How many legions and equivalents at Zama?

Nov 2018
183
Wales
If we consider the lacunose nature of Polybius' account of the African campaign and the fact that Livy used Polybius as a source, I would say that Livy's account of the African campaign is important and that it gives us a window into what Polybius may have said but no longer survives. I also think that Livy is regardless still due a good deal of consideration, even if he is usually inferior to Polybius. Note for example that his figures for the numbers and casualties at the Battle of Cannae make sense, whereas Polybius' do not (from what I remember, in Polybius' account, more people are killed in the Roman army than they are recorded as deploying on the battlefield).

As for Scipio, however one wants to interpret the Battle of Baecula (as far as I'm concerned, he still tactically bested Hasdrubal's army, albeit without a positive strategic effect - tactical victory vs strategic defeat), he still captured New Carthage, won the Battle of Illipa (using complicated manoeuvres) and ultimately rid Spain of the Carthaginians over the course of only four campaigning seasons and with a numerical inferiority. He had some cause for confidence. As for the African campaign, Scipio may have expected to win some initial victories with relative ease before needing to recruit African allies. Hannibal was yet to arrive in Africa, and he knew he could beat Hasdrubal son of Gisco (based on Illipa).
The lacunose nature of Polybius account can easily be determined by one single element, Masinissa. Masinissa was still alive when Polybius was writing, and anything that did not favour the Numidians could be questioned thoroughly and with honesty.

It should be noted that Polybius was writing why Rome was always going to win, and it would have suited his purpose completely if Scipio was outnumbered. The fact he doesn't almost certainly dictates Hannibal was outnumbered.

Still need to give you credit on that 5 legions point. Outstanding.
 
Nov 2011
1,002
The Bluff
As stated earlier, I do have concerns over 5 actual Roman legions. However, the available facts do state 10 legions equivalent at Zama in terms of infantry numbers, if not in terms of cavalry.
As well you should because no source ever states that. You've ignored the source which gives us such detail preferring, instead, to speculate your own numbers. The "available facts" are described in Livy: the Senate refuses Scipio's request to levy legions (for Africa) and allows him to ask for volunteers outside of the consular recruitment for the year (men and materiel); gives him the Roman forces currently in Sicily; gives him permission to cross to Africa - should that be in Rome's interest - with a force from the army in Siciliy. Plain and straightforward. No speculation based on confirmation bias infused reasoning.

You are always using Livy as a source. Can we assume you prefer his version of Zama, rather than Polybius?. How accurate do you think Livy was?
You may assume whatever you wish as right or wrong as that might be. I'm using the sources available and the source available for the detail we are discussing is Livy. It is a long accepted fact (and can be shown) that Livy utilised Polybios for much of his history regarding Greece, the east and for much else as here. In fat, for the period Polybios covers, he is the basic source for Livy. While Livy added material from Roman annalists and presented Rome in the best light, he owes the bulk to the Megalopolitan as can be seen by comparing the two accounts around Zama. The detail in Books 28-30 enumerating the politics around Scipio himself and arguments about Africa have come from the insider: Polybios. Livy is only as accurate as his source.

For the record, I try to steer well clear of such a dubious author.
Unless it coheres with your pre-determined view. Thus you can happily accept accept Livy's note of 4,000 Macedonians even if, with no justification, you alter them into 4,000 elephant supporting lights. An interesting method. While we're on this, you've singularly failed to do with these three attestations regarding the Sopater's Macedonians aside from inputing to me views I don't hold. Can you please enumerate the rationale that explains away these three direct attestations?

The lacunose nature of Polybius account can easily be determined by one single element, Masinissa. Masinissa was still alive when Polybius was writing, and anything that did not favour the Numidians could be questioned thoroughly and with honesty.
Why? Polybios spoke with the African king in Rome well after events. He will have been old and nothing says he was alive when Polybios' work was published in any case.

