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Zama and Cannae: The Better Showing?

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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Zama and Cannae: The Better Showing?
    Posted: 12-Aug-2004 at 13:52
While the Second Punic War certainly had its fill of able commanders, I would definately say that no two men stood out as much as the Carthaginian General Hannibal Barca and the Roman General Scipio Africanus(aka Scipio the Younger). To get a feel of the two commanders' capabilities, let's make a comparison of their brightest victories: the Battle of Cannae(Hannibal's), and the Battle of Zama(Scipio's). I would like for you to decide which of the two amazing battles showed the respective general's ability as a commander better. I'll provide a description of each battle(of course, despite my best efforts, there could be minor inaccuracies, so finding a backup source may not be a bad idea):

Cannae- Hannibal put his troops into battle formation(his back would be facing the Aufidius River): His Spanish and Gallic Infantry in the center, the Heavy African Infantry(acting as reserves) on either side of the Spanish and Gallic Infantry, with the Celtic/Spanish Heavy Cavalry on the left wing of the infantry, and the Numidian Heavy cavalry to the right wing of the infantry. The Roman commander positioned his troops with the standard three lines in the center, and cavarly on the wings(Roman cavalry on the Roman right wing, and Latin Cavalry on the Roman left wing). The battle started off with Hannibal advancing his Spanish and Gallic infantry in the center. Next, Hannibal ordered his Heavy Cavalry to attack the Roman cavalry, and Hannibal's cavalry succeeded in driving the Roman Cavalry form the field. Hannibal's then ordered his light cavalry to engage the Romans' Latin Cavalry. After driving the Roman cavalry from the field, the Carthaginian Heavy Cavalry crossed the rear of the Roman troops, and aided thier Light Cavalry by attacking the Latin Cavalry from behind, driving the all Roman cavalry from the field. The Roman legion psuhes the Hannibal's infantry back, and upon seeing this success, the Roman commander orders his reserves to rush in and aid in pushing the Carthaginian infantry into defeat. As a gap in the Carthaginian infantry forms, the Romans pack pack themselves in, causing the maniples to clash into one another, and simply form one huge crowd of Roman soldiers. At this point, Hannibal orders his Heavy African Infantry to turn inwards and advance against the Roman flanks. The Carthaginian avalry now returns to attack the the Romans' exposed rear, thus completely encircling the Romans, and make this an easy slaughter.

Zama- Scipio draws his troops up his infantry into three lines. Scipio breaks the standard Roman infantry formation, arranging his maniples one behind the other, creating lanes through the Roman army. He puts his cavalry on the wings(the Massannissa Cavalry on the Roman right wing, and the Laelius Cavalry on the Roman left wing) of his force. Hannibals battle formation is as follows: A row of elephants in the front, followed by two lines a raw recruits, with the Italian veterans to the rear, and the Numidian Cavalry on the wings. Hannibal starts off with an elephant attack, but the Romans cleverly upset many elephants, causing them to rear back, and run through the Carthaginian lines. Many other elephants simply passed through the lanes Scipio had created in his infantry, causing no harm. Scipio then orders his numerically superior cavalry to attack the Numidian Cavalry, the Roman Cavalry succeeds in driving the Carthaginian Cavalry from the field. Scipio orders his legions to advance. His first line pushes the Carthaginian first line back, and then the Roman second line advances, defeating the second line as well. Scipio now forms his troops into a phalanx, and advances on Hannibal's veteran troops, but Hannibal's veterans do not budge. At this point, the Roman cavalry returns from chasing the Carthaginian Cavalry, and attacks the Carthaginian rear, causing defeat for Hannibal.

So, which battle would you consider to be a better showing of commandership?



Edited by Lannes
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  Quote Tobodai Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Aug-2004 at 14:50
definately Cannae, not only because Hannibal was more outnumbered proportionally than Scipio at Zama, but also because at Zama the Carthiginian army was of pretty low quality compared to both Scipio's and previous Carthiginian armies.
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  Quote Keltoi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Aug-2004 at 15:02
In Cannae, Hannibal made every move pretty much flawlessly. The Romans vastly outnumbered Hannibal, but still Hannibal managed to systematically destroy the roman cavalry then completely surround and suffocate the romans, leaving no room to move.
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  Quote Tonifranz Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Aug-2004 at 20:05

Yes, I agree. Tactically, Cannae is better, and is more studied at military schools, but strategically Zama is more significant.

Why? Cannae won Hannibal and Carthage a battle, Zama won Scipio and the Romans a war.



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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Aug-2004 at 21:11
I agree with you all.  Let me pose a discussion question for you all to post your thoughts on:  Was Zama even really won by a command of Scipio's, or to better phrase it, was Scipio's victory at Zama due to his commandership?

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  Quote Yiannis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Aug-2004 at 03:15

I'm sad when I thing of Cannae. I imagine myself, a single Roman legionnaire, packed with no room to move, without any possibility to defend myself. All around I see people falling, screaming and all I can do is to wait for my time to come.

When the night came it must have been a gruesome sight. The plain, full of dead and the agony of those who are dying being finished off by the Carthaginians, Iberians and Galatians.

Brrrrr....

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2004 at 01:39
To me Scipio's victory at Zama would be the greater achievement from a commanders point of view due to these reasons:

The force Hannibal faced at Cannae was led by less accomplished commanders (L.Aemilius Paullus and C.Terrentius Varro) , who had not had experience with commanding large bodies of men as their force was a combined one. Due to their lack of experience, the romans in effect defeated themselves by failing to use their superior numbers (having the ranks line just line up behind each other), relying too heavily on their legions superiority man to man and allowing themselves to be too easily outflanked.

