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Alexander the Great was antiquity\'s greatest commander
#46
Quote:[ Would you say the same of Robert E. Lee? He, too, took on an enemy he knew to be able to field more men, to have a far superior logistical postion and which he would have to fight on its own ground. He, too, ran rings round said enemy until the combination of the loss of his best commanders, incompetence in his subordinates and the unreasonable behaviour of his superiors drove him to conduct the war in a way he would not have chosen. It's interesting to note, too, that Lee was effectively undone at Gettysburg by a failure in his cavalry, much as Hannibal's tactics were brought to nothing at Zama by the defection of his. So is Bob crap, too?

I agree with Pollis, definitely not 'crap'....Robert E Lee is another one of my Heroes
...a brilliant General who conducted himself as a Gentleman at all times.
Contrary to the views of most....many of the Southeners, including General Lee, who fought for the Confederacy did NOT approve of slavery, some considered it a necessity, some considered that slaves were better off in America (many were fed and housed reasonably well, some educated etc) and many were just fighting to protect their families, homes and heritage.
regards
Arthes
Cristina
The Hoplite Association
[url:n2diviuq]http://www.hoplites.org[/url]
The enemy is less likely to get wind of an advance of cavalry, if the orders for march were passed from mouth to mouth rather than announced by voice of herald, or public notice. Xenophon
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#47
I like your list. Never heard of some of the commanders, shame on me.

One can discuss rankings all the time, I will not do that. Alexander f.e. is my favorite, too.

Only one thought: perhaps you can change Stilicho with Arminius? The former won a few battles and thus played for time but the latter expelled the Romans from the new founded province Germania, must have been a very good general and perhaps changed history a lot more than other persons mentioned in the list. Wether this was a good thing is quite debatable but that's another story.
Wolfgang Zeiler
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#48
Quote: Some guy and his friends go on a criminal rampage, and when he isn't killed immediately we call him 'great'.

Oh please. We're talking about the ancient world. Don't be so post-modern.

Furthermore, by your criteria you'd have somebody like Pericles sitting up near the top. Men who play it safe in war don't achieve things like those men listed in tier 1.
Marshal White

aka Aulus FABULOUS 8) <img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cool.gif" alt="8)" title="Cool" />8) . . . err, I mean Fabius

"Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it."
- Pericles, Son of Athens
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#49
Quote: Would you say the same of Robert E. Lee? He, too, took on an enemy he knew to be able to field more men, to have a far superior logistical postion and which he would have to fight on its own ground. He, too, ran rings round said enemy until the combination of the loss of his best commanders, incompetence in his subordinates and the unreasonable behaviour of his superiors drove him to conduct the war in a way he would not have chosen. It's interesting to note, too, that Lee was effectively undone at Gettysburg by a failure in his cavalry, much as Hannibal's tactics were brought to nothing at Zama by the defection of his. So is Bob crap, too?

The American Civil War was not of Robert E. Lee's choosing. He was pretty well forced by circumstance to make the best of what he had, and he did very well. He acted and made decisions according to the interest of his country.

That is very different than starting a war, for *no* reason other than to make a name for yourself or supposedly to avenge your father's wounded pride, when you have no reason to expect victory. Carthage wanted nothing to do with this war because they didn't feel they were ready. This was not Hannibal's concern. Hannibal feared growing old and dying in obscurity before the war would start naturally, so he jumped the gun squarely against the interest of Carthage. Everyone was rightly shocked by his initial success, but the end result was *entirely* predictable.
Rich Marinaccio
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#50
Quote:Only one thought: perhaps you can change Stilicho with Arminius? The former won a few battles and thus played for time but the latter expelled the Romans from the new founded province Germania, must have been a very good general and perhaps changed history a lot more than other persons mentioned in the list. Whether this was a good thing is quite debatable but that's another story.

Yes and no. Arminius indeed defeated the Romans while he had much less to work with. But then again, he had the advantage of complete surprise, and his later battles went bad. The Romans had taken an enormous hit, but they were never driven from Germania. They surely re-adjusted their strategic goals, but they remained on the east bank of the Rhine for centuries, and later took bloody revenge for their defeat.

