Originally Posted by SigniferOne
Not even close, IMHO. But Nero unquestionably revealed shrewd judgment amid an ultra decisive moment, including a display of impromptu tactical prowess in the battle, which delivered the tipping point for the Romans in a tough fight (Hasdrubal had positioned himself very well for battle following the growing pressure and flight of his guides, neutralizing the Roman right with his 'unreliable' Celts with their mere ascended presence). But the gratuitous treatment of Hasdrubal's body makes for far grimmer reading than anything Hannibal 'perpetrated' throughout the war which can be labeled as 'cruel' (actually, he showcased behavior in stark contrast, honoring, or attempting to provide burial honors for, the bodies of fallen Roman leaders whom he defeated).
In no event of action was Hannibal ever availed such precious intelligence as Nero was for his famous initiating move, never benefited from such invaluable regional support for such a substantial force-march, and, most of all, never committed a potentially fatal blunder like the Romans' punctiliousness to protocol with the double-bugle call in the consular camp with Nero's arrival (Livy, Book 27.47.5), which tipped Hasdrubal off, who was neither lacking in sensible vigilance and reconnaissance (Nero also merits praise for his quit organizing of the logistics for his famed force-march), that both consuls, along with the praetor, were conjoined in arms. This obtuse move canceled out the furtive act of concealing their numbers by not setting up extra tents for Nero's picked force, but rather 'crowding in the extra men in cramped quarters' amid Salinator's tents (Book 27.46.2). Hence Hasdrubal's attempt to withdraw, which also evidences that he was now clearly outnumbered by the enemy. However the blame can be shifted for the blunder among command, both consuls admonished their subalterns about the asset of surprise with the extra men that had come from Venusia with Nero, thus it seem inexcusable, not to mention the sign of a leader not even as circumspect as Hasdrubal (though Nero was surely no less keen) when the stakes were monumental, who also outwitted Nero in NE Spain four years earlier (albeit the details are scanty). Hasdrubal was prepared to tackle the one consul and the praetor, both of whom combined may have outnumbered him slightly, but not now, however small a suddenly-appeared picked force may have been. Moreover, when Hannibal and Nero crossed swords near Grumentum and Venusia in 207 B.C., it is obvious, reading between the lines of Livy (who here becomes very muddled), that Hannibal gave Nero the slip three times while maneuvering to hear word from Hasdrubal; he double-backed on his tracks towards Tarentum after failing to completely shake off the dogging Nero, picked up Bruttian reinforcements at Metapontum, and adeptly swung back up to Venusium before heading NE to Canusium. This was the point where Hasdrubal's messengers just, presumably, missed Hannibal in Apulia, and were subsequently captured near Tarentum. It seems they expected him to be around Metapontum, indicating Hannibal had effected some communication to the north. Details for another time...
Above: parts of southern Italy relating to the strategic climate of the campaign in the spring/summer of 207 B.C.
I'm sorry, but you two are in dire need of a serious reality check with so much concerning Hannibal. It is...astonishing what some of you types try to pull off, with all your intelligent talk. Insulting admirers of Hannibal with comments connecting them (us) with 'hero-worshiping' simply makes your credulity look worse, at least with academically-inclined people. Your attempts, seemingly, to 'insulate' yourself as of late, conon394, with all these guidelines of how to judge things and which sources are good and which are bad, are quite fanciful. But you just keep arguing all you want with your radical beliefs against a consensus of scholarly overview concerning Hannibal and Carthage. Cicero 'bottom-lined' the stability of Carthage, a paramount comment you and davide.cool 'missed' with all your proofs - of which include davide.cool's comments drawing on Cicero (including some of the Fragments, just not the couple that solidly worked against you guys) - of Carthage's lack of sophistication on the recent Carthage thread:
Marcus Tullius Cicero, De re publica (On the Commonwealth), Fragments to the Preface and Book 1 (Fr. no. 7 and no. 3, respectively),
"...Nor would Carthage have had so much wealth for nearly 600 years without judgment and education..."That's pretty substantial; Cicero's On the Commonwealth reflected his beliefs on moral virtues in government and individuals, using Plato's The Republic as a guideline. Whatever the context on these points amid his oratory, the Carthaginians are deemed as exemplary overall, in terms of governed and social efficiency. It echoes comments from the likes of Isocrates and Aristotle (again, the specificity of their themes doesn't alter the same overall verdict of Cicero's), and later relayed by Strabo (attributing comments to Eratosthenes).
