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The Battle of Cannae

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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Battle of Cannae
    Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 10:57

Originally posted by Heraclius

Theres examples of other Carthaginian generals attempting to copy Hannibals weak centre tactic, I believe Hasdrubal tried it in Spain but it fell to pieces. It shows that this tactic takes immense skill and ability to work.

Are you referring to the Battle of Dertosia?

The failure of Hasdrubal's formation there wasn't due to any lack of skills on his part.  The formation didn't work because his center broke before the cavalry could provide relief.

You have to realize, Hasdrubal's army (and most importantly, his Iberian levy) wasn't the veteran, crack army that Hannibal used at Cannae, and that at Dertosia, the Roman commanders weren't nearly as inept.

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 11:43

 Nigel Bagnall in "The Punic wars: Rome, Carthage and the struggle for the Meditterranean" suggests it was partly because of Hasdrubal when he says;

"The Roman legions probably adopted their normal formation; Hasdrubal for his part, in obvious imitation of Hannibal's tactics at Cannae, thinned out the Spanish infantry holding the centre, and concentrated the Libyans and the cavalry on the wings. But Hasdrubal was no Hannibal and the Romans broke though his line before the wings could close and envelop them. The Carthaginians suffered heavy casualties and were completely defeated, leaving the Scipios with the initiative".

 That says to me that Hasdrubal either thinned the centre out to much or didnt time and coordinate things properly as Hannibal had. I believe Hasdrubal was a good commander but that tactic takes expert timing and skill.

 Hasdrubals army was nowhere near as good as Hannibals granted, but then why try and do something that clearly only a veteran experienced army could do?

 Also Hasdrubal was not outnumbered like Hannibal was, this battle was around 25,000 Carthaginians against around 25,000 Romans. The fact they were totally defeated, its largely due to the fact he attempted to copy Hannibals tactics. Because as Hannibal knew if the centre broke to early the army would be annihilated.

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  Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 12:24
Originally posted by Belisarius

The Parthians were outnumbered by odds as high as 5 to 1. However, the Romans had an excuse to lose this battle as the Parthians were a foe that they faced too rarely to be able to compile a strategy against.

However, the Romans had already faced the Carthiginians and their Numidian cavalry in a bloody war. The Carthiginians learned from that war, as opposed to the Romans who actually simplified their tactics. There really was no excuse for this defeat.

Originally posted by Nagyfejedelem

A good military leader put his allieds into the middle of his army.

I am not sure that I understand this. The center should be the strongest point in your line to avoid your army from folding or being split in two. Hannibal only did this because he knew of what would happen and used it to his advantage.


Yes, I agree that the Romans had a reason to lose at Carrhae, but how come under Marcus Aurelius they were able to loot the Parthian capital multiple times?

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  Quote Belisarius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 13:25
The Battle of Carrhae was fought in 53 BCE. Marcus Aurelius sacked Ctesiphon in 165 CE, during which the Parthians were much weakened by decades of decline and had only recently regained strength. That is 218 years with which the Romans were able to study and learn from their conflicts with the Parthians. On the other hand, Carrhae was the first major engagement between the Romans and the Parthians.
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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 14:41
Originally posted by Heraclius

 Nigel Bagnall in "The Punic wars: Rome, Carthage and the struggle for the Meditterranean" suggests it was partly because of Hasdrubal when he says;

"The Roman legions probably adopted their normal formation; Hasdrubal for his part, in obvious imitation of Hannibal's tactics at Cannae, thinned out the Spanish infantry holding the centre, and concentrated the Libyans and the cavalry on the wings. But Hasdrubal was no Hannibal and the Romans broke though his line before the wings could close and envelop them. The Carthaginians suffered heavy casualties and were completely defeated, leaving the Scipios with the initiative".

 That says to me that Hasdrubal either thinned the centre out to much or didnt time and coordinate things properly as Hannibal had. I believe Hasdrubal was a good commander but that tactic takes expert timing and skill.

Not sure how the passage gives you that impression.  In any case, his formation was quite sound.

Hasdrubals army was nowhere near as good as Hannibals granted, but then why try and do something that clearly only a veteran experienced army could do?

Those tactics destroyed the Romans once, so why couldn't they do it again? 

It was a fair assumption that the overall numerical equality and the Carthaginian advanatge in cavalry would make Hasdrubal's plan a success.

Also Hasdrubal was not outnumbered like Hannibal was, this battle was around 25,000 Carthaginians against around 25,000 Romans. The fact they were totally defeated, its largely due to the fact he attempted to copy Hannibals tactics. Because as Hannibal knew if the centre broke to early the army would be annihilated.

Why was his decision to imitate Hannibal's formation such a bad one?  Had his Iberian levy not been of inferior quality to the Roman foot, he likely would've won that battle.  It only makes sense to copy successful tactics.



