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Zama: The Battle That Never Was?
#1
I believe Polybius was the original author of the battle of Zama. Up until Polybius, no one wrote about the battle because it never existed. It’s a fabrication. From the moment Scipio refused to accept the Roman senates offer of fighting Hannibal in Italy, does the contradiction and propaganda begin. I’m not denying Scipio’s battles in Africa, but I believe after the Great Plains the Carthaginians sued for peace, and as part of the peace negotiations Hannibal left Italy. And why wouldn’t he. At that point in time he must have known Carthage could not win. If you dig through the varying accounts of the aftermath of Zama, and if you remain a neutral observer, you find one contradiction after another. At the beginning of the SPW because the Carthaginians did not hand over Hannibal as demanded by the Romans, war was declared. So here we have Hannibal supposedly defeated by Scipio and the Romans fail to ask for Hannibal to be handed over. Nepos has Hannibal years after Zama still in the field with an army, and this is the reason why the Romans refuse to hand back the Carthaginians hostages. Polybius has Margo conveniently die while returning to Italy, however, Nepos and some others have him still alive and helping Hannibal escape from Carthage.

I have learnt to listen to the lone voice in the crowd. Cicero, Dionysius and Livy state that it was Servius Tullius that changed the tribes, introduced the census and the century assembly, yet Zonaras the lone voice in the crowd writes that nothing of any importance was undertaken during the reign of Servius Tullius. However, I can prove five times over that everything Cicero, Dionysius and Livy accredit to Servius Tullius was in fact introduced during the reign of Tarquinius Superbus. Zonaras, the lone voice is correct.

I’m still in the middle of compiling everything about Zama and the many myths surrounding Scipio and I believe I can build a strong case for Zama being nothing more than fiction. The elephants probably belong to Bagradas, Hannibal’s first line of mercenaries fighting the Carthaginian second line probably belongs to the mercenary war, and Scipio’s extending his line, probably the Great Plains.

When I was last in Thailand I got my official Thai government mahout license and some of the actions of the elephants at Zama is written by someone who knows nothing about elephants. And where did those 80 elephants materialise from. They weren’t available for the Great Plains. Regulus during the first Punic war faced Carthaginian armies on two occasions with elephants, so why weren’t they at the Great Plains? Being trained maybe? More questions just keep piling up with this battle. And why can’t one ancient author agree on the name of the battlefield, or where it was? And when you factor in Baecula, this hints of another fabricated battle.

So why fabricate the battle of Zama? Simple. Hannibal inflicted Rome’s greatest defeat it had to be revenged in some form or another, even if fabricated. So after the Romans sack Carthage what is to stop them rewriting history. Carthage was ablaze so I imagine any records went up in smoke. And who was supposedly present at the sack of Carthage? It was Polybius. And who was in charge of the Roman army? None other than Scipio Aemilianus.

Zama gives a climax to the SPW and glorifies Scipio and the family name, whereas a peace treaty that saw Hannibal arrive back in Africa with those forces who wanted to join him and Scipio going home without fighting Hannibal is very anti climatic. I find it interesting that when the Roman senate relented and let Scipio invade Africa, he was not allowed to levy and army by the official methods but by volunteers. This strongly indicates that the senate was punishing Scipio. If Scipio was the great commander he’s suppose to be, then why not face Hannibal in Italy? Maybe he didn’t have the nerve and preferred to fight lesser skilled generals with inferior troops, which he knew he would be pitted against if he invaded Africa.
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#2
Is this just your opinion, or do you have proven evidence to back it up?
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#3
You may have noticed the question mark. So it is a hypothosis, an academic question fit for research and discussion, not an opinion as such. Any hypothosis requires proving or disproving, which is why the statement as such should be seen as an invitation to discussion. One of the main aims of this forum is to share knowledge, and one of the ways to do so is the academic debate.
Salvete et Valete

Nil volentibus arduum


Robert P. Wimmers
Archeologie Beleven!
>http://www.ferrumantica.eu  (The NEW Fabrica of Vvlpivs!)
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#4
Robert wrote:
Any hypothosis requires proving or disproving, which is why the statement as such should be seen as an invitation to discussion.

Thank you Robert, yes it is an invitation to discussion. My intention is to see how well such a hypothesis stands up and I am open to been proven wrong. However, the amount of contradiction that follows in Scipio’s trail creates more questions than answers.

