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  • #16
    2 years ago I read Robert O'Connell's "The Ghosts Of Cannae."

    IIRC
    Massinissa, whos was an ally of Carthage at the start of the 2nd Punic Wars, was a great cavalry commander who played a large role in many of the Carthaginian victories. Massinissa defected to the Roman cause sometime before Zama and his cavalry was the decisive factor at Zama.
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    • #17
      Thanks for the reply.

      Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
      Roman scholars and historians had a wonderful habit of exagerating the enemy forces to make their victories look larger and better....Maybe Zama falls into this category?
      Probably. While it is as certain as one can possibly be that Hannibal was at Zama, which he lost, and that battle was the last of the 2nd Punic War, it is the details that belies the integrity of the account of the battle.

      Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
      Elephants are frightened easily, and my reading of the battle wold seem to indicate that this is precisely what happened. Elephants stampeded in fright due to much blowing of trumpets and drumming of drums. There is also some reason to believe that the elephants may have trampled their own troops in the confusion, something highly likely.
      What the Romans do admit is that Scipios light troops are rendered neutralised in the opening stage. If you believe that Scipio only took 16000 legionaries with him to Africa, that still means that the Romans effectively took 6400 effective Velite losses in the initial phase.

      ​​​​​​​
      Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
      Did Scipio really have a numerical disadvantage? By this stage of the contest the Carthaginians must have been scraping the bottom of the manpower barrel to make up the numbers, so experience must have been a factor as well, or the lack of it. What about lack of money to pay all these Carthaginian soldiers as well,
      I believe that Carthage should still be able to count on relatively plentiful amounts of African troops, including Liby-Phoenician veterans from Spain. These could have made up the 3rd line.

      ​​​​​​​
      Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
      Massinissa's late arrival reminds me more of Cannae than Waterloo, with the cavalry closing the trap. If the inexperienced troops were placed in the center of the line, as the Gauls were at Cannae, then its reasonable to assume that they were the first to break and run as well.
      We all have out opinions, but I don't believe Massinissa's late arrival was planed as opposed to fortuitous.

      ​​​​​​​
      Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
      All in all, Zama appears to be as much a propaganda coup as anything else, with the Republic making the most of the victory for many years to come afterward.
      This is where I definitely disagree. If the outcome of the 2nd Punic War was such a victory, where is the archaeology? One would expect a plethora of monuments etc etc. Rome won, but I more than suspect it was more akin to a beneficial truce, than an outright victory.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
        What the Romans do admit is that Scipios light troops are rendered neutralised in the opening stage. If you believe that Scipio only took 16000 legionaries with him to Africa, that still means that the Romans effectively took 6400 effective Velite losses in the initial phase.
        Neutralised isn't the same as losses though. I expect the Velites and the Carthaginian archers and slingers largely cancelled each other out and then got out of the way when the main bodies clashed.

        If the outcome of the 2nd Punic War was such a victory, where is the archaeology? One would expect a plethora of monuments etc etc. Rome won, but I more than suspect it was more akin to a beneficial truce, than an outright victory.
        How does that compare with other treaties/celebrations of that era when Rome defeated some other nation? Because Rome went on a remarkable 50 year run, stomping the Greeks, Macedonians and Seleucids amongst others. I don't recall if any of those victories were hugely celebrated and resulted in harsh peace terms. At least not initially Ö.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Gooner View Post

          Neutralised isn't the same as losses though. I expect the Velites and the Carthaginian archers and slingers largely cancelled each other out and then got out of the way when the main bodies clashed.
          The account does not suggest this. Two of the four mercenary contingents in the first 12k Carthaginian line were skirmishers. These were in action after the Velites were neutralised.

          Originally posted by Gooner View Post
          How does that compare with other treaties/celebrations of that era when Rome defeated some other nation? Because Rome went on a remarkable 50 year run, stomping the Greeks, Macedonians and Seleucids amongst others. I don't recall if any of those victories were hugely celebrated and resulted in harsh peace terms. At least not initially Ö.
          You are correct in saying absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. However, none of their later enemies you mentioned, and very many more, came close to defeating Rome at any time for centuries. Hannibal was different. He initially won three colossal victories, and could not be beaten on the open battlefield for the next 13 years. This is despite he was in their own backyard, where the defender should have most of the advantages.