It should be noted that Polybius was writing why Rome was always going to win, and it would have suited his purpose completely if Scipio was outnumbered. The fact he doesn't almost certainly dictates Hannibal was outnumbered.
No he was not. Polybios was writing to explain - to his Greek compatriots - that Rome did not reach her position of dominance through tyche (fortune or chance), which was the prevailing view, or that she would fade away like so many other hegemons past. To that end he devoted much to the political and social systems which made the state what it was (Book 6 for example). It suited Polybios' purpose to show the political shenanigans surrounding Scipio's push for taking the fight to Africa just as it suited his purpose to detail the ratification of the final peace post Zama. If anything suited the purpose you espouse ("it would have suited his purpose completely if Scipio was outnumbered") it was recording the detail that the senate refused Scipio a recruitment of legions for his venture and that it limited him to the regular consular army - that in Sicily - plus whatever volunteers he could interest in his venture. In short, that Scipio was limited to two legions which, in spite of the senate and all based on his popularity with the veterans, he bulked up to well oversize (6,200 men). But this sort of information - all stated in a surviving source owing much to Polybios - does not conform with your view so you "steer well clear of such a dubious author". Again, interesting "method".
 
Nov 2018
183
Wales
As well you should because no source ever states that. You've ignored the source which gives us such detail preferring, instead, to speculate your own numbers. The "available facts" are described in Livy: the Senate refuses Scipio's request to levy legions (for Africa) and allows him to ask for volunteers outside of the consular recruitment for the year (men and materiel); gives him the Roman forces currently in Sicily; gives him permission to cross to Africa - should that be in Rome's interest - with a force from the army in Siciliy. Plain and straightforward. No speculation based on confirmation bias infused reasoning.



You may assume whatever you wish as right or wrong as that might be. I'm using the sources available and the source available for the detail we are discussing is Livy. It is a long accepted fact (and can be shown) that Livy utilised Polybios for much of his history regarding Greece, the east and for much else as here. In fat, for the period Polybios covers, he is the basic source for Livy. While Livy added material from Roman annalists and presented Rome in the best light, he owes the bulk to the Megalopolitan as can be seen by comparing the two accounts around Zama. The detail in Books 28-30 enumerating the politics around Scipio himself and arguments about Africa have come from the insider: Polybios. Livy is only as accurate as his source.



Unless it coheres with your pre-determined view. Thus you can happily accept accept Livy's note of 4,000 Macedonians even if, with no justification, you alter them into 4,000 elephant supporting lights. An interesting method. While we're on this, you've singularly failed to do with these three attestations regarding the Sopater's Macedonians aside from inputing to me views I don't hold. Can you please enumerate the rationale that explains away these three direct attestations?



Why? Polybios spoke with the African king in Rome well after events. He will have been old and nothing says he was alive when Polybios' work was published in any case.



No he was not. Polybios was writing to explain - to his Greek compatriots - that Rome did not reach her position of dominance through tyche (fortune or chance), which was the prevailing view, or that she would fade away like so many other hegemons past. To that end he devoted much to the political and social systems which made the state what it was (Book 6 for example). It suited Polybios' purpose to show the political shenanigans surrounding Scipio's push for taking the fight to Africa just as it suited his purpose to detail the ratification of the final peace post Zama. If anything suited the purpose you espouse ("it would have suited his purpose completely if Scipio was outnumbered") it was recording the detail that the senate refused Scipio a recruitment of legions for his venture and that it limited him to the regular consular army - that in Sicily - plus whatever volunteers he could interest in his venture. In short, that Scipio was limited to two legions which, in spite of the senate and all based on his popularity with the veterans, he bulked up to well oversize (6,200 men). But this sort of information - all stated in a surviving source owing much to Polybios - does not conform with your view so you "steer well clear of such a dubious author". Again, interesting "method".
Bollocks. Livy is crap. Your use of him belittles your knowledge of the battle, which is very decent.

