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Thread: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

  1. #1
    PyrrhusIV's Avatar Primicerius
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    Default Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    It is a common belief to say that Scipio Africanus, or Publius Cornelius Scipio "the Younger" was the greatest general of the 2nd Punic War. I believe otherwise and Authors of books on the Subject also do not believe so. Let me go into detail about who i believe were Romes Saviors during the war with Hannibal.

    Fabius Maximus

    It is commonly believed that because he never won a major battle against Hannibal, he must be a bad General. Yet that is a false belief. He was known as the Buckler of Rome, and was a very intelligent and defensive Consul. He was the only roman Consul of the whole war to be assumed the title "Dictator". Just to have been bestowed this title is proof he was an able and trusted warrior. His only mistake was his rigid tactics and he never improved upon them. This was improved upon though.

    Marcus Minucius his "Master of Horse" or second in command of all Roman forces, was eventually entrusted with dual-command with Fabius. He was a much more popular Soldier. When Fabius left for Roma, Minucius used the "Fabian Tactics" along with an offensive reform to it. He managed to cut off many of Hannibal's foragers and killed supposedly 1/4 of his whole army and managed to attack Hannibal's camp. Luck was on Hannibal's side and when the Foragers returned Minucius was forced to retreat.

    Fabius Maximus did manage to use the new "Offensive Fabian Tactics". Fabius constantly skirmished and fought Hannibal on a few different occasions. He was a constant thorn in Hannibal's Side. His most valuable tool was patience, and he used it well.


    Marcellus is known, and was known, as the "Sword of Rome". He was a brilliant,and great General. He was blessed with the Patience of Fabius, yet his offensive campaigns were respected by Hannibal. He was a great warrior, and an Ideal Roman. In a battle in Cisalpine Gaul he killed a Gallic King by his own hand and dedicated the spoils to Jupiter in the Capitol. He is the only known Roman to ever do this.

    Marcellus first should be given credit for the Sicilian Campaign. While the War in Italy was at a Standstill, Marcellus lead his legions to Syracuse an put it under siege. Now, think about this. Marcellus had 2 punic Armies facing him outside the city, one Syracusan army inside the City, and 3,000 Numidians lying on his flank. He was surrounded, outnumbered, alone. Syracuse had always had an admirable military and rome had always respected that. The Carthaginians and Numidians had shown themselves to be good warriors as well.

    Marcellus managed to destroy all the armies outside of the city, defeat the "sally-ing" army, and capture the City in one battle. That is an achievement. Another of his Achievements was the battle of Nola. In truth, there were three battles of Nola. It is estimated in each battle he killed around 6,000 of Hannibal's men while himself losing less than one thousand. One way to compare Marcellus and Hannibal is to imagine to boxers in a ring. They each take the pain, almost take each other down, and costantly lose and gain the advantage.

    Sadley, Marcellus and the Consul Crispinus were killed in a skirmish with Hannibal's dreaded numidians. Marcellus and Crispinus took 200 horsemen into the woods to scout out the terrain. When the Numidians attacked, Marcellus was pierced by a lance before he could react. That moment, Rome's greatest hope in the war so far died. He was consul four times in the war, and praetor many times as well.

    Claudius Nero

    Possibly one of the most Underestimated men in the Whole war between Rome and Carthage. Yet the role he played was vital to the survival of Roma. Nero was not a Fabius, yet he was not a Marcellus. After Publius Cornelius Scipio was killed in Spain, Nero took over not that long afterwards. Nero knew how to gain alliances and with his Spanish allies managed to defeat Hasdrubal Barca and push him out of the small Roman occupied area of Spain. After this great achievement, Nero managed to push deeply into spain and for awhile it looked as if Carthaginian Spain would fall. Nero pushed as Far as Baetis and was in sight of Carthago Nova when he was replaced by the young Scipio, Publius Cornelius Scipio "The Younger". While Scipio was arriving in Spain, and Nero was already called home, Hasdrubal did manage to take back most of Spain.

    Nero was very unpopular with the people and the senate though. So even though his success's were great, they were downplayed and generally tossed aside. Nero would have a time to redeem himself though.

