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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: 20-Apr-2013 at 00:10
Originally posted by Domen























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.<div ="msg"="">
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....

























A bad strategist? Observe the fact his invasion of Italy caused the army heading to invade Africa was recalled to Italy. He caused the war to be fought in Italy a huge plus. Retreating to Spain does nothing to further the war and leaves Carthage open to invasion. Not to mention deserting a huge number of allied cities. Here you are incorrect. Hannibal gave his last hope of victory in Italy up with his brother Hasdrubal's defeat. He was hemmed in in Southern Italy and could not break through. He was too massively outnumbered by now. It would have taken a fleet from Carthage which was not within his control. If you would recall the Punic forces won several major victories in Spain.


So you blame Hannibal for being in a different theatre and not one out of his control? Logical fallacy right there. His government wanted him in Italy and so he stayed until recalled.

Scipio's tactics were quite different from Hannibal's.


Lets not forget the at least 3 major battles won by Hannibal after Cannae. 1st and 2nd Herdonia and Silarus. In all 3 thr Romans were slaughtered. Hannibal never lost his touch. The reason he stayed in Italy was to protect his Italian allies. Leaving them assured that Rome would conquer all of italy.



You have to understand Hannibal was a general not a ruler. He has to rely on the fact that other generals can fight too. He can't be everywhere at once.

How so? I don't really believe he exactly hated Rome. Thats blatantly false. Hannibal was always cool and calm. We never hear of him making a SINGLE emotional decision. Wouldn't someone who hated Rome commit brutal acts or act on emotion? Hannibal never did. 2 reasons to stay i Italy. He had to protect the Italian cities allied with Carthage and his presence in Italy had prevented those troops being sent elsewhere. Again I remind you the Punic Government made deployments not Hannibal.

I have thoroughly disproved this.



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  Quote HannibalB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Apr-2013 at 04:09
I would also add that Hannibal staying in Italy would also give Carthage more to bargin with had Carthaginian forces beaten Scipio's African invasion.

He really was a great strategist, certainly one of the best of antiquity - and it was bearing fruit. Rome was becoming exhausted - the economy near collapsing. Fighting Rome with it's own resources, whilst his countrymen win back Sicily and hold onto Spain. If only results had gone Carthage's way in other theaters. . . Really, Rome conducted an excellent strategy themselves, able to do so due to competent commanders, supplies and manpower. It is the political realm where Hannibal failed, and that was largely down to centuries of local rivalries and conditions which determined which side people joined during the war.
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  Quote TITAN_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Apr-2013 at 05:30
If Hannibal was a genius, why did he allow the Romans to send an army towards Carthage? Why didn't he encircle Rome?  Why didn't he burn Rome, to the ground? If you are not ruthless, you lose. That is warfare. 
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  Quote medenaywe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Apr-2013 at 05:43
If Hannibal had passed Mensa tests over  we would have known it:Did he act like Genius?!?WinkIQ over
140?Today we have a lot of them over 200 without a job.Hannibal had it!(Job)
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  Quote HannibalB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Apr-2013 at 10:31
Originally posted by TITAN_

If Hannibal was a genius, why did he allow the Romans to send an army towards Carthage? Why didn't he encircle Rome?  Why didn't he burn Rome, to the ground? If you are not ruthless, you lose. That is warfare. 


The Romans were going to invade Carthage from the beginning of the war, and his campaign essentially stopped them from doing that for 14 years. He didn't have the manpower to burn Rome to the ground, and, in my opinion, certainly couldn't have done that after Cannae (details of which can be found here:http://historum.com/blogs/markdienekes/530-why-didnt-hannibal-march-rome.html#comment2661)

He was in the process of encircling Rome, with Macedon in the east, the Celts to the north, southern Italy largely in his hands - sadly, Hannibal couldn't be everywhere, and couldn't forsee events such as the destruction of Carthage's army in Sicily through disease, and the loss of Syracuse due to festivities, or Philip being scared away from his invasion by a fleet of ten Roman ships, or that the Gauls would not press advantage (much to there regret, as the years after Hannibal's War saw them further invaded on the Italian side of the Alps). He had to rely on other commanders, all of which were defeated by Roman opponents time and time again, that struggled against Hannibal himself.

As my old friend SpartanJKM would say, it really reveals collective genius over individual. UP against many competent and even good commanders (who were better than Carthage commanders save Hannibal), it was only a matter of time before Rome would come knocking on their door. Hannibal's Italian campaign was ruining the Italian peninsular, ravaging its population, straining alliances. . .


Edited by HannibalB - 24-Apr-2013 at 10:38
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  Quote TITAN_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Apr-2013 at 05:49
I very much doubt that Hannibal could not enter Rome with his large army soon after the final blow he gave to Rome... He had his chance and threw it away. The Roman army was just slaughtered and Rome didn't have time to muster a new army! His window of opportunity was open for weeks, to say the least! 
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  Quote HannibalB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Apr-2013 at 07:43
His army was shattered after Cannae, a march on Rome was not possible - at least 11 percent wounded, and probably more than half injured - not to mention the hit his command staff may have taken. Rome was more than 250 miles away, and a forced march so soon after a battle would leave what he could drag that way (probably no more than 25,000 men) further exhausted - read the link I provided, it reveals Rome's military strength after Cannae. Judging by his normal rate of march, it could have taken him upwards of 3 weeks to arrive at Rome.




Edited by HannibalB - 29-Apr-2013 at 04:32
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  Quote TITAN_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Apr-2013 at 12:23
25,000 men are enough to invade a city that has no army to protect itself. They could sack Rome like Brennus did, with his Celtic hordes!
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  Quote HannibalB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Apr-2013 at 12:51
Maybe, who knows fella, it is one of history's great unknowables. The city however, was far from undefended.


Edited by HannibalB - 25-Apr-2013 at 15:12
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  Quote SuryaVajra Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2013 at 00:45
Nope, Hannibal was just like anyone else. If making Romans shiver in fear should make you a genius, the Vandals, Huns,Arabs and Visigoths are better candidates.


Hannibal just had 36 elephants. And the Romans were just Proboscidaephobic Confused

If he were careful with his elephants (or perhaps you cant blame him for their dying ) , he could have stormed Rome with 6 or 7 elephants .
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  Quote AnchoritSybarit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Mar-2017 at 01:46
Can we agree that Hannibal started a war that Rome was dedicated to provoking? 
If so then the question arises, do you want to fight the war in Spain or in Italy.  In either case you face the predicament of being cut off from your base (Carthage) which given Rome's naval superiority was inevitable.
If you fight in Spain then you still face the historical possibility of Rome making a descent on Carthage from Sicily and forcing Hannibal to scurry back to Carthage without his battle tested veterans and make do with the home militia.
If you fight in Italy then you at least have the possibility of striking a decisive blow against Rome.

I have often heard the criticism that Hannibal lacked strategic insight because he failed to bring siege equipment with him.  He barely made it across the Alps and then with the loss of a large percentage of his men.

The debate still rages as to his failure to march on Rome.  In his defense conventional wisdom of the day dictated that the defeated Romans would naturally sue for peace.  And furthermore even assuming a successful assault (which would have proved costly even against a depleted Rome garrison) he could not have possibly held it against a return Roman assault.

His basic failure if it can be so called was in not being able to break Rome's ties with it's allied states.  It is arguable that no one could have accomplished this feat.  Given the basic difference between Carthagenian and Roman cultures we should all be grateful.  For all its faults and failures Rome's basic foundation brought us the Western civilization we cherish today.
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