Scipio is mentioned being at Cannae and inspiring the troops trapped within the camp. Scipio’s speech and actions against all those who want to flee Italy is truly building the legend of Scipio. However, the original propagandist fails to mention how Scipio, a 20 year old military tribune got to be in the camp in the first place. Well to be in such a situation he must have fled to the camp like the rest, yet somehow Scipio was not sent to Sicily in disgrace with the rest of the survivors. This is very strange and hints at Scipio not being present at Cannae.

Then there’s Baecula in 208 BC, where Scipio defeats Hasdrubal Barca. The Carthaginians loose 8000 dead and 12,000 captured but somehow Hasdrubal manages to slip past Scipio and arrive in Italy with a new army. Baecula is almost a doublet of Ilipa fought in 206 BC.

According to Polybius (10 38 90 ) “Scipio did not think it advisable to follow Hasdrubal, as he was afraid of being attacked by the other generals, but gave the enemy's camp up to his soldiers to plunder.” So Scipio has time to waste allowing his troops to plunder the enemy camp but not the time to race after the remnants of Hasdrubal’s defeated army. This Scipio seems to have a different personality (cautious) to the Scipio who captured New Carthage (daring). Had Hasdrubal managed to link up with Hannibal, how would Scipio’s mismanagement of allowing Hasdrubal to get away be explained? The answer is there was no need as Baecula was written after the events of the SPW when it was known that Hasdrubal was defeated at the Metaurus in 207 BC. This brings up the question of why invent the battle of Baecula? My explanation is possibly propaganda to show that Scipio was also capable of defeating Hasdrubal and before Nero did, that upstart from the Claudian family.

Livy (30 29) states that Valerius Antius (1st century BC), there was a battle previous to Zama where Hannibal was defeated by Scipio with a loss of 12,000 killed and 1700 taken prisoner and that after this defeat Hannibal went in company with ten delegates to Scipio's camp. Zonaras (14) also reports Scipio defeating Hannibal before Zama:

“When it seemed best to Scipio not to delay any longer, but to draw Hannibal into a struggle whether he wished it or not, he set out for Utica, that by creating an impression of fear and flight he might gain a favourable opportunity for attack; and thus it turned out. Hannibal, thinking that he was in flight, and being correspondingly encouraged, pursued him with his cavalry only. Contrary to his expectations Scipio resisted, engaged in battle, and came out victorious. After routing this body he then directed his attention not to pursuing them, but to their equipment train, which was on the march, and he captured it entire. This caused Hannibal alarm, and his alarm was increased by the news that Scipio had done no injury to three Carthaginian spies whom he had found in his camp. Hannibal had learned this fact from one of them, after the other two had chosen to remain with the Romans.”

The greatest contradiction also occurs around Scipio’s authority. Scipio is supposed to have complete authority in Africa until the war is decided, but other accounts have him ready to be replaced and in Zonaras (14) it is none other than Claudius Nero.

It gets even more absurd when Zonaras (14) writes that “the people of Rome were regretting that they had not prevented Hannibal from sailing home.” This implies a conscious decision was made not to attack Hannibal, which begs the question as to why. The answer could be that a truce was signed that allowed Hannibal to departed Italy in safety. I find it strange that the Romans are concerned about Hannibal being in the court of Antiochus, but seem to be care free about Hannibal being appointed as a Carthaginian magistrate.

Dio 86: Scipio, accordingly, attained great prominence by these deeds, but Hannibal was even brought to trial by his own people; he was accused of having refused to capture Rome when he was able to do so, and of having appropriated the plunder from Italy. He was not, however, convicted, but was shortly afterward entrusted with the highest office in Carthage.”

Even Lazenby (Hannibal’s War page 227), mentions that “there is a gap in Polybius’ narrative after his account of the battle of Zama and the next surviving fragment.” Most of the contradiction and confusion of events occurs after the battle of the Great Plains. Take out the battle of Zama and the so called breaking of the truce by the Carthaginians before Zama, and events make more sense. So before Nero or anyone can take his place, Scipio gets the peace treaty he wants before being replaced. Part of that peace treaty has Hannibal and possibly Mago recalled from Italy. Hannibal lands in Hadrumetum and stays there with his army, and it is this thorn in the Carthaginian negotiations for trying to get the hostages released because the Romans are worried about Hannibal still having an army in the field. One way to separate Hannibal from his army is to make him a Carthaginian magistrate. Then because Hannibal has upset so many Carthaginian senators with his crack down on corruption, the plot to arrest him with the support of the Roman senate is now possible.
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#5
Quote:I got my official Thai government mahout license
Impressive! Good for you!