The battle at Zama was more of a contest of equals as Hannibal was an experienced and competent commander and Scipio had already proven his mettle by defeating Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal and effectively driving the Carthaginian force from italy. As to the battle specifics Scipio succeded in: effectively nullifying the power of Hannibals elephants, outflanking Hannibal's main position and drawing an experienced commander into a infantry battle in which the roman legions had a greater advantage (due to their Triplex acies formation, which gave the legions better staying power)
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  Quote Sabzevarian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2004 at 03:50
Didn't Scipio ally with a Numidian chief and get a better or at least greater cavalry force than Hannibal at the battle? And Hannibal played the battle in a way that he was winning at a point, and would have won if he had the cavalry strength he usually had? (the cavalry being forced to flee from the field) That's the way I summarize what I remember from reading about the battle a while ago, care to correct/update me?
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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2004 at 15:50

Originally posted by Sabzevarian

Didn't Scipio ally with a Numidian chief and get a better or at least greater cavalry force than Hannibal at the battle? And Hannibal played the battle in a way that he was winning at a point, and would have won if he had the cavalry strength he usually had? (the cavalry being forced to flee from the field) That's the way I summarize what I remember from reading about the battle a while ago, care to correct/update me?

No corrections needed, you hit it head on.  Though it is still debateable as to wether or not he would've won given the appropriate amount of cavalry, at least, for some people.



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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2005 at 23:41

This is always a fascinating subject regarding two of the greatest generals ever. Excellent description of the battles, Lannes.

Scipio did what he had to do to win Zama, and he achieved it solidly. He knew he had a better army, replete with a much superior cavalry force. But he was outnumbered by an infantry force of raw recruits (the 1st 2 lines) led by a man who was a master at transcending the inherent abilities of Gallic and mercenary warriors etc. He knew he had to be poised and vigilant, as he had seen Hannibals' genius at work in Italy as a young man. The nullifying of the elephants was very clever, but we should take into consideration that elephants are inherently docile animals and he had dealt with them before. I think we can agree that it
was predictable what Hannibal would utilize them for. Scipio clearly had learned from what befell Regulus in 255 B.C. Rememer, the Romans had been to Africa before, and Scipio was ready, and he won the battle by not allowin the elephants to cause inexorable harm and, more so, by winning the cavalry duel, in which he had superior numbers. Hannibal had skillfuly absorbed the Roman legions with his green troops, thus wearing them down by the time they reached his Old Guard.Scipio made the astute redeployments to counter this. Scipio's legions were disciplined to the degree that they responded very efficaciously to re-calls and re-distributions. But they were stopped in thier tracks by Hannibal and his Old Guard. This is where I differ from trurie's comment about Scipio having the advantage. Here he did not. The records are scanty, but many feel, even Polybius and Livy, that Scipio was in trouble at the time of the returning Numidian/ Latin cavalry on annibals rear. Scipio's great victory elevated Rome to an international power, but I think Carthage's fate had been sealed by the defeat of Hasdrubal 5 years earlier. If Scipio had lost at Zama, Roman dominance would have been merely delayed, albeit for some years.

Scipio would have probably attempted something different had Hannibal had his usual 8-10,000 cavalry with him. But I wouldn't have liked his chances. I am aware that Scipio admirers hate hearing this, but it is a fact: his cavalry was much superior to what Hannibal had that day. Some records say it was 3 to 1. Other accounts state Scipio outnumbered Hannibal by 60%. I guess one becomes bookish when stressing the numbers issue too much. With recorded antiquity, we can only extrapolate.

Canne has a resonance beyond its own age. Few battles have have been dispalyed by such brilliant generalship on one side and such crude management on the other. The Romans substituted too much flexibility for sheer mass, and Hannibal destroyed the army by the very means of their own strength. It was a virtuoso display of battlefied control by Hannibal, perhaps never matched in history until possibly Napoleon at Austerlitz. The way in which Hannibal exerted iron discipline into his polyglot army was uncanny. The crescent infantry formation. The imbalance of his cavalry units, whci would serve a purpose which had perfect results. Many seem to think the Romans were incompetent 'farmer-soldiers' that day. This is a mistake; Varro, no genius, was doing what was expected of him - to attack in the set-piece manner. The Roman citizen militia at this time was not of the caliber of the legions under the likes of Gaius Marius or Julius Caesar in later geerations, but they were still the best soldiers in the world, and had been trained from youth for war under high levels of discipline and training. Hannibal was simply a master at circumventing their conventional style.

The brilliant part of Cannae which was absent at Zama was the manner in which Hannibal had allowed his heavy cavalry, on his left, to pursue thevastly outnumbered Roman horse, whom he knew would be defeated
quickly, for but a short distance, but have them turn suddenly 90% and
charge across to the other flank, where the cavalry units here where
relatively equal, and help vanquish that Roman unit. To rally and reform
cavalrymen, re-establish their direction once they had begun to scatter a
helpless enemy was very difficult, and the manner in which this cavalry
unit, about 6,000 of them so cohesively carried their wheel-around so
effectively is testament of Hannibal's superb leadership. The cavalry at Cannae turned a Roman defeat into a terrible slaughter, whereas the
cavalry at Zama outright decided the battle. The terrain around Zama
made it more difficult than Cannae to keep a pursuing cavalry under
control.