Polybius was writing within living memory of Zama. He was writing when Masinissa was still alive. The fact that Masinissa is acknowledged at all is truly amazing. No other ally is mentioned as being a key in winning a Roman battle to such an extent, and the fact he is mentioned being a key winner twice, means his presence was more than important. Punica has Masinissa as a Olympian hero in stature.

Therefore, for Polybius to ignore supposed Roman inferiority of numbers at said battle is truly amazing. Actually, it is unbelievable, and Scipios army was larger.
 
Nov 2011
1,002
The Bluff
Bollocks. Livy is crap. Your use of him belittles your knowledge of the battle, which is very decent.

Polybius was writing within living memory of Zama. He was writing when Masinissa was still alive. The fact that Masinissa is acknowledged at all is truly amazing. No other ally is mentioned as being a key in winning a Roman battle to such an extent, and the fact he is mentioned being a key winner twice, means his presence was more than important. Punica has Masinissa as a Olympian hero in stature.

Therefore, for Polybius to ignore supposed Roman inferiority of numbers at said battle is truly amazing. Actually, it is unbelievable, and Scipios army was larger.
I'm truly at a loss to know what to do in the face of such obduracy. Why do you persist in altering what one has written? I can only offer you your own gratuitous advice: re-read what I've written. Perhaps when you've done so you can reply to its substance in some rather more rigorous fashion than "Bollocks. Livy is crap." Up until now you've managed the below:

  • The senate refused Scipio the right to levy legions: Bollocks. Livy is crap.
  • The senate only gave Scipio the regular consular army, that in Sicily: Bollocks. Livy is crap.
  • Scipio raised 7,000 volunteers and raised his two legions to 6,200 men: Bollocks. Livy is crap.
  • Livy utilised Polybios as his basic source for Scipio's campaigns including Zama: Bollocks. Livy is crap.
  • Livy places 4,000 MAcedonians in the second line and directly notes these men three times: They were elephant lights because I want them to be and, anyway, bollocks, Livy is crap.
I'm uncertain just what belittles who here!
 
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The lacunose nature of Polybius account can easily be determined by one single element, Masinissa. Masinissa was still alive when Polybius was writing, and anything that did not favour the Numidians could be questioned thoroughly and with honesty.

It should be noted that Polybius was writing why Rome was always going to win, and it would have suited his purpose completely if Scipio was outnumbered. The fact he doesn't almost certainly dictates Hannibal was outnumbered.

Still need to give you credit on that 5 legions point. Outstanding.
I'm glad you valued the point that I was making, but I'm not exactly sure what you mean here. Sources become lacunose because of the fickle nature of preservation. Polybius didn't help the chances of his history being preserved in its entirety because, frankly, he's not an amazing writer and it was a hefty 40 books in length. He's a great historian, but his highly-analytical approach (filled to the brim with detailed asides that founder the narrative) was not likely to make him a popular read compared to some other writers. Ammianus from the fourth century perhaps provides a similar example of this phenomenon. In any case, that's the theory of a number of scholars. On the other hand, I don't quite grasp your reasoning regarding Masinissa. Perhaps I need it reworded. In any case, if Polybius' account is lacunose through the accident of preservation, we can't attach significance to a failure to mention Scipio being outnumbered.
 
Bollocks. Livy is crap. Your use of him belittles your knowledge of the battle, which is very decent.

Polybius was writing within living memory of Zama. He was writing when Masinissa was still alive. The fact that Masinissa is acknowledged at all is truly amazing. No other ally is mentioned as being a key in winning a Roman battle to such an extent, and the fact he is mentioned being a key winner twice, means his presence was more than important. Punica has Masinissa as a Olympian hero in stature.

Therefore, for Polybius to ignore supposed Roman inferiority of numbers at said battle is truly amazing. Actually, it is unbelievable, and Scipios army was larger.
Sorry Nick, but this response is just stubborn. Salaminia and I have explained why Livy is an important source, making several different points as to why his testimony should be valued. You haven't contended these points, and you're falling back on an argument from silence. Arguments from silence are often perilous, but they are pretty much useless when the source is as lacunose as Polybius' African account. Since Livy's main source is Polybius, then Livy is the best way to determine what Polybius said. Livy is also a decent source when he disagrees (implicitly) with Polybius (see his account of Cannae), and he writes in detail about Scipio's preparations. These points shouldn't be so callously dismissed.
 