          One of the many anomalies in the Polybius account is the co-starring role of Massinissa. Allies are usually barely mentioned. The fact that he was still alive may have been a reason why the account mentions him at all.

          Back to numbers.......................

          At Zama, it is stated Scipio initially had 1500 Roman cavalry. Assuming 300 of these are upgraded Hastati/Velites with Sicilian kit, that leaves 1200 cavalry. This means 4 legions, not two, as usually stated. Further, since 10 cohorts of Romans, both infantry and cavalry, are part of Massinissa's reinforcements, we can deduce another legion is available. That leaves 5 implied legions.

          Given that we know that Appian ignores the numbers of Velites travelling to Africa, when he states 1600 Cavalry and 16000 infantry make up the numbers, it would not be unlikely he would fail to mention the equal number in the Alae. That means 10 legions equivalent. We are back to 42000 infantry under Scipio, with 12000 Hastati facing 12000 Carthaginian mercenaries in Hannibals front line, which fits the description.
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          • #20
            One of the many anomalies in the Polybius account is the co-starring role of Massinissa. Allies are usually barely mentioned. The fact that he was still alive may have been a reason why the account mentions him at all.
            Nick, I would have to check O'Connell's book again but as I mentioned upthread I believe he credits Massinissa as being one of the main reasons for Scipio's victory. IIRC, not the decisive factor but his cavalry played a large part in the victory.
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            • #21
              Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post

              Nick, I would have to check O'Connell's book again but as I mentioned upthread I believe he credits Massinissa as being one of the main reasons for Scipio's victory. IIRC, not the decisive factor but his cavalry played a large part in the victory.
              Without Massinissa, Scipio would have lost, and according to the official account. Without Massinissa, Rome has 1500 heavy cavalry vs 2000 Carthaginian equivalents, plus an additional 2000 exceptional Numidian lights. If Rome had lost the cavalry battle at Zama, and if Carthage had fielded more infantry than Rome, Hannibal would have certainly won.

              It may be the decisive presence of the Numidians that simply was unpalatable to many Romans. Rome was akin to Nazi Germany on many levels, and the idea that barbarians decided the battle could have been simply unacceptable in some quarters.
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              • #22
                Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                The account does not suggest this. Two of the four mercenary contingents in the first 12k Carthaginian line were skirmishers. These were in action after the Velites were neutralised.
                The Carthaginian archers and slingers could have retired to the flanks or conceivably, behind the mercenary line and continued their missile harassment from there. As indeed could the Velites have retired behind the Hastati or to the flanks.
                Alternatively the Velites could have been left in front of the Roman line and used to absorb the initial rush of the Gauls and Ligurians.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

                  Without Massinissa, Scipio would have lost, and according to the official account. Without Massinissa, Rome has 1500 heavy cavalry vs 2000 Carthaginian equivalents, plus an additional 2000 exceptional Numidian lights. If Rome had lost the cavalry battle at Zama, and if Carthage had fielded more infantry than Rome, Hannibal would have certainly won.

                  It may be the decisive presence of the Numidians that simply was unpalatable to many Romans. Rome was akin to Nazi Germany on many levels, and the idea that barbarians decided the battle could have been simply unacceptable in some quarters.
                  So we could say that it was Massinissa's traitorous defection from Carthage to Rome that, ultimately, decided the fate of who controlled Europe in that era. In the end it would seem, it all came down to Numidian (barbaric) intervention.
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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post

                    So we could say that it was Massinissa's traitorous defection from Carthage to Rome that, ultimately, decided the fate of who controlled Europe in that era. In the end it would seem, it all came down to Numidian (barbaric) intervention.
                    I personally believe Rome would have won anyway. If Rome was to have lost, imho it would have been submission after Cannae. Instead they chose to continue the strugglehey had the will to win, and the economic ability to so.