To answer your question, Lannes, regarding Scipio's command, I think Scipio deserves credit for winning a very decisive battle, against an opponent anyone would be worried about, becuase of his ability as a commander. His decision making, with re-calls and re- distributions etc., at the precise time probably enabled him to win the battle. Even a moderate commander with this same force might have crumbled with the pressure, or inexperience, of facing hitherto an invincible general possessed of a level of genius the world had not seen since Alexander. However, I do think he benefited greatly from Masinissa. Hannibal's advantages over Varro at Cannae were not nearly as evident, and Scipio wasn't greatly outnumbered.

We have to remember when we read that Scipio didn't outgeneral
Hannibal at Zama, in the sense that he outsmarted him, it doesn't mean at all Scipio was trying to. He simply mad sure he didn't make any grave mistake and let things take care of themselves. That in itself is nevereasy. The outcome of Zama was never inevitable until the very end.Hannibal's plan to use 3 lines of infantry, with the best in the last line, did much to weary the legions. But they had momentum going, as they had beaten the first 2 lines pretty soundly. It was Scipio's ability as a great commander and the discipline and high morale of his men that allowed them to reform, save as much strength as possible, and hold on until the returning cavalry. It was the final irony of the war that the unit in which Hannibal excelled with, the cavalry as a shock force combined with infantry, is waht would finally vanquish him. It was also the Cannae survivors who were present to contribute in the final clash on the plains in Africa.

Hannibal had to deal with a a massive army at Canne, and one slight mishandling of his army could have led to its destruction. I have always wondered why Marcus Marcellus had not been given command Cannae. Would he have robbed the army of all its mobility, the one quality in which the legion was supreme? Would he have made alterations to which his men were unaccustomed? We'll never know.

Both battles were superb displays of generalship from the victors. Zama
was not intended to be a tactical masterpiece from either commander,
both who were masters of deception and flank manuevers. I don't think
Hannibal was fooled by anything at Zama, and may have used his inferior cavalry as a decoy to keep the battle an infantry slugfest, which was very clever. Scipio matched him move for move. It seems obvious to me, as was addressed, that if Scipio's cavalry did not hurry back, the relatively thin Roman line would break in the face of Hannibal's deeper line, which he had kept deep for just this encounter. Why did Polybius write, "Masinissa and Laelius arrived providentially at the proper moment to decide the outcome", if Scipio had everything under control, with the
victory inevitable? This is arguable, and I know full well Scipio admirers hate reading or hearing the innuendos that he could have lost at Zama if not for some form of fortuition. But amid all my readings, it is suggested by many historians that he was on the verge of being overwhelmed by Hannibal's Old Guard before the cavalry returned. B.H. Liddell Hart, who wrote a popular hero- worshipping account of Scipio, dismisses the fact that Scipio was superior in cavalry. He doesn't deny it, but in his account of Zama, he conspicuously doesn't mention it. He tells us Hannibal was availed the 'best cavalry in Africa' by a chief named Tychaes. Better than
Masinissa's Maesulii, who had been with the Romans the previous
couple of years? On the flip side, Hannibal biographies jump on the
cavalry issue! One, Professor John Lazenby writes, 'It wasn't Scipio who beat Hannibal, but the Roman army and its excess in cavalry". I don't think I agree with that 100%. Scipio deserves credit; he did utilize his superior army almost perfectly. In all fairness to Scipio, his cavalry was not involved in an isolated battle. It was all part of his plan. His thinner wall of troops at the end, an economy of force, allowed for them to maximize their missile power upon Hannibal, and the slightly concave formation of them Scipio ordered ameliorated the cavalry charge to allow an envelopment of Hannibals' troops.   

Cannae was definitley the more consummate example of the tactical art,
but the Roman citizen did not aquiesce to the level Hannibal had hoped. Scipio had the advantages of winning over allies of whom many were already partisans against Carthaginian power in both Iberia and Africa.

As a model of tactical brilliance, Scipio's victory at Ilipa in 206 B.C. holds up with Cannae more closely than Zama.

This doesn't really matter, but I think, as an individual, judging by what
they achieved and against what adversity they faced, Hannibal was the superior leader. Scipio never had to deal with such enormous rservesof manpower Hannibal did, and wasn't trying to win over such a vast array of people who had been under the aegis of such a sound political system for the previous couple of generations. Hannibal's long range plan, to break up the Roman Federation by detaching her allies, almost worked; In 209 B.C., 12 of the 30 colonies of the socii announced they would not provide their allotment of men and supplies, as the war had deprived them of meeting their quota. Capua and Tarentum, the two largest cities in Italy besides Rome, did gain his alliance. Carthage ddin't pool their resources enough to help him. Hannibal's battle victories andstratagems, even long after Cannae, were still smashing. But Rome could still endure with 60% of her strength. The distinction he also displayed as reformer in Carthage after the war, in which he relieved the citizens of the extra taxes burdened upon them, checked all the venality within the mercantile assembly, which enabled to be paid in full the war indemnity to Rome 40 years early, was the mark of a genius. Sadly, he was conspired against and forced into exile. Roman historians state he was hoping for another crack at them in war, but this is very unlikely; he wasn't stupid. That chance was long gone. He did renew his warring activities in the Hellenized East against Rome, but to no avail. Sorry, that wasn't the point of the discussion, was it?

Hannibal might have won Zama if the elephants had been more battle weary, and not so quick to scatter (that is a guess). Varro might have won Cannae if Hannibal's salient didn't hold while it became concave. Just like with Hannibal at Zama, they might have been able to deal with a returning cavalry if they had first punched through their adversaries in fron of them. Moreover, when Varro's infantry became confused, he did nothing to address it. Maybe he just shouldn't have been there. The Romans learned from this, and the great generals, beginning with Scipio, would be ones who enjoyed long tenures of commnad. Luck can always be a factor. Moreover, Scipio never fought in the primary campaign of the 2nd Punic War, Italy, if that can be fairly stated.

Thanks, Spartan JKM



Edited by Spartan
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  Quote TheodoreFelix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jun-2005 at 23:04
Personally, I believe Scipio reached his height at Ilipa. The strategy was pure brilliance.
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  Quote Laelius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Jun-2005 at 01:33

A superb post Spartan, it'll be hard for me to reply given time constraints but I shall attempt to. 

 

Carthage ddin't pool their resources enough to help him.

 

A feat easier said than done, tell me what is the distance by land from Carthaginian territory to italy?  For now we won't bring hostile territory or terrain into accout.  I suspect you know that it was nearly impossible for Carthage to maintain a steady stream of reinforcements for Hannibal's Italian debacle, a situation of his own making.  He was so focused on destroying Rome that he failed to secure his base the Iberian peninsula which would have provided him with the manpower and resources to claim his victory.  Instead he recklessly lunged towards victory by crossing the Alps and assaulting Italia.  He put himself in a position where he would be impossible to support and where his enemies would heavily outnumber him.  There's an old military maxim which applies here "amateur's study tactics, professionals study logistics."  I suspect Hannibal would have fared better had he engaged the Roman's in the Iberian peninsula where his smashing victories and extensive charisma would have immeasurably strengthen Carthage's hold on her newly gained acquisitions. 

 

Furthermore I agree with the observation of Hannibal's cavalry commander Marhabalis, Hannibal knew how to win a victory but now how to use it.  Though Hannibal may have not been able to sieze Rome following Cannae the sight of his army at the gates of Rome might have broken the seemingly indomittable Roman spirit.

 

I also agree that Illipia makes a better comparison to Cannae than Zama. 



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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Jun-2005 at 01:25

Your assessment does not strain credibility at all, Laelius, but I respectively disagree with you. This is all good, though .

I have much I would like to write, all of which is impromptu, so forgive me if it seems extemporaneous and 'choppy'.

Remember, we have the luxury of hindsight, thus anyone who failed in the end can be criticized for what they 'should have done'. In my opinion, Hannibal was an astounding commander, with regards to both strategy and tactics. He understood fully the complex relationship between military power and the need to maintain domestic political support for war. His actions as a diplomat prove this, and his ultimate failure, among a few reasons, was due to the fact that he didn't comprehend completely the nature of the Roman Federation, which could, for the most part, only be realized after Rome was put to such a severe test. He anticipated some of the thinkings of Clausewitz by more than 2 millenia. The project of the Alpine crossing was hardly reckless, but well-prepared and a superb strategic success, coming to the Romans as a "thundebolt" in the words of Florus. By achieving this, he switched the "center of gravity" of the conflict to Italy, which cancelled the Roman plans to invade Africa, where they had learned a valuable lesson from their previous attack upon that land, under Regulus in 255 B.C.

You mentioned something about the tactics/logistics issue? I don't where that adage comes from, Laelius, but it sounds just. This one comes from Helmuth von Moltke, the Elder:

"No plan of operations can look with any certainty beyond the first meeting with the major forces of the enemy. The commander is compelled to reach decisions on the basis of situations which cannot be entirely directed".

Hannibal was a brilliant logistician. He always took extreme care for the subsistence of his army, including his animals. The elephants were a justifiable sacrifice for lugging the baggage train acroos the Pyrennes and Alps. Not once was there a substantial bout of mutiny amid his polyglot forces. No commander, arguably, has done achieved so much with solely his character to rely upon. The likes of Alexander and Caesar commandered armies Hannibal could only dream of leading. But part of his genius was he transcended the natural ability of the men he led.

The Romans viewed the 2nd Punic War to be a purely offenisive confrontation. One consular army would strike at Spain, the other at Africa. Both forces would consisit of 2 legions and a contingent of allies. This was sound and conventional. The war for them would be fought overseas. They had the monopoly of control of the sea lanes and outmatched Carthage in manpower by about 8 to 1. The very reason for the treaty with Hasdrubal in 226 B.C., Hannibal's older brother-in-law, in which Carthage would not venture north of the Ebro, was to protect their interests to the north-west. Never in their wildest dreams did they think Hannibal could march an army to Italy, much less beat them so convincingly. In 218 B.C., Rome had 250,000 men in the field, and could muster another 500,000, if necessary, from her chain of colonies. 70,000 or so cavalry could be assembled. Hannibal knew full well he would not win a protracted war of attrition. The cavalry issue is precisely what Hannibal knew he could exploit; he had been studying the Roman military system all his life. His cavalry was a 1/4 of his army, all of whom had spent their entire lives on horseback. The Roman cavalry, for the most part, wasn't 1/8 of their consular armies, and the men were not riders but soldiers trying to sit on horses (they would certainly improve). He was never intent on destroying Rome, an impossible goal, but to contain her in Italy. A defensive war, in my opinion, would end up with Spain going the way of Sicily. It is doubtless Hannibal could handle the Romans in some initial encounters, but "lightning" victories and surprise could only come in Italy, which seems ironic. This was the only way the Senate would succumb. His plan was as audacious as it was brilliantt, because it proved to be viable. He would make war on their turf and encourage the allies of Rome to revolt. This would surely drain away her strength, and finish the growing Roman Empire. In 209 B.C., 12 of the 30 colonies of the socii announced they no longer could meet their quota of men and supplies. Hannibals' strategy was bearing fruit, but Rome could still endure, however, at 60% strength. Any other contemporary state would have collapsed. On the flip side, his allies in Italy proved to be a burden, as he had to protect them from Roman reprisals, and their contributions to his forces didn't quite offset the handicap. However, it is very likely that Carthage herself allowed Hannibal to involve them in what they supposed would be the very defensive war we are disagreeing about, Laelius. Their primary interest was protecting their economic interests in Iberia, with the possibility of re-gaining Sardinia, and even Sicily. They never grasped, or cared with the prioritizing of, the fact that he holds a wolf by the tail should not waste her energies in other directions. It never occured to the Carthaginian Assembly how much Rome hated them, and would actually have the will and capacity to destroy them.  

Much that weighed against Hannibal was circumstantial and beyond his control; all that went amiss in the conduct and policy of the war cannot be entirely blamed on him. He made mistakes, but no man is infallible. When Carthage accepted war, he had every reason to think his government would help him with a full heart. Sending many troops to Bruttium via Sicily in 215 B.C. was hardly impossible, Laelius. Actually, it might have been a duckwalk, as a pro-Carthaginian faction controlled Syracuse witht he death of the long time Roman ally, Hiero. The admiral Bomilcar had reached Locri with detachments in 215 B.C., and an army of about 25,000 troops, already mobilized in Africa, was ready to be sent to Bruttium, all of which was now under Hannibal's control. But Hasdrubal, ready to march into Italy, was stymied by the Romans under Gnaeus Scipio at Dertosa (Iberia) in north-western Iberia. Remember, it was the elder Scipios, not the famous son (and nephew), who foresaw Iberia being the key to Roman victory, and provided Roman presence and alliances here. The reinforcements were sent to Hasdrubal instead of Hannibal. It is probable the Suffete deemed Rome as good as defeated after Cannae, thus feeling  Hasdrubal was in more need of reinforcements. Within 5 years, the forces under Hasdrubal would defeat the Scipios, due to sheer weight of numbers and treachery of their allies, and push their dwindling forces back north of the Ebro. Here, the great Scipio would begin his marvelous work in 210 B.C. The Punic Assermbly was also protecting its monetary interests. Everything in Carthage was about profit and cost, the cost never exceeding the profits. Hasdrubal's setback, after which most of his Iberian allies forsook him, may have been a pretext by the party led by Hanno to prevent the detachment of reinforcements to Hannibal. The Barcids were despised by the mercantile Suffete. An army definitely could have landed in Bruttium in the couple years following Cannae. Hannibal had not counted on that, though. It was from Iberia that he expected substaintial reinforcements. By the skillful evasion of the forces under Scipio, Hasdrubal did reach Italy in 207 B.C., marching more to the west and across into Italy. There is nothing Hannibal could do about the great Roman efforts in Spain in 215 B.C., the Metaurus in 207 B.C., and Scipio's great conquest ending in 206 B.C. The Romans simply shined where he wasn't. 

A Carthaginian army of about 20,000 did land in Sicily in 213 B.C., but succumbed to disease and Marcus Marcellus. The Carthaginians were too slow to exploit theiur chance with Syracuse, and Philip V of Macedon was kept at bay in his region by forces sent by the Senate. Unfortunately for Hannibal, his correspondence with Philip V was intercepted by a Roman squadron in the Adriatic. In 215 B.C., the praetor Marcus Laevinus, protecting the south-eastern coast of Italy, was sent across to relieve the Roman allies in Illyria, who were under attack by Philip V's forces at the port of Apollonia (in modern Albania). The Macedonians were rapidly defeated, and Hannibal's hopes of receiving significant aid from Macedon was dashed.  

I do not agree that  Hannibal failed to secure his base in Iberia. The Carthaginian failure in this theater of the war was all due to the lackluster capacity of the commnaders stationed there, as well as Roman adeptness and resolve. Ultimately, Iberia was lost primarily because of Scipio's superiority over the moderate commanders stationed there. I think, unless time was not allowed, Hasdrubal should have arranged to have more troops, of which there were  plenty between the 3 armies, at Baecula. Scipio's stout attack on his fine defensive position was bold and brilliant, but he outnumbered the Carthagininan by more than 10,000 men. Hasdrubal, to his credit, broke away without his cohesion being shattered. Plenty of troops and supplies were left behind by Hannibal to sustain them, and he stipulated, once he was established in southern Italy, to join him via the Alpine cross he had already established.  We cannot detract from Scipio's brilliance, but he beat Hasdrubal, son of Gisgo, at Ilipa with tactics similar to what the Carthaginians were familiar with. It was a paltry display of generalship on his part, in which he was caught by surprise after the opposing armies faced each other, drawn for battle, for 4 consecutive days. Didn't he realize something was up?! But I guess we can say the same for Varro at Cannae.  

