How many legions and equivalents at Zama?

Nov 2011
981
The Bluff
Let's take Appian's 16000 foot and 1600 cavalry that sailed from Sicily to Africa, as an example. Some treat this as fact, but it is almost certainly only a partial truth. It is said that Scipio sailed to Sicily with 7000 volunteers. He leaves with 17600, and included in that total are the V and VI legions, ie 10600 extra. Legions have 300 cavalry apiece, leaving 10000. Cannae legions were oversized and 5000 foot soldiers strong.
There are more than several problems with this, many of which have been explained before. Let's start with the last. You continue to assert that the two legions of Sicily must be overstrength because they had been at Cannae where all eight were over strength. What you singularly fail to comprehend - and this can only be purposeful - is that these two legions were created from the survivors of Cannae . These were those who fled the field and those who survived from the camp guard. You would have it that somehow these two legions survived the slaughter intact, a notion which completely passes comprehension. Rome refused to ransom them and eventually sