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Zama: The Battle That Never Was?
All the numbers given for Scipio’s army, whether it be 7,000 men leaving Italy, 10,000 men, 16,000 men or 35,000 men, plus the size of Scipio’s fleet I have found to be accurate. I seem to have a good eye for mathematical patterns, and one that concerns me is the number 20,000 in relation to figures given for Hannibal’ army, whether it be troops captured or killed. Polybius and Livy have 20,000 Carthaginian killed and 20,000 Carthaginians captured. Appian has 20,500 killed and 8,500 captured. Orosius has 25,000 Carthaginians killed. And strangely enough, Diodorus claims that Hannibal massacred 20,000 of his men before leaving for Italy.
If you take Appian’s 20,500 Carthaginians killed and subtract from this his 8,500 Carthaginians captured, you are left with 12,000 men, which happens to also be the number of Carthaginians mentioned by Valerius Antius as being killed in an engagement with the Romans and Carthaginians before the battle of Zama.
Orosius figure of 25,000 Carthaginians is also very interesting. If you take Appian’s figure of 8,500 Carthaginians and multiply it by three, the result is 25,500 men, which Orosius rounds to 25,000 men. To arrive at Appian’s figure of 20,500 men, 5,000 men have been removed from the figure of 25,500 men. But who are the 5,000 men, Appian has excluded? Funny enough, Appian provides the answer. Appian allocates Hannibal 4,000 cavalry, and then has Hannibal receive another 1,000 cavalry from a Numidian chief named Mesotylus, which in my book adds up to 5,000 men, which would imply the 20,500 men are infantry. But does it?
Now let’s have some fun with Valerius Antius’ figure of 1,700 Carthaginians captured. Did you know that Appian’s figure of 8,500 Carthaginians captured equates to 1,700 men multiplied by five? Well it does.
Before leaving for Africa, Appian has Hannibal kill 4,000 horses because he could not take them to Africa, and then while in Africa, Hannibal massacres 4,000 Numidians and gives their horses to his army. Diodorus has 3,000 horses and pack animals killed. Hmmm, could Diodorus have omitted Mesotylus’ 1,000 cavalry from his equation?
For Scipio’s army, Livy gives a figure of 35,000 men, so taking this number and using what is available, the 35,000 men has been erroneously reconstructed on the following:
350000 men (Livy)
- Masinissa’s 10000 men (Livy, Polybius)
- the 2000 Roman cavalry (Livy)
= 23000 men
For the battle of Zama, Appian claims that 23,000 Roman infantry were present. I let you be the judge. So the residue 23,000 infantry and the 2,000 cavalry amounts to 25,000 men, and like a game of snakes and ladders this leads us back to Orosius’ 25,000 Carthaginians killed.
At the last phase of the battle of Zama, Polybius states Hannibal’s third line and the Romans were equal in number. Therefore, if the Roman army had 25,000 men, the conclusion was that Hannibal’s also had 25,000 men. Add in Massinissa’s cavalry and Hannibal is outnumbered. Now if you wanted to make this a great victory for Scipio, Scipio had to be outnumbered, so why not include Valerius Antius’ figures of 12,000 Carthaginians killed as consisting of Hannibal’s first line of mercenaries, and then add in another second line of Carthaginian citizens and Africans, but don’t provide a number as there is none.
Appian gives Hannibal’s army at 50,000 men and 4,000 cavalry. So is this figure simply 25,000 multiplied by two, has Appian double counted Hannibal’s army, or does it also include the Roman army? If you deduct the 4,000 cavalry from the 50,000 men, the result is 46,000 men, and when divided by two equals 23,000 men. Now we are back to Appian’s claim there were 23,000 Roman infantry at Zama. What if I took Valerius Antius’ figures of 12,000 Carthaginians killed, doubled it, and then added Hannibal’s 25,000 men to arrive at 49,000 men, which would approximate to Appian’s claim of about 50,000 men.
Generally, Polybius’ numbers, both infantry and cavalry for the major battles of the Second Punic War are good, but at Zama, his methodology of providing infantry and cavalry numbers goes out the window, leaving us with near to nothing. Surely, a great epic battle as Zama should have been given more detail, but alas it has not.
I have presented some of my observations about the numbers, but I have not included all of them. Yes, there are more calculations that can be made to confirm what is going on at Zama. Did the ancients use the size of the Roman army and use these same figures for Hannibal’s army. More than likely and I have other examples of this being done, especially by Polybius, and have literally caught him with his hand in the cookie jar. One example is beyond rebuttal, it is plainly there for all to see, and shows, when Polybius has no enemy numbers, and knows both armies were equal in strength, he then bases his calculations on the size of the Roman army. Diodorus does the same for the battle of Asculum, the only problem being is he got the size of the Roman army wrong.
Polybius informs us that Hannibal’s third line of veterans was equal in number to the Roman army, and much of Hannibal’s figures have been built on this. In a nutshell, Hannibal’s losses at Zama do not represent causalities.
(12-15-2014, 12:45 PM)Robert Vermaat 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?