Despite Hannibal's hatred of Rome, he was far from a rash fool, nor a mere dreamer. He knew he could not invade Italy without sufficient material, troop loyalty, intelligence, and his supreme capacity as a commander.  All these elements he was certain of, and he was wise enough to not move until all his preparations were made. He was not blind to the task at hand, and he knew war was coming. War had to be waged on land this time for his cause, and he astutely saw that carrying the war to Italy would keep Carthage, at least initially, safe.  He communicated with the Gallic tribes etc., such as the Insubres and Boii, gaining enough friendship to ensure a base for him to work from in the Po Valley. It was evident to him that he must have a base closer to Rome than Spain or Carthage. He knew he could not efficiently conduct operations from such disatnces, and recruiting the Gallic peoples was very plausible, as they had recently been vanquished by the Romans. Hostility between Macedon and Rome had fomented, and aid could come east from Illyria. He hoped that supplies and troops could sustain him, when needed later, on both sides of northern Italy. He must first win battles against Rome's armies. This he spectacularly achieved. He could control his own decisions and actions. It is to his misfortune his brothers were so far below him as a great general. By trial and error, Rome produced terrific generals throughout the war, Carthage none, really. It seems that Hasdrubal Barca was pretty good at times, but just never had a break, maybe.

Hannibals' tremendous invasion was indeed a paradigm of 'attack is the best form of defense'.

The reports Hannibal received from his reconnaisance missions to southern Gaul and northern Italy of the difficulties and affliction an Alpine crossing would cause did not daunt him. He knew he could deal with the certain opposition from more unwieldy tribes throughout southern Gaul. He was confident of his ability to arouse the appeasement of many peoples, whom he could arouse by playing upon their mutual hatred of Rome.         & amp; nbsp;

Hannibal finished what his tremendous father, Hamilcar, initiated - the conquest of a vast part of Iberia. The Carthaginian Assembly was kept in the dark about the long-term plan of the Barcids, to conquer much of Iberia. By 220 B.C., Hannibal adeptly defeated an army of consolidated tribes, numbering maybe 100,000, in  the Iberian interior at the Tagus River, near modern Toledo. His shock tactics of cavalry and infantry, and with perfectly exploited terrain, inspired his troops greatly. This was all part of securing Iberia for his ultimate goal - Rome. If the other commanders had worked together more efficiently, things might have been different. After the defeat of the Scipios, the Carthaginians, it seems, failed to exploit their victory. The 3 generals quarrelled, thus failing to co-operate at a crucial moment of the Iberian campaign. Hasdrubal, son of Gisgo, had family reasons to hate the Barcids. His father had met death at the hands of the revolting mercenaries. That huge revolt was blamed by many on Hamilcar. It is possible this Hasdrubal was sent to Iberia by the Suffete to ensure the priority of Carthaginian interersts in Iberia over reinforcements being sent to Hannibal.  The production of the silver mines had been disrupted because of the Roman threat, and this element was the essential sinew of the war. A bitter hostility probably was developed between he and Hasdrubal Barca, who certainly pressed in support of his great brother, but couldn't conduct the march to Italy without the co=operation of Hasdrubal, son of Gisgo. It has been suggested that Mago, the other commnader and younger brother of Hasdrubal Barca, resented the seniority claimed by his older brother (I don't know which was older between these two), who was consistently failing. With less bickering because of trifles (compared to victory over Rome), they should have driven the Romans completely from Iberia, making it much more difficult for any commnader, no matter how brilliant, to begin a Roman conquest of the vast, partisan-style, peoples of this land. Moreover, Hannibal had not expected this division, and could very well have been reinforced after Cannae. The last Roman consular army in Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), under the consul Lucius Posthumius was destroyed by the Boii in 216 B.C., leaving northern Italy ripe for Carthaginian landings, whether by sea (more risky) or land. Rome acted accordingly in all the theatres. 

I think one major hindrance of Hannibal's strategy, that of breaking up the Roman alliance, was his incorporation of Gauls into his army. This was invaluable for his battle victories, but not for gaining allies throughout Italy. Why would Roman allies abandon their neighbors, who extended their citizenship and ameliorated their lifestyles, to fight alongside Gallic tribesmen? But Hannibal did detach about 40% of Rome's allies. It just wasn't enough. Moreover, he surmised Rome's infrastructure was similar to Carthage's, in the sense that her subjects would gladly leave her, as the African dependents did in 241 B.C. in the Truceless War, in which his father ruthlessly and effectively suppressed the mercenary revolt. He would realize his mistake amid his fighting in Italy. Again, this realization could not have been fully clear before such a stern test was applied to the cohesion of Rome's alliance.

Whether or not the immediate advance by Hannibal on Rome after Cannae would have been just enough to tip the balance and shatter Rome's will to resisit will remain one of military history's great unanswered questions. I don't think the Senate contemplated accepting any terms, as they knew, despite Cannae, their city was superbly defended, and there were many more troops in the field for them than for Hannibal. He certainly could not have taken Rome by assault. It was never his intention to do so, as sacking Rome was but a means to an end. Hannibal was the best judge of his own wisdom, and I think he felt, as many did, that Rome was beaten. His base in the Po Valley was uncompromised, as the Gallic tribes remained in open revoltand he had shown the Romans he could beat them in battle quite soundly. Most of southern Italy would join him, as he expected. There was no reason to think that continued pressure on Rome would not eventually force her to admit defeat.  I think that if Hannibal had marched on Rome, it would have been a complete reversal of his long-term strategy. He hoped to gain support here in southern Italy (his pleas fell on deaf ears earlier in the north), and he risked that happening by marching away from these areas after Cannae. Hannibal was a cool, sober calculator, and he probably made the right decision. I don' think Maharbal was right. This is, of course, all conjectural.

