How many legions and equivalents at Zama?

Nov 2010
7,132
Cornwall
Dealing heavily in the medieval era, I know how unreliable 'sources' are - sometimes the same event can have 2, 3, 4, 6 different accounts depending on a great many things. If that is the case around 1100-1200 I'd be a bit wary of counting exact numbers 1400 years before to be honest. Maybe that's just me.

Potential pitfalls:

Chinese whispers
Who's counting?
Writer hundreds of miles away
Writer much later in time
Bias of writer - like who's side was he on and also who does he answer to?
Entertainment value of tales
If the writer wasn't at an event who told him? And crudely - what does he know about it, ref all the above?

etc etc etc
 
Nov 2011
820
The Bluff
Dealing heavily in the medieval era, I know how unreliable 'sources' are - sometimes the same event can have 2, 3, 4, 6 different accounts depending on a great many things. If that is the case around 1100-1200 I'd be a bit wary of counting exact numbers 1400 years before to be honest. Maybe that's just me.
Numbers are always an issue in ancient sources. Specific numbers are another matter. While people never change, source analysis and criticism are the mainstay. Polybios is clear about his methods in writing his history just as Thukydides was. That does not mean he's immune from foible and his splenetic criticism of Kallisthenes is an example of such. Autopsy is basic to his method and a reading of him shows this. Book six dealing with Roman society, politics and army is a standout. There is little doubt that Livy's bulked up legions of specifically 6,200, the manner of that bulking, the politics in Rome denying Scipio the recruitment of legions and the permission to ask for volunteers outside of the regular legionary recruitment come from Polybios.

You may doubt via as many pitfalls as you wish but the sources are what we have. To consider their value as evidence only admissible in a court of law, as Nick does, is to fatally misunderstand historical method. To use one to "prove" or "disprove" the other is also incorrect. To dismiss one because it is unbelievable or "Boy's Own" is also to dismiss Arrian because snakes led Alexander through the desert to Siwah.

Nick's failure, or refusal, to understand certain matters needs little encouragement!
 
Nov 2010
7,132
Cornwall
Numbers are always an issue in ancient sources. Specific numbers are another matter. While people never change, source analysis and criticism are the mainstay. Polybios is clear about his methods in writing his history just as Thukydides was. That does not mean he's immune from foible and his splenetic criticism of Kallisthenes is an example of such. Autopsy is basic to his method and a reading of him shows this. Book six dealing with Roman society, politics and army is a standout. There is little doubt that Livy's bulked up legions of specifically 6,200, the manner of that bulking, the politics in Rome denying Scipio the recruitment of legions and the permission to ask for volunteers outside of the regular legionary recruitment come from Polybios.

You may doubt via as many pitfalls as you wish but the sources are what we have. To consider their value as evidence only admissible in a court of law, as Nick does, is to fatally misunderstand historical method. To use one to "prove" or "disprove" the other is also incorrect. To dismiss one because it is unbelievable or "Boy's Own" is also to dismiss Arrian because snakes led Alexander through the desert to Siwah.

Nick's failure, or refusal, to understand certain matters needs little encouragement!

:)

Medieval again - but I'm always wary of a life seen only through the eyes of monks, influential though they were! Do they speak for your average peasant? I doubt it.

Then again there's a life through a sexually rampant viewpoint like Ovid - pornography in early form!
 
Nov 2011
820
The Bluff
:)

Medieval again - but I'm always wary of a life seen only through the eyes of monks, influential though they were! Do they speak for your average peasant? I doubt it.

Then again there's a life through a sexually rampant viewpoint like Ovid - pornography in early form!
Unfortunately, they were largely the literate class. Or at least that part of the class inclined to record events. Things were somewhat different in the Greco-Macedonian and Roman worlds. In the former, actors in events often wrote histories (Thukydides, Ptolemy, Xenophon, Hieronymus, Polybios for example) or philosophers/orators (Theopompus, Kallisthenes, Plutarch, etc. For Rome it was similar with the addition of what might be termed a civil service group (Livy, Appian for example). Like all writers, the direction from which they come at their subject has always to be taken into consideration. Polybios' need to explain Rome's rise to dominance over the Greco-Macedonian east to that constituency has been noted. Similarly, Appian owed his safe and well off position the Principate and so, for him, it was better than the Republic, could do little wrong and Antiochus III was an arrogant, overreaching aggressor who got what he deserved; Rome simply being pushed into doing what it had to do. Livy can sometimes be similar in that Rome never wanted to start these wars but would surely finish them.