                    It may simply be that the Numidians were seen as the instigators of victory, plus the fact that the stated severe terms imposed on Carthage were nothing but, which is why we may have a distorted story?

                    That said, Rome won the 2nd Punic War after victory at Zama.
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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Gooner View Post

                      The Carthaginian archers and slingers could have retired to the flanks or conceivably, behind the mercenary line and continued their missile harassment from there. As indeed could the Velites have retired behind the Hastati or to the flanks.
                      Alternatively the Velites could have been left in front of the Roman line and used to absorb the initial rush of the Gauls and Ligurians.
                      Possibly, but the accounts do not suggest this.

                      https://www.johndclare.net/AncientHi..._Sources8.html

                      Polybius was pro Scipio, and explaining why Rome was victorious when he wrote his histories. OTOH, I doubt he would lie, although exaggeration id a distinct possibility. GJC's memoirs ably prove a usually accurate account can be fudged to look more favourable to a necessary party.

                      According to Polybius, the infantry battle can be surmised as follows:

                      1. The Hastati face the mercenaries. The numbers of each are about the same, because if outnumbered, Polybius would have said so. The Roman troops eventually start to win through superior discipline and equipment over their opponents skill and agility. The Hastati push these troops back onto Hannibals second line.

                      2. This second line consists of citizen infantry. These are said to have refused entry to the retreating mercenaries, and a 3 sided battle is said to ensue? The Hastati are now said to be outnumbered, so the Principes come to support the greener troops. Together, they rout Hannibals first two lines, forcing them to form onto the wings of the veterans, or continue routing.

                      3. Hannibal allows Scipio time to souffle his army into the formation he wants, and the 'real' battle now begins.

                      The problem remains one of numbers. 400 transports is 10 Legions, which gives 12000 Hastati, Velites and Principes, plus 6000 Triari. 12000 Hastati vs 12000 mercenaries in the initial infantry clash makes sense. However, Rome then has too many troops for anything but an outright win for the next two stages. OTOH, 1500 cavalry implies 4 legions, if we add 300 cavalry upgraded at Sicilian expense. If these 4 legions are overstrength in man power, we are looking at totals half in number. While 6000 Hastati might be able to defeat 12000 mercenaries, since half were lights, 6000 retreating lights will not dent the second Carthaginian line, and simply bounce off. Assuming half each of the 1st two lines heavier troops that faced each other survived, that leaves 3000 mercenary 'heavies', 9000 Carthaginian conscripts, and 12000 Italian campaign veterans against a maximum of 15k legionaries. The 6000 Principes, and especially the 6000 Hastati are tired, and only the 3000 Triari are fresh. The Carthaginians 12k fresh elites could probably defeat these alone, without the help of 12000 additionals.

                      It is the numbers of troops employed that prove the account of Zama is flawed. Neither smaller Roman numbers, nor the probably correct larger figure accounts for the detail of the battle.

                      One element we can allow for is that Massinissa's role could not be diminished, because he was still alive when the account was written. It may be why he was included at all.




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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

                        I personally believe Rome would have won anyway. If Rome was to have lost, imho it would have been submission after Cannae. Instead they chose to continue the strugglehey had the will to win, and the economic ability to so.

                        It may simply be that the Numidians were seen as the instigators of victory, plus the fact that the stated severe terms imposed on Carthage were nothing but, which is why we may have a distorted story?

                        That said, Rome won the 2nd Punic War after victory at Zama.
                        O'Connell's book was really good. It was under 400 pages (softcover), and I would say probably the best book ever put out about the 2nd Punic War (Hannibalic War), without having to weave through a thousand pages of Polybius.

                        Carthage was very close to Rome in terms of finance, prestige and influence in the Mediterranean.

                        A fortune of natural resources from Africa went through Carthage first.

                        Carthage was a major trading hub on the Mediterranean.

                        Carthaginians were excellent sailors and ship builders.

                        Carthage and Rome both had the political infighting problems.

