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Greatest Battles that the Romans Fought

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  Quote Praetorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Greatest Battles that the Romans Fought
    Posted: 13-Oct-2005 at 17:50

Big Roman battles?

Gulls 250,000 vs. Romans 45,000 any more?

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Oct-2005 at 18:37

 I'll assume your referring to Alesia there, I believe the Romans actually had as many as 60,000 men and the Gauls significantly less than 250,000 men, more like 180,000.

 There's a major difference between a great battle and big battles (numerically), big battles arent necessarily the most important or even decisive.

 In terms of importance positively for Rome, I would have to say Naissus 268AD and Lake Benacus 268AD also throw Zama and Ilipa in there to.

 Greatest defeats Carrhae 53BC the Teutoburg forest 9AD and Adrianople 378AD.

 The greatest battle Rome ever fought in I think could be Chalons 451AD even though it didnt do Romem uch good in the long term, the battle was of huge importance to the future of Europe, Western Europe especially  in that would it be under the control of the Germanic tribes or the Hunnic empire.

 All the battles I mentioned were hugely important and more often than not, decisive. I'm sure ive missed one or two majors battles however.



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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 03:06
Cannae was a great battle, even though it didn't ultimately result in what Hannibal wanted it to. The defeat created in the minds of the Romans a spectre of infinite terror, Hannible at Cannae vastly altered Roman psychology for centuries to come. It is little coincidence that after the Second Punic War the Romans' empire building effort really took off on a massive scale.

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 04:08

 What I find disappointing about Cannae is even though it was a masterclass by Hannibal his opponent Varro was a disgrace.

 It'd be infintely more impressive a victory had the Roman commander been even remotely competant, Varro's strategy provoked annihilation, i'm stunned he couldnt see that.

 His idea of breaking the Carthaginians through an overwhelming concentration of force in the centre was sacrificing the flexibility of the legions for the rigidity of the phalanx, the result when up against a general like Hannibal could be nothing but a Roman defeat.

 Hannibal must have struggled to believe his luck when he saw the Roman formation as they advanced.

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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Oct-2005 at 21:19

Well, unless the definition is defined with certain specifics, the 'greatest battle' a Roman army was involved in was, hands down, Cannae. Hannibal's masterpiece has resonated beyond its age as much as any other in history. The crescent formation. Double-envelopment. The elastically hinged wings of cavalry. Simply brilliant. Of history's great commanders, Hannibal was unique in being essentially defensive in his use of infantry. Even at defeat at Zama, the aging Hannibal, probably suffering from mental and even physical exhaustion, and no longer with a great cavalry force or adept lieutenants, skillfully used his inferior cavalry as a rearguard action to rid the cavalry squadrons of both armies of the field (this is conjectural), and absorbed Scipio's legions toward his veteran line, which he placed in reserve, thus immediately thwarting Scipio's chances of using his tactics of pinning an enemy's center and sending his rear lines to envelop and crush that enemy. It may have been very fortunate for Scipio, who certainly generaled with great poise that day, that Hannibal's first 2 lines lacked co-operation and began fighting amongst themselves. The superior cavalry arm decided Zama (basically), and Scipio was very prudent to secure these allies before engaging Hannibal.

True, luck always plays a factor in these situations.

Let's get one thing very clear - Varro was no genius. But I don't think he was the fool everyone seems to make him out to be. remeber, we have the benefit of hindsight, and I doubt anyone before August 2, 216 B.C. could predict what could have happened. Every victory in history which was an illustration of superbly innovative tactics was one with the loser not being more than a moderate commander (I think). Roman writers and historians were, for the most part, either wealthy aristicrats or dependent on the aristocracy - in the case of Polybius, the Scipionic circle. My point, which is simply humble my opinion, when 2 consuls shared command, as was the case at Trebia and Cannae, the patrician was always the 'hero' and the plebeian the 'goat'. Gaius Terentius Varro was a plebeian.

Praise has been showered upon Fabius Maximus for his policy of delayed inaction against Hannibal, but Varro's dispute with Fabius, which is what made him so bad in the eyes of the aristocratic writers, was very sensible; indeed, Fabius was a nuisance to Hannibal and his army, but Hannibal still marched where and when he wanted, devastaing the countryside and appropriating all the victuals and supplies for sustaining his ends. Varro's argument was how could the Romans expect to keep their federation intact, which relied on promising protection for obediance, if they couldn't protect their own people? Actually, Hannibal was indirectly enriching Fabius and his fellow aristocrats as farmers fled the land and crowded into Rome. Their farms were sold for a mere pittance, and the senators etc. were incorporating them into their already vast estates, known as latifundia, and working them with slaves. Sorry - this really isn't the point, but interesting trivia.