In any case, far from uncritically chucking them overboard because they don't suit us (a la Nick), we should be eternally grateful that the outrageous fortunes of source preservation have left the sources we have.
 
Numbers are always an issue in ancient sources. Specific numbers are another matter. While people never change, source analysis and criticism are the mainstay. Polybios is clear about his methods in writing his history just as Thukydides was. That does not mean he's immune from foible and his splenetic criticism of Kallisthenes is an example of such. Autopsy is basic to his method and a reading of him shows this. Book six dealing with Roman society, politics and army is a standout. There is little doubt that Livy's bulked up legions of specifically 6,200, the manner of that bulking, the politics in Rome denying Scipio the recruitment of legions and the permission to ask for volunteers outside of the regular legionary recruitment come from Polybios.

You may doubt via as many pitfalls as you wish but the sources are what we have. To consider their value as evidence only admissible in a court of law, as Nick does, is to fatally misunderstand historical method. To use one to "prove" or "disprove" the other is also incorrect. To dismiss one because it is unbelievable or "Boy's Own" is also to dismiss Arrian because snakes led Alexander through the desert to Siwah.

Nick's failure, or refusal, to understand certain matters needs little encouragement!
I understand the pitfalls of taking history at face value just fine. I spent a couple of decades discovering King Arthur, finally honing in on one individual, to have my opinion completely destroyed. I'll always treasure that moment. My understanding of KA increased by several magnitudes due to one piece of information. That is what I am hoping for here.

I look forward to you providing me with that moment :).
 
A useful element concerning Appian is that his lies (of omission) are consistent. When he states 16000 infantry and 1600 cavalry sailed from Sicily to Africa, he has obviously excluded the velites, which we know from Polybius. At face value, this numbers 6400 missing troops. His description on the number of 400 transports is also important, because we only need 60 ships to take 10k foot and 700 cavalry to Spain, a much further distance.

Fortunately Appian gives us further info. He states 7000 volunteers accompanied Scipio to Sicily. Knowing that he ignore velites, we are talking 2 legions plus 400 volunteers, probably Patricians, therefore cavalry. He then acquires 2 legions in Sicily, the V and VI'th. Unlike most legions, these were recruited for Cannae and oversized. We don't know the actual size of these larger legions, but given the Roman love of ten, 5000 legionaries is not unlikely.

When Appian states 16000 Italian and Roman foot leave for Libya, he is almost certainly talking about two standard legions (3000 heavy foot each) and two larger legions (5000 heavy foot each). This means that an equivalent number in the Alae should be present. Concerning cavalry, the numbers also match. Each legion, oversized or not, probably had 300 cavalry each, for 1200. Add in the 400 extra Scipio brought with him, and we have the 1600, the number quoted. Appian is not completely lying with his numbers, just excluding non Romans of lower status than the Roman Hastati, such as the Velites and Alae.

From a mathematical POV, Scipio had around 10 legions equivalent in his army. Polybius and Appian appear to agree. Only Livy is suspect.
 
Nov 2011
820
The Bluff
One asks for evidence and reasoning and one receives a farrago of repetition of speculation.

A useful element concerning Appian is that his lies (of omission) are consistent. When he states 16000 infantry and 1600 cavalry sailed from Sicily to Africa, he has obviously excluded the velites, which we know from Polibius.
Now a straightforward question: where in Polybios does it state this? No speculative spiels please; a passage which unambiguously tells us either the number of velites or a reference clearly and unarguably showing Appian's source ignored velites.