EDIT: I DO expect you'll change your avatar to an elephant, or at least a fitting comic figure. :-D
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#6
A lot of plausible arguments. However, my main problem would be with the main event - how can you expect to fabricate an entire battle (and not a small skirmish) and expect to get away with it? You'd expect reactions from your readers or your fellow historians - or are we treating this as a giant, empire-wide, cover up?

I mean Polybios was born a year after the battle (let's still call it that) so there may even have been people alive who fought in Africa, or direct descendants. It's as if a historian would invent a major WWI battle, and expect us to believe it?
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
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#7
The idea was first proposed by Tunisian writer Abdelaziz Belkhodja but it didn't get much of a following until Yozan Mosig's article in the History Herald. It is just more of the nationalistic rubbish that passes for revisionism these days.

Here is the HH article. You'd think the editors would know better.
http://www.thehistoryherald.com/Articles...attlefield

It ties in the with the North African myth that Hannibal was never defeated. The sources can be twisted to fit any idea you want if you ignore all of the evidence that contradicts it.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#8
Robert wrote:
A lot of plausible arguments. However, my main problem would be with the main event - how can you expect to fabricate an entire battle (and not a small skirmish) and expect to get away with it? You'd expect reactions from your readers or your fellow historians - or are we treating this as a giant, empire-wide, cover up? I mean Polybios was born a year after the battle (let's still call it that) so there may even have been people alive who fought in Africa, or direct descendants. It's as if a historian would invent a major WWI battle, and expect us to believe it?

There is also the story of the emperor Claudius claiming the saecular games he was holding was once in a lifetime event. Those who had witnessed the Saecular games held by Augustus were extremely amused. Today we are witness to many a myth becoming factual or even historical. Historians today are still sorting fact from fiction about the First World War and the Second World War. Ask most Japanese about the Rape of Nanking or what the Second World War was about and you will find conflicting accounts. Also we have Christians believing in the bible regardless of the contradictions.

Many years ago I worked on a training film for the police department concerning investigating a murder. The punch line of the teaching was “the clue is in the connection.” One officer describe the process and creating a spoked wheel, with every piece of evidence or contradictions from statements forming a spoke, with all the spokes created would merge into a hub, which was the perpetrator. Obviously that experience influenced my own research methods and I am glad it did.

Anyone who undertakes a serious investigation of Zama and the aftermath will find a lot of contradiction far more so than most SPW campaigns. Personally, I am drawn to contradiction in the primary sources, especially the mathematical data. However, very recently there has been some textual contradictions I found in the primary sources that had lead to a very exciting discovery. I have found events one hundred years apart have been confused by one ancient author. His style of writing gave it away. He builds up the pitch but then gives his story no resolution of climax. However, one hundred years later the resolution can be found. What caused the confusion appearing over one hundred years later is that in both events, the leading players had the same name and both were discussing the same political situation.

From my experience a contradiction in the primary sources is always judged to be either right or wrong. An example of this is the difference in the numbers of allies given for the Romans at Cynoscephalae between Livy and Plutarch. It’s either Livy or Plutarch. Now what if there was a middle ground? What if both were partially wrong?

For me contradictions indicate a middle ground or another story that the contradictions draw from. Some ancient sources state there was an earlier engagement that occurred between Hannibal and Scipio and that after this engagement Hannibal offered peace terms. What if this engagement was embellished and turned into Zama in order to inflate the Scipio myth? And what if this engagement was fought near a place called Zama?

I’ve taken the stance for this thread that the battle of Zama did not happen. Now this may not be what I firmly believe, but I wanted to explore the possibility based on the conflicting information regarding Zama. Most of the replies to this thread have taken place offline. This does not surprise me. A couple of offline replies, have actually added more intrigue to the case, but when all is said and done, can a strong case be made out of contradictory evidence? I feel the only case I can make is that there is a lot of contradictory evidence and far far too many unanswered questions. Therefore, the question is an impasse, with no solid evidence to confirm either way. Hopefully in the future, when I finance an archaeological dig, an ancient library will be found that reveals all.

Dan Howard wrote:
The idea was first proposed by Tunisian writer Abdelaziz Belkhodja but it didn't get much of a following until Yozan Mosig's article in the History Herald. It is just more of the nationalistic rubbish that passes for revisionism these days.

Why is it that some feel that by revising or questioning some event in history means the author has some sinister motive? Is that what you are claiming I am doing Dan? Now do you understand why this discussion has ended up being mainly conducted offline? It’s because people feel safe to express themselves and avoid those close minded judges sitting in their ivory towers putting scorn on the matter.
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#9
Robert wrote:
I DO expect you'll change your avatar to an elephant, or at least a fitting comic figure.