Moreover, Fabius' style was not the Roman way. Varro did what was expected of him -be aggressive. Fabius' wisdom, though, was indeed appreciated after the lesson of Cannae. He certainly never 'outwitted' Hannibal, as many seem to feel. It was the other way around; has anyone ever read of the famed stratagem Hannibal pulled on Fabius in the Falernian plain in 217 B.C. by using some 2,000 cattle? It was a page for the art of deception.

Indeed, Hannibal had constantly outflanked the Romans before and even after Cannae with his cavalry, but here they had him in terrain that prohibited any outflanking maneuver. Much like Darius III at Gaugamela 115 years earlier, Varro's plan was not subtle but, on paper, quite practical. His cavalry was to be purely defensive against Hannibal's horsemen, designed to hold their ground for as long as possible as he crushed Hannibal's vastly smaller body of infantry with sheer weight (the more seasoned infantry were in the center). Both he and Paullus personally commaned the cavalry units, clearly to hold as much tenacity and spirit as possible. What took place on the wings would be of little consequence after an overwhelming victory by a massive concentration of force in the center. He had every reason to be confident; the spearheads of about 10,000 legionnaires had cut away at the Trebia and, the 6,000 or so of the vanguard, at Trasimene. They would now do so in an offensive manner and absolutely destroy Hannibal. True, he was robbing his army of flexibility, but was enforcing more rigidity. He had to bunch the legions together more than usual to create more depth. It must have seemed so simple. As I stated, Varro, a plebeian, has gone done as the ultimate scapegoat, but with such a huge army at his disposal, attempting anything complicated would have been improbable. Again, he was doing what was expected of him. Like Darius III, he went up against a man that day of battle who is to this day considered one of the greatest leaders in military history.

Hannibal's cavalry at Cannae achieved shock tactics, as he placed his heavier cavalry in more numbers on one side, and the lighter Numidians on the other; the Numidians and their Roman allied counterparts fought equally against each other on Hannibal's right flank, but the force of Hasdrubal's heavy Iberian and Gallic horse, which outnumbered the Roman cavalry on this side, the Carthaginian left, by more than 2-to-1, quickly put them to flight and, employing incredible order, did not pursue too far and swung about 90 %, rode behind the Roman infantry, and before completely smashing into the allied cavalry, achieved the flight of that allied contingent, who were pursued by many of the Numidians. Hasdrubal then rode into the Romans rear, spelling doom for the poor legionnaires, who were already sucked into Hannibal's envelopment on three sides.     

We know what happened to poor Varro and his army that dreadful day for Rome, but he displayed admirable distinction in defeat, rallying survivors at Venusia. He was relatively excused and given posts of command throughout the rest of the war. After the war, he was sent on diplomatic missions to Greece and Africa.

Cannae was indeed a lesson in the art of war, as Will Durant, in his The Story of Civilization Vol. III, wrote, "It was a supreme example of generalship, never bettered in history. It ended the days of Roman reliance solely upon infantry, and set the lines of military tactics for 2,000 years".

But the Romans, wrote Polybius, "...were most to be feared when they stood in real danger.....Though they were now so overwhelmingly defeated, and their military reputation had been destroyed, yet, by the peculiar virtues of their constitution, and by wise counsel, they not only recovered their supremacy in Italy.....but in a few years made themselves masters of the world."

Food for thought. Thanks, Spartan




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  Quote Menander Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Oct-2005 at 18:30
As I recall, Hasdrubal was in fact directing the (unsuccesful) war in Spain against Scipio's legions and nowhere near Cannae. 
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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Oct-2005 at 20:40

Different Hasdrubal Menander. The Hasdrubal I was referring to was one of Hannibal's subordinates during his campaign in Italy. I should have specified, and there were 2 major Carthaginian generals named Hasdrubal in Iberia at the time, Barca and Gisgo. Along with the 3rd, Mago Barca, they didn't exploit a golden opportunity after the Scipio brothers were defeated; the Ebro line was held by about 9,000 legionnaires under one Lucius Marcius. Their chance to rid the Iberian peninsula of the Romans for good in 211-210 B.C. came and went, as reinforcements arrived first from Gaius Claudius Nero , with about 12,000 foot and 2,000 horse (?), and then Scipio (later Africanus) with about 10,000 foot and 3,000 horse (?).

