have been retained. We can only criticize in retrospect, though. Rome was greater than Carthage to be an imperial power, but no general, individually, was as great as Hannibal.  Again, this is all very debatable.

Great work, Spartan JKM



Edited by Spartan
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  Quote TheodoreFelix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2005 at 14:44

Outstanding account on a pivotal campaign in military history, Iksender Bey ALBO. Kudos to you.

Thank you Spartan. I look forward to writting more like these in the future. My next one will be the end of the war. It will be a while though as I am currently booked with tests.

 

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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2005 at 20:30

Your welcome. Goldsworthy is excellent. Ther is a work The Punic Wars by Brian Craven, and Hannibal's War from John Lazenby. Theodore Dodge wrote a terrific narrative history of the 2nd Punic War titled Hannibal. B. H. Liddel Hart's Greater than Napoleon gives a very intelligent, yet tendentious, point of view. Take the hero-worshiping, from both sides,  with a grain of salt, if you're trying to on the 'fair and balanced side'. Howard Scullard's work, Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician is very comprehensive, but may be out of print. I scoured it at the public library. 

All are terrific accounts.

Thanks, Spartan JKM



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  Quote Fizzil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2005 at 21:01

Really awesome work both Iskender and Spartan.

I just happened to read about polybian legions (or pre-marian in general) and its one of those interesting parts of roman history. Again thanks for an awesome article.

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  Quote TheodoreFelix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-May-2005 at 23:14

The decision to reinforce Hasdrubal, sanctioned by Hanno the Great, a political enemy of the Barcids, was certainly an impasse. The Suffete seemed more interested in retaining Spain than helping Hannibal.

This wasnt surprising. Carthage did try to make landings in Sicily and Sardinia(which was just recently taken by the Romans during the Truceless War between Carthage and her mercernary army) but were nothing more then small and not very well documented skirmishes. Anyway, considering Rome still had large control of the seas, and Hannibal's failed attempt to win the far at his height(Right after Cannae). Carthage probably just wanted to cut their loses. I don't think anyone saw Hannibal winning the war by then. His army was getting eaten. He was lossing cities as fast as he was gaining them, his lack of supply route forced him to constantly go on the run.

He was screwed by then.

Theodore Dodge wrote a terrific narrative history of the 2nd Punic War titled Hannibal. B. H. Liddel Hart's Greater than Napoleon gives a very intelligent, yet tendentious, point of view. Take the hero-worshiping, from both sides,  with a grain of salt, if you're trying to on the 'fair and balanced side'.

This is why Im kind of scared to view these guys. They have clear motives and thats to glorify their heroes. I don't want them to alter my view of the war. Also I heard that Liddel Hart relied far too much on Livy in the book. I would like best to maintain an objective view on the whole thing. Although I do kind of side with Scipio.



Edited by Iskender Bey ALBO
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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-May-2005 at 02:00

It is actually Polybius whom Hart relies solely upon. Hart writes, "every ancient historian, except Polybius, must be treated with caution". I don't like the sound of that. Nobody is without bias. Dodge's book is excellent, Iksender Bay, for information, and more than just Hannibal is covered. Just take his comments like "no man in history has shown more nobler patriotism and steadfastness of purpose than Hannibal" with a grain of salt.  The 2nd Punic War, for the purpose of study, reveals strategic lessons which endure to this day. It is such an intense part of history. Theodor Mommsen is the greatest modern historian for the history of Rome. His History of Rome is a must! Adrian Goldsworthy is very balanced with his The Fall of Carthage. Professor John Lazenby's Hannibal's War is very good.

Hannibal's plight was remarkable, in my opinion. The test he underwent far exceeds many successfull commanders. His crossing of the Alps, a remarkable feat of military engineering and organization, and strike into Italy is history's greatest example of "attack is the best form of defence". He knew he was not going to win a war of attrition; Rome fielded 250,000 men in Italy and could muster an additional 1/2 million from her chain of colonies, along with around 70,000 cavalry which could be levied from the wealthier citizens. Perhaps 1/20 of that huge pool of manpower wound up joining Hannibal. Pressing the numbers is bookish , though. What he accomplished, in offense and defense, was awesome!  Scipio was great, too, but he never delt with the enormous reserves in manpower of his enemy that Hannibal did, and never marched with such speed with enemy armies screening his every move. Spain was unwieldy and the tribes swithced sides constantly, making them unreliable allies, but breaking Carthaginian Spain was hardly the task Hannibal faced in Italy. But Scipio did accomplish everyhting he set out to do, except prevent Hasdrubal's march to Italy, which could have been devastating for Rome. Hannibal did indeed fail, as much as we try to defend him.

