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Hannibal at Zama
One of the most persistant "problems" of ancient military history is trying to get a accurate view of Hannibal. Certainly there is a very strong tendency to rate Hannibal very high, but interestingly there is a tendency among many writers to feel that Scipio Africanus was a greater general than Hannibal. This is of course based on the fact that Hannibal lost the battle of Zama to Scipio. I find this reasoning problematic. Using this logic we would have to conclude that Peter the Great of Russia was a greater General than Charles the 12th of Russia, that Wellington was greater than Napoleon, and that Marshal Daun was greater than Frederick the Great. In all fairness this started fairly early with Polybius who claimed that Scipio was a greater general than Hannibal.

Remembering that our sources are very pro-Roman, Livy, and that even Polybius was very close to the Scipio family. In fact Livy had what are certainly mythical victories over Hannibal in his account. I wonder if we have the full story of what happened at Zama. Frankly the accounts of Zama, all ultimately based on Polybius don't give me much of sense about what Hannibal was trying to do. The result is a lot of conjecture but little substance.

Of course it would have been perfectly possible for Hannibal to be outgeneraled at Zama, although how this means given Hannibal's overall record, that Scipio was agreater general is beyond me. After all Napoleon had a "off" day at Waterloo and so deservedly lost to Wellington and Blucher.

Does anyone have any ideas about what Hannibal wastrying to do at Zama?

Scipio came to to Africa with a clear objective.
He had a mainly Roman army with reliable allies.
He had fewer complex situations to face so there ware fewer chances of his system to collapse under the strain of "the fog of war".
Hanibal had to guard himself from his political rivals and was suspect as a traitor. His mercenaries (most of them) were embitered ex-mutineers of questionable loyalty and delayed pay and ratios. Perhaps he filled the gaps with impressed people and slaves. I am surprized that he managed to field an army at all! Based on what he had he was forced to more rigid tactics against an army who after the bloody lesson of Cannae learned to be more flexible. His more compex overstrained system collapsed under the strain of "the fog of war" Chance were simply agains him.
One though had to speculate what a lucky arrow or sling shot could have done to Scipio or the Numidian king and the course of history but still the Romans had at this time covered more angles than the Carchedonians wanted or could afford.
Gods do not favor only the biggest armis but the more organised.
Kind regards
Hannibal was a brilliant tactician. The army he brought over the Alps and used in the early years of his campaign in Italy was a better army and more personally loyal to him than the army he had at Zama. He had relatively few of his veterans left. If I recall, many of his troops were fairly "green", i.e. not battle tested.

The Romans simply did not behave as other "Hellenistic" states would have behaved after three defeats, the last of which, Cannae, was massive. Hannibal did not plan for an enemy as truly tenacious as the Romans. The Romans "gritted their teeth", built up their army and soldiered on.

Scipio was a Roman who was willing to learn from his enemy. (think of how much Roman military equipment is borrowed from enemies). He had as the core of his army at Zama two legions formed out of survivors of Cannae and another later Roman defeat(against Hannibal, I think), who were determined to prove that they could win a battle against Hannibal.

It is likely, that against any other enemy in the Mediterranean world, Hannibal would have won the war, and not just some early battles in it. But, the Romans refused to surrender and, drawing on their large manpower reserves, were able to outlast Hannibal and defeat his allies then take the war to North Africa and ultimately defeat him.

As a final thought: think about how long the First and Second Punic Wars lasted. On average, some 20 years each! - imagine staying the course in a conflict of that duration. I am sure that other conflicts have lasted as long or longer (sucha as the Hundred Years War), but arguably, few combatants have had the tenacity and staying power of the ancient Romans, who then went on to shape their known world in their own image for hundreds of years.

Marcus Quintius Clavus/Quinton
Quinton Johansen
Marcus Quintius Clavus, Optio Secundae Pili Prioris Legionis III Cyrenaicae
Personally I think Hannibal was a military genius at the same level of a Caesar or Napoleon. But he didn't know how to use the victories. He won some battles at the side of first Hamilcar Barca (his father, murdered in 229BC when Hannibal was 18) and Hasdrubal, Hamilcar Barca's son-in-law. Then Hannibal took Sagentum (218BC) and crossed the Alps. Although he lost many of his soldiers and elephants, he won the battle at the Ticinus and Trebia rivers. A year later he almost annihilated a Roman army at Lake Trasimere, admittedly with the aid of Gallic tribes. He marched on and heavily defeated the Romans at Cannae in 216BC, followed by the sacking of Capua and Tarentum. These things you can't do if you're not a good general. He even marched to the walls of Rome, but then the Romans recovered Capua. Unfortunately for Hannibal, his brother Hasdrubal Barca and the reinforcement suddenly faced Marcus Livius Salinator and Gaius Claudius Nero, a rare initiative from Nero to combine two consular armies. Hasdrubal Barca crossed the Alps during spring, and suddenly faced the two consular armies somewhere in Umbria. Although he tried to retreat, he was caught, defeated and killed. I think, if Hannibal could've joined his brother and the two Carthegian armies united, he definitely would have defeated the Romans. But he had no reinforcements, and in Africa the Numibian prince Masinissa (who fought at his side at Cannae) ended the alliance with Cathago and became an ally of the Romans. Eventually, all those things together became fatal to Hannibal. Then he was recalled to Africa and he nearly won Zama, but the Roman and Numibian cavalry returned tot the battlefield after persuading the Carthegian cavalry. If this did not has happened, Scipio Africanus would have faced a much more difficult challenge, because the veterans in Hannibal's army were hold in reserve and now faced the Romans. Hannibal fled to Carthago and advised a peace with Rome. Twenty years later, Hannibal committed suicide in exile, threatened with extradition by the Romans.
Scipio was a good general, but IMO what makes Zama different from Trebia or Cannae is that the Romans had a cavalry (mainly Numidian allies) that was a match for the Carthaginians.
AKA Inaki
Outstanding topic Pacal. One of my favorites. I registered to contribute to this terrific site, upon finding your topic. I don't see anything I strongly disagree with from the four previous posters.

The works of Polybius and Livy, and other ancient writers, are available online:


I have my views too, and we must keep in mind that much of the Battle of Zama, like much of antiquity for that matter, presents ground for modern speculation. Polybius was a fine historian who wanted to establish the truth of events, but though we might expect him to have been hostile to the Romans for causing him to be exiled from his own country, he did work and live under the patronage of the Scipionic circle. This meant he was in a very favorable situation to understand how the Roman political and military systems worked. He could be critical of Roman actions, such as their seizure of Sardinia in the wake of Carthage's 'Mercenary War', but his absorbing interest as to why Rome came to be the dominant power in his world certainly led him to see things through Roman eyes.

Scipio was a brilliant general, evidenced here at Zama by the fact he knew he had the better army (particularly the cavalry arm), thus by not making any major mistakes, Hannibal could not exploit anything. His countering of the elephants was masterly, but the elephant drivers were possibly trained to kill them if they became unmanageable. Killing an out-of-control elephant with a hammer and spike was no child's play, but it did not take years for men to learn this. Only Livy writes of this Carthaginian tactic, and only with regards to Hasdrubal Barca. But that doesn't mean Hannibal didn't undertake this countering practice. It would make sense that he did.

However, I disagree with anyone who claims Hannibal was a spent force at Zama. he was now 45 years old, and there is no reason to think that he wasn't suffering exhaustion. The stress factor certainly was every bit as prevalent in ancient times. His actions after Zama do not illustrate a man not having still an iron will, resilient determination, and a sound mind. To use the raw elephants in such numbers as a shock force was, in my opinion, the most prudent decision. Please try to remember that Hannibal certainly knew all about the strengths and liabilities of these pachydrms - certainly more than Scipio. He probably hoped they would do their stuff, but he could easily have known they would do exactly what they did do - swerve out to the flanks and disrupt things, which would aid his possible plan of deception of sacrificing his inferior cavalry to lure the better Roman/Numidian contingent away from the battlefield. He had done such things before with feigned withdrawals etc. (the ager Falernus, the Rhone, Tarentum). Again, there is nothing to indicate that the 45-47 year old Hannibal had lost any of his touch.