Stilicho, on the other hand, never could show such a resounding victory, but then again his resources were limited and so was his political support.

With both, we must ask the ‘what-if’ question: the answers then would show that Arminius was unlikely to have made changes to world history, and Stilicho most likely would. The Roman Empire was far too strong for Arminius and only much later finally abandoned the idea of conquest of larger Germania. Had Stilicho lived, Alaric would not have sacked Rome, and maybe the Gothic army would even have gone over to Stilicho. We might even have seen Stilicho’s son on the throne instead of Valentinian III!

Personally I rank Stilicho higher than Belisarius, who won great victories but later in life also knew many defeats.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#51
Hannibal was the greatest general of his time. He won his battles and at a moment the roman commanders didn't dare to give him battle.

But what about roman generals : Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo was certainly a good general in his time. Maybe not a "great" general but certainly a very good one.

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, also a very good general or can i say "great"?
Tot ziens.
Geert S. (Sol Invicto Comiti)
Imperator Caesar divi Marci Antonini Pii Germanici Sarmatici ½filius divi Commodi frater divi Antonini Pii nepos divi Hadriani pronepos divi Traiani Parthici abnepos divi Nervae adnepos Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus Arabicus ½Adiabenicus Parthicus maximus pontifex maximus
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#52
Quote:The American Civil War was not of Robert E. Lee's choosing. He was pretty well forced by circumstance to make the best of what he had, and he did very well. He acted and made decisions according to the interest of his country.

That is very different than starting a war, for *no* reason other than to make a name for yourself or supposedly to avenge your father's wounded pride, when you have no reason to expect victory. Carthage wanted nothing to do with this war because they didn't feel they were ready. This was not Hannibal's concern. Hannibal feared growing old and dying in obscurity before the war would start naturally, so he jumped the gun squarely against the interest of Carthage. Everyone was rightly shocked by his initial success, but the end result was *entirely* predictable.

I'm not sure that reasoning does Hannibal justice. True, the Roman accounts do emphasize the role of familial vengeance. However, consider the actions of the Romans in regard to Saguntum - they were clearly interfering in what was defined, by mutual treaty, as a Carthaginian sphere of influence. Furthermore, consider the behaviour of the Roman Republic up until its very end. Is there any neighbor which it didn't invade? In grand strategy terms, if you bordered the Romans, you were going to end up on their "to be conquered" list, sooner or later. If you struck when you were ready, you might at least gain a temporary advantage.
Felix Wang
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#53
Quote:[
The American Civil War was not of Robert E. Lee's choosing.

I never said it was.

Quote: He was pretty well forced by circumstance to make the best of what he had, and he did very well. He acted and made decisions according to the interest of his country.

That is very different than starting a war, for *no* reason other than to make a name for yourself or supposedly to avenge your father's wounded pride, when you have no reason to expect victory. Carthage wanted nothing to do with this war because they didn't feel they were ready. This was not Hannibal's concern. Hannibal feared growing old and dying in obscurity before the war would start naturally, so he jumped the gun squarely against the interest of Carthage.

I have already proposed an alternative view of the above, which you have not addressed. Why should I accept this Romanist view, rather than the pro-Hannibal one? Again, where I have cited similarities between Lee and Hannibal, you have not addressed these, but looked at ways in which they were different. It was not my intention to try to prove they were exactly the same and this is apparent in what I wrote. I was comparing them as generals, not in terms of their moral rectitude, or lack thereof. Nonetheless, I see no conclusive evidence that Hannibal was in any way Lee's moral inferior. You appear to think so, but argue purely by assertion.

Quote:Everyone was rightly shocked by his initial success, but the end result was *entirely* predictable.

Now which one do you mean? :twisted: The statement could be applied to either but it is false because, just as Lee appeared to have a chance of victory snatched from him by a lack of support at a crucial time, so also is there evidence that Hannibal might have achieved far more had he received men and supplies in good time. Though the Carthaginians appear to have been against the war at the outset, they refused to give Hannibal up and supported his war by their attitude to Roman demands that he be reined in. Clearly, their enthusiasm was aroused, but they failed to act quickly enough on their declared intention to back Hannibal.