"...As our country is the source of the greatest benefits, and as she is the venerable parent that gave us life, we owe her still warmer gratitude than belongs to our human relations.
Carthage would not have continued to flourish during six centuries without admirable politics and institutions..."
I was overlooking the thread with conon394's OP:
Historians too absolute and the fact of scarcity of the data and non-randomness?
There is a question mark at the end, but I doubt he's just curious in some rudimentary manner. From my experience on the boards, the title is antipodal to much of his behavior. To pluck out an old example, for the most part, it's pretty clear that the Spartan defeats by Thebes in the 370s and 360s B.C. were due to adaptive tactical measures to offset the conventional hoplite manner of war in which the Spartans proved too strong. I distinctly remember conon394 lashing out at me with retorts, following such a proclamation, which included the wording, 'there were no gee-wiz tactics at Tegyra'; that's just a snide attitude, indicative, perhaps, of bigger issues with behavioral problems. But, actually, there were tactics as such, following the only account we have from Plutarch. It was quite novel how a larger Spartan force lost to Pelopidas in what was an irregular clash in 375 B.C. Much was impromptu exploitation of exigent circumstances, it seems, by a particularly skilled leader, who displayed similar adept tactical conduct at Cynoscephalae eleven years later.
My upcoming sensitivity does not overstate, I hope, how ignorant and stilted the critical expressions which have come out of this poster, appearing quite assertive and absolute. I guess it shouldn't be a big deal, right? After all, who is Paul Klos, which is conon394's name (according to what he provided on romanarmytalk)? Is he somebody who's reputation means those who disagree with him are humbled? What makes him special that his 'status allows apology'? I read over there that 'if you want to publish something you have to assert a point/view', and 'nobody wants to hear an endless chain of umms, seems to me, maybe I suppose could be likely etc.' Endless chain? To denounce this as disingenuous is arbitrary on my part, but it does read as clever phraseology (people don't 'listen' to texts) injected to portray oneself as 'smarter' than 'us'? Very Karl Rovian with those talking points, which means I hope your audience will comprise one of simpletons, for your sake. It is not too uncommon, when some people criticize the attributes of those who deeply differ from them, they do so with anecdotes in an abstract manner delivered with a stilted connotation of 'I understand things you don't.' Historians (and archaeologists, scientists, educated 'regular' people in day-to-day situations, etc., etc.) can reflect opinion and uncertainty in a dignified and intelligent way, and little, if any at all, evidence will ever be unanimously rock-solid in any aspect of ancient historiography.
I certainly don't feel I exercise the 'proper' parameters for any of this, if such a thing exists within some bounds, but amid my knowledge, no acclaimed historian who has been keenly interested in Hannibal and his backdrop has ever 'excused' his failure in the sense of a cover-up, or besmirched anything as if some aberration took his hero's 'glory' away. They do not 'explain away' his plight, from my view, but rather explain the best they can what and why things ensued as they did along the seventeen year trek. Moreover, the benchmark that there was a 'revolt of Italy' (in reference to the basically good article by James S. Reid referred to by conon394, but contains some errors: Polybius and Livy do not necessarily state what he purports, despite their inconsistencies) is improperly attributed to some modern historians with whom I'm familiar. Also, the 'Celts' did not constitute a nation-state. Who claimed 'all the Celts' joined Hannibal? Who claimed his strategy was causing a 'revolt of Italy?' Polybius and Livy could be clearer, but they do not clearly indicate what Reid claims they do they do, which you presented as a platform to 'confidently' showcase your own views that Hannibal's strategy was not feasible. Hannibal exploited the Celts who joined him with a high degree of efficiency with what they were good for (there was a picked force of 2,000 Celts in 212 B.C., organized in companies), and there's no question Rome was in serious trouble over her manpower pool with her citizenry, had problems finding enough sailors (mainly around Sicily) for the fleets, and many loyal allies were increasingly harboring serious concerns by 209-207 B.C. People who strongly disagree have only the precept that 'Livy is not very reliable' to work from, which isn't unfounded. But in this case, the literary proof is too expansive, circumstantial, and specific to be mere 'annalistic' inventions or carelessness. The Metaurus was the tipping point.
