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Was Hannibal a genius?

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  Quote Delenda est Roma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Was Hannibal a genius?
    Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 15:33
Hannibal one of the greatest generals of all time though he was also an admiral. Does he qualify as a military genius? He had numerous crushing defeats over the Romans, Spaniards, Celts, and Pergamon. He won naval and land battles and never stopped fighting. His tactical masterpiece Cannae is one of the best tactical battles ever. Trasimen and Trebia are also model battles. His lesser none battles like Herdonia or Tagus River were also impressive. He wasnt deficient at siege warfare either taking, Acerrae, Tarentum, Saguntum, and numerous other cities. He crossed the Alps under attack by Celtic tribes a truly spectacular feat. His strategy of detaching Roman allies was working. The Etruria was unrestful, he took all of Bruttium, most of Magna Graecia, Tarentum and Capua plus all but one of the Samnite tribes went over to him. Rome was in dire straits having to reduce their coinage weight and lower the standards for military recruitment. 12 Latin conies could no longer send men or tribute. He fought the Rhodians in a naval battle and won Naval and land battles against Pergamon. His accomplishments are gigantic and can be extolled on for days. Do his accomplishments give him the title military genius? I of course say yes. What say you?
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 15:38
I fiind him very creative in a military way, almost romantic. In my book this is enough to qualify as a military genius. I have a weak spot for him though, so I don't know how objective I can beDead
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  Quote Delenda est Roma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 15:44
Alas I too can't be fully objective. He is by far my favorite person in history. On another note, how can one deny his genius? Simply mentioning Cannae or Trasimene should remedy that.
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 16:02
Well, no need to pretend I understand more than I doDead...
Cannae though seems like was fully controlled by Hanibal, even to the proverbial dust.
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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 16:03
If he can still be referred to for study of his campaigns and tactics; by institutions as redoubtable as Sandhurst..WestPoint..VMI..The Citadel..Anapolis..Norwich..Saint Cyr..CGSC and the US Army War College...then the answer remains obvious.
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  Quote Delenda est Roma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 16:07
Oh don't doubt Hannibal's haters. I have met numerous people who argue Hannibal was merely compotent if that. They much prefer Scipio. Anyway, at Trasimene Hannibal hid his whole army from Flaminius. Most of Hannibal's victories were total with few survivors and he used cavalry decisively. He used his diverse army to its strengths and so achieved victory.
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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 16:57
Originally posted by Delenda est Roma

Oh don't doubt Hannibal's haters. I have met numerous people who argue Hannibal was merely competent if that. They much prefer Scipio. Anyway, at Trasimene Hannibal hid his whole army from Flaminius. Most of Hannibal's victories were total with few survivors and he used cavalry decisively. He used his diverse army to its strengths and so achieved victory.
 
 
 
 
 
I have been studying this stuff for over 40 years...I doubt nothing. There will always be aficionados of 'this or that' general, campaign and tactics and diplomatic intrigue etc....it's why I avoid threads dealing with the 'best'. The key is to remain objective in the analysis of all the combatants within the context of the era. And more importantly how they....the governments and leaders of armies viewed warfare in the era. And its contextual usage as a means of enhancing a nation states development, security and expansion and personal ambitions.
 
 
I had taught this stuff (now retired) in uniform and out, on the platform of higher academia and in the woodlands and mountains and deserts for 23 years. To include the arena of combat operations. To compare Scipio's brilliance in context with Hannibal's is to do a disservice to both. They were both brilliant. As exampled by that tremendous fight at Zama..stroke...counterstroke....chess like yet unorthodox. Or Scipio's campaign in Hispania. Yet tactics does not tell the tale alone..Scipio's greatness was further magnified by his unwillingness to raze the city, subjugate the populace and continue negotiations. Hannibal's... in his later exile, military ops and eventually suicide...perhaps to avoid further confrontation spurned on by his Roman foes who could not forgive him. Nor ever trust him.
 
 
In the end, both of them were and remain classic examples of the old styled 'battle captains' of the past. Both master practitioners of the tradecraft-systems and tactics they were taught.  And to do it objectively and effectively will require more then just a cursory effort on a history chat forum.
 
 
 
Besides it's already been done.
 
 
 
 
 
 
And I have tiswin cooking.
 
 
 
And even greats such as Hannibal and Scipio must stand down for that.
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  Quote Delenda est Roma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 17:06
Zama was a stalemate from each man'd actions cancelling out the other. It then devolved into a proverbial slogging match as you know :). Scipio actually was thinking more of himself in not besieging the city. Besides that he pretended to be earnestly negotiating then attacked Syphax and Hanno's camps in bad faith. Scipio's relectuance to besiege Carthage was the fact he might not have been able to take it. He had a small navy at the time and his siege of Utica took over a year. To take Carthage he would've needed a much larger army and navy. He recognized he wouldn't be able to take it and so instead of wasting his procounsulship on it and risking being replaced he concentrted and making Carthage accept terms so he could assure he took credit and received a triumph.
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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 17:15
Originally posted by Delenda est Roma

Zama was a stalemate from each man's actions cancelling out the other. It then devolved into a proverbial slogging match as you know :). Scipio actually was thinking more of himself in not besieging the city. Besides that he pretended to be earnestly negotiating then attacked Syphax and Hanno's camps in bad faith. Scipio's reluctance to besiege Carthage was the fact he might not have been able to take it. He had a small navy at the time and his siege of Utica took over a year. To take Carthage he would've needed a much larger army and navy. He recognized he wouldn't be able to take it and so instead of wasting his proconsulship on it and risking being replaced he concentrated and making Carthage accept terms so he could assure he took credit and received a triumph.
 