I think the Roman policy of extended citizenship, in the long run, is what saved them. In 209 B.C., Hannibal's strategy did bear fruit when 12 of the 30 colonies of Rome refused to honor it's quota of men and supplies, saying they were drained. Hannibal was definitley stressing the Senate. Bomilcar had sailed with men and supplies into Locri in 215 B.C., showing Italy could be reached. Yes, a Carthgainian army landed in southern Sicily to aid the Syracusans against Marcellus. Syracuse was pro-Carthaginian before Mardellus' siege. Hannibal indeed came very close, and Philip V of Macedon, the Sufette, and the generals in Spain, it seems, could have acted quicker. The Romans sure did in closing doors in these theatres. The difference could have been that Rome was willing to apply all her spirit and resources to achieve victory. Carthage, inferior in an all-out war (particularly a protracted one), possibly never wanted the massive conflict engineered by Hannibal and his father. They were businessmen who were happy with their lucrative trading domain, which Hamilcar had bolstered with the progress in Spain.

For personal preference, I side a little with Hannibal, as he is a romantic figure whose impression has rubbed off on me. I do think Scipio matches him as commander and statesman. Both were brilliant. He did not fail whatsoever on the tactical or operational level, but a successful strategy is what counts in the end, and he failed. He formed and reformed successful armies without reinforcements from his strategic base in Spain. If Hasdrubal had committed his plans to the captured messengers' memories (if possible) instead of in writing, maybe we would be saying Hannibal was a strategic genius. With their linking up they probably wouldn't have had enough men to assault Rome, but the pressure might have been too much for the Senate to bear. Another Trebia, even Cannae, might not be worth risking. If Hannibal had known Hasdrubal was in northern Italy, he would have attacked Nero, whose stealthy march up and down Italy, in which he defeated Hasdrubal and returned before Hannibal knew he had left the region, was one of the greatest feats of the war. It should also be noted that Nero was in Tarraco in 212 B.C., the Roman base in Spain, before Scipio had arrived, and left 12,000 men and about 1,100 cavalry there after crossing swords in a skirmish with Hasdrubal Barca around the Ebro River. This certainly benefited Scipio's Spanish program.

Hannibal's campaign was based on the assumption that Rome's allies would defect following the defeat of Roman armies in the field, and his government would help him without hesitation. He was wrong. As a boy, he remembered how Carthage's African subjects readily revolted in 241 B.C., as you mentioned, and the suppression of that huge revolt by his father. He would find out that Carthage's colonies were easier to detach than Rome's. It was still a brilliant and audacious attempt, and the 2nd Punic War reveals many lessons of strategy that have endured to this day. His campaign also left the rest of Carthage on the defensive.

A national strategy should be directed at the 'center of gravity', which was the political will of the Roman Senate and the Carthaginian Suffete. Scipio successfully attacked the Carthaginian center of gravity while Hannibal persisted with his peripheral strategy, which showed potential, aimed at Rome's allies. Scipio certainly is worthy of more respect than he has received (he never gets mentioned amid 'great captains' discussions), but I will always press the issue that the Roman alliance was a much stronger foe than the Carthaginian empire. Being that Rome had so much more men and resources, she could link her widely seperated operations in Sicily, Spain, Greece, and North Africa. Much like the unwinding of WW2 in Europe.

There is so much more we can cover. I admire and share your enthusiasm in this great chapter of history, a crossroad which shaped the Western World. Some feel it was one of the greatest tragedies in human history (in 3 acts) that Rome, and not Carthage, prevailed in this critical war. If the commercial and mercantile legacy of Carthage had set the foundations of future civilization in Europe (with its stress on negotiation and compromise over war and empire), instead of the militarism of Rome, perhaps instead of a millennia of bloodshed and warfare we might have enjoyed a lot more peace and prosperity. The Greek cultural achievements would have been transmitted by the Carthaginians, too, as Hannibal was a highly cultivated man immersed in Greek culture. Scipio was as well, and is said to have admired his great adversary. However, I think we can safely say, for all its sharp-edges of imperialism, Rome layed down some wondeful achievements (the 12 Tables for eg) for the posterity of civilization.

Thanks, Spartan JKM



Edited by Spartan
"A ship is safe in the harbor; but that's not why ships are built"
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TheodoreFelix View Drop Down
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  Quote TheodoreFelix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jul-2005 at 02:44
There is so much more we can cover. I admire and share your enthusiasm in this great chapter of history, a crossroad which shaped the Western World. Some feel it was one of the greatest tragedies in human history (in 3 acts) that Rome, and not Carthage, prevailed in this critical war. If the commercial and mercantile legacy of Carthage had set the foundations of future civilization in Europe (with its stress on negotiation and compromise over war and empire), instead of the militarism of Rome, perhaps instead of a millennia of bloodshed and warfare we might have enjoyed a lot more peace and prosperity.


very very contraversial. How can we know for sure that Carthage would have raised an empire. Rome was undoubtably more of an aggressive "nation" then Carthage. The Second Punic War might have ended Roman expansion, but it certainly does not mean that Carthage would reach it's top. carthage unwillingness to put efforts into a war could mean it would have thrived with maybe all of Spain in her domain, but I dont see it going as far out as Britannia. Also, it was Rome in the end that stopped the regrowth of the Seleucid Kingdom under the hands of Antiochus the Great. Who knos, maybe that may have become the beat all empires in the region...
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