- Jul 2017
You're arguing here that Hannibal's army from the onset wasn't necessarily better than the Roman one, which I take to be clearly incorrect. Even as far back as the Mercenary War, we see Carthaginian units capable of impressive tactical maneuver. At Trasimene, the independent corps of Hannibal's army were capable of working well under their officers in independent commands, and at Cannae we have the cavalry officers reigning in their cavalry after the flank battle. On the other hand, the Roman army before Scipio could not match Hannibal's army at all in terms of tactical independence. The Roman army acted as a unit. They formed into line, and moved forward. This is made explicitly clear just by looking at how Scipio had to heavily drill his troops so that he could deviate from the traditional triple axeis. In no way would the generals at Cannae have been capable of deviating from the traditional deployment at all; the militia army of the Romans simply weren't trained for it. Conversely, we have Hannibal's men capable of independent tactical command under their officers to a degree far more advanced than that of their Roman counterparts. That Hamilcar was displaying similar tactical flexibility during the Mercenary War, and that he went to Spain and built that army from the ground up seems to indicate that the school of thought belongs to Hamilcar, and wasn't exclusive to Hannibal. Even the idea that Hamilcar may have came up with the concept of attacking Italy by land isn't considered very far fetched by a number of scholars. The clear lesson from the First Punic War was that Carthage no longer had the superiority by sea, and attacking Italy via Sicily would just be a killing field. A new way had to be devised in order to win the next war that would inevitably follow. That solution would be tactical superiority under the command and school of thought of Hamilcar, the man who proved himself capable of tactical genius in the field. We're not sure how much we can attribute to Hamilcar, but we know these for certain:Certainly Carthaginian armies regularly changed in composition due to the use of mercenaries, and so it is hard to talk about a standard Carthaginian army, but I have seen little reason to think that Hamilcar's army in Spain was in itself exceptional within the grand scheme of Carthaginian history, and we really know very little about what happened in Spain. If your argument is that Hannibal was inspired by Hamilcar's tactics and strategy in e.g. the Truceless War, then that is a different argument, although Dexter Hoyos in his book The Truceless War has argued that viewing Hamilcar as a proto-Hannibal is giving Hamilcar too much credit. For example, the claim that Hamilcar's victory outside Utica in 240 was a proto-Cannae is too much of a stretch from what Polybius says. But if we're saying that the army that Hasdrubal left Hannibal in 221 was massively better than your average Carthaginian army, I have not seen the evidence. Maybe Hannibal's army was exceptionally good at killing Spaniards due to the experience of the prior years, but whether or not that makes his army massively better than the Roman armies they faced does not necessarily follow. It must also be remembered that Hannibal faced a huge numerical disadvantage at Cannae. If we're saying that Hannibal's army became better than the Roman armies it faced, that could be attributed to Hannibal.
1. Hannibal's Carthaginian army had clear tactical superiority to the Roman legion;
2. This change was certainly not brought about instantly by Hannibal;
3. Therefore the change must have come, at least partially, from before his time;
4. Hamilcar is shown using hints of tactical flexibility and maneuver during the Mercenary War;
5. Hamilcar is the one who conquered a lot of Spain and built the core of Hannibal's army;
6. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that Hamilcar had a leading hand in building up the army and instilling a new school of thought based on tactical superiority over the legion.
These are my own thoughts on Hamilcar's significance, not trying to debate you.
In what way were Hannibal's enemies qualitatively superior except during the end of the war in Africa?Most of Hannibal's victories, including one that has few equals in the entire history of warfare (Cannae), were against a foe that was both qualitatively and quantitatively superior.
Caesar and Alexander - for all their brilliance - never faced enemies that commanded armies that were better than their own. While Caesar did also fight other Romans, the armies commanded by his opponents usually lacked the experience of his veterans from Gaul. Ruspina was an exception, with Caesar in command of the greener army - and he was defeated. (Although he performed absolutely brilliantly in getting his army out intact. His army should have been destroyed and probably would have been were it in less capable hands)