James S. Reid, Problems of the Second Punic War: III. Rome and Her Italian Allies, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 5 (1915), p. 89 (3rd of the article),
"...The statement of Polybius and Livy that 'all' the Cisalpine Celts revolted is deceptive 5. Both writers use the word 'all' carelessly, as we shall see again in other connexions. When the relations of the Gauls with Hannibal are examined in detail, the impression of their comparative ineffectiveness is deepened. Polybius clearly intimates that Hannibal was on his first appearance disappointed with the response made by the Celts to his solicitations. 'The mass of the Celts inhabiting the plains' were eager to join him, but kept quiet because Roman armies had recently passed through their lands and had hemmed them in, and because some had been compelled to take service with the Romans 6. To put an end to their hesitation Hannibal fought at the Ticinus..."This is purely arbitrary from this professor, whom SigniferOne and conon394 would love to have proven as an authoritatively objective and sophisticated historian on this subject, demystifying certain 'falsities of Hannibal.' But Polybius doesn't intimate that at all. Hannibal fought at the Ticinus to free them of being hemmed in, thus further stimulating their eagerness. Polybius never states they hesitated due to any ambivalence. Livy, in Book 22.61.12, indeed carelessly wrote 'all of Cisalpine Gaul' went over to the Carthaginians (Reid would have seen the translations of Livy by Cyrus Evans and Canon Roberts, perhaps among others, which appeared before his work in 1915). But Reid misrepresents Polybius in this case, and does so again. I do have this old article, and always meant to put into a discussion about these topics. conon394's enthusiasm over it is hardly surprising; I knew when I found it a few years back that Hannibal detractors would love it! But like every 'outcast' which tries to seriously undermine Hannibal's generalship, I'm afraid it bites the dust, unless students use it for what it does purport - there was no 'revolt of Italy' in the Second Punic War, nor did 'all the Celts join Hannibal' (predominantly among the two strongest tribes of Cisalpine Gaul did, the Boii and Insubres). But one Edmund Groag, in a 1929 book titled Hannibal als Politiker (Hannibal as Statesman), seems at times too optimistic in lauding Hannibal. But, unlike Reid with the referred to article, Groag does not improperly paraphrase our major source. Groag's thematic point was affected by a maintained and keen feeling that no surviving ancient historian took up sympathetic cudgels on Hannibal's behalf (not the same as direct or tacit admiration). But that's not completely true, though Hannibal had no 'press corps' or biographer whose works survived.
5 Polyb. iii, 75; Liv. xxii, 61.
6 Polyb. iii, 60
Polybius, The Histories, Book 3.60.7-13, upon arrival in the Po Valley and after telling us of the the exhaustive condition of his men:
"...Hannibal, therefore, made every provision for carefully attending to the men and the horses likewise until they were restored in body and spirit. After this, his forces having now picked up their strength, when the Taurini who live at the foot of the mountains quarreled with the Insubres and showed no confidence in the Carthaginians, he at first made overtures for their friendship and alliance, but on their rejecting these he encamped round their chief city and reduced it in three days. By massacring those who had been opposed to him he struck such terror into the neighboring tribes of barbarians that they all came in at once and submitted to him. The remaining Celtic inhabitants of the plains were impatient to join the Carthaginians, as had been their original design, but as the Roman legions had advanced beyond most of them and cut them off, they kept quiet, some even being compelled to serve with the Romans. Hannibal, in view of this, decided not to delay, but to advance and try by some action to encourage those who wished to take part in his enterprise..."At no point above is Reid's comment justified from this passage he referred to; Polybius does not intimate, even if it were partly true, that Hannibal 'was on his first appearance disappointed with the response made by the Celts to his solicitations'. He simply took active measures to gain his ends without any tentative or disheartened behavior, thus if he was 'disappointed', he has no bearing on any substantial verdict of Hannibal's leadership.