When you think about it, few things in this universe are entirely predictable, perhaps least of all in war.
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#54
Looks like this thread is one of the best I have ever been involved in! Very astute posting Paul.

I'll soon address plenty when I have time, but I would like to give mention to one of the better (seemingly) TIER 3 commanders - one that always caught my attention when reading of the Second Punic War; it was a tragedy for Hannibal's cause.

Though Syracuse had fallen to the Romans in 212 B.C., Hannibal fully understood the strategic importance of Sicily (a simple glance at the map reveals the island's strategic importance in the Mediterranean). He sent a letter to Carthage convincing them not to give up on Sicily (they still held much of the western part of Sicily); they responded by sending some 11,000 men (8,000 foot and 3,000 Numidians) to the island. Hannibal sent the brilliant Muttines from southern Italy to aid in the command of operations there. As Theodor Mommsen tells us, in his classic work of Roman history, Book III, Chapter VI,

"Sicily thus appeared lost to the Carthaginians; but the genius of Hannibal exercised even from a distance its influence there. He dispatched to the Carthaginian army, which remained at Agrigentum in perplexity and inaction under Hanno and Epicydes, a Libyan cavalry officer by the name of Muttines, who took the command of the Numidian cavalry, and with his flying squadrons, fanning into an open flame the bitter hatred which the despotic rule of the Romans had excited over all the island, commenced a guerilla warfare on the most extensive scale and with the happiest results; so that he even, when the Carthaginian and Roman armies met on the river Himera, sustained some conflicts with Marcus Marcellus himself successfully. The relations, however, which prevailed between Hannibal and the Carthaginian council, were here repeated on a small scale. The general appointed by the council pursued with jealous envy the officer sent by Hannibal, and insisted upon giving battle to the proconsul without Muttines and the Numidians. The wish of Hanno was carried out, and he was completely beaten. Muttines was not induced to deviate from his course; he maintained himself in the interior of the country, occupied several small towns, and was enabled by the not inconsiderable reinforcements which joined him from Carthage gradually to extend his operations. His successes were so brilliant, that at length the commander-in-chief, who could not otherwise prevent the cavalry officer from eclipsing him, deprived him summarily of the command of the light cavalry, and entrusted it to his own son. The Numidian, who had now for two years preserved the island for his Carthagnian masters, had the measure of his patience exhausted by this treatment. He and his horsemen, who refused to follow the younger Hanno, entered into negotiations with the Roman general Marcus Valerius Laevinus and delivered to him Agrigentum. Hanno escaped in a boat, and went to Carthage to report to his superiors the disgraceful high treason of Hannibal's officer; the Carthaginian garrison in the town was put to death by the Romans, and the citizens were sold into slavery..."

This event echoes what some of you mention regarding the contention between the Barcids and much of the Council of 104. A year or so earlier, while a Carthaginian fleet, the largest they mustered in the war, was set in an attempt to supply Syracuse, the admiral Bomilcar pusillanimously sailed away rather than fight Marcellus' fleet off Cape Pachynon; the Romans were numerically smaller and, as we know, the corvus had long been abandoned. This is something Hannibal probably thought was imminent: he saw the Carthaginian navy by his time was a broken reed, and could not be counted upon to deliver in a time of extreme importance. Sir Bernard Montgomery is certainly incorrect, in his History of Warfare, in stating Hannibal didn't understand the importance of sea-power. No, with respect Sir Bernard, he understood it all too well.

Livy tells us, in the clash around the River Himera, when Marcellus learned of Muttines' arrival, Book 25.40,

"...Marcellus promptly moved up and encamped about four miles from the enemy with the intention of waiting for any action he might take. But no time was allowed him for either delay or deliberation; Muttines crossed the river and charged his enemy's outposts, creating the greatest terror and confusion. The next day there was almost a regular battle and he drove the Romans within their lines..."