    Scipio conducted his campaign in Spain with the mind of a brilliant general, not a great one. After Scipio defeated Hasdrubal Barca in Southern Spain, he allowed Hasdrubal to escape. This was a mistake which made him unpopular in Rome and he could have caught Hasdrubal too.

    Hasdrubal re-formed his forces and moved into Italy. At this time in the war Rome was as afraid of Hasdrubal as it was Hannibal. This was Scipio's mistake. He had allowed Hadrubal to re-form and march into italy full of African, Spanish, and Gallic forces. These were the men Hannibal had used to defeat the Romans and truly, were the best of the Carthaginian Army.

    If Hasdrubal linked up with Hannibal, then the future was bleak for Rome. Hannibal would have some 70,000-80,000 men under his command. 50,000 of which would be the Heavy Spanish and African infantry. Nero would gain his glory here. Nero would do an astounding 250 mile march in 7 days, a grand feat. The soldiers would march all day and night, the ones that were exhausted and fell asleep were carried in wagons. Once he Arrived in Camp, he told his men they would fight the next day.

    Nero was in overall command at the Battle of Metaurus. It is because he marched so far so fast that the Romans defeated and killed Hasdrubal Barca. After the battle was over, Nero, the Hero of Rome at the time, Marched back to his consular Camp before Hannibal with his chosen 7,000. He had Marched over 500 miles, won the victory of the year, and destroyed the chances for a carthaginian Victory in Italy ; all within 2 weeks. Hannibal didnt even know.

    This concludes my session about the Greatest Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War.

    Pyrrhus of Epirus

  2. #2


    Excellent job, absolutely fantastic. Scipio ended the war, but men like Nero, Marcellus, and Fabius won it. It really should raise a bit more of a stink that they get so little mainstream recognition compared to Scipio.

    The only thing I see here that I think needs a little elaboration is this:

    Marcus Minucius his "Master of Horse" or second in command of all Roman forces, was eventually entrusted with dual-command with Fabius. He was a much more popular Soldier. When Fabius left for Roma, Minucius used the "Fabian Tactics" along with an offensive reform to it. He managed to cut off many of Hannibal's foragers and killed supposedly 1/4 of his whole army and managed to attack Hannibal's camp. Luck was on Hannibal's side and when the Foragers returned Minucius was forced to retreat.
    Minucius was elevated to a rank equal to Fabius when the latter was recalled to Rome to account for his lack of engagement; a rank which he forfeited when by his own poor tactics, when defeated by Hannibal. Fabius seems to have been a character not unlike Belisarius of Justinian's period, in that they were successful, but doubted and undermined by their leadership. Their similarities end where Fabius gets his comeupence against his detractors, while Belisarius got none.

    Excellent marchers like Nero, superb defenders like Fabius, and strong attackers like Marcellus secured Rome against defeat. Scipio was impatient, and put Rome in danger by bypassing the Iberian Carthaginian armies and attacking Cartegena, allowing Hasdrubal to march towards Italy. Had he been the commander of Rome's legions earlier on, the war would have lasted at least a decade longer, or at last gone in Hannibal's favor.

  3. #3
    Trajan's Avatar Capodecina
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    I think Claudius Nero, who defeated Hastrubul in Spain, has to be the one who saved Rome from destruction. If Hastrubul was able to meet his brother Hannibal in Italy with the reinforcements, history would have changed drastically. Claudius Nero should have been praised as a Roman hero never to be forgotten but they gave all the credit to Scipio. It's funny how glory works sometimes.

  4. #4


    Yes, this particularly incredible feat of period marching clinches him as my personal choice for the top spot among the generals of the war:

    If Hasdrubal linked up with Hannibal, then the future was bleak for Rome. Hannibal would have some 70,000-80,000 men under his command. 50,000 of which would be the Heavy Spanish and African infantry. Nero would gain his glory here. Nero would do an astounding 250 mile march in 7 days, a grand feat. The soldiers would march all day and night, the ones that were exhausted and fell asleep were carried in wagons. Once he Arrived in Camp, he told his men they would fight the next day.

    Nero was in overall command at the Battle of Metaurus. It is because he marched so far so fast that the Romans defeated and killed Hasdrubal Barca. After the battle was over, Nero, the Hero of Rome at the time, Marched back to his consular Camp before Hannibal with his chosen 7,000. He had Marched over 500 miles, won the victory of the year, and destroyed the chances for a carthaginian Victory in Italy ; all within 2 weeks. Hannibal didnt even know.