                        The difference was that Scipio, survived at Cannae and took the time to learn everything that he could about Hannibal through captured Carthaginians and allies of Hannibal. He then copied Hannibal in almost every way. One of the most important was to treat his soldiers well. (treatment of the common praetorian was very bad).

                        All of the above and a wealth of other information, including highly detailed descriptions of the major battles I learned from O'Connell's book "The Ghosts Of Cannae"
                        Our world at Khe Sanh was blood, death, and filth with deafening gunfire and blinding explosions as a constant soundtrack...Barry Fixler
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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post

                          O'Connell's book was really good. It was under 400 pages (softcover), and I would say probably the best book ever put out about the 2nd Punic War (Hannibalic War), without having to weave through a thousand pages of Polybius.

                          Carthage was very close to Rome in terms of finance, prestige and influence in the Mediterranean.

                          A fortune of natural resources from Africa went through Carthage first.

                          Carthage was a major trading hub on the Mediterranean.

                          Carthaginians were excellent sailors and ship builders.

                          Carthage and Rome both had the political infighting problems.

                          The difference was that Scipio, survived at Cannae and took the time to learn everything that he could about Hannibal through captured Carthaginians and allies of Hannibal. He then copied Hannibal in almost every way. One of the most important was to treat his soldiers well. (treatment of the common praetorian was very bad).

                          All of the above and a wealth of other information, including highly detailed descriptions of the major battles I learned from O'Connell's book "The Ghosts Of Cannae"
                          Thanks for your reply.

                          I don't think Carthage would survive a Cannae. The Carthaginians appear to have a different mindset.

                          Your note on African trade is really important, and one I had not considered before. One can always learn.

                          Carthaginians were great sailors, their wealth depended on them. A spiked drawbridge undermined the whole Carthaginian navy apparently. I'm not convinced.
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                          • #28
                            Numbers are everything. Scipio was the genius by turning up with more men, and offsetting his one disadvantage, cavalry, with superior numbers of local allies.

                            Once you realise that Scipio turned up on Carthage's door with 10 legions equivalent, and the real numbers at Zama confirms this, you can understand why Rome was always going to win. Scipio was not a Rommel, but an Eisenhower, and a safe pair of hands. He nearly lost, but another Roman would have been there to replace him, and history would basically be unchanged.





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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                              Once you realise that Scipio turned up on Carthage's door with 10 legions equivalent, and the real numbers at Zama confirms this, you can understand why Rome was always going to win. Scipio was not a Rommel, but an Eisenhower, and a safe pair of hands. He nearly lost, but another Roman would have been there to replace him, and history would basically be unchanged.
                              If Rome did really outnumber the Carthaginians so heavily, it begs the question of why Hannibal offered battle?

                              After all the Romans had recently turned avoiding battle with Hannibal into an art form.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Gooner View Post

                                If Rome did really outnumber the Carthaginians so heavily, it begs the question of why Hannibal offered battle?

                                After all the Romans had recently turned avoiding battle with Hannibal into an art form.
                                Imho I don't think Scipio did outnumber Hannibal significantly where it counted for most of the battle.

                                These are the numbers that I feel I can justify:

                                ROME
                                12000 (or 11700) Velites, 12000 Hastati, 12000 Principes, 6000 Triari, 1500 (or 1800) Roman Cavalry, 4000 Numidian Cavalry, 2000 Numidian Velite equivalent.
                                Total 44000 foot (14k lights), 5500/5800 cavalry.

                                CARTHAGE
                                6000 melee mercs, 6000 skirmisher mercs, 4000 'Macedonians', 10000 Carthaginian Citizens, 10000 Veterans, 2000 Numidian Cavalry, 1000 Carthaginian Noble Cavalry, 80 elephants or other assault troops.
                                Total 36000 foot (6k lights), 3500 cavalry, plus some specialist units.

                                I believe both armies have around 30k 'heavy' foot (the amount found in 10 Legions), and since this became a melee infantry battle, this is why it was undecided for so long.

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