For the most part, Livy and Appian take a back seat to Polybius. We don't know exactly the relative strengths of the two armies, but many feel that Hannibal did not outnumber Scipio as much as the ancients claimed. Remember, this was a frontal engagement devoid of flank attacks or oblique lines etc., and though Scipio's army was more experienced (except Hannibal's 3rd line) and of higher quality, this wasn't Alexander against the motley levies of Asia, Caesar's X or XIII Legion against the unweildy Gauls, or even Belisarius' famed bucellarii against city mobs and Vandals. There is no way Scipio would have been hanging on in the final stages of the battle if his infantry had been outnumbered significantly, such as 50,000 vs. 23,000 or so as Appian claims. It is improbable that 4,000 Macedonians under one Sopater were part of Hannibal's 2nd line, as Livy would have us believe. Polybius, a Hellene himself, would have mentioned that.

Basically the armies were as follows:

Scipio: approx. 34,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry.

Hannibal: approx. 40,000 infantry, 80 elephants, and 4,000 cavalry.

I'll be glad to break this all down if one asks. Both great generals took risks with their movements before the battle, Scipio to avoid fighting while without Masinissa (he endangered his communications), and Hannibal to bring on the battle in an attempt to interpose between Scipio and Masinissa (he wasn't fully prepared). Fortune was with Scipio when Masinissa arrived with 10,000 men before Hannibal could intercept either one them.

Let's take a look at the Battle of Zama from Polybius Book 15.12-15,

"...When all was ready for battle on both sides, the Numidian horse having been skirmishing with each other for some time, Hannibal ordered the drivers of the elephants to charge the enemy. When the trumpets and bugles sounded shrilly from all sides, some of the animals took fright and at once turned tail and rushed back upon the Numidians who had come up to help the Carthaginians, and Massanissa attacking simultaneously, the Carthaginian left wing was soon left exposed. The rest of the elephants falling on the Roman velites in the space between the two main armies, both inflicted and suffered much loss, until finally in their terror some of them escaped through the gaps in the Roman line with Scipio's foresight had provided, so that the Romans suffered no injury, while others fled towards the right and, received by the cavalry with showers of javelins, at length escaped out of the field. It was at this moment that Laelius, availing himself of the disturbance created by the elephants, charged the Carthaginian cavalry and forced them to headlong flight. He pressed the pursuit closely, as likewise did Massanissa. In the meanwhile both phalanxes slowly and in imposing array advanced on each other, except the troops which Hannibal had brought back from Italy, who remained in their original position. When the phalanxes were close to each other, Romans fell upon their foes, raising their war-cry and clashing their shields with their spears as is their practice, while there was a strange confusion of shouts raised by the Carthaginian mercenaries, for, as Homer says, their voice was not one, but

Mixed was the murmur, and confused the sound,
Their names all various,
as appears from the list of them I gave above.

As the whole battle was a hand-to-hand affair, the mercenaries at first prevailed by their courage and skill, wounding many of the Romans, but the latter still continued to advance, relying on their admirable order and on the superiority of their arms. The rear ranks of the Romans followed close on their comrades, cheering them on, but the Carthaginians behaved like cowards, never coming near their mercenaries nor attempting to back them up, so that finally the barbarians gave way, and thinking that they had evidently been left in the lurch by their own side, fell upon those they encountered in their retreat and began to kill them. This actually compelled many of the Carthaginians to die like men; for as they were being butchered by their own mercenaries they were obliged against their will to fight both against these and against the Romans, and as when at bay they showed frantic and extraordinary courage, they killed a considerable number both of their mercenaries and of the enemy. In this way they even threw the cohorts of the hastati into confusion, but the officers of the principes, seeing what was happening, brought up their ranks to assist, and now the greater number of the Carthaginians and their mercenaries were cut to pieces where they stood, either by themselves or by the hastati. Hannibal did not allow the survivors in their flight to mix with his own men but, ordering the foremost ranks to level their spears against them, prevented them from being received into his force. They were therefore obliged to retreat towards the wings and the open ground beyond. The space which separated the two armies still on the field was now covered with blood, slaughter, and dead bodies, and the Roman general was placed in great difficulty by this obstacle to his completing the rout of the enemy. For he saw that it would be very difficult to pass over the ground without breaking his ranks owing to the quantity of slippery corpses which were still soaked in blood and had fallen in heaps and the number of arms thrown away at haphazard. However, after conveying the wounded to the rear and recalling by bugle those of the hastati who were still pursuing the enemy, he stationed the latter in the fore part of the field of battle, opposite the enemy's centre, and making the principes and triarii close up on both wings ordered them to advance over the dead. When these troops had surmounted the obstacles and found themselves in a line with the hastati the two phalanxes closed with the greatest eagerness and ardour. As they were nearly equal in numbers as well as in spirit and bravery, and were equally well armed, the contest was for long doubtful, the men falling where they stood out of determination, and Massanissa and Laelius, returning from the pursuit of the cavalry, arrived providentially at the proper moment. When they fell on Hannibal's army from the rear, most of the men were cut down in their ranks, while of those who took to flight only quite a few escaped, as the cavalry were close on them and the country was level. More than fifteen hundred Romans fell, the Carthaginian loss amounting to twenty thousand killed and nearly the same number of prisoners.