Polybius, The Histories, Book 3.75.2, where Reid claimed Polybius' carelessness:
"...Tiberius, though well knowing the facts, wished as far as possible to conceal them from those in Rome, and therefore sent messengers to announce that a battle had taken place and that the storm had deprived him of the victory. The Romans at first gave credence to this news, but when shortly afterwards they learned that the Carthaginians still kept their camp and that all the Celts had gone over to them, but that their own forces had abandoned their camp and retreated from the field and were now all collected in cities, and getting their supplies up from the sea by the river Po, they quite realized what had been the result of the battle..."Polybius clearly means 'the numerous Celtic population of the plain' he mentioned seven chapters sooner (Book 3.68.8), not 'all the Celts' of Northern Italy. As for 'as we shall see again' from Reid, I'm afraid it applies almost solely to his often flawed paraphrasing of Polybius and Livy (not all, though; he makes good observations to keep certain things in check). I'll be glad to dissect it all and express my view that this is far from a solid showing of 'superior scholarship', eschewed of the 'Hannibal romance.' But overall, Reid convincingly shows that there was no 'revolt of Italy', something never purported by the most renown historians of this topic. Hannibal's strategy was basically working because his grinding marches and wrecking havoc almost ruined Rome economically. The wedge was definitely being driven very deep. This entails the source-material, which I have provided before. I will again when I continue here. Livy does tells us, in cut-and-dried fashion, us that Latins and citizens were found in Carthage at the war's conclusion, and that they were executed:
Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, Book 30.43.12-13,
"...The ships Scipio ordered to be put to sea and to be burned. Some historians relate that there were 500 of them - every type of vessel propelled by oars; and that when the Carthaginians suddenly caught sight of the fire it was as doleful for them as if Carthage itself were in flames. The deserters were more severely treated than the runaway slaves, Latin citizens being beheaded, Romans crucified..."We are not old if the deserters, who not only did lend Hannibal their ears, but actually went to Carthage, numbered less than, say, forty people, or more than 10,000. It was probably in between. The statement of the 500 ships is often used by Hannibal's non-admirers to show Carthage had naval power, hence his expedition was a private enterprise which needed not to go overland. But plainly, these were not 500 warships, but rather 'every type of vessel propelled by oars', nor a direct claim from Livy himself (probably Valerias Antias, whom even Livy condemned for excessive exaggerations).
The upcoming is personal though, so forgive me, and please bear with me. Many friends, etc., may simply say this guy's just a putz on the internet who's horsing around, not to mention someone who got his behind handed to him in some debates of deep disagreement with myself, and has taken a nasty style of approach to 'one-up' yours truly. I don't know, and never will. But this isn't twitter, and he clearly knows the outlined material we discuss.
This is from this thread, post # 158:
Originally Posted by conon394
This was a jaw-dropper! This personifies 'putting on airs!' Gotta admire the audacity, perhaps. What would a rejoinder disprove or change amid the relevant oratory debates - over the aspects which are surely basic points of fact? The snippets I use from them are not their primary themes (you just never grasp this contextual element!). Anyway, the above attack on me is slanted paraphrasing in the extreme; it's hardly the same - tossing aside a fairly substantial Herodotus and carefully disagreeing with an isolated pieces of his reportage, which I always stress. The sharp comment above (I do find it appalling) was written on the linked thread, and has not been edited since October 26, 2009 at 06:43 PM by conon394. I own a book by Chester Starr - his fine Awakenings of the Greek Historical Spirit, published in 1968 (which was 'decades ago'). Starr mentions nothing even remotely similar to the above claim, not even in Ch. 6 (pp. 120-146), which was titled The Appearance of History, throughout which we read a high opinion of Herodotus. But neither Plutarch, Polyaenus, nor any other sources of the 'Roman era/Hellenistic libraries' are even alluded to throughout the detailed chapter of 27 pages. If Starr's view, the very one imputed to him by conon394, was that important, and written decades ago, it would at least be touched on in this book (particularly the relevant chapter of historical method), given the thematic angle presented. But this may be academic. People who debate like this can be quite skilled with cannily administered 'double bluffs', not to mention their own repertoire of rhetorical output under a guise of 'objectivity' – in this case, possibly, something like 'the raw truth hurts don’t it Spartan JKM', or 'Spartan's just trying to rationalize his way out to suit his own needs'.' What would someone like Plutarch gain by misinforming us about a swell of wind which hindered the Persian ships at Artemision? Or that Phocion went to Byzantium in command of an Athenian force when under attack by Philip II? There is nothing to question over Demosthenes’ basic outline in revealing an existing balance of combined arms in the Macedonian army under Philip II. But opinion is simply not something that can be proven as rhetorically inclined, let alone true or false. Hence, there are some people who will argue with anything 'if it suits them' – but those who talk sans any backup are the ones who look sophomoric.