No merit should be taken form the dourness and spirit of the Romans, but the Carthaginian leaders seemed to have quarreled and disagreed to the point that greatly impeded their chances to win in Iberia. Hasdrubal Barca's aim was to get to his brother Italy, and Gisgo's seemed to protect the vested interests in Iberia for the Carthaginian suffete. I may be oversimplifying all this, though. 

Rome was always going to ultimately win; Hannibal's genius merely prolonged the inevitable. Carthage, except the Barcid clan, was simply not a warrior culture, so to speak. Their talents were that of great middlemen and entrepreneurs, trading what they and others made.

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  Quote Roughneck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Oct-2005 at 22:03
Originally posted by Praetorian

Big Roman battles?

Gulls 250,000 vs. Romans 45,000 any more?

The first bird-flu incursion into Europe?
[IMG]http://img160.exs.cx/img160/7417/14678932fstore0pc.jpg">
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  Quote Dalsung Hwarang Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Oct-2005 at 20:27
THE GREATEST ROMAN BATTLE EVER: THE BATTLE OF ZAMA!!!
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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Oct-2005 at 20:37

Originally posted by Dalsung Hwarang

THE GREATEST ROMAN BATTLE EVER: THE BATTLE OF ZAMA!!!

 Well its an important battle obviously the final confrontation of the 2nd Punic war the coming together of two great generals Hannibal and Scipio.

 However as a battle it was unimpressive, little more than a slogging match and totally uncharacteristic of both generals

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  Quote AlbinoAlien Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Oct-2005 at 21:40
i for one think that because of the battle of Carrahe, the romans were ultimatly filled with reven upon the carthagiunians. this, down the road, led to the extremely harsh terms set down before the carthaginians by the romans at the end of the third punic war. so in the long run, because hannible decided not to lay siege to rome, the pychological effects of Carrahe on the romans was negative.
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  Quote Dalsung Hwarang Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Oct-2005 at 23:44
Heraclius you do have a good point...
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  Quote Setchi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Nov-2005 at 14:51
and what about battle of Pydn.It was also interesting.
The macedonian phalanax ended
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  Quote Justinian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Nov-2005 at 22:05
The battle of Magnesia against Antiochus III
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  Quote Ahmed The Fighter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Nov-2005 at 04:32

With no doubt battle of Chalone 451 A.D.

It was a bloody battle

Battle for survival.

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  Quote Ikki Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Nov-2005 at 11:28
Tapae 101 AC, against de Dacians. The roman army in his best moment: tactic reserve, the flankin attack of the dacians and the counteract manoeuvre of the romans, the fierce combat in the centre... Brilliant.

Here you can see a plan of the battle and an account about the battle (the last)... in spanish, sorry

http://www.historialago.com/leg_01043_legioncombate_01.htm





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  Quote J.Caesar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Apr-2006 at 01:29
Battle of Vercallae! Greater than Alecia in terms of kill ratio.
Over 200,000 Germans gainst 45,000 Romans. Result 140,000 German dead and over 60,000 prisoners! Roman dead...less than 1000!!
Romans were very careful about stats and prisoners to be sure.
There cannot be a greater ratio than this, even Belisarius against the Goths is not as great as this.
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  Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Apr-2006 at 02:23


The ratio is not as good as Vercellae but considering it was just a tribal army and not an organized force ...

Battle of Arausio

120 000 Romans vs 200 000 Cimbri.

Roman losses, 100 000 +

Cimbri losses, less than 10 000

A particularly devastating defeat, since it arrived fresh on the heels of a string of defeats and involved such a huge loss of manpower - with the Cimbri camped just across the Alps, Rome was in a precarious position until the Battle of Vercellae.

Not, however, as sad a Roman performance as the Battle of Allia ...

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  Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Apr-2006 at 11:34
Chalons I believe was the largest in number of combatants. A Roman victory indeed, but it should be said that it was their Visigothic allies that bore the brunt of the fighting with the Huns, saving the very Empire their people would usurp.

As for great in terms of drama...Alesia has already been mentioned, how about the siege of Masada and the Jewish Zealots 72-73 BC?
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  Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Apr-2006 at 03:00
Originally posted by Reginmund

As for great in terms of drama...Alesia has already been mentioned, how about the siege of Masada and the Jewish Zealots 72-73 BC?


Hmmm .... Masada was pretty dramatic, but I think it pales next to the Siege of Numantia.
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