Such was the result of the final battle between Scipio and Hannibal, the battle which decided the war in favour of Rome..."

OK. Breakdown time :wink:

We have to assign the motives of Hannibal and Scipio where Polybius does not.

Hannibal was weaker in cavalry and numerically stronger in infantry. Thus he surely would aim at a decision by his infantry (for the first time). His cavalry would have little hope of success, so he would somehow want to nullify the superior Roman/Numidian cavalry while his infantry won the day. Hannibal's use of 3 independent lines compensated to a degree for the lack of time in which to blend the varied elements into a homogenous command structure.

Scipio would need to handle the elephants first. He probably learned from Regulus' failure in 255 B.C., in which the elephants were attempted to be absorbed by infantry mass from doubling the intervals. The part that somewhat worked for Regulus, though probably inadvertantly, at Tunes was by abandoning the checkerboard formation, lanes were created, which created a line of least resistence for the elephants. But he was far outmatched in cavalry that day 53 years earlier. Scipio achieved the nullification of the elephant charge by creating lanes and deafening noise from bugles and trumpets (and probably exuding screams from his troops). Now he would doubtless attempt, in some form or another, his tactics which had worked brilliantly before, with increased efficiency, at Baecula, Ilipa, and the Great Plains. Overall, Scipio would attempt to expose Hannibal's wings with his superior cavalry squadrons, hold the enemy's first line, and send out his principes and triarii to outflank Hannibal.

But Hannibal adopted a Roman-style triple-line, and placed his 3rd line, his best, about 200 yards behind the 2nd (perhaps 100 yards seperated the first two lines). When his first two lines advanced, he evidently ordered his 3rd to stand fast. This could be the very first 'true reserve' in the history of warfare, and this disposition immediately thwarted Scipio from any outflanking maneuver.

I think Hannibal ordered his cavalry units to give ground in order to draw their counterparts off the field. It explains the ease with which Scipio won this part of the battle, and why they returned at a late stage. A. Goldsworthy, one of the finest scholars on Roman history disagrees, but the likes of H.H. Scullard, J. Kromayer, and G. Veith all think so. J.F. Lazenby thinks it is likely. However, Hannibal was taking a risk by doing so, because it still involved their defeat, exposed his flanks, and the Roman/Numidian cavalry could return before he had finished off Scipio's smaller body of infantry. But he had to do something, and I don't think if they had held their ground they would have lasted long. The fact it was pretty close later shows Hannibal made a viable decision. Furthermore, Scipio had superior cavalry and proved his adeptness with 'boomerang' style tactics before. Hannibal was a student of war, and a master of simple and double bluff. He knew his history, particularly that of the Hellenistic kingdoms (he had Greek tutors). He knew what happened to Antigonus when his son, Demetrius Poliorcetes, went off in pursuit of Seleucus' cavalry at the great battle of Ipsus in 301 B.C. Did Scipio order his cavalry merely ride out and ride back in the manner they did? Why didn't Scipio try a flank maneuver, as Hannibal had done at Cannae? He was certainly capable, and with superior material at his disposal. True, cavalry was notoriously difficult to control, but let me offer Professor H.H. Scullard's credible statement from his terrific Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician pg. 150,

"...Since it would take longer to convert a nominal into an actual flight than to drive a defeated enemy off the field, and since in fact the Roman cavalry only returned in the nick of time, it seems more probable that the Carthaginians deliberatley drew them away.
After getting rid of the Roman cavalry, though with little hope that his own could rally against them, Hannibal would throw all his weight against Scipio's numerically inferior enemy. The elephant charge, with which he had hoped to confuse his foe, miscarried somewhat, partly through Scipio's foresight in leaving gaps in his line for the animals to run through, partly because they were always of rather doubtful quality, and here fell afoul of the Carthaginian cavalry. However, they cannot have done great harm to their own side, since their drivers had the means of killing them if they got out of hand..."