Lastly, though the strength of the Republic of Rome, along with her sound institutions of law and colonial expansion, was the main reason for her victory, they appeared to have had Bona Fortuna on their side, particularly regarding the caliber of consuls who shined at such crucial points. The different strategies of Fabius and Marcellus were instrumental in winning the war of strategic endurance, and , of course, the Scipios were all heroes in such critical times, and the foresight to send troops to north-eastern Iberia and block the passage for the coming of reinforcements to Hannibal was paramount. I really feel, looking back, the 3 commanders screwed up pretty badly, given what they had at their disposal, particularly after the defeat of the Scipio brothers. Why did Hasdrubal, upon debouching into northern Italy in 207 B.C., write down his message to Hannibal, which was sent by courier? Nero captured the messengers and had all the information he needed. If Hannibal had known his brother was in northern Italy, he would surely have attacked, full-on, Nero's army, and almost surely have defeated him, when fully commited. Why didn't his younger brother detach the couriers with the message of his whereabouts commited to their memories? Some of them must have had a moderate brain capacity. Oh, well.

We'll never know, but it is likely a Carthaginian victory, if solid enough to prevent any further Rome's rise, would not have been for the better. They were superb craftsmen and experts in the practices of irrigation and agriculture, and, most of all, maritime trade. But they never would have provided for the posterity of Western Civilization the amalgam of great innovations in so many areas of learning, law, and engineering etc. that the Romans would. But for all her wonders, Rome was indeed a major exponent of that very thing deemed by many to be evil, even to this day - imperialism.

"Hannibal conducted his enterprise with consummate judgment; for he had accurately ascertained the excellent nature of the country in which he was to arrive, and the hostile disposition of its inhabitants towards the Romans; and he had for guides and conducters, through the difficult passes which lay in the way, natives of the country, men who were to partake of the same hopes with himself".

- Polybius

"Hannibal the Carthaginian, son of Hamilcar. If it be true, as no one doubts, that the Roman people have surpassed all other nations in valor, it must be admitted that Hannibal excelled all other commanders in skill as much as the Roman people are superior to all nations in bravery. For as often as he engaged with that people in Italy, he invariably came off victor; and if his strength had not been impaired by the jealousy of his fellow-citizens at home, he would have been able, to all appearance, to conquer the Romans. But the disparagement of the multitude overcame the courage of one man. Yet after all, he so cherished the hatred of the Romans which had, as it were, been left him as an inheritance by his father, that he would have given up his life rather than renounce it. Indeed, even after he had been driven from his native land and was dependent on the aid of foreigners, he never ceased to war with the Romans in spirit".

- Cornelius Nepos

"Gauged by the work he had to do, the resistence he encountered, and the means at his command, Hannibal outranks any general in history".

- Theodore Ayrault Dodge

 

If anyone finished all this, I am flattered. I'll be happy to discuss the many variables, as this is all just a point of view - mine .

Thanks, Spartan JKM.



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  Quote Laelius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Jun-2005 at 23:16

I finished it, yikes

 

Bravo!

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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Jun-2005 at 17:59
I do love the many smileys we can use

I find it very difficult, as do many soldiers and militarists etc., to write
about Hannibal without expressing traces of hero worship, in some
form or another. The man was amazing.

Although I think Hannibals strategy was, conceptually, excellent,
his objective may have been too limited. When circumstances changed,
Hannibal didn't seem to alter his strategy. He never seemed to
waver from the idea that the allies of Rome were not going to revolt to
the degree he had hoped. In fairness, I don't see what he could have done
differently, and his plan entailed home support he didn't get, but he must
be held accountable for assuming something so crucial. He also seemed
indifferent to the huge significance of Rome's overall control of the sea
lanes. Perhaps when he was able to defeat the Roman armies more
quickly than he planned, he should have expanded his objective to defeat
Rome. However, his individual crusade held up remarkably, and the
situation was very tight for a while. Perhaps he held on to the hope that
he would receive his substantial reinforcements and/or the majority of
Rome's allies would come around. Akin to Napoleon, he was one of
the most revered losers (ultimately) of military history.

Thanks, Spartan
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  Quote Laelius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 12:00

I find it very difficult, as do many soldiers and militarists etc., to write
about Hannibal without expressing traces of hero worship, in some
form or another. The man was amazing.

 

Well its understandable that you should admire him in such a manner.  He fought with undaunted courage and strived with limitless determination only to fail in the end.  Why he was the very picture of a heroic tradgedy.  Personally I find arguing with you on this topic to be rather unsavory on account that you have obviously read far more on the topic and my time constraints prevent me from throwing together a sufficient counterattack to your impressive arguments put forth on the 14th.  Why if the lawyer I work for caught me writing this....  Anyways I might even argue that my knowledge base is but Carthage to your Rome and unfortunately in the arts of debate I am hardly an equal to Hannibal much less his superior .

 

It was a paltry display of generalship on his part, in which he was caught by surprise after the opposing armies faced each other, drawn for battle, for 4 consecutive days. Didn't he realize something was up?!

 

Personally I disagree here, at Illipia Hasdrubal had a significant numerical advantage and perhaps felt weary of attacking a commander whom had demonstrated himself to be exceptionally capable at Cartagena and Baecula.  Furthermore he had large number of Iberians, though many of them were skilled fighters they were less than disciplined and consequently would be difficult to manuever on the field.  Besides the primary surprise was not that Scipio had reoganized his army but rather the final arrangement.  Put yourself in Hasdrubal's place, as the Roman's advanced would you not expect that your crack Libyan troops should smash through their Spanish allies destroying the Roman center?  Would you have expected  that the Spanish allies would have stopped right in front of your line?