  5. #5
    MaximiIian's Avatar Comes Limitis
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    In my mind, there was no "best Roman general" of the second punic war, because all of them fought and commanded equally well, and all contributed almost equally, in one way or another, to the slavation of rome rom the Carthaginians. Scipio may have been one of the most successful, but the others mentioned should not be forgotten, and were just as important to the Roman victory.

  6. #6
    PyrrhusIV's Avatar Primicerius
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    I did want to elaborate on many points in my former post, i just wanted to keep it at a reasonable reading length.

    Marcus Minucius (More Info)

    After Marcus Minucius had been given equal command with Fabius Cuncator, Marcus became too bold. Too shorten things up Marcus Arranged his men for the coming battle with Hannibal. Hannibal basically used the same strategy that he did at the Battle of the River Trebbia. When Mago, with his chosen 2,000 descended upon the Roman Ranks, it looked sure to be a total defeat for the consular Army. At that Point, Fabius Marched his army from the heights above down onto the plain and made the conflict a draw. Minucius forfeited his rank.

    Sad, yet brave, he died on the horrible battlefield of Cannae.

    PyrrhusIV of Epirus
    Director of Imperium: Total War

  7. #7


    He was too bold, in the same style as Varro, in allowing himself to be baited by Hannibal.

    Again, excellent writing

  8. #8
    Spartan JKM's Avatar Semisalis
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    Outstanding subject Pyrrhus IV. Kudos to you. Scipio Africanus was a tremendous general, and is credited as being the 'savior' of Rome. If we can sustain that claim, which is superficial if claimed he merits the most credit, it is more than fair to label these other guys as the 'stay' of Rome. Particularly the older Scipios and Gaius Claudius Nero. They had different styles and were all invaluable parts of a political and military machine that finally overcome one of the greatest field commanders of all time.

    Some thoughts:

    If not for Livy our knowledge of this great struggle would be much cloudier. Indeed, his dramatic narrative was more to entertain than to inform. Though he mentions Polybius by name only once between Books 21 and 30, it is very likely he drew most of his work from Polybius, of whose works were unfortunately lost after Cannae and do not continue until Scipio in Iberia, apart from soem fragments (and a full account of Hannibal's gain of Tarentum in 212 B.C.). If I may, let's be open-minded when we assess Livy's claims of 'victories' over Hannibal by Minucius, Marcellus, and Nero in the fighting around Gerunium, Nola, and Grumentum, where it seemed Nero nearly pulled off a brilliant cavalry flank attack against Hannibal, a maneuver he did effect against Hasdrubal at the Metaurus. It was actually Nero, not Scipio, who initiated Roman adeptness with cavalry (substantially). Anyway, Hannibal always extricated his army in good order if the situation seemed bleak for him, even by night. It is a shame the records are somewhat exiguous. But if Hannibal had ever been substantially defeated in Italy, it would have been trumpeted from smoking rooftops. Livy does claim that Hannibal lost 5,000 and Marcellus just 1,000 at the first Battle of Nola. But both generals withdrew, Marcellus back into Nola and Hannibal to his secure position on Mt. Tifata. Marcellus was no Roman McClellan; he withdrew most likely because it was a drawn battle, and he prevented Hannibal from making any headway to take the city by assault, a style of war which was more advantageous to the Romans. As Livy wrote,

    "...not to be vanquished by Hannibal then was a more difficult task to the victorious troops than to conquer him afterwards".

    Marcus Claudius Marcellus was a terrific commander. Along with he likes of Gaius Flaminius and Gnaeus Scipio, he contributed greatly to the vanquishing of the Insubrian Gauls in the 220s B.C. Yes, he personally won the spolia opima ('rich spoils'), which was the prize of victory in single combat over an enemy leader. Because of his support of the delaying strategy of Fabius, it is very likely the command of the massive army assembled in spring 216 B.C. was not offered to him. It might have made all the difference if it had. His 2 year blockade and siege of Syracuse was a major turning point in the war. Before he and Crispinus were ambushed in the area near Bantia and Venusia, Hannibal had taken out a Roman legion which had come from Sicily to join them between Tarentum and Locri. Hannibal ambushed the legion, in which approx. 2,000 were killed and 1,500 captured. The 60 year old 'Sword of Rome' indeed went down heroically amid Hannibal's stratagem upon he and Crispinus' reconnoitering party.