Fortunately Appian gives us further info. He states 7000 volunteers accompanied Scipio to Sicily. Knowing that he ignore velites, we are talking 2 legions plus 400 volunteers, probably Patricians, therefore cavalry.
This, I'm afraid, a nonsense of convenience. Your unsubstantiated speculation cannot used to fuel what is, in any case, another error ridden statement. The sources are clear (dealt with below) that the senate refused Scipio's request to enroll legions in Italy. Expressly stated. He was refused financing. He was allowed to ask for volunteers. It is ubundantly clear to anyone reading these sources that Scipio took whomever volunteered; this was not enrolment into legions at the Campus Martius via the tribunes and via tribe. These were volunteers Scipio was allowed to raise after the regular legionary enrolments for the year were done. Whatever Scipio raised, it was not "two legions plus 400 volunteers". We are expressly told that these volunteers were arranged into companies and maniples only after Scipio had arrived in Sicily and inspected the two legions there. You need get across this because wishful thinking is not evidence.

He then acquires 2 legions in Sicily, the V and VI'th. Unlike most legions, these were recruited for Cannae and oversized. We don't know the actual size of these larger legions, but given the Roman love of ten, 5000 legionaries is not unlikely.
What you don't know never seems to stop your fantasising. They were recruited for Cannae well over a decade earlier and they are legions created from the survivors of Cannae. Absolutely nothing even implies 5,000 per each. In fact, Livy's evidence (from Polybios) says otherwise. They were brought up to 6,200 by the addition of the volunteers. Even were they this speculated 5,000, Livy clearly states some were replaced by the volunteers.

When Appian states 16000 Italian and Roman foot leave for Libya, he is almost certainly talking about two standard legions (3000 heavy foot each) and two larger legions (5000 heavy foot each).
Circular, speculative repetition. He is saying nothing of the sort; simply relaying a figure in his source. A figure Livy, too, relays among the many others he'd access to. There is no "lie of omission" here; only one of commission: your circular confirmation bias.

From a mathematical POV, Scipio had around 10 legions equivalent in his army. Polybius and Appian appear to agree. Only Livy is suspect.
And here is where you failure to understand the sources and their relationships and traditions fails you utterly. I see from this that you now rely upon Appian because he agrees (in your view) with Polybios. As remarked above, see the citations below:

[7] Some of the leading men opposed this plan, saying that it was not best to send an army into Africa while Italy was wasted by such long wars and was subject to the ravages of Hannibal, and while Mago was enlisting Ligurian and Celtic mercenaries for a flank attack upon her. They ought not to attack another land, they said, until they had delivered their own country from its present perils. Others thought that the Carthaginians were emboldened to attack Italy because they were not molested at home, and that if war were brought to their own doors they would recall Hannibal. So it was decided to send Scipio into Africa, but they would not allow him to levy an army in Italy while Hannibal was ravaging it. If he could procure volunteers he might take them, and he might use the forces which were then in Sicily. They authorized him to fit out ten galleys and allowed him to take crews for them, and also to refit those in Sicily. They did not give him any money except what he could raise among his friends. So indifferently at first did they undertake this war, which soon came to be the most great and glorious for them.
The decree made respecting the provinces was that one consul should take Sicily and the thirty warships which C. Servilius had had the previous year, permission being granted him to sail to Africa, if he thought such a course would be in the interests of the State; the other consul was to take Bruttium and the operations against Hannibal, with either the army which had served under L. Veturius, or the one which Q. Caecilius had commanded. [...] Scipio did not succeed in obtaining permission to levy troops and indeed he did not press the point, but he was allowed to enlist volunteers. As he had stated that his fleet would not be a charge on the State he was given liberty to accept any materials contributed by the allies for the construction of his ships [...] Scipio sailed to Sicily with 7000 volunteers on board his thirty warships, and P. Licinius proceeded to Bruttium.
I have, for brevity, not included the speech of Fabius (from Livy, 28.40.3-42). It can be read at leisure but Appian's summary precedes "so it was decided". Appian, unlike Livy, is summarising his source in the manner of Diodoros. That source is, ultimately, the same source which Livy is using: Polybios. Appian, much later, may possibly be using an intermediary but that is not likely as his use of Polybios elsewhere (the Antiochene War) shows - and where he also combines other sources (Plutarch for example). Livy has exactly the same numbers and, not summarising as Appian does, tells us how these men were utilised. If Livy is "suspect" (I note the technical term "crap" has been dropped) then so is his source and that of Appian. You don't grasp the issues here and constant wishful confirmation bias and circular speculation does not help.