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Nov 2018
183
Wales
I'm truly at a loss to know what to do in the face of such obduracy. Why do you persist in altering what one has written? I can only offer you your own gratuitous advice: re-read what I've written. Perhaps when you've done so you can reply to its substance in some rather more rigorous fashion than "Bollocks. Livy is crap." Up until now you've managed the below:

  • The senate refused Scipio the right to levy legions: Bollocks. Livy is crap.
  • The senate only gave Scipio the regular consular army, that in Sicily: Bollocks. Livy is crap.
  • Scipio raised 7,000 volunteers and raised his two legions to 6,200 men: Bollocks. Livy is crap.
  • Livy utilised Polybios as his basic source for Scipio's campaigns including Zama: Bollocks. Livy is crap.
  • Livy places 4,000 MAcedonians in the second line and directly notes these men three times: They were elephant lights because I want them to be and, anyway, bollocks, Livy is crap.
I'm uncertain just what belittles who here!
Love the language, and the post, hence the Like. It's almost Stephen Fry in tone, whom I love.

I will be the first to admit I don't like Livy and don't use him. His version of Zama is silly.

Polybius does not give us numbers of Romans at Zama which is very odd given his 'brief', 'intent', 'bias' etc. It would have suited his need to have stated Rome had won despite fewer troops. He did not. Given his authority on the subject, all we can safely assume is that Carthage had 40k troops total, of which 12k were mercenaries. We can probably safely assume Carthage had the smaller army at Zama, for the same reason, because it would have been in his remit.

Then we have Appians dialogue, which makes Livy sound positively accurate. However, what Appian does is to give enough facts to break his own back. He states 60 transports is enough to deliver 10000 infantry and 700 cavalry to Spain, a much further distance than N Africa. That means 120 ships for 20k infantry and 1400 cavalry for a shorter journey is obviously feasible, enough to take Scipios stated 16k foot and 1.6k cavalry to Tunisia. In fact, 400 ships could take in excess of 70k infantry and 5k cavalry to its destination. What we actually know from various sources is that 40 transports are what is required to carry a single legion. 400 transports means 10 legions.

However, the current elephant in the room is that pointed out by DiocletianIsBetterThanYou. Rome still had Hannibal on his doorstep, and sending a decent proportion of its defense force on an attack on Africa, one that a similar sized force which was smeared in the previous Punic War, seems more than unlikely.
 
Nov 2011
1,002
The Bluff
I will be the first to admit I don't like Livy and don't use him. His version of Zama is silly.

Polybius does not give us numbers of Romans at Zama which is very odd given his 'brief', 'intent', 'bias' etc. It would have suited his need to have stated Rome had won despite fewer troops. He did not [...]

However, the current elephant in the room is that pointed out by DiocletianIsBetterThanYou. Rome still had Hannibal on his doorstep, and sending a decent proportion of its defense force on an attack on Africa, one that a similar sized force which was smeared in the previous Punic War, seems more than unlikely.
After everything that has been pointed out regarding your position, after all the information supplied with respect to the sources and the questions asked about your position and the sources, this is the best you can manage? You don't trust left eye so you don't use it? Astounding.

You have not honestly engaged on any of the matters raised, preferring instead to simply ignore such and restate your assertions and speculation as if such were evidence or, as you've erroneously asserted, "facts" and misrepresent the positions of others. The above post is a prime example. How many times must the severely lacunose nature of Polybios' account and its importance be stated for you? I fear you don't understand exactly what source preservation is.