    There were also some others who displayed distinction: In 215 B.C. Titus Manlius Torquatus repulsed a revolt in Sardinia before the locals could link up with a Carthaginian landing force, which he also overwhelmed. Sardinia would have been paramount to the Carthaginians at this time. Roman control of the island remained intact for the rest of the war. The same year saw Marcus Laevinus swiftly check Philip V of Macedon following the Roman intelligence of the correspondence between Macedon and Hannibal.

    Gnaeus Scipio's defeat of Hasdrubal Barca at Dertosa, near Tarraco, in 215 B.C. was huge! Hasdrubal was trying to break through to Italy, and surely would have linked up with Hannibal at this time. The Gauls had recently ambushed the sole consular army in northern Italy. Moreover, reinforcements intended for Hannibal in Italy went to Iberia instead because of this reversal for the Carthaginians.

    The Scipio brothers cut their way into a good position into Iberia, gaining many allies, and though they were defeated and killed (due to treachery), a certain Lucius Marcius saved the Romans cause in Iberia by skillfuly maintaining his position just north of the Ebro with less than 10,000 men. The three Carthaginian armies, numbering maybe 50,000, should have, in theory, rid iberia of Roman presence in 211 B.C. Each commander had to hold his region, but they certainly could have combined to vanquish Marcius. There seemed to be much dissension and a lack of co-operation amongst the Carthaginian armies. Hannibal must have been fumed when he learned of these events. The brief but clear opportunity for the Carthaginians to recover the invaluable north-eastern section of Iberia cama and went, as Nero arrived with some 12,000 foot and 2,000 horse. The Roman lines were strengthened and Nero crossed the Ebro and, as was stated in an earlier post, inflicted a minor defeat on Hasdrubal. At the end of 210 B.C. Scipio took over in Iberia, and went to work.

    Let's not take too much away from Scipio OK?; he had a marked ability to look beyond the immediate battle, and his re-organizing of the Roman forces, in which he equipped them with more durable swords etc., under his command proved very substantial. He turned it into a semi-professional force that could endure and win far across the sea, and his handling of subordinates and defeated enemies won affection from everyone around him. His swift strike at New Carthage was awesome, thus Carthage was immediately deprived of her main port to Africa. His victory at Ilipa rivals even Cannae as a model of tactical perfection. He masterly just let things take care of themselves at Zama; he knew who he was up against and exploited his advantage of the cavalry arm perfectly. He did however, benefit from a couple of lieutenants that deserve mention - Gaius Laelius and Marcus Silanus. True, Scipio never fought in Italy, the main theater of the war.

    "....his peace terms alone would place Scipio on a pinnacle amongst the world's great conquerors, his entire absence of vindictiveness, his masterly insurance of military security with a minimum of hardship on the conquered, his strict avoidance of annexation of any state. They left no festering sores of revenge or injury and so prepared the way for the conversion of enemies into real allies, effective drops of the Roman power."

    This might be a little hyperbolic, but B.H. Liddell Hart's words concerning Scipio are very considerable.

    More on Marcus Minucius Rufus: he was very critical of Fabius' policy of direct and aggressive action, and while Fabius was absent he couldn't resist attacking Hannibal's Numidian patrol and foragers around Gerunium, gaining some success. Exaggerated stories of a great victory by Minucius circulated around Rome, and he became hailed as hero. Political control in the Senate actually became a little shaky and Minucius became co-dicatator. Fabius and Minucius became seperated with their own commands and Minucius went after Hannibal, who was quick to take advantage of the divided leadership; he dispersed some 5,500 troops in groups of 200-300 during the night behind a ridge between him and the approaching Minucius. At dawn he advanced his own light infantry to the height of the ridge in full view of the Romans. Minucius attacked and found himself attacked on his flanks by Hannibal's concealed men. It would have been a disaster, but Fabius intervened with his forces and Hannibal had to break off a battle against what was now a vastly superior force. Minucius would later fall at Cannae. The wisdom and skill of Fabius Maximus was never really appreciated until long after his death. I wholeheartedly agree with you Pyrrhus; Fabius was a superb commander, much like the Medieval Frenchman Bertrand du Guesclin, who, unfortunatley for France, commanded between the debacles of Crecy and Agincourt. It required great skill and poise to keep so close to Hannibal without engaging fully. He was, however, outwitted and humiliated by the famed oxen stratagem of Hannibal's in the Falernian Plain. I think his strategy of not trying to defeat Hannibal outright and prevent him form winning may have been the turning point of the war (looking back). However, Varro had a point that Fabius shadowed Hannibal while lives were lost and property was appropriated and/or destroyed. This wasn't the 'Roman' way.