We also have to think of the documentation that I'm sure Polybius had to write on that no longer exist. We have to remember a lot of Polybius work is no longer available. We can't even fathom how much history was lost to the sack of Rome, and the literature that was burnt and destroyed. This was over 2000 years ago on top of that. 

I'm 100% positive that the battle did happen.
"I am not ashamed to confess that I am ignorant of what I do not know." ~Cicero

Real Name: Aaron Phelps
Aaron wrote:

I'm 100% positive that the battle did happen.
It’s the army numbers that concern me. The size of Hannibal’s army appears to have been based on the Roman army and Valerius Antius’ numbers for the skirmish before Zama. The legions employed at Zama were not the standard legion, and I find it difficult that Hannibal had the same number of men as these special legions. Hannibal’s army is made up of the Roman army, and the 12,000 men killed as given by Valerius Antius, which Polybius has given for Hannibal’s first line.
Now this is something we can agree on. It's a possibility that the army numbers were conflated among other issues. We know Julius Caesar conflated a lot of numbers especially the genocide that was committed towards the celts.

Those however were the times. I just think it's insane how much literature was destroyed or turned to dust in those times, and we have barely a few historic authors writings left. Livy had somewhere around 140 books. Only a few dozen survive today. All that information gone. I suppose I should be happy that we have something.
"I am not ashamed to confess that I am ignorant of what I do not know." ~Cicero

Real Name: Aaron Phelps
Aaron wrote:

Those however were the times. I just think it's insane how much literature was destroyed or turned to dust in those times, and we have barely a few historic authors writings left. Livy had somewhere around 140 books. Only a few dozen survive today. All that information gone. I suppose I should be happy that we have something.
I always live in hope of one day, an archaeologist will discover a large ancient and well preserved library with every known author up to 500 AD. If a genie granted me one wish, and with that wish I could choose the works of one ancient author, I would select Sosylus, author of the Deeds of Hannibal.
There are three mathematical factors in play that determine all the numbers by all the ancient historians writing about the battle of Zama. The first is Valerius Antius’ figures of 12,000 Carthaginians killed and 1,700 taken Carthaginians taken prisoners. The second is Polybius’ comment that Hannibal’s third line and the Roman were nearly equal in number. The third is Polybius’ figure of 20,000 Carthaginians killed and the same taken prisoner.

Valerius Antius’ figures of 12,000 and 1,700 are the prime generators, and by working backwards using all the other ancient numbers, the figure of 12,000 consists of three subtotals, and one of those subtotals is a doublet.
After the battle of Zama, Appian has Hannibal in command of an army of 60,000 foot and 500 horse, and again these numbers are generated from Valerius Antius 12,000 figure which when multiplied by five equals 60,000 men. The low number of cavalry (500) indicates Appian or his source thought that Hannibal in the cavalry encounter described by Zonaras had lost 4,500 cavalry.........Appian 25,000 killed.....Orosius 20,500 casualties.....difference....4,500 men.....Appian mentions 4,000 Carthaginian cavalry and later mentions another 1,000 cavalry.
For Zama, the ancient historians are not looking at official documents showing historical losses, they are just number crunching Valerius Antius, which is the smoking gun.