You have avoided addressing the source material detailing preparations for the invasion and the import for numbers because you consider the source "crap" when, in reality, it in no way supports your silly view of ten legions. Just as you have avoided addressing the Macedonians you hastily latched onto to save face about the javelin men and slingers accompanying the elephants thus reducing the numbers of Hannibal's first line from 12,000.

As for your "elephant in the room", the entire point of Diocletionsbetterthanyou's post was that Rome was not about to send five legions off with Scipio to Sicily/Africa as such would be unprecedented but I will leave that to him. And the source you so childishly reject supports that position absolutely. Any wonder you find Livy "crap": his testimony destroys your position.

Until you're prepared to honestly engage with the matters raised throughout rather than simply restate your assertions, this is condemned to going around in circles. Were your position expressed in a paper and that paper was academically reviewed, you'd respond by simply rewriting the paper!
 
Nov 2018
183
Wales
After everything that has been pointed out regarding your position, after all the information supplied with respect to the sources and the questions asked about your position and the sources, this is the best you can manage? You don't trust left eye so you don't use it? Astounding.

You have not honestly engaged on any of the matters raised, preferring instead to simply ignore such and restate your assertions and speculation as if such were evidence or, as you've erroneously asserted, "facts" and misrepresent the positions of others. The above post is a prime example. How many times must the severely lacunose nature of Polybios' account and its importance be stated for you? I fear you don't understand exactly what source preservation is.

You have avoided addressing the source material detailing preparations for the invasion and the import for numbers because you consider the source "crap" when, in reality, it in no way supports your silly view of ten legions. Just as you have avoided addressing the Macedonians you hastily latched onto to save face about the javelin men and slingers accompanying the elephants thus reducing the numbers of Hannibal's first line from 12,000.

As for your "elephant in the room", the entire point of Diocletionsbetterthanyou's post was that Rome was not about to send five legions off with Scipio to Sicily/Africa as such would be unprecedented but I will leave that to him. And the source you so childishly reject supports that position absolutely. Any wonder you find Livy "crap": his testimony destroys your position.

Until you're prepared to honestly engage with the matters raised throughout rather than simply restate your assertions, this is condemned to going around in circles. Were your position expressed in a paper and that paper was academically reviewed, you'd respond by simply rewriting the paper!
If your sources were facts, I would not have created this thread, nevermind be posting on it. If you consider Zama a court case, the problem is that the witness (author) testaments do not corroborate each other. Using one to prove another will not work.

What you can do is to inspect each piece of evidence (Polybius, Livy, Appian etc) in itself to prove whether it has any truth. Diocletionsbetterthanyou's post was inspired, and gave me pause for thought, because it was an extremely intelligent response. However, from the sources, we can determine around 10 legions were present at Zama. Scipio is said to have traveled to Sicily with 7000 volunteers. Given the source, we can assume this is a minimum amount, and does not include the velites, ie this means 2 legions and an additional 400 noble/friends/cavalry). Once he gets to Sicily, he has 2 more legions available, and we are told he then sailed to Africa with 16000 infantry and 1600 cavalry. 4 Legions have 1200 Cavalry, plus the 400 extras gives us 1600, possibly a coincidence. 16000 infantry is 5 and a bit legions of heavy foot, since we know from the numbers he has ignored the velites. If he ignores Roman velites, he will certainly ignore the Ala. From another source, we are told the 4 legions are overstrength. 4 overstrength legions could be 5 or more effectives.

When one of the most unreliable commentators (Appian) concerning Zama effectively confirms that 5 Legions equivalent of Romans sailed to Africa, we can safely be assured an equivalent amount in the Ala was also present. When the most reliable commentator of Zama (Polybius) does not mention the number in Scipios army, we can safely assume Scipios army was larger.

Any which way of looking at the numbers of Romans at Zama, we have 10 legions of foot. If you don't trust the histories, you can at least trust the maths.
 