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  Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 15:04
Originally posted by Belisarius

The Battle of Carrhae was fought in 53 BCE. Marcus Aurelius sacked Ctesiphon in 165 CE, during which the Parthians were much weakened by decades of decline and had only recently regained strength. That is 218 years with which the Romans were able to study and learn from their conflicts with the Parthians. On the other hand, Carrhae was the first major engagement between the Romans and the Parthians.

Yeah, besides, Crassus only invaded Parthia because he wanted to be a gain popularity among the people. Pompey and Caesar were both very popular for their victories, but Crassus was just a rich guy who only defeated a slave revolt which was not considered on par with a true military victory. Crassus was advised to invade Parthia through the Armenian mountains, but instead he underestimated the Parthians and thought that Roman power would conquer them, a huge mistake. Yes i do agree that the Parthians were a lot more pwoerful than the Romans, but then again, they did have a could general at Carrhae. The tactic of getting camels to carry extra arrows was a very good move by Surena. Sad that he was later killed by the king because of jealousy.

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 15:08

 It makes sense to copy a successful tactic used by a good army if you yourself have a good army, Hasdrubal didnt.

 That passage gives me that impression because he says Hasdrubal was no Hannibal, pointing out he was inferior to Hannibal so unable to use this formation effectively, its takes a high level of skill to pull this off.

 If Hasdrubal had had a better army then maybe itd of been a good idea, but he didnt have a particularly good army, so it was suicide to place unreliable troops in the centre. It was ok for Hannibal because his men were veterans with 2 major victories over Rome in its own backyard already behind them. 

 Therefore it's a big negative on Hasdrubals ability that he practically suicided his army when trying to copy a far superior commander, he should of known his centre would not be able to hold the legions back.

 Hannibals iberian and gauls were inferior to the roman foot soldiers that was the whole point in the formation, but again his men were veterans Hasdrubals wernt, choosing a formation like that, exposing your weakest men to the best of the enemy when your army is clearly inferior is a dumb move. Hannibal was miles ahead of Hasdrubal and so was his army hence why they were able to annihilate the Romans at Cannae.



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  Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 15:21
Hasdrubal was definitley no Hannibal. Hannibal crushed a superior enemy twice his own armies size with tactics. Hasdrubal put his weakest troops in the center, not a bad idea, but his troops were just not good enough. His center broke before he could overwhelm the flanks, making him fail. With the odds of Hasdrubal compared to Hannibal, Hannibal is definitely the better general.

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 16:28

 Thats my point, it was an error in judgement on Hasdrubals part, to think by simply copying Hannibals tactics, victory would be his.

 Hannibal didnt just win Cannae because of his tactics, he was an immensely inspirational leader , by placing himself at the centre of the formation his presence inspired his troops to fight harder and longer.

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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 17:12
Originally posted by Heraclius

 It makes sense to copy a successful tactic used by a good army if you yourself have a good army, Hasdrubal didnt.

 That passage gives me that impression because he says Hasdrubal was no Hannibal, pointing out he was inferior to Hannibal so unable to use this formation effectively, its takes a high level of skill to pull this off.

But it wasn't Hasdrubal that caused the loss, rather, it was the Roman center.

If Hasdrubal had had a better army then maybe itd of been a good idea, but he didnt have a particularly good army, so it was suicide to place unreliable troops in the centre. It was ok for Hannibal because his men were veterans with 2 major victories over Rome in its own backyard already behind them.

 Therefore it's a big negative on Hasdrubals ability that he practically suicided his army when trying to copy a far superior commander, he should of known his centre would not be able to hold the legions back.

I've already pointed out the rationale behind using Hannibal's formation.  The assumption must've been that if a vastly outnumbered group of veterans could hold out against the Romans, then a unit that wasn't heavily outnumbered, but was of lesser quality could hold out too.

Hannibals iberian and gauls were inferior to the roman foot soldiers that was the whole point in the formation, but again his men were veterans Hasdrubals wernt, choosing a formation like that, exposing your weakest men to the best of the enemy when your army is clearly inferior is a dumb move.

At Cannae, Hannibal was exposing his weakest men to the enemy's best...

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 17:38

 At Cannae I know Hannibal was, ive already said that! but ive also said his army was far better coupled with his superior leadership/ability he turned a disadvantage into an advantage, because he was a tactical genius, Hasdrubal was not.

 "But it wasn't Hasdrubal that caused the loss, rather, it was the Roman center."

 Yes but also at Cannae the centre of Hannibals army was in danger of buckling to from Romes, that was the whole idea of the plan, but Hannibal was far better than Hasdrubal. Hannibal knew if his centre broke all was lost, he took a risk but a risk he knew he had the ability to overcome. Hannibal knew man for man his army was inferior, even without the numerical advantage, thats why he's a genius the fact he overcame that.