    No question - the march of Gaius Claudius Nero was one of the most decisive and skillful operations in military history, and he did have the help of Marcus Salinator. I'll spare the narrative, but he did strike some Bona Fortunata; Hasdrubal's 6 messengers had traversed much of Italy without any trouble, but rode to Tarentum, now in Roman hands, instead of Hannibal's position at Metapontum. They were captured along with Hasdrubal's WRITTEN plan of operations. Nero was in the driver's seat, but his subsequent deceiving of Hannibal and defeat of Hasdrubal was brilliantly conducted. John Laffin's Secrets of Leadership: Thirty Centuries of Command provides an excellent account and praise of Nero's 'March to the Metaurus'. The decisive Metaurus campaign is the second chapter of Laffin's book.

    "While fortune is largely of a man's own making, it cannot be admitted that there is not in war, as there is in all human events, such an element as simple luck."

    -Theodore Dodge

    One more: amid the fighting around Capua in 211 B.C., a Roman centurion named Quintus Naevius devised the dispersion of Roman troops on horseback who rode behind the main cavalry and dismounted when action commenced. They fought in close support of teh cavalry, acting as a solid bulwark in the shelter of which the cavalrymen could rally and reform again without disengaging too much. This innovation, which proved advantageous, wound up simply being a plus for the local situation, and was never exploited fully. I found that very interesting. However, Livy mentions that 'light' troops were mainly incorporated here; it seems he forgot about the velites in the standard consular army.

    Thanks, Spartan JKM :original:
    Last edited by Spartan JKM; February 10, 2008 at 11:20 PM. Reason: Grammar

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    Quote Originally Posted by PyrrhusIV View Post

    Marcellus is known, and was known, as the "Sword of Rome". He was a brilliant,and great General. He was blessed with the Patience of Fabius, yet his offensive campaigns were respected by Hannibal. He was a great warrior, and an Ideal Roman. In a battle in Cisalpine Gaul he killed a Gallic King by his own hand and dedicated the spoils to Jupiter in the Capitol. He is the only known Roman to ever do this.
    The spolia opima had been given three times before Marcellus. But yes, they are not known (according to legend the first one was Romulus, but one should not take legends seriously).

    I would argue that Scipio was the greatest Roman general in the 2nd punic war. Even if you disregard their contribution to the Roman victory (Spain and Africa was won by scipio alone, while Italy would never have fallen as long as sicily and spain was in roman hands) Scipio's genius tactics are clearly superior to those of other roman generals. He also trained his army and made it into the most effective roman army ever assembled before the Roman army was professionalized, capable of performing moves in combat other roman armies could only dream about at the time. While Fabius on the other hand, started with a poorly trained army, which remained so under his control. Note that I'm talking about training, not experience.
    I would write a more throughrough explaination if I had more time, but sadly I don't as I'm at work.
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  10. #10

    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    I think that rome won because they didnt just have scipio africanus, and had many other brilliant commanders. Hannibal is just one man and was in my opinion better than scipio africanus. Hannibal was a gambler and had a tough time of breaking rome's latin allies.