 

It may be true that Scipio did not face the same sorts of hardships endured by Hannibal yet I would avoid calling Hannibal his superior.  Is it not possible that Scipio would have faired as well as Hannibal if not better.  Yes its true that Scipio learned from observing Hannibal and its true that Scipio needed to be tempered by warfare in Italy before he could begin his brilliant Iberian campaign.  Yet I must say that the disparity in their upbringing should be noted.  Though Scipio undoubtedly recieved a fine military education growing up under his father and uncle who were capable commanders in their own right.  It was Hannibal who grew up in a military camp and was schooled at the knee of one of the great captains of antiquity. 

 

Regardless of my different point of view I share your interest in this particular conflict.  As far as I'm concerned  no other conflict possesses the sort of martial prowess demonstrated in the Second Punic War.  What other war possesses commanders on opposing sides, of whom either one could be legitimately argued to be the finest commander in history?  Unlike that drunken braggart from Macedonia both Hannibal and Scipio possessed a degree of moderation and humanity rarely seen in their day.  There similarities are interesting to say least, especially when one considers there respective fates.  Though Hannibal's end was far worse they were both betrayed by the very people they had fought so valiently to defend



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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 17:52

Excellent point of view, Laelius, and I think people who share a passion of this great subject of history should get along and learn from each other. It's fun, but not paramount to disagree, especially in an orney manner as to whom the 'better' general was. Both were two of the greatest in history and it is Hannibal who has appealed more to historians. That doesn't mean anything more than personal bias. B.H. Liddell Hart and Howard Scullard have provided outstanding views in favor of Scipio, and they hardly strain any credibility, in my opinion.

I do indeed think Scipio possessed the capacity to achieve anything, strategically, logistically, and tactically, that Hannibal did. That is an astute counter on your part when it is stated that Hannibal faced more adversity and odds. Why should Scipio make it hard for himself? Making things simpler is a part of sound strategy. His maneuverings before Zama exemplify this.

Please don't misunderstand me regarding Ilipa; Hasdrubal had every advantage over Scipio on paper. Scipio's complex maneuvers were dazzling, but I think some credit must go to Gaius Laelius and the Roman soldier. Silanus was another great subordinate. Hasdrubal seemed to watch the Romans come at him and achieve the convergent blows upon his flanks. His crack infantry never really engaged their counterparts. Scipio fixed them very well. I don't mean to be cynical, I just think it's possible the scope of Scipio's success in Iberia has been exaggerated by Polybius, who wrote under the patronage of his family. I don't think Hasdrubal Barca was severely beaten at Baecula. He was prudent, with a smaller army, not to fully engage, thus he drew back when he saw the imminent danger. I doubt the lost 4/5 of his army. Were there really 70,000+ men under Hasdrubal at Ilipa? Livy writes there were about 50,000 and the army may have 'grown' from levying. It was probably larger than Scipio's force, being Scipio carried out such novel tactics. I am being bookish, though. Scipio won convincingly, in everything he did in Iberia.

Every tactical masterpiece, including Ilipa and Cannae, is a display of superb generalship on the winner's part and obtuse leadership on the losing side. It's no coincidence that battles such as Zama, Hastings, and Lutzen were conservatively deployed and the commanders simply let the dice roll (somewhat).

Hannibal and Scipio were brilliant sodiers and statesmen, as both their work in the latter was quite impressive. They doubtless suffered from the jealousy of other politicians, such as Hanno and Cato.

If you want some amusement, check out the IMDb.com (Internet Movie Data Base) threads under 'Hannibal (2006)'. The arguing is asinine, but amusing. I post a little with them.

Great stuff.

Thanks, Spartan JKM  



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  Quote Laelius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jun-2005 at 10:58
ah but were the troops Hannibal commanded of any less quality?  Unless I'm mistaken these men had not only marched over the Alps but were also veterans of Carthage's Iberian campaigns.  It was an army of lions that Hannibal led forth into Italy to prey on the mere militia's of the Republic.
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  Quote Hormoz Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jun-2005 at 23:11

At Cannae, Hannibal dealt with very formidable odds and the defeat was very, very complete.  Hannibal's tactics were superb.

Scipio also displayed superb tactics and was dealing with a much less predictable foe. 

I would say Cannae, but it is close.

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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jun-2005 at 01:52

One of the biggest aspects of Hannibal's genius was his ability to transcend the natural ability of the mercenary and Gallic soldiers. He could get then to enjoy privations and accomplish remarkable results. After a couple of years under him, with a command structure intact, his soldiers were of no less quality than taht of the citizen-militia of Rome. But no better, at least substantially. The Romans, land-owning patriots, were every bit as tenacious. The stodgy, basic system of the Roman method of waging war, in which they excelled in the set-piece battle, worked wonders against rabble-like forces. But Hannibal circumvented this, and it is testament to their greatness that they could adapt and finally overcome him. Remeber, the Roman constitution rested on the army. Every man was trained from youth for war (if he wanted his citizenship).

The Carthaginians, basically, were more experienced, as they stayed with the same commander longer. But they were not better than the Romans, as their method and material for warfare was far inferior. The Roman citizen-militia of the Punic Wars laid the basic foundations of training, organization, discipline, and even esprit de corps for the professional legions who would thrive under the likes of Gaius Marius, Gnaeus Pompey, and Julius Caesar. They became more 'private' armies, however, and followed their leaders more than the Senate, which led to the fall of the Republic. But that is another story...........

Any superiority the Punic forces and their allies had over the Romans was purely due to the genius of Hannibal.

 

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