I bolded the last sentence because if this was the case (we'll never know for sure), it means the 'scattered cavalry' of Hannibal were quickly vanquished because they were in a running fight. I need to be careful - I have no right to theorize to the point of appending soemthing not even mentioned, even slightly, as a remote possibility, by our ancient sources. I would like to add to Scullard's theory; Polybius only mentions it was Hannibal's left flank that was disrupted by elephants sent out of control. On the right flank he tells us that the scattered elephants, " length escaped out of the field. It was at this moment that Laelius, availing himself of the disturbance created by the elephants, charged the Carthaginian cavalry and forced them to headlong flight...". How did Gaius Laelius so easily send the Carthaginian cavaly, though green but not outnumbered (assuming Masinissa's 4,000-strong were not interdispersed with the Romans), into such quick flight? The flight seemed immediate! The answer is they were ordered to give ground.

B.H. Liddell Hart says on pg. 179 of his renowned (but extremely tendentious) Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon,

"...Both Hannibal's flanks were thus stripped bare. The decisive maneuver of Cannae was repeated, but reversed..."

No, Sir Basil, with all due respect, the decisive maneuver at Cannae was Hannibal having his infantry wings wheel inwards to attack the Roman flanks, once his crescent formation of Gauls and Spaniards had sucked the huge Roman infantry body in towards them. By achieving this, the Roman infantry's forward pressure funnelled itself into a colossal trap. Hannibal's heavy cavalry turned a Roman defeat into an annihilation. It was entirely different here at Zama, and Scipio's cavalry were off the battlefield, too. Hannibal's placement of his 3rd line prevented any similar maneuverings from Scipio's legions here at Zama as Hannibal had achieved at Cannae. This battle was also entirely different from Cannae with the cavalry, as Scipio did not attempt any flank maneuvers. Perhaps he took the very open terrain into account, but the fact he didn't attempt outflanking maneuvers with better cavalry squadrons lends even more credibility to the possibility that Hannibal's cavalry was luring them away in a rearguard action. Although he countered the elephant charge, Scipio was not in a substantially favorable position whatsoever at this point.

Back to the possible intentions of the two generals, Hannibal prevented any outflanking by Scipio's infantry because of his 3rd line being held back. But this disposition of Hannibal's wasn't entirely to prevent encirclement from Scipio. The 3rd line was ready to act offensively if and when a suitable moment presented itself. If Scipio did not realize this in time and was too imbroiled in the fighting to make any changes, then his attack would be against the first 2 of Hannibal's lines, and when that was spent, Hannibal could attack with his fresh veterans, hopefully delivering a decisive blow as his cavalry was holding off Masinissa and Laelius.

Alternativley, if Scipio did realize Hannibal's trap of making him fight towards the 3rd line (thus blunting his energy and weapons) in time and forced to forget about any outflanking possibility, Hannibal was in no worse position, because Scipio would rely on the traditional Roman method of 3 supporting lines whose weight would fall on Hannibal's first 2 lines, after which the weary legionnaires would have to advance against Hannibal's intact 3rd line.

In my opinion, with the exception of the elephants, Hannibal was in the slightly better position amid the infantry clash. His 1st line, the remnants of Mago's army, fought bravely against the hastati. However, according to Polybius, they received no support from the 2nd line, who 'acted like cowards'. It is likely that Polybius is wrong, and the 2nd line didn't support the 1st not from cowardice but because they were ordered not to at this point. Hannibal was attempting to keep his 3 lines as distinct as possible, with each line being thrown in separately. It was a sound plan, but such a deployment required good discipline, which wasn't extant here. The mercenaries of the 1st line turned against the 2nd line. If Polybius' account of the fierce struggle between the first 2 of Hannibal's lines is taken at face value, this incident may have been, as Georg Veith suggests, a stroke of fortune that saved Scipio and wrecked Hannibal's plan. By this time, if not a little sooner, Scipio certainly knew that he couldn't outflank Hannibal in face of the Carthaginian's well-disposed 3rd line. Thus he was challenged by the task of fighting a purely frontal engagement, in which Hannibal's chances were greater. Hannibal's first 2 lines, in cooperation, would have forced Scipio to use all his ranks. But they turned on each other, which Scipio prudently exploited by not commiting the bulk of his principes and none of his triarii, and then breaking off the battle to reorganize. Presumably many of the remnants, perhaps just a handful, of his first 2 lines had fled to his wings and were regrouped and implemented into the 3rd line.