In a word NO! Duffy’s trademark line was “ridicule is the burden of genius.” So the avatar of Duffy is appropriate. It was done in retaliation of being called a crackpot from some close minded moron who has never studied by research. I’ve kept all the insults I have received from this forum and the one’s offline and I plan to put them to good use in the near future.
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#10
Daffy no? :oops:
"The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones"

Antony
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#11
It is easy to twist the sources to fit a preconceived idea if you ignore all the contradictory evidence. There is no doubt that there was a battle at Zama - the events of 203-202 BC are corroborated by far more sources than just Livy and Polybius.

http://www.attalus.org/bc3/year203.html
http://www.attalus.org/bc3/year202.html

Scipio had a lof of enemies. If he claimed a false victory at Zama, we would know. All of Rome would know. One wonders why he was awarded a triumph.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#12
Dan wrote:
It is easy to twist the sources to fit a preconceived idea if you ignore all the contradictory evidence. There is no doubt that there was a battle at Zama - the events of 203-202 BC are corroborated by far more sources than just Livy and Polybius.

No one’s twisting anything Dan. If you did I corroboration of the all the sources you will find a lot of contradictions. This in itself leaves more questions. As to the surviving sources regarding Zama, they are all post Polybius.
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#13
So are you saying that the Romans never besieged Carthage during the time in question? The archaeology seems to support the idea that someone using Roman weapons did.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#14
Quote: There is also the story of the emperor Claudius claiming the saecular games he was holding was once in a lifetime event. Those who had witnessed the Saecular games held by Augustus were extremely amused.

Hi Steven,

I read your reply, but I guess you did not really answer my question. I think I was not clear enough. Of course sources can be right, wrong, or party both. Of course the Bible is to be believed or not, and witnesses can be mistaken. That's all fine. For now I accept your position that Polybius made it all up. Now about the consequences.

However my question did not relate to that, or the proof for the battle. I was merely very interested why we don't find anything (at least no one told me) about Polybius being ridiculed. After all, you are saying that he invented what must have been one of the most famous battles of the age. Scipio built a lot of his reputation on that victory, right? And yet there were plenty of people around who must have known that (if you're correct) it was all bogus. So why was Polybius not ridiculed by people who would as a mused as the ones who had witnessed Augustus' Saecular games? And who of course could hardly ridicule Claudius because, well, he was the emperor after all? Why was Scipio not ridiculed or even attacked by his opponents for claiming victory at Zama, or if he did not because Polybius faked it, why was the latter not turned out of the libraries as a great fibber? We may think what we want about ancient historians and the literal truth, but inventing an enormous battle was not done even at that time.

So I'll ask my question again: this is about Polybius and his reputation, and I'll add another:

1 - Why do we not find any evidence of Polybius being attacked by his contemporaries, who would have known he was lying?
2 - What, if correct, does the invention of Zama mean to us for accepting Polybius as a source? For if correct, we'd be forced to doubt everything Polybius writes and which we can't confirm from other sources, right?
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
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#15
History is a very strange discipline... I doubt that anyone can claim to really know the absolute truth about anything. Hell... I am not even convinced that the UK really was among the winners of WW2! Arguing against the POSSIBILITY that the battle of Zama (or any other historical event) did not happen is futile because there will always be arguments that cannot be answered, arguments about the possibility of the sources being mistaken, biased, blackmailed, paid off to do a job, fabricated, lied to etc. The same applies to even material culture. Not even artifacts can be considered absolute proof of anything... So, in cases like that we cannot actually debate the possibility but the rate of probability and whether we can actually use some methodology that one may apply to reach conclusions not only of that but of any event. Why not use the same line of thinking about other battles? Or the existence of certain personas? Or places? And in the end, we do.. but in order to have something to call "history" we tend to call the more probable/supported "true" and go on from there. Some write books about the less probable and sometimes they sell more as the fringe along with some conspiracy theories are always more interesting to the common reader. In conclusion, I do not think that such a debate could actually produce useful results as these results will probably be used to support events which are even more improbable than it...

However, to the question "is it possible?" I answer "Yes!". It is also possible that the Gods existed in person, that Alexander the Great never did the exploits attributed to him, that the Persians really defeated the Greeks in the Persian Wars. To the question "How probable?" though, I answer "not much..."

P.S. The article that Dan linked to is proof of how easy it is to dispute anything, even with an obviously very weak argumentation...
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