However, the questions is, who was Valerius Antius' source? It has to be someone earlier than Valerius Antius, unless it was his father. Lucius Cincius Alimentus perhaps, who Livy mentions provided the number of Hannibal's army crossing the Alps. Whoever it is, they have the same mathematical signature (one subtotal added to the total), which I have interpreted to be created by Polybius, although it does not occur all the time in Polybius' writing. In my eyes this would exonerate Polybius.
After comparing the various data available on some of the ancient historians, I am confident Valerius Antias’ source was Lucius Cincius Alimentus, and as Polybius on many occasions has the same mistake in his works as Alimentus, so now I know when Polybius is using Alimentus because Alimentus always double counts the same troop type, and I have no idea why.
There certainly was a battle between Scipio and Hannibal, or should I say between Scipio’s extraordinarii and Hannibal’s rear guard. I’ve gone over my notes on this battle and looked at the major events I have compartmentalised over the years.
Livy starts the battle with three Roman lines, and then has two lines, so Livy appears to follow Polybius at the start and then switches to another source. Appian only mentions two Carthaginian lines, and does not have the Roman and Numidian cavalry return and attack Hannibal’s third line and therefore, save the day.
There are definitely two versions of events in play, with Appian interjecting Polybius with an earlier version of events. It would appear that many writers after Polybius, are trying to merge the two and somewhat conflicting versions together.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Polybius is trying to turn a battle of encounter while in march column into a set piece battle. Looking at it from this point of view, having the principes/triarii taking up station on the flanks of the hastati could be the three columns Polybius mentions in his description of the army on the march when contact is made.
Appian’s account of the first line being brought up, and giving battle could relate to turning about the direction of march and then proceeding towards the enemy and then forming line of battle. Later Appian then has the second line being brought up, which again is turning about while in march column. Having Hannibal’s veterans being 200 stades behind the second line could be the distance between when the units were in march column.
I think the Carthaginian first line of mercenaries and the elephant are embellishments, and for me eliminating the elephants and the mercenaries starts giving all the account a better fluidity. Anyway, that is my take on the matter.
Aaron wrote:

I'm 100% positive that the battle did happen.
Most people are, but I am 100% positive it did not happen as portrayed by Polybius. I am aware of the views of many outlining their reasons as to why it happened, from Cato would have made mention of the battle being a fabrication, to the whole Roman army being paid off to support the Polybian view, but all these views are irrelevant until a few things can be determined.
Polybius was made a hostage in 167 BC. Polybius mentions the Via Domitia so this must be after 118 BC, and according to Lucian he died at the age of 82.
So when did he start writing his history?
Did he write them in Rome or Greece?
When did Polybius’ work become mainstream?
All the counter debate to the battle of Zama as occurring in Polybius’ narrative must first answer these questions, otherwise there is no defence.
If Polybius wrote his histories after the fall of Carthage in 146 BC, and includes an event in 118 BC, then he has twenty eight years of writing time. As Polybius states he was writing for a Greek audience, then where is the evidence to say he did not write his histories in Greece. Could after the siege of Carthage he was given his freedom and a ship to take him to Greece and home?
There is far too much in this thread to respond to, but since Steven says it is the numbers that primarily interest him, I feel I must point out a possible numerical misinterpretation that he has repeated several times.
Quote:The second is Polybius’ comment that Hannibal’s third line and the Roman were nearly equal in number.

This is NOT in fact what Polybius says. After telling us that that the beaten survivors of Hannibal's first two lines fled back toward the third line, he tells us that Hannibal did not admit them, so they were forced out to form up on the wings of the third line, while some fled into the open ground beyond ( as we might expect ).
Polybius goes on to say that it was the whole of the two "phalanxes" i.e the whole infantry lines that were 'nearly equal in numbers'. The Hastati, Principes and Triarii in a single line on the Roman side, and Hannibal's veterans and the remnants of the first two lines together in a single line on the Punic side.