Again, Hannibal was hoping that as many Romans as possible became involved at this juncture with his first 2 lines, so that he could use his 3rd line to deliver a devastating blow before Scipio's cavalry returned.

A couple of diificulties about Polybius' account come up. What happened after the clash between the mercenaries (1st line) and the Carthaginian militia (2nd line)? Polybius says, "...the greater number of the Carthaginians and their mercenaries were cut to pieces where they stood, either by themselves or by the hastati...", in other words, only Hannibal's veterans were left? This is not possible because if Hannibal's veterans stood alone and uncommited, he would not have needed time to reorganize, as his accepting (or permitting?) of the pause suggests. Moreover, Polybius' earlier statement is now contradicted by his later claim that, "...As they were nearly equal in numbers as well as in spirit and bravery, and were equally well armed, the contest was for long doubtful...", which could not have been so if nearly all the first 2 lines of Hannibal's had been scattered. Oh well, call me a nitpicker :ermm:

Maybe Polybius meant the mercenaries alone, or simply exaggerated 'the greater part' of the Carthaginians. What is probable is that the hastati, and but a small portion of the principes, did not completely defeat Hannibal's first 2 lines, numbering some 20,000+ men.

The role played by Scipio's 2nd line, the principes, is a little cloudy. If Polybius means, "...the officers of the principes, seeing what was happening, brought up their ranks to assist..., that the principes aided the hastati in the normal manner, this would mean that both lines moved forward, which would explain the recovery of the hastati and the subsequent flight of Hannibal's first 2 lines. But Polybius later tells us, "... after conveying the wounded to the rear and recalling by bugle those of the hastati who were still pursuing the enemy...". Mmmmm. Maybe we can asssume Polybius meant the principes kept close to the hastati during the intial advance, then halted and the hastati went on alone.

The hastati seemed to have got into a precarious position in pursuing the broken lines of Hannibal's poorer troops, which Hannibal was forcing out to the flanks of his 3rd line. They were dangerously exposed upon coming face to face with Hannibal and his veterans. Scipio had to relieve them quickly! They didn't follow the scattered mercenaries and Carthagininas because we later find them in the center when Scipio extended his entire body of infantry. They were recalled and Scipio reorganized his line. This is where Roman cohesion and discipline came into play. But Hannibal showed sound judgment by not immediately attacking the isolated hastati (perhaps a few principes); this would have entailed committing his last troops into the fight while Scipio had nearly 2 lines intact, which could now outflank him. Thus he was ready for a pause to reorganize too. The battlefield impeded both armies as it was encumbered with bodies and slippery with blood. An advance had to be carried out carefully.

Scipio now lengthened his line by bringing up his rear ranks on the flanks of the hastati, with the gaps between the maniples closed up. There was now no need for Scipio to keep any intervals between his maniples, as the final blow with Hannibal's 3rd line should be as concentrated as possible, thus no seperate engagements were necessary. Depth was now of lesser value than maximizing his missile power upon Hannibal's last line. This was superb generalship, as Scipio was clearly making allowances for his (presumably) returning cavalry. He needed to be quick because Hannibal, solidifying his deeper line of veterans and remnanats of the 1st 2 lines, would have a slight advantage in a prolonged infantry clash at this point. The Carthaginian horse (commander unkown) and Numidians under Tychaeus (Hannibal's ally) seemed to be (somewhat) achieving some success at keeping the superior enemy horses away from the infantry action. Remember, if it wasn't the case, and we'll never know for sure, that Hannibal did not sacrifice his horses to lure Scipio's cavalry units away, then this was not very marked leadership on the part of Scipio, Gaius Laelius, and Masinissa. It would have been similar to Prince Rupert's pursuit at Naseby 1,443 years later, who chased the Parliamentarian dragoons too far, thus his belated return was ineffective to aid the Royalists' cause against Cromwell.