The ultimate result was an ugly and unfortunate turn for the Carthaginian cause, and another case of Hannibal not benefitting from events that could have been different - events he had no personal control over. Entrenched Romans could not have been dislodged, but Muttines could have run roughshed over the Romans throughout most of Sicily, assuming he would have been supported. As it was, he was insulted - probably a case of racism. It has been suggested that one of Hannibal's mistakes was not going to Sicily himself in 211 B.C. But the situation regarding Capua was too intense; his personal presence was needed. Perhaps Hannibal was simply smarter than his critics.

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

James K MacKinnon
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#55
Quote:
geala:ll8ylsvz Wrote:Only one thought: perhaps you can change Stilicho with Arminius? The former won a few battles and thus played for time but the latter expelled the Romans from the new founded province Germania, must have been a very good general and perhaps changed history a lot more than other persons mentioned in the list. Whether this was a good thing is quite debatable but that's another story.

Yes and no. Arminius indeed defeated the Romans while he had much less to work with. But then again, he had the advantage of complete surprise, and his later battles went bad. The Romans had taken an enormous hit, but they were never driven from Germania. They surely re-adjusted their strategic goals, but they remained on the east bank of the Rhine for centuries, and later took bloody revenge for their defeat.

Stilicho, on the other hand, never could show such a resounding victory, but then again his resources were limited and so was his political support.

With both, we must ask the ‘what-if’ question: the answers then would show that Arminius was unlikely to have made changes to world history, and Stilicho most likely would. The Roman Empire was far too strong for Arminius and only much later finally abandoned the idea of conquest of larger Germania. Had Stilicho lived, Alaric would not have sacked Rome, and maybe the Gothic army would even have gone over to Stilicho. We might even have seen Stilicho’s son on the throne instead of Valentinian III!

Personally I rank Stilicho higher than Belisarius, who won great victories but later in life also knew many defeats.


I agree with what you said about Stilicho. But I did not want to be too impudent and add another Germanic commander to tier2 or remove a non-Germanic so I chose Stilicho to be replaced. Smile

Overall I feel Arminius affected history more than some others. Arminius took his chance and beat the Romans the only way possible at that given time. Of course surprise was his weapon (he was a villainous rebel indeed) but that was the cutest thing he could have done.

Personally I thing the events of 15/16 AD were at least as important as 9 AD. Arminius must have formed a quite formidable germanic force to fight the invaders. These later battles were (perhaps) roman victories but strange victories indeed. Eight legions had to move away after that victories and a part of the huge force was in imminent danger to suffer the same fate as Varus legions 7 years before. You know the recent discussion wether the Kalkriese findings belonged to Caecinas desperate march instead to Varus battle (don't want to start a Kalkriese discussion).

The big province Germania was lost after the events and only a small part (but maybe the most interesting) of it remained in the hand of the Romans to form the 2 or later 3 new provinces.

For me it is questionable wether the formation of the bigger Germanic groups which were so dangerous from the late 2nd century on would have been possible without Arminius victory. If, maybe, could be...it is a fruitless discussion more or less but it's very funny indeed. Big Grin
Wolfgang Zeiler
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#56
Quote:I agree with what you said about Stilicho. But I did not want to be too impudent and add another Germanic commander to tier2 or remove a non-Germanic so I chose Stilicho to be replaced. Smile

No need. Despite his name, Stilicho was a Roman, in fact there were emperors who were less Roman. :wink:
[Image: 250px-Stilicho.jpg]
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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#57
Oops, my knowledge about these late times is obviously too low. Big Grin

I thought Stilicho was a Vandal but have read now that he had a Roman mother and a Vandal father. But I had in mind that some of the resentments he had to face were because of his Germanic origins?
Wolfgang Zeiler
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#58
More like political gossip than real Germanic cultural ties... The man was very much a Roman.
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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#59
Quote:When you think about it, few things in this universe are entirely predictable, perhaps least of all in war.