 Hasdrubal just copied him without any of the ability Hannibal had, he had the same plan but it took the kind of precise timing and coordination that Hannibal made look so easy to pull it off. Hasdrubal didnt pull it off, if because he didnt flank the Romans fast enough or expected to much from his centre is a negative on his generalship either way.

 I can see what he was thinking, but he should also of known his army was not as good as Hannibals, two different battles in two totally different locations different circumstances, it wasnt going to end up the same as Cannae just because he used Hannibals tactics. Varro at Cannae was a total incompetant, the Scipios wernt.

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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2005 at 18:25

Originally posted by Heraclius

Hasdrubal just copied him without any of the ability Hannibal had, he had the same plan but it took the kind of precise timing and coordination that Hannibal made look so easy to pull it off. Hasdrubal didnt pull it off, if because he didnt flank the Romans fast enough or expected to much from his centre is a negative on his generalship either way.

He was taking the same risks as Hannibal had four years earlier.  That his cavalry couldn't defeat their opposition as fast as Hannibal's had at Cannae doesn't point to any flaw in Hasdrubal's generalship.  Dertosia was lost by factors out of Hasdrubal's control.

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  Quote Ahmed The Fighter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2005 at 02:19

 I think Hasdrubal was a good commander but not in Hannibal rank he had smaller army than Hannibal army,I think the cavalry of Hannibal was the decisive factor of his win in Canne like Parthian they could defeat roman army by cavalry because roman system depended on infantry

therefor the Roman was good in offensive and Parthian was good in defensive.

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  Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2005 at 08:02
Hadrubal was a good commander, but who knows what he could have done with Hanibal's resources. He tried to copy Hannibal and failed because his men were not good enough to hold the center. Hasdrubal did try to copy Hannibal, but if he faced what Hannibal faced, I don't think he would have done as well. He was still a good general.

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  Quote Alkiviades Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Sep-2005 at 09:12

I wouldn't underestimate a significant factor ...actually two of them:

The first: In Cannae, the Romans cooperated fully with Hannibal's plan. Instead of widening their front to try and outflank the smaller army, they placed the legionaries at half of the normal space, to gain in density and impact - didn't do much good to them in the end, of course. Also, they charged their head on into the advancing Gauls&Iberians, instead of retaining the formation.

Full cooperation which resulted in the mass slaughter we all know.

The second factor: Luck. Even the best general needs luck on his side to suceed. Hannibal was lucky - very lucky indeed. But most leaders winning decisive battles had luck on their side.

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  Quote Ahmed The Fighter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2005 at 13:15
Originally posted by Heraclius

  Also Hasdrubal was not outnumbered like Hannibal was, this battle was around 25,000 Carthaginians against around 25,000 Romans. The fact they were totally defeated, its largely due to the fact he attempted to copy Hannibals tactics. Because as Hannibal knew if the centre broke to early the army would be annihilated.

Who said Hannibal was outnumbered over Romans,The Romans brought to the field 55,000 heavy infantry,9,000 light infantry and 6,000 cavalry against 32,000 heavy infantry ,8,000 light infantry and 10,000 cavalry .

TOTAL 70,000 Romans vs 50,000 Carthaginian

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2005 at 16:27
Originally posted by Ahmed The Fighter

Originally posted by Heraclius

  Also Hasdrubal was not outnumbered like Hannibal was, this battle was around 25,000 Carthaginians against around 25,000 Romans. The fact they were totally defeated, its largely due to the fact he attempted to copy Hannibals tactics. Because as Hannibal knew if the centre broke to early the army would be annihilated.

Who said Hannibal was outnumbered over Romans,The Romans brought to the field 55,000 heavy infantry,9,000 light infantry and 6,000 cavalry against 32,000 heavy infantry ,8,000 light infantry and 10,000 cavalry .

TOTAL 70,000 Romans vs 50,000 Carthaginian

 Depends whose accounts you believe Livy seems to suggest there was around 90,000 romans, but even if it were 70,000 v 50,000 the fact remains 20,000 men is a huge advantage and Hannibal was significantly outnumbered. Made worse by the fact this was a Roman army who often didnt need massive armies to crush enemy armies. The armies subsequent defeat was due to shoddy tactics and total stupidity.

 If you dont consider a 70,000 man army as outnumbering a 50,000 man army then you should look up the meaning of being outnumbered.

 The Roman numbers actually favoured Hannibal the more men that crammed into one place the harder itd be for them to resist Hannibals tactics, the use of  Roman numbers and poor tactics caused their annihilation.



Edited by Heraclius
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