The infantry clash commenced, with the 2 great generals at the helm of 2 great units in a front-to-front slugfest. We can never know for sure who had the 'upper hand' here, but Hannibal's line of his veterans was deeper, so via deductive logic, Scipio would have been broken up. But if he wasn't waiting for the returning cavalry, his dispositions would have been different. He must have smiled form ear to ear when the approaching sound of hoofs and rising dust of the desert was the thundering return of Gaius Laelius and Masinissa. They took Hannibal's veterans in the rear, and rolled them up. It is very ironic that many of the Cannae legions, whom Scipio levied in Sicily some four years earlier, were involved in on of Rome's greatest victory.

Polybius clearly identified Hannibal's handicap at Zama and does give him some praise when he wrote in Book 15.16,

"...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...".

However, a couple of sentences later he writes,

"...For there are times when Fortune counteracts the plans of valiant men, and again at times, as the proverb says, 'A brave man meets another braver yet', as we may say happened in the case of Hannibal..."

Scipio braver than Hannibal? Mmmm. This is where Polybius' bias may slip a bit.

Again, Scipio displayed brilliant generalship by not trying to do too much, and defending his advantage. Letting things take care of themselves is often the smart thing to do. Scipio was trying to win this battle, not outgeneral Hannibal, in terms of individual wizardry etc. Hannibal tried to wear Scipio down, but Scipio was able to engage Hannibal's veterans with about 3/5 of his infantry hitherto uncommited. But like our own civil war (I am an American), or maybe Hastings, Lutzen, Waterloo, or El Alamein, the better general did not necessarily win, in my opinion. I am bias though; I think Hannibal was a remarkable leader, and his plight against such a doughty foe for nearly two decades, in which he received only grudging support from home ( he wasn't banking on any outside support soon after Cannae), was exemplary.

"Hannibal was the son of Hamilcar, and a native of Carthage. If it be true, as no one doubts, that the Roman people excelled all other nations in warlike merit, it is not to be disputed that Hannibal surpassed other commanders in ability as much as the Romans surpassed all other people in valour; for as often as he engaged with the Romans in Italy, he always came off with the advantage; and, had not his efforts been paralyzed by the envy of his countrymen at home, he would appear to have been capable of getting the mastery over the Romans. But the jealous opposition of many prevailed against the ability of one. He, however, so cherished in his mind the hatred which his father had borne the Romans, and which was left him, as it were, by bequest, that he laid down his life before he would abate it; for even when he was exiled from his country, and stood in need of support from others, he never ceased in thought to make war with the Romans".

-Cornelius Nepos

Thanks, Spartan JKM Smile
"A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are built for."

James K MacKinnon

an excellent question, indeed!

Spartan JKM, a fantabulous reply! +1 on you! We'd just like to ask you to sign your posts with your real name, as per Forum rules.

There's actually little to say now, my view is that Scipio was far better general than other Romans of the time (specially since most armies were consular ones and Consuls were only rarely good generals), and that he learned a lot fighting against Hannibal's brothers in Italy and Spain, and from the other defeats in Italy against Hannibal. That I will admit and defend w/o further addo. But that he was better than Hannibal is a matter of historians.

If we ever find any Carthaginian sources, we'll have opposing views, surely, but that's unfortunately unlikely. Anyway Hannibal's genius shone with his deeds. Even a lost battle can show it, and I think he definitely did.

We know lots of things about Ancient times, but mostly from Western historians, and with Western POVs and bias, mostly Romans and Greeks. While fascinating, no doubt, they are necessarily limited and restricted to their world view and their own agendas (Ktesias? uh)

Personally I think Hannibal was extremely brilliant and managed what few (if any) in his position would have done...

best regards!
Episkopos P. Lilius Frugius Simius Excalibor, :. V. S. C., Pontifex Maximus, Max Disc Eccl
David S. de Lis - my blog: <a class="postlink" href="">
Spartan JKM: A superb piece of analysis, incisive and well-researched.
Felix Wang

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