This is something I would like us all to really keep in mind when we talk about the 'greatest' commanders. We've all heard the saying, "Fortune favors the bold." The thing is, fortune does *not* favor the bold. Ask any professional gambler. You have to know your risks and bet when the game variables are in your favor, or you'll soon be forced to get a real job. Fortune only *rarely* favors the bold.

The person who makes the decision to go to war has a special responsibility. When you bet your life, the lives of many thousands of your soldiers and even the continued existence of your country, you had better well know that the deck is stacked in your favor. If you have few indicators that this is the case, then you do not deserve praise for betting your whole stack of chips, even you happen to win, because the decision itself was very bad. A general does not usually fight; and even if he does, his main contribution is decision making. His job is to make decisions and he should judged according to the decisions he makes, not by the fact that fortune comes to his rescue.

In the case of Hannibal, I would prefer to praise hannibal's troops. He led them into battle after ill-advised battle which they won with fewer and fewer numbers until it was no longer a possibilty. I can't remember how many made back to Africa. Good troops! squandered by an overrated general who knew neither himself or his enemy. He assumed he would have the support of Carthage and he underestimated the endurance of Rome in a long war. Hannibal makes Sun Tzu cry.
Rich Marinaccio
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#60
What you say here still depends on the underlying assumption that Hannibal's decision to go to war was unnecessary. My contention is that, if we look at the course of the Punic Wars and the history of Rome's rise to dominance in Italy, it is apparent that there are only two ways to deal with Rome; destroy her or be destroyed by her. Hannibal knew plenty about Rome's behaviour in the Punic Wars and it's fair to assume he had some knowledge of the history of Rome beyond this. Judging by the fate of the Celtic tribes of Italy, of the Etruscans, the Volscians, the Samnites and so on, it was clearly impossible to reach an accommodation with Rome; the best you could hope for was subjugation. Defeating her was not sufficient, as the Celts and Samnites had cause to know. Even subjugating her proved no long-term solution for the Etruscans. To someone in Hannibal's position, it must have been obvious that "there could be only one" mistress of the Mediterranean. The survival of his country was already at stake and he may well have believed that it would have its last best chance with him (its first best chance having already been squandered).

We get pictures of implacable haters on both sides in the Punic Wars, so there's no moral high ground to be had for Rome, and to measure Hannibal as a general by what motivated him to fight, rather than by how he conducted his campaigns is to avoid the point. I actually find the traditional view of Hannibal being schooled from childhood to hate Rome as the type of thing that gets made up as part of the legend, although Rome's behaviour would certainly have justified such an attitude, not only in Hannibal, but in countless others who had the misfortune to find themselves in her way, or in the way of her politicians who themselves often started wars for the sake of the victory parade rather than for any military or political end other than their own election to a given office.

The vehemence of your character assassination attempt gives me the feeling that your opposition to Hannibal stems from your love of Rome, so that you view any opponent of Rome as bad - and worse in direct proportion to his success. Thus, Hannibal, whose name was used to scare Roman children into silence for centuries, is, for you, the vilest of villains and his success due to anything but his own deserving. You praise his troops:- Peddie, in "Hannibal's War", makes the diversity of Hannibal's army a point which demonstrates his generalship - he was able to command and inspire men who were not of his nation in the face of extreme hardship and many reverses, as well as leading them to spectacular victories by being a better general than his opponents. Until Zama, no Roman general had beaten Hannibal himself in battle and, at Zama, he was fighting with his army crippled by the defection of the Numidians- in effect, with one hand tied behind his back.

You argue against boldness in war. George Washington took command of his own armies when his generals counselled caution. Had he accepted their advice, the flag below your avatar would not be Old Glory. On the other hand, most Americans consider Montgomery a bad general for being over-cautious. Are you a fan of his? Or do you prefer "Blood-and-guts" Patton?

And what about Julius Caesar, taking on Pompey, the greatest general of his time, Pompey Magnus, when Pompey had far more men? Julius is to be condemned, too, is he? I don't know about you, but I've heard it suggested that there was no need for Caesar's Gallic Wars nor for his (failed) invasion of Britain, other than to raise his profile in Rome. So he's obviously an even worse general than Hannibal...
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