    As for Marcellus... he didnt kill a gaullic king by himself. Its either legend or a story that he made so he could have more glory.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    Fabius Maximus was a genius, he basically invented the idea of war of attrition which allowed a standard professional army to employ guerrilla tactics in the manner of rebels and fanatics.

    as Ovid said "Fas est et ab hoste doceri"

    he definitely deserves more credit.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    I would say Fabius Maximus was the best general of those for a couple of reasons. Most every Roman General would be eager to go into a pitched battle with Hannibal right away and defeat him and take credit for it all. Maximus was smart enough to realize that he, nor almost any legion/commander at that point, could beat Hannibal in a pitched battle. So he started using, as giuliano pointed out, guerrilla tactics against Hannibals army, which kept Hannibal from gaining another much needed victory to try and sway Italian states to his side. His raids on Hannibal's army also slowly but surely killed off quite a good number of troops. Had Fabius been like most aggressive Roman generals and rushed in to battle then, I believe, his army would most likely have been wiped out and Hannibal could have defeated Rome from that point on. I don't believe he helped majorly win the 2nd Punic War, but more importantly he kept the Romans from losing. (so if you think about it he did help win it but in indirect way)
    Forget the Cod this man needs a Sturgeon!

  13. #13

    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    The consuls of the time aren't remembered as good general becuase they were simply outsmarted by a better general. they were probably militarily adept, but they had to fight Hannibal. Plus the disasters at the lake and cannae would overshadow anything positive they did I think.

  14. #14
    Taxandrius's Avatar Praeses
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    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    Ah, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus ("full warts") AKA ...Ovicula ("the lamb") AKA QVINTVS FABIVS MAXIMVS CVNCTATOR

    Too scared to attack Hannibal, lost the battle of Lago Trasimeno....

    but used a right tactic ( after the fiasco of Cannae) ...

  15. #15

    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War


  16. #16

    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    Rome produced some real heroes during the great conflict. Marcus Laevinus quickly and significantly nullified any threat from Macedon; Titus Torquatus took care of the Sardinian rebellion that Carthage helped; Marcellus in Sicily; Fabius' wisdom was appreciated after Cannae. I think the elder Scipios deserve praise; they were destroyed due to treachery, something Hasdrubal smartly expoited within their Iberian allies.

    But they made sure - right form the start - the Carthaginians never had a free hand in Spain, and severed Spain from Italy practically at the same time Hannibal was establishing himself in the Po Valley. They established a Roman base, and when they both fell in battle while cutting their way southwards, Tiberius Fonteius and Lucius Marcius came through with great leadership to hold then Ebro line (though it can be argued the Carthaginians, at loggerheads with each other, REALLY screwed up here by not getting rid of this last Roman stronghold, which was swiftly solidified by Nero and then the younger Scipio within a year. At the time of their fall in 211 B.C., Publius was probably a little more than 100 miles W of New Carthage, near modern Castulo, and Gnaeus was east of his younger brother, maybe near modern Lorqui, about 60 miles NW of New Carthage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Taxandrius
    Ah, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus ("full warts") AKA ...Ovicula ("the lamb") AKA QVINTVS FABIVS MAXIMVS CVNCTATOR

    Too scared to attack Hannibal, lost the battle of Lago Trasimeno....
    Oops! Wanna try that again, with regards to trivia?

    Last edited by Aetion; March 19, 2008 at 05:46 PM.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    Rome had many great commanders at this time so I believe that all of them including Africanus should share the credit for defeating Hannibal.For without the others Africanus would not have faced Hannibal's weakened force and without Africanus the war would not have ended.

  18. #18
    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    If Hasdrubal linked up with Hannibal, then the future was bleak for Rome. Hannibal would have some 70,000-80,000 men under his command. 50,000 of which would be the Heavy Spanish and African infantry. Nero would gain his glory here. Nero would do an astounding 250 mile march in 7 days, a grand feat. The soldiers would march all day and night, the ones that were exhausted and fell asleep were carried in wagons. Once he Arrived in Camp, he told his men they would fight the next day.
    Oh come on hardly!!!

    Rome was victorious almost everywhere by the time of Hasdrubal's bolt to Italy. Hannibal was tied down by the fact his best troops were Italian now and no interest in leaving their homes undefended. Hasdrubal was beaten commander leading the beaten remnants of his army out of Spain, topped off with unreliable Celts. So what if they linked up Rome still had almost a 2:1 edge in manpower, Scipio in Iberia, Greece neutralized and controlled the med. Too many cities Syracuse Capua etc had alreadly learned the hard lesson of trusting Carthage.