Nov 2011
1,002
The Bluff
If you don't trust the histories, you can at least trust the maths.
Let's begin with this shall we? I've no issue with the sources ("histories") per se. You, on the other hand, have a great many. Mostly to with understanding and handling them (mishandling them if not doing violence to them actually). You completely refuse to deal with this and this is either deliberate or because you do not understand what has been continually brought to your attention. As you came here for more serious debate, I will assume the latter; the former bespeaks a dishonest approach.


If you consider Zama a court case, the problem is that the witness (author) testaments do not corroborate each other. Using one to prove another will not work.
Only you consider the study of history to be a court of law; a pursuit where the court will rule beyond a shadow of doubt. As such, you're a priest attempting to prove a religious dogma in a science laboratory. Good luck with that.

Scipio is said to have traveled to Sicily with 7000 volunteers. Given the source, we can assume this is a minimum amount, and does not include the velites, ie this means 2 legions and an additional 400 noble/friends/cavalry). Once he gets to Sicily, he has 2 more legions available, and we are told he then sailed to Africa with 16000 infantry and 1600 cavalry. 4 Legions have 1200 Cavalry, plus the 400 extras gives us 1600, possibly a coincidence. 16000 infantry is 5 and a bit legions of heavy foot, since we know from the numbers he has ignored the velites. If he ignores Roman velites, he will certainly ignore the Ala. From another source, we are told the 4 legions are overstrength. 4 overstrength legions could be 5 or more effectives.
And so to return to your poor understanding and mishandling of the sources. "From another source" indicates the the overstrength legions were mentioned by a source other than that which gives us Scipio's 7,000 volunteers. In fact , this is the same source: Livy. That source gives us all those numbers mentioned plus the two legions of Sicily. Why, given that source, would we assume velites are not among those numbers? You need reasoning not arrant assumption. Firstly, these 7,000 were no two legions at all, they were simply volunteers and never enrolled via normal practice into such. In fact, that source tells us that the 7,000 were arranged into companies and maniples once in Sicily and then subsumed into the the two legions of Sicily adding to those legions as well as replacing those deemed the less serviceable for the coming campaign. Nothing even suggests the omission of velites other than wishful thinking.

As for the maths, those "four overstrength legions" are two legions and their alae. You need to cease conflating terminology to suit. It's very neat but rather dishonest. Livy's two oversize legions plus their alae do not suddenly equate to five legions plus their alae making your fictitious ten legion equivalent. Just as Livy's thrice mentioned Macedonians do not suddenly become your 4,000 elephant accompanying lights to you allow to claim 12,000 heavy effectives in the Punic front line.

When the most reliable commentator of Zama (Polybius) does not mention the number in Scipios army, we can safely assume Scipios army was larger.
Simply repeating your farrago of guesswork and speculation, largely based on your rather skewed view of sources you seem simply to pick and choose from when it suits, is no argument. Your failure to comprehend the nature of Polybios surviving work is palpable. It has been repeatedly pointed out to you that Polybios is severely lacunose with respect to the African campaign. This is as a result of source preservation. Copies had to be continually made of these books and many things contribute to the loss of such works including popularity. Books fell out of favour and few copies were kept. The Byzantine monk, Photios, dot point summarised many such and now that is all that remains of some (Arrian's Successors for example). The history known to us as the Hellenika Oxyrhrynchia, the underlying source of Ephoros if not Diodoros, has been recovered in scraps from an ancient Egyptian garbage dump. In the case of Polybios, six complete books remain out of forty. The others range from partially preserved to collections of quotations or references from other writer's works and everything in between. For Scipio asking for an African invasion in Rome, arriving in Sicily, leaving same down to his landing and initial campaigning in Africa, we rely on book 13 which exists in paragraphs, groups of sentences and scraps. It simply has not survived. But it had to Livy's day and the Roman used it.

To argue from that silence that Polybios never mentioned the troops Scipio both took to Sicily (volunteers) and those he subsequently took to Africa is a fool's logic I'm afraid. To argue that Livy, who used Polybios as his main source for this and Africa, is "crap"is, I'm afraid, "bollocks".