 
 
''There will always be aficionados of 'this or that' general, campaign and tactics and diplomatic intrigue etc''
 
 
 
You just made my point...you were not the first nor will you be the last.Wink
 
 
But Ole unkie Centrix likes to give credit where credit is due. And so for the exuberance and passion for the subject matter and history at large you have displayed. And especially as a new member..... you get a commendation.
 
 
 
Which is only slightly a lesser an accolade then getting to drink tiswin with me out on the high and lonesome lonely. For that you must do much, much more work.
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  Quote Delenda est Roma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 17:37
I thank you kindly :)
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  Quote Toltec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 18:36
As I forget which commander said, "Strategy Is For Amateurs, Logistics Is For Professionals" Hannibals was most definately a professional.
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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 18:42
Originally posted by Toltec

As I forget which commander said, "Strategy Is For Amateurs, Logistics Is For Professionals" Hannibals was most definately a professional.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 19:13
Hannibal was a brilliant general: a man driven by hatred of Rome. His successful crossing of the Alps with elephants in tow is itself an impressive feat
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  Quote Delenda est Roma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 19:21
With this I take issue. The supposed hatred of Rome factor has been shown to br highly unlikely. That oath he supposedly told Antiochus about was never to be a friend of Rome. Rome didn't have equal friends she had subservient friends. So even if he stated this which is iffy he never actually said he hated Rome at all. He went to war due to Roman meddling and the seizure of Sardinia and Corsica.
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  Quote Amadeus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Mar-2013 at 05:40
Originally posted by Delenda est Roma

Oh don't doubt Hannibal's haters. I have met numerous people who argue Hannibal was merely compotent if that. They much prefer Scipio. Anyway, at Trasimene Hannibal hid his whole army from Flaminius. Most of Hannibal's victories were total with few survivors and he used cavalry decisively. He used his diverse army to its strengths and so achieved victory.
 
Hannibal was the greatest General in history IMO...
 
You don't stomp thru the enemy's home turf undefeated for 14 years, by mearly being 'competent'.  
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  Quote TITAN_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Mar-2013 at 08:26
He was one of the greatest generals, ever. He was not invincible though. Moreover,  he lost the final battle in the worst possible way: He outnumbered the enemy (although he always defeated larger armies!) and he allowed Romans to fool him: His elephants were neutralized easily. Unfortunately, his final embarassing defeat kind of spoils his reputation. So, I can't really put him in the same class with Alexander the Great. 
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  Quote Domen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Apr-2013 at 04:52
I think that Hannibal was a brilliant tactician (one of the greatest ones in history), but he did not understand strategy.

If he understood strategy, he would have retreated from Italy to either Africa or Spain (where the 2nd Punic War was decided) much earlier than he really did (and as we know he really did it in early 202 BC or late 203 BC), instead of nesting in Italy without any prospects for victory. Scipio was defeating one Carthaginian army after another in Spain - because they were led by poor tacticians - while the best commander of Carthage was stuck in Italy, without having any influence on the couse of war, because the war in Italy was already over, Hannibal failed to conquer Italy - the conflict was to be decided in Spain and then in Africa. Hannibal did not understand this - he still hoped for a victory on Roman soil, which was impossible.

But avoiding disaster was still possible - defeat of Carthage in the 2nd Punic War was not inevitable.

The end of the 2nd Punic War could have been similar to the end of the 1st Punic War, or even better for Carthage - Carthage could repulse Scipio's invasion. Status quo ante bellum could have been preserved, if only Hannibal understood strategy as much as he understood tactics.

In subsequent defeats of Carthago Nova (209 BC), Baecula (208 BC), Metaurus in Northern Italy (207 BC - defeat of Hasdrubal who was marching with reinforcements for Hannibal to Italy) and Ilipa (206 BC) and Utica (203 BC) and Po Valley raid in 203 BC (another Carthaginian incursion into Northern Italy) Carthage lost some up to some 138,000 troops captured or killed (according to sources cited by wikipedia).

I think that those defeats could have been avoided if Hannibal was in charge in those battles. But instead Hannibal was wasting time in Italy with remnants of his once great army, meanwhile Scipio was slaughtering and capturing thousands of fresh Carthaginian troops elsewhere.

