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  • Nick the Noodle
    started a topic Revisiting Zama

    Revisiting Zama

    I donít like the account of the Battle of Zama.
    The idea that Hannibal, who won against the odds in three spectacular battles, then decided to use the same tactics as his enemies lost with, when he actually had a larger army is truly preposterous. He would have simply enveloped his opponent from the start and used his elephants to cover the flanks and rear of his infantry. Using elephants to ward off cavalry is on page 1 of the book Elephants 101 (eg Battle of Ipsus 301 BC).
    That said, although Hannibal was a master battlefield tactician, maybe even better than Alexander in this respect, he never won a war. There are those who state that he had never lost battles before Zama, but Iím inclined to disagree. Afaik, he never won a siege. Looking at other historical campaigns, a certain Duke of Marlborough noted at least a ratio of 10 sieges to 1 battle, and looking at another well known English War, Edward IIIís tactically excellent army appears to be no match for Henry V basic army more capable of defeating an urban population, nevermind that of Charles VII of France. Given that Edward IIIís campaign saw him leave this mortal coil with less territory in France than he started with, winning battles does not necessarily automatically win a war for you. Similar to the 100 years war, the 2nd Punic War reminds me of the English campaign, in that they had three stunning tactical victories, failed sieges followed by stalemate, and ultimate strategic failure.
    Back to the account of the Battle of Zama, it is so wrong on so many levels, it is not viable.
    1. If Hannibal had the larger army, why not just start with enveloping your opponent, and overwhelm with sheer numbers. This tactic is too obvious to ignore.
    2. Lanes against elephants donít work. Never used before, and never used again. Lanes are used against scythed chariots, which rely on speed for momentum. Elephants rely on mass, and are quite manoeuvrable. Indians found caltrops to be the effective counter.
    3. Hannibalís Italian veterans could not have crossed the Med. If his brotherís troops could not cross from point A to B, Hannibalís troops could not cross B to A. There could not be a 3rd line of veterans.
    4. Why would Hannibal use the tactics of the enemy generals he defeated during his greatest victories? He would not. With a larger army he can use his standard M.O.
    5. Why not destroy Carthage when you can? Forget tribute when you could have a whole capital cityís worth of slaves and plunder. However, not even a garrison is left.
    OTOH, while you can change the details, the basics cannot.
    Therefore it is safe to assume that Zama took place, which was both a major battle and which decided the war. Hannibal lost at Zama, and Carthage lost the Second Punic War, as a direct result.
    So can we really discover the correct details? Probably not, but we can always try.
    To discover the actual tactics used at Zama, we must first determine the forces used, including the numbers deployed.
    Historians usually tell us that Scipio sailed from Sicily to Africa with 16000 infantry and 1600 cavalry, but we know the proportions of a Republican army, and this figure ignores the 6400 Velites that would also be part of any Roman OOB. They certainly took part in the battle after all. Further, you certainly do not need 400 transports to move such a relatively small force. The largest standard field army you can normally support is around 50000, and the large number of transports used could have certainly carried this number, but what is the likely true figure that Scipio brought to Africa? The second clue is that Carthaginian first line numbered 12000, and that Hastati must have been around the same number, so that neither had an overlap advantage. This gives Scipio an approximately 42000 strong infantry force of 12000 Velites, 12000 Hastati, 12000 Principes and 6000 Triarii respectively, essentially about double the total said to have sailed. Sicily, with its population of a million souls could easily have supplied that number of infantry. However, the number of cavalry is likely to be short. We have the anecdote on how Scipio persuaded local nobles to supply horses with complete sets of weapons and armour to 300 of his men, ie many of the Sicilian nobles did not want to go. Instead of 3000 cavalry that he could have expected to follow him to Africa, his original 1600, plus the 300 upgrades, plus c200 Sicilian nobles who were willing to go is plausible. The 2100 Roman cavalry stated at Zama may well be correct
    OTOH, Hannibalís army is likely to be much smaller. Rome controls the seas, and therefore there will be no Italian veterans at Zama. That means no possible 3rd line as stated. If we take the first line as 12000, how strong is the second? Carthage does appear to have been able to send 10000 man contingents to fight in earlier wars. This figure mirrors ĎImmortalí sized units in Eastern armies, which also implies 1000 cavalry. However, while these 10k units are not noted as being elite (apart from Sacred Band units), and Carthage was not said to have had a standing army, this does not mean that she could not have had a part time ceremonial force. They may not have normally carried out battle training, but they certainly would have been used to wearing the kit, and drilling with weapons to look good. Combined with allied Numidianís, that means 3000 cavalry and 22000 infantry. The numbers may look one sided, but those are reasonably close to the ratios of Carthaginian troops vs Romans at Cannae, if you exclude the 10k made available by Masinissa.
    Given the numbers, and ratio of numbers, a reasonable scenario is that a Cannae style battle was in progress, with the Romans in real trouble, until Scipioís ally Numidiansí arrived. Think of the battle as an earlier Waterloo, with Scipio as Wellington, Hannibal as Napoleon and Masinissa as Blucher, with the exception of the fact that Carthage had a smaller force.
    Despite what happened a Zama, almost everyone can agree that Rome won the 2nd Punic War, but terms appear very light. Doubt can certainly be cast on the real result, which appears more of a favourable truce to Rome, than terms of surrender. That Hannibal had escaped is one concern to Scipio, but there is also the fact that the Carthaginians generals best troops are still in Italy. Archaeology also casts doubt on how debilitating the agreement was, for two reasons. The first is that the great harbour at Carthage was built after their navy was said to be restricted in number. More damning is the lack of victory statues, frescoes, murialsí and other permanent works of art in Rome. After Hannibalís 16 year reign of terror in the Italian peninsular, surely a magnificent burst of sculpture, paintings etc would have suddenly appeared. They did not as far as we know. Therefore it is probably safe to assume, that while Rome was on the winning side at Zama, Romans were not responsible for the victory, and that the resulting peace was not palatable in some quarters. Scipio did not get the recognition he felt he deserved. Of course, the first chance they could, Rome annihilated Carthage.


  • Gooner
    replied
    Looks a bit of a straw man anyway. Where in Zama were the 'rampaging elephants doing damage to their own side'?

    Polybius says " 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."
    And on the other wing "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."
    The elephants were merely fleeing but Massanissa and Laelius were both smart enough to take advantage of the confusion caused to attack with advantage.
    The mahout would surely not kill his expensive elephant just because it was fleeing would he?

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  • Snowygerry
    replied
    Eh, we'll have to read Haywood (1933) and Scullard (1974) to find out - I guess

    Idk - I just quoted what I read there...

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  • Gooner
    replied
    Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post

    Certainly he touches on certain points made here as well :
    Furthermore, as Haywood (1933) and Scullard (1974) point out, it is not credible that rampaging elephants would do a lot of damage turning against their own side, because the mahouts carried a hammer and chisel to kill any elephant running out of control, as was the case at the battle of the Metaurus (Livy 27:49).
    And if the mahout was dead?

    img8205_grande.jpg?v=1478789633.jpg

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  • Snowygerry
    replied
    Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
    There is no archaeological evidence concerning Zama. Except for the harbour that appears to disprove one element concerning the aftermath.
    Are you referring to this ?

    ...if the military port was actually built after, and not before, the conclusion of the second war between Carthage and Rome, this casts serious doubts on the authenticity of the peace treaty that Carthage was required to sign after the alleged defeat at Zama. The treaty, which dates back to 201 BCE, included the clause that Carthageís naval forces be dismantled, and in the future be limited to no more than 10 warships. The great Punic port, with berths for over 200 warships, could not have been built for a navy limited to 10 galleys. Consequently, that limitation did not exist when the port was constructed, which in turn means that at least that provision of the treaty is fictitious.
    https://www.thehistoryherald.com/Art...lefield/Page-3

    The author flat out argues that the battle may not happened at all, citing precisely the absence of archeological evidence ?

    I assume you're familiar with his work ?

    Yozan Mosig is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and has a deep interest in Ancient History, particularly the period of the Punic Wars, which he has been researching for the last 20 years. His Hannibal Library contains over 10,000 items. Read more about Yozan Ľ
    He seems to rely heavily on this :
    Abdelaziz Belkhodja "Hannibal Barca: Lí'histoire veritable."

    Certainly he touches on certain points made here as well :

    (Ö) Furthermore, as Haywood (1933) and Scullard (1974) point out, it is not credible that rampaging elephants would do a lot of damage turning against their own side, because the mahouts carried a hammer and chisel to kill any elephant running out of control, as was the case at the battle of the Metaurus (Livy 27:49).
    Incidentally, it can also not be argued that these were poorly trained elephants, for if Carthage did not send any elephants with Hasdrubal Gisgo to Utica or to the Great Plains battle, it would have had available all its remaining trained pachyderms, while had the city exhausted its supply there would not have been time, between the Great Plains battle and Zama, to capture and train more.
    https://www.thehistoryherald.com/Art...reality/Page-2
    Last edited by Snowygerry; 21 May 19, 04:30.

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  • Nick the Noodle
    replied
    Originally posted by Gooner View Post


    Who else used the maniple 'checkerboard' formation? That other nations didn't create lanes - for Elephants that are fleeing in terror don't forget - is not much of an argument. Who else besides the Romans created anti-elephant wagons or used incendiary pigs () as a counter to elephants?



    The infantry escorts to the elephants could just pick those up. [/SIZE][/FONT][/COLOR][/LEFT]
    Caltrops and similar can be dug in, the Romans themselves using a variant system at Alesia, the ancient equivalent of Punji Sticks.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gooner
    replied
    Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

    You might consider that passage a statement of reality, I do not. If lanes were an effective counter, they would have been used by Alexander imho. He had already used lanes vs chariots after all. Lanes had never been used before, nor used since, thus not considered an effective counter by any other general. The Indians never used lanes, and these were the masters of Elephant warfare in ancient times.

    Who else used the maniple 'checkerboard' formation? That other nations didn't create lanes - for Elephants that are fleeing in terror don't forget - is not much of an argument. Who else besides the Romans created anti-elephant wagons or used incendiary pigs () as a counter to elephants?

    The real counter to elephants are caltrops. .


    The infantry escorts to the elephants could just pick those up.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nick the Noodle
    replied
    Originally posted by Gooner View Post

    "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." Polybius.

    No we cannot dismiss the lanes as a myth or ineffective.
    You might consider that passage a statement of reality, I do not. If lanes were an effective counter, they would have been used by Alexander imho. He had already used lanes vs chariots after all. Lanes had never been used before, nor used since, thus not considered an effective counter by any other general. The Indians never used lanes, and these were the masters of Elephant warfare in ancient times. The real counter to elephants are caltrops. .

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  • Gooner
    replied
    Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
    They formed their "lanes", employed their "trumpets and whistles" and routed them, and the rest is history as they say
    Not quite, the Elephants inflicted and suffered much loss' on the Roman Velites, Although some of that loss would almost certainly be from the Carthaginian missile troops, rather than just the Elephants. This leaves the Hastati to face the Gauls and Ligurians where preferred Roman tactics was to meet the initial 'barbarian' attack with the Velites.

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  • Gooner
    replied
    Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

    The lanes stated in the accounts are probably a myth. Alexander used lanes against scythed chariots, the first known use of doing so I believe. This is because scythed chariots rely on momentum via velocity. Alexander did not use lanes against elephants, because such tactic are useless. Elephants have mass and strength even when stationary. Given that lanes against elephants were never used before or later, we can dismiss said tactic as ineffective.
    "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." Polybius.

    No we cannot dismiss the lanes as a myth or ineffective.

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  • Nick the Noodle
    replied
    Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post

    Combined with the "charging out of the sun" Nick mentioned maybe ?

    How far apart did both lines deploy ?

    80 even "small" elephants charging at considerable distance, mixed among the line, take into account dust, wind, sunlight etc. may very well be mistaken for just as many fully grown ones.

    But maybe Scipios veterans just didn't fall for it.

    They formed their "lanes", employed their "trumpets and whistles" and routed them, and the rest is history as they say
    The lanes stated in the accounts are probably a myth. Alexander used lanes against scythed chariots, the first known use of doing so I believe. This is because scythed chariots rely on momentum via velocity. Alexander did not use lanes against elephants, because such tactic are useless. Elephants have mass and strength even when stationary. Given that lanes against elephants were never used before or later, we can dismiss said tactic as ineffective.

    It should be noted that while Appian's take on the battle is pure fiction, even he does not use lanes to counter elephants, probably because such a tactic would be known to be useless to his audience. While Appians use of infantry lanes is also silly, it might make a good clip in a tv film.

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  • Nick the Noodle
    replied
    Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
    Well maybe - some reverse calculation then

    For 80 fully grown, male elephants to be on the battlefield when they were, how many female, young, juveniles, etc. would be left behind ?

    Also - the crews ?

    Is that compatible with what is known from the sources, or archaeological evidence ?
    There is no archaeological evidence concerning Zama. Except for the harbour that appears to disprove one element concerning the aftermath.

    As for crews, that is a fair point. A mahout and elephant are a done deal, and are effectively bonded for life. While elephants may be available, mahouts may not be. An interesting point indeed.

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  • Snowygerry
    replied
    Despite this, it seems obvious that
    the Punic battle plan was to revolve around these newly acquired
    beasts."
    Combined with the "charging out of the sun" Nick mentioned maybe ?

    How far apart did both lines deploy ?

    80 even "small" elephants charging at considerable distance, mixed among the line, take into account dust, wind, sunlight etc. may very well be mistaken for just as many fully grown ones.

    But maybe Scipios veterans just didn't fall for it.

    They formed their "lanes", employed their "trumpets and whistles" and routed them, and the rest is history as they say

    Leave a comment:


  • Gooner
    replied

    https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:134680/UQ134680_OA.pdf
    Worth a read

    "Zama (202 B.C.E.), waged between the armies of Hannibal and
    Scipio, remains probably the most famous of all battles involving
    elephants. Which species was used? Appian writes that Hasdrubal
    Gisgo was dispatched to find elephants in Morocco in 205 B.C.E.
    (App. Pun. 2.9), which almost certainly means that he was sent out
    to acquire forest elephants. Evidence also exists to suggest that
    Hannibal put off engaging Scipio until adequate elephants could be
    found, which again points to forest elephants being collected hastily
    in the surrounding countryside. The elephants used by Hannibal
    early in the war were probably captured at quite a young age, i.e.,
    when they were too small to be used in battle. Immature beasts
    would have proved more amenable to training than older specimens.
    Yet when battle-sized elephants were required immediately, as in the
    last months of the Second Punic War, Carthage would have had no
    choice other than to capture animals of suitable size. These elephants
    would have possessed thoroughly ingrained behavioral patterns
    that would have been difficult to alter. In short, it was not easy to
    teach old elephants new tricks. Despite this, it seems obvious that
    the Punic battle plan was to revolve around these newly acquired
    beasts."

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  • Snowygerry
    replied
    Well maybe - some reverse calculation then

    For 80 fully grown, male elephants to be on the battlefield when they were, how many female, young, juveniles, etc. would be left behind ?

    Also - the crews ?

    Is that compatible with what is known from the sources, or archaeological evidence ?

    Leave a comment:

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