Fabius, Scipio, Marcellus or Cladius Nero? Which Roman was the smartest?
Who do you think was the Roman mastermind of the 2nd Punic War that helped them win?
Fabius the master of the Fabian strategy-the one who did guerilla warfare and indirect attritional warfare against Hannibal.
Scipio Africanus-the one who took Spain and Africa and defeated Hannibal at Zama.
Marcellus-who fought a skirmish war with Hannibal and took Sicily.
Nero-Who intercepted Hannibal's brother.
Who had the smartest strategy?
For me it's a choice between Fabius and Scipio, and I would have to choose Scipio. This is not to say that Fabius' tactics were not innovative and brilliant and were exactly what the Romans needed at the time. But a true military genius needs to show that he can actually win a set piece battle, not just avoid them.
Marcellus was the best thing the Romans had going for them after Cannae. He was personally very brave, being one of the very few Romans ever to win the Spolia Optima. He successfully defended Nola, helped conquer Casilinum and successfully besieged Syracuse. His death in an ambush in 208 B.C. makes one wonder, however, whether he was that much of a military genius.
Claudius Nero is not all that impressive. He had Hasdrubal Barca trapped at the Black Stones in Ausetania, Spain but allowed him to slip away. His march to join Marcus Livius Salinator after he found out about the presence of Hasdrubal Barca at the Metaurus was bold and intelligent. Of course, he and Marcus Livius were not facing Hannibal at the Metaurus but an army under a far lesser general, Hasdrubal Barca, which had been hastily gathered and had had little experience and training. The soldiers of Nero and Livius, after eight years of war, were now well trained and professional and the outcome of the Battle of the Metaurus should have come as no surprise.
Publius Cornelius Scipio, once in command, never lost a battle. His strategy of taking New Carthage was admirable and in four years he cleared all Spain of Carthaginian forces. His strategy at the battle of Ilipa, where he was outnumbered, was brilliant. Hannibal's brilliance is unquestioned, but it may be said that at Zama Scipio had the advantage in cavalry, and that his soldiers were probably of considerably better quality than those of Hannibal, excluding his veterans. Hannibal's front lines were hastily recruited locals and remnants of the defeated armies of Hasdrubal, son of Gisco and Syphax. Scipio's strategy in dealing with Hannibal's one major advantage, his elephants, was superb.
While it may be argued whether Scipio or Hannibal was the better general, I don't think that there is any question but that Scipio was the best of the Roman generals.
I think Scipio's father and uncle deserve a mention, too, for their good work in Spain prior to their splitting up and being killed - for they may have won the most vital victory of the war - that of Dertosa in 215 BC.
I mostly agree with Robin - Scipio was the best of the Roman generals, yet a good number of them conducted confident and efficient campaigns across the theaters, such as Gracchus and Flaccus, and even Sempronius Longus (the loser of the Trebia), won a vital victory against Hanno's army being brought up to reinforce Hannibal in 215 BC.
Many people credit Massinissa and Lalieus the ones that won Zama due to their efforts with Numidian cavalry? How true is this? Did Hannibal's cavalry route instantly or Hannibal told them to run away to lure the Romans? Did Scipio even plan out the cavalry charge?
No worries, mate, thought you were just ignoring me though!!!
Had Hasdrubal won Dertosa, he'd have arrived in northern Italy with an army no doubt bolstered by more celts, whilst Mago Barca would have arrived alongside Bomilcar's reinforcement in Southern Italy (along with the forces raised that year in Bruttium)- essentially providing Carthage with a lot of men at a time when the Roman's were still on the back foot. How would the Italians have reacted to this - who knows - but it may have persuaded more to join the Carthaginian cause. In my opinion it was quite decisive.
You can have a look at my blog entry on Zama here:
The Battle of Zama - Historum - History Forums
Scipio had to be the smartest, though Marcius in Spain achieved a lot too in adverse circumstances.
In terms of who helped the Romans win the war, again I would say Scipio. Fabius and Marcellus stopped them losing it.
Scipio by miles. Fabius prevented the republic from suffering defeat, but he knew was no match for Hannibal. The Fabian Strategy could not bring victory in the war. It was containment in essence.
Marcellus was a dogged soldier, and a fine leader, but was outclassed as a tactician.
Nero helped win a single battle, a vital battle, but again only saved the republic from strategic defeat.
Scipio Africanus was a genius on the order of Hannibal himself, his operational reforms provided the Romans with a tactical doctrine which gave them marked superiority in the field again. Before Scipio took command of the remnants of a shattered consular army in Spain, the war had been in a state of strategic stalemate for five years. Yet within three campaigning seasons Punic power in Spain, the foundation of Carthage's geo-strategic position, was utterly and permanently, broken. Plus it was Scipio who maneuvered Hannibal out of Italy and then defeated him in battle.
More than any one man, Scipio is the reason the Romans won the 2nd Punic war. In my humble opinion, he is one of the greatest soldiers Rome ever produced.
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