Hannibal was a better tactician than Scipio (Scipio was so good because he was learning from Hannibal and studying his battles - but the apprentice did not outdid the master). Hannibal would defeat Scipio if he had sufficient forces. At Zama Hannibal lost because he was deprived of the most valuable part of his army there (much of his cavalry) and his infantry were also mostly raw recruits.


You don't stomp thru the enemy's home turf undefeated for 14 years, by mearly being 'competent'. 


Being undefeated when the enemy is afraid of fighting and thus tries to avoid battle, is not such a great achievement. Rome learned from previous defeats, and later tried to avoid any major battles against Hannibal. Instead, the Romans were harrasing Hannibal's army in a guerilla campaign and minor battles against detachments of his army (preferably not under his personal command), which worked fine for them. Hannibal on the other hand, maybe remained undefeated, but his army was constantly shrinking and he was losing his excellent battle-hardened veterans who had previously won Cannae and other battles for him. It was a war of attrition and Hannibal could not win it due to having limited manpower resources. When he finally returned to Africa in 203 / 202 BC, his army had to be reinforced by raw recruits, because his veterans were but few. Even his elephants at Zama were young and relatively untrained animals (recently caught) - this is why they panicked so quickly and trampled his own infantry.


Moreover,  he lost the final battle in the worst possible way: He outnumbered the enemy (although he always defeated larger armies!) and he allowed Romans to fool him: His elephants were neutralized easily.


At Zama he outnumbered Scipio but that was not significant superiority. Moreover - Hannibal was deprived of large part of his most valuable force (his excellent Numidian cavalry - which betrayed him and was fighting for Scipio at Zama), his infantry were also largely raw recruits (veterans from his campaign in Italy were only minor part of his army). His elephants were also young, untrained animals, hastily gathered / caught before the battle - there was not enough time to train them properly. This is why they panicked easily and then trampled Carthaginian infantry.

If there was Alexander the Great instead of Hannibal in charge of the Carthaginian army at Zama, he probably would have lost the battle as well. So I don't blame Hannibal for Zama. I blame him for his previous mistakes - i.e. staying in Italy for too long, while Scipio was destroying Carthaginian manpower under poor commanders in battles outside of Italy, because Hannibal was not in charge in those battles.


Hannibal was a brilliant general: a man driven by hatred of Rome.


His hatred of Rome made him blind. He did not want to accept the fact, that he already lost in Italy. He was not able to capture the city of Rome, he even did not have enough forces to occupy entire Italy, and the Romans were growing stronger and stronger on each day, while he was becoming weaker and weaker after each skirmish and ambush, or even siege. Because he was driven by hatred - instead of by reason and logical thinking - Carthage lost the war. For Hannibal, his desire to take revenge on the Romans was more important than his obligation to defend his country.

This is why Hannibal turned out to be a poor strategist - for him strategy was not important, because he did not care for the well-being of Carthage, he cared only for killing as many Romans and burning as many Roman villages as he could. Hatred is not a thing which makes a good general...

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Edited by Domen - 15-Apr-2013 at 05:22
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  Quote emperor_stylianos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Apr-2013 at 01:59
I am sorry if I offend anyone, but I am a firm believer that Hannibal is not a military genius. He was a good commander, but I don't think he deserves the title of military genius. His victories against the Romans were sound, considering that Roman generals were for the most part senators that knew nothing about war and had invested vast amounts of money to become consul, and simple say "roll them over" and expect to win....
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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Apr-2013 at 04:43
There is nothing your post to offend anyone. If they disagree fine. Ntl your entitled to your opinion and if anyone is offend then that's immaterial.

Historians professional or layman are not required to be politically correct or even total adherents to a particular school of thought....or an agenda simply because they have read half dozen books and articles by even the best in the business.


They are expected to be as objective as possible; and tho all opinion is subjective the effort to maintain the objectivity of it and to receive counter opinion, even negative, is key.


If you can remember that and practice it, then you will do well.


You don't have to be liked to be an honest and credible historian.


ya want that...go into politics or religion.


Amen.


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  Quote Delenda est Roma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Apr-2013 at 23:53
Originally posted by emperor_stylianos

I am sorry if I offend anyone, but I am a firm believer that Hannibal is not a military genius. He was a good commander, but I don't think he deserves the title of military genius. His victories against the Romans were sound, considering that Roman generals were for the most part senators that knew nothing about war and had invested vast amounts of money to become consul, and simple say "roll them over" and expect to win....


This is where you need to research something before you jump to conclusions. You need to have extensive proofs and facts. Roman counsuls and praetors (the ranks of those who led armies) were very experienced. Military command and service was a requirement for counsulship. Thr Romans had actually just finished a campaign with the Celts and Illyrians crushing them.

What about his victories against the Spanish tribes, Celtic tribes, and the smashing of at LEAST 6 Roman armies? Or the fact he remained undefeated in Italy for 14 years? He lost a single battle in his career and conducted one of the very few double envelopements of history. Not only that but he literally fought the perfect battle, Cannae. Shall I list the battles and astoundingly sound tactics he used? The man simply can't be said to have been anything but genius.
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