    Nero did a great job and likely helped shave a year or two off the war but it was lost already for Carthage.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

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    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    Conon I think you underestimate the significance of Hasdrubal for Hannibal's forces. It was, as the original poster said, monumental. Not only did Hasdrubal bring upwards of 60-70,000 troops, he was freeing Hannibal from a strategically disastrous position he was then pinned in. Additionally those troops were of the old, hardline veteran material, of Africans, Libyans and Spaniards, the kinds of soldiers that Hannibal had early on when he first entered Italy. These were not the undisciplined Gauls and Bruttians Hannibal was forced to rely on as the war dragged on. Thus this was effectively another Hannibalic army being given to Hannibal, and what's more, bigger than the one he originally entered Italy with. Its joining with him would have been a complete renewal of the war, perhaps even an utter turning of the tide. For I do not see how Romans were winning "everywhere". There was some Roman success in Iberia, by no means conclusive or concluded. Carthage had not lost any of Africa or Mauretania. And what's very important, alliance was concluded with Philip in the east. Who knows, if the war dragged on for another 20 years because of this reinforcement, Philip would enter the war too, and that would surely turn into a very drastic situation for the Roman forces.

    All this was cut at the root by Nero's unilateral almost superhuman feat. It wasn't only his resolve, as an inferior commanding officer, but the discipline and the drive which he exhibited, in marching hundreds of miles, forcing a battle, winning it, and returning, within a matter of days before Hannibal even noticed.

    Although he hadn't distinguished himself greatly before or since, in that moment he was an equal to Hannibal.

    Secondly, Fabius and Marcellus deserve their obvious praise. Plutarch wouldn't have written a life for either if they were overlooked by their contemporaries.

    But I think it would be a mistake to discount Scipio because there were so many other great generals in the war. Where they were careful, patient men, he was a virtuoso. Where they were greatly talented regular men, he was a genius. He didn't out-Hannibal Hannibal in some single instance, but in every instance showed the same unbelievable virtuosity with his forces, just as Hannibal had. He outmarched Nero in his approach to New Carthage. He outmaneuvered both Nero and Fabius in his battle of Ilipa -- a battle of such complex and never seen maneuvering that historians even today are trying to figure out just what the heck he did with his forces as if with mere clay. Then you have the audacity at Utica, and of course Zama, where the two giants of tactics threw everything at each other with such perfect virtuosity that they ended up cancelling each other out. He showed that he was literally another Hannibal. Not just at some moment, but in principle. For all time.

    "If ye love wealth greater than liberty,
    the tranquility of servitude greater than
    the animating contest for freedom, go
    home from us in peace. We seek not
    your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch
    down and lick the hand that feeds you,
    and may posterity forget that ye were
    our countrymen."
    -Samuel Adams

  20. #20
    Spartan JKM's Avatar Semisalis
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    Default Re: Great Roman Generals of the 2nd Punic War

    Quote Originally Posted by SigniferOne
    ...Although he hadn't distinguished himself greatly before or since, in that moment he was an equal to Hannibal...

    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 'missed' with all your proofs - of which include'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..."

    "...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..."
    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).

    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..."

    5 Polyb. iii, 75; Liv. xxii, 61.
    6 Polyb. iii, 60
    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.

    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:

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394
    You have on other threads SpartanJKM tossed aside a fairly substantial and solid Historian in Herodotus when it suits you yet you never blush when building some edifice out of Plutarch and Polyaenus or the Attic orators and their edited version of politically biased speeches that often lack a rejoinder.

    As Chester Starr noted decades ago it very admirable to piece together bits of that historian, with another biographer and a few fragments some comments from Hellenistic librarians and smooth it all out with paste from the Roman era late authors – but its not history merely a rhetorical construction of varied quality that satisfies a desire to have a whole story - in fact the same desire that fueled Roman era fill in the blanks efforts…

    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 Bttner-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..."

    "...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..."
    *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?

    Well. I don't know. I really don't.

    From this thread (finally!):

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394
    ...Hasdrubal was beaten commander leading the beaten remnants of his army out of Spain, topped off with unreliable Celts. So what if they linked up Rome still had almost a 2:1 edge in manpower, Scipio in Iberia, Greece neutralized and controlled the med...

    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, 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 Aos, 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 Vjos), 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.

    Thanks, James
    Last edited by Spartan JKM; October 16, 2010 at 07:15 PM. Reason: Grammar
    "A ship is safe in the harbor; but that's not why ships are built"

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