Digression: Why did Hannibal force the first and second line survivors onto the wings to extend his line? He knew Scipio would use his favourite envelopment tactics by posting the fresh Principes and Triarii on his wings ( as he had done at Baecula, Ilipa, and Great Plains.) The surviving first and second line troops would prevent the third line veterans from being surrounded......
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
For the Carthaginian army at Utica in 203 BC, Polybius gives Hasdrubal 30,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry, and Syphax 50,000 infantry and about 10,000 cavalry, for a total of about 93,000 men (80,000 infantry and about 13,000 cavalry)

Appian allocates Hasdrubal army at 20,000 infantry, and 7,000 cavalry. That’s one hell of a difference between the sizes of the Carthaginian army. Same battle, different numbers, so what gives?
To answer the question, if you subtract Syphax 50,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry as given by Polybius from Polybius’ own figure of 30,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry for Hasdrubal’s army, the result is 20,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry as given by Appian.
So what does this say about Polybius, recognised as the most reliable of all ancient historians? And how did Polybius arrive at the figure of a Carthaginian army of 80,000 infantry and 13,000 cavalry?
The answer can be found in Appian’s narrative. Scattered throughout Appian’s account preceding the battle of Utica and at the battle of Utica, can be found the figures for the number of Carthaginian infantry, cavalry, slaves, the men killed, the men that escaped Utica, the number of prisoners and the new Carthaginian recruits levied after the battle, and when counted amount to 90,900 men, consisting of 78,200 infantry and 12,700 cavalry. Missing are 2,100 men needed to match Polybius’ total of 93,000 men. However, Appian has Hasdrubal escape the battlefield with only 500 cavalry, whereas Polybius has Hasdrubal escape with 500 cavalry and about 2,000 infantry, and with the inclusion of Polybius’ 2,000 infantry, this gives a total of 92,900 men (79,200 infantry and 12,700 cavalry), which approximates to Polybius’ figure of 93,000 men (80,000 infantry and 13,000 cavalry).
  6000 infantry (Appian Punic War 9)
  5000 slaves (Appian Punic War 9)
20000 infantry (Appian) Punic War 13)
  5000 dead (Appian Punic War 15)
  1800 prisoners (Appian Punic War 15)
30000 killed in battle (Appian Punic War 23)
  2400 prisoners (Appian Punic War 23)
  8000 infantry reinforcements (Appian Punic War 24)
  2000 infantry (Polybius 14 6 3)
79200 men (rounded to 80,000 infantry)
  600 cavalry (Appian Punic War 9)
7000 cavalry (Appian Punic War 13)
1000 cavalry (Appian Punic War 14)
  600 cavalry surrender (Appian Punic War 23)
  500 cavalry escaped (Appian Punic War 24)
3000 cavalry reinforcements (Appian Punic War 24)
12700 men (rounded to 13,000 cavalry)
This shows that Polybius has deliberately falsified the size of the Carthaginian army, for the sole purpose of increasing the military prestige of Scipio’s victory. So what else has Polybius falsified? Well I have found mostly nearly everything to do with the Scipio’s, be it the father, the uncle and the son. Whenever the Scipios take centre stage, Polybius swings into propaganda mode, in a bid to glorify the exploits of the Scipios.
His army numbers for Hannibal’s army marching to Italy and the casualties are shite. He has made two mathematical blunders, to arrive at Hannibal entering Italy with a measly army of 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry. Therefore, in order for Hannibal to face two consular armies at the Trebbia, Polybius crudely introduces Gauls into the army and inserts the infantry into Hannibal’s line infantry. And don’t believe for a second Polybius does not make stuff up. And when he does make stuff up, common sense goes out the window.
However, the mathematical methodology behind Hannibal’s army of 102,000 men at Cartagena follows that of the First Punic War naval data. Do the maths, and presto, you get 38,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry, the figure Polybius has for Hannibal crossing the Rhone. So no need to have Gaul's fill the infantry ranks at the Trebbia, Hannibal has a ballsy army that can match two Roman consular armies.
So how did Polybius arrive at Hannibal arriving in Italy with 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry? Well after the numbers are crunched, and due to his mistakes, he ends up with 26,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry, which he converts to 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, and to hell with the 4,000 real cavalry, or have they been doubled and pop up at the Trebbia as those 8,000 Carthaginian light infantry he makes mention of?
To those who believe in Polybius, how do you explain why he has grossly inflated the Carthaginian army at Utica? I’m all ears.

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