The independent values, or lack thereof, within the literature of ancient history is what I feel should fuel our interests of it in attempting to analyze its actual course which has been unfortunately shrouded amid much nebulousness of the original sources, not some arbitrarily lain and rigid rule, rife with chronological and political parameters. I guess it's a comfortable and insulating defense mechanism - to lay down a standard of argument which seethes with an inarguable semblance. For example, an argument could be presented that it doesn't matter what 'we' quote from Polybius and Livy, because they are not fully reliable. Well, without them a study of Hannibal's strategic aims is hopeless, hence the Hannibal detractors have satisfied themselves. Real convenient! My methods are merely influenced by a multitude of historians whom I read, which I do the best I can with the narrative, variety of critical analyses, and cross-referencing, to form my own viewpoints. These two above are often eloquent, but seldom convincing with the above viewpoints on the Second Punic War; nothing is illustrated from sources to back up what seem to be serious views on certain issues. It's very specious that Starr wasn't plucked out and quoted by conon394, in the light such a serious attack on another. I would have done so, scrupulously making sure to the best of my capacity that no loose ends were left in laying such a critical comment at somebody else. Actually, Chester Starr's views on Hannibal are ones of praise; though I haven't read what conon394 is alluding to, I will loosely suggest that Starr never wrote anything which reflects the criticism, in terms of verbatim or intent. Either conon394 is lying, or, more likely, Starr wrote something that conon394 has ‘smoothed over’ to conform to the theory imputed to Starr, and perhaps has conditioned himself to argue what Starr's words 'really mean', should it come up. But if he produces it, and it does read as is claimed, I will still disagree. After all, the guideline which Starr allegedly put forth is nonsense, and no other has ever held such a viewpoint - a whole story can be put together without it being some historical fallacy. In ancient history, literature and fiction are not always mutually exclusive. There's nothing substantial that supports such a claim, in terms of a proper way to present history as it could very well have occurred when we lack little to go on from extant material in time to the era discussed. Piecing together bits of data is not always a comforting option, but often all we can do for lack of the whole story from a fountainhead. It is what we are often at the mercy of as students of ancient history.
Basically, I am being told, by someone whose sophomoric grammar is antithetical to how smart he seems to think he is (no language barrier? If not, he may try to pull off that it's 'computer jargon', etc.), and that I don't understand what history really is. I may start presupposing, given such a terse yet self-assured proclamation, that conon394 may have a specific agenda (prejudice against Carthage, which was non-Greek, thus not elegant, etc.), and his assertive and wily 'intelligible' arguments are based on what he thinks history should be all about – something that suits him. What does that really mean? Think about it - what suits us and rationalizing need not carry negative connotations, albeit it's clear what he meant in applying it to me.
I've scoured my posts amid the three threads Paul Klos obviously drew from (here, here, and here, with nothing of mine edited after his critical comment). I have explained with care and caution why I opined what I did, something he didn't even remotely acknowledge (another indication of a one-sided amateur); I thought upon reading this stunning criticism of me, worriedly, there may have been some validity in that attack. Did I blunder badly? If so, I can't claim I meant something else, even if I knew for sure it was an honest blunder, after being refuted. But thankfully, it was far from the case! My posts are full of 'I may be wrong', 'in my opinion', 'I don't agree', etc. - exactly the line of behavior I just recently saw from Paul Klos' subtle allusions that something nobody wants to read. I hope I'm never convinced (a better term than 'proven') in contrast to what I'm opining here, or even some light even slightly shed to apprise me of a degree of tenability of which I think there is none at all. But if so, I will swallow my pride, not act evasively whatsoever, and rethink things. I love these subjects passionately. But this guy cannot be some genius equipped with some esoteric knowledge, thus can discern things most of us cannot. Just because someone is so sure of him/herself doesn't mean they are right. It's like a professional broadcaster with an agenda. Yes - the comments did affect me, and I'm taking it personally. But not without some contemplation. OK. No more rambling like a cry-baby! Forgive the off-topic (somewhat) remarks. Now I feel better.
Hannibal carries a status which allows apology? OK. Why shouldn't he be? Is his career not unique? Such questions cannot be concluded incontrovertibly, and there's always room for discord if people choose (as Hannibal chose his actions, and undertook a huge responsibility for them) to argue from a certain level of arbitrarily lain parameters. Polybius was a near contemporary of Hannibal's time (he was actually about eighteen when Hannibal died). Like every other human in history, he wasn't infallible, but reflective of the branch of history writing which seeks truth over literary grandiosity (transposing backwards a modern viewpoint). When he seemed to be inexact, it was because he felt he had to toe a certain line, or just plain innocent error through inadequate sources. I prefer to examine things separately, keeping in mind a Polybius or Tacitus is more credible than a man of letters or an orator. But sometimes certain snippets from the latter are all we have, and blended in with the summaries with the same backdrop (if we can identify them) gaps in the histories can be decreased or almost solved.
The nameless modern analysts who examine and analyze Hannibal's generalship at Zama surely found the opinion of Polybius quite affecting, which aided a larger view of his career: the first quote is the Teubner edition (translated by Theodorus Büttner-Wobst) of the 1890s, the second is from the Loeb Classical Library (translated by William R. Patton), published in the 1920s:
The Histories, Book 15.15.6 and 15.16.1,
"...having accepted battle, the excellence of his dispositions for a contest with the Romans, considering the identity of the arms on each side, could not have been surpassed...Still Hannibal took his measures against each of these difficulties* in a manner that could not be surpassed..."*Above, 'difficulties' and 'advantages' is denoted to explain the handicaps Hannibal was challenged with against this Roman army that day. Not much room for paucity in meaning from Polybius; but it's just his opinion, isn't it? Perhaps he was the first glosser with a pen, or explanator, in terms of nullifying the true nature of Hannibal's generalship, which was 'a little better than average'. Would 'a little better than average' be agreeable, all you non-admirers of Hannibal, who are so certain he's been tainted by many modern historians who deem it more important to, you seem to intimate, glorify him than see the actual truth which you guys have the capacity to discern so well?
"...when he offered battle he so managed matters that it was impossible for any commander with the same arms at his disposal to make better dispositions for a contest against the Romans than Hannibal did on that occasion...But nevertheless to meet each of these advantages* Hannibal had shown incomparable skill in adopting at the critical moment all such measures as were in his power and could reasonably be expected to succeed..."
Well. I don't know. I really don't.
From this thread (finally!):
Originally Posted by conon394
Nonsense. I'll stick to a specific issue for now, at least one in detail. Absolutely nobody was neutralized in Greece by the Romans at this time heading into the campaign season of 207 B.C. Rome prudently got out of there to prevent carrying the burden against Philip V on her own. Scipio was still outnumbered in Iberia, even with the departure of Hasdrubal and the decisive move in Iberia by Marcus Junius Silanus in pouncing on the junction of recently recruited Celtiberians and the 'new army' sent by Carthage under one Hanno to replace the departure from Iberia of Hasdrubal's force. Hasdrubal was not a beaten man at all, IMHO. If we uncritically follow our main sources on the Battle of Baecula, Hasdrubal was a rank incompetent, given his decision to move south and place his smaller force in the path of Scipio's army. He clearly got out there before being beaten substantially.
As of 209 B.C. the action in the Greek theater began swinging in Philip V's favor, who would now fight like a beast at bay; he marched south and defeated an allied force of Aetolians, Pergamunians and Romans near Lamia ('two battles', according to Livy, Book 27.30.2, which might mean one battle with a bloody pursuit of the vanquished counted as another, à la the possible scenario with Onomarchus and Philip II in 353 B.C.), and the following year Philip defeated Rome's ally Attalus I of Pergamon near Opus, compelling both Attalus I to return to Asia, and the now isolated Roman fleet under Publius Sulpicius Galba to sail back to Aegina. Philip was disappointed by the absence of promised Bithynian ships and the sudden disappearance of the Carthaginian fleet which had positioned itself off Corcyra, but he nonetheless cut the communications between the Aetolians and the Roman fleet, while securing his own lines in central Greece to the Peloponnese.
With the arrival in northern Italy of Hasdrubal in the spring of 207 B.C., the Romans, to repeat, relinquished their presence from the Greek theater, other than mildly patrolling the Illyrian waters. Moreover, the smashing defeat of the Spartans by the redoubtable Philopoemen in late spring/early summer of the same year ensured an Aetolian need for a truce. But after the verdict of the Metaurus, Philip could not go out of his way to court any hostility with Rome by upholding or receiving anymore support for the Carthaginians, who now were on the verge of ultimate defeat. Rome was very fortunate, coupled with her quick actions in the opening bout in Greece, when tensions increased throughout the late summer of 216 B.C. But I feel we cannot stress too much with attitudes of merriment or disappointment from our personal convictions. Things happen, well…the way they happen.
Polybius relates, The Histories, Book 5.109-110,
"… During the winter [217-216 B.C.] Philip took into consideration that for his enterprise he would require ships and crews to man them, not it is true with the idea of fighting at sea - for he never thought he would be capable of offering battle to the Roman fleet - but to transport his troops, land where he wished, and take the enemy by surprise. Therefore, as he thought the Illyrian shipwrights were the best, he decided to build a hundred galleys, being almost the first king of Macedonia who had taken such a step. Having equipped these fleets he collected his forces at the beginning of summer and, after training the Macedonians a little in rowing, set sail. It was just at the time that Antiochus crossed the Taurus, when Philip sailing through the Euripus and round Cape Malea reached the neighborhood of Cephallenia and Leucas, where he moored and awaited anxiously news of the Roman fleet. Hearing that they were lying off Lilybaeum, he was encouraged to put to sea again and advanced sailing towards Apollonia. Just as he was approaching the mouth of the river Aoüs, which runs past Apollonia, his fleet was seized by a panic such as sometimes overtakes land forces. For some of the galleys in the rear, which had anchored off an island called Sason lying at the entrance to the Ionian Sea, came in the night and informed Philip that some vessels which had crossed from the Sicilian Strait had anchored in the same roadstead and announced to them that they had left at Rhegium some Roman quinqueremes which were on their voyage to Apollonia to join Scerdilaidas. Philip, in the belief that the Roman fleet would be upon him in less than no time, was seized by fear, and at once weighed anchor and gave orders to sail back. Quitting his anchorage and making the return voyage in thorough disorder he reached Cephallenia on the second day, traveling continuously by day and night. Plucking up a little courage he remained there pretending that he had returned to undertake some operations in the Peloponnese. As it turned out, the whole had been a false alarm. For Scerdilaidas, hearing that Philip had been building a considerable number of galleys in the winter and expecting him to arrive by sea, sent to inform the Romans and beg for help, upon which the Romans sent a squadron of ten ships from their fleet at Lilybaeum, these being the ships that had been sighted off Rhegium. Had Philip not taken alarm so absurdly and fled before this squadron, now was the opportunity for him to make himself master of Illyria, the whole attention and all the resources of the Romans being concentrated on Hannibal and the situation after the Battle of Cannae; and most probably the ships would have fallen into his hands also. But as it was the news upset him so much, that he made his way back to Macedonia without suffering any loss indeed but that of prestige…"These 100 galleys were called lemboi, fast and maneuverable light galleys which could 'dart in among the enemy's heavier units to break up their formation, interrupt their tactics, even do damage to their oars' (cf., Polybius, Book 16.4.8-12; Lionel Casson, Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World, pp. 126-127). However, they would be inadequate if the Romans intended to defend Illyria from him in force with their war galleys. Moreover, the intense naval Battle of Chios in 201 B.C. illustrated Philip's lack of experience in this field, despite having the hardware and numerical advantage. Roman resolve and action is to be credited, but here, specifically, ten Roman quinqueremes off the mouth of the Aoos River (modern Vjosë), joined by whatever Scerdilaidas could add if he could do so before Philip could have hypothetically engaged them, would have had no chance under such circumstances. But once the ball got rolling after his initial bout of impetuousness, Philip V came off better then all his foes amid the kaleidoscope of hostilities until Rome’s official sanctioning of terms in 205 B.C.
By the time Zama was fought, it was almost surely too late for any renewed power outside of Africa for Carthage to exploit. But as the final war showed, Carthage could prosper remarkably well, ironically, with such major losses, being that her business-like policy on all aspects of life would be minimized. With the coming of the campaign season of 207 B.C., the antagonists in Spain and Greece waited to see what happened over the critical event now in Italy before undertaking any substantial moves; Carthage had little trouble marshaling and sending, to reiterate more fully, a 'new army' to replace that of Hasdrubal (Livy, Book 28.1.4), despite the loss of the SE parts of the Peninsula due to Scipio's recent mastery in this theater of the war, mainly with his storm of New Carthage. As the new army under one Hanno, now joined by Mago, was vigorously consolidating with their Celtiberian allies, Marcus Julius Silanus with a flying-column ('he outstripped not only messengers reporting his approach but even rumors of it') pounced on them and smashed them piecemeal (Livy, Book 28.1.5-2.14).
See, these are the type of decisive elements of the war we simply cannot hang on Hannibal. Some 'excuses' are tenable. The Romans simply beat the Carthaginian-led forces under conditions which were either equal or advantageous, hypothetically, to Carthage, who had been mobilized and quantitatively superior to the Romans everywhere he was not.
Comparatively, Alexander's smoother results require more scrutiny than the abstract comments by conon394 earlier, IMHO. Like any man in the same 'position of position', Alexander had no control over what happened with his subalterns in the regions of hostilities he wasn't present. If Memnon had not died suddenly after taking Mytilene (or during; the chronology is a little unclear), and with it the alliance to Persia of the Cyclades Islands, Alexander would have in all likelihood been in big trouble; as with Hannibal, he would not have anytime soon been beaten in the field, and could adeptly be self-sufficient for a quite a while, but he would have been cut off from his home bases, and Demosthenes would have exhorted his talents with all his vigor to convince Athens and others to rise against Macedonian hegemony, now with solid forensic ammunition, knowing Alexander now seriously enfiladed. Agis III, in all probability, would have been in a much more favorable position of support when his revolt broke, culminating at the Battle of Megalopolis in 331 B.C. Thus the entire logistic issue - a paramount element of Philip II's reforms with the army - would have limited Alexander as of late 333 B.C. That it did not happen, as with the reality that Hannibal ultimately failed, are aspects of historical terrain. But in examining the details of cause and effect amid the intricate events along the way, those who think it only matters that things worked for Alexander and not for Hannibal - in that they don't think they have an uphill debating battle - well, you're surely mistaken.
Again, Greece was hardly neutralized in Rome's favor in 208/207 B.C. (though there was practically nothing to worry about over an incursion on Italy itself), nor was Spain - in the sense that if the Barcids linked up, the preponderance of the remaining core Italic and Iberian allies would have almost surely forsaken Rome (those in the north were on the verge already), and the ripple effect everywhere else would have seemingly crumbled for Rome's cause like a pancake effect: Rome was reaching the end of her resources by now (grain had been requested by Rome from Egypt on two occasions the previous few years), much of Etruria (Livy says 'all of' at one point, but I feel we should allocate for hyperbole) was on the verge of disaffection, the census was much lower, and the manpower pool constituting citizen manpower had been decreasing each year for the sixth straight year; though perhaps an invention or misstatement, we also read that 11,000 men were sent from Spain to Italy by Scipio to afforce the commands in Italy. The pendulum could have quickly swung to Carthage's favor if things worked out more fortuitously for their efforts in Sardinia, Greece, and Sicily – as they did for Rome with much Bona Fortuna.
But, indeed, bottom-lined history is more concerned, overall and basically, about people under circumstances of actual cause and effect, not what could have happened, however tantalizingly close. It's fun and not unnecessary to inject passing phrases for the sake of trivia, such as 'Xerxes could have won in 480 B.C. if he had only heeded Queen Artemisia's advice', but pressing such scenarios with too much emphasis is, indeed, not history. That's why there exists these 'alternate history' chat rooms, etc. But identifying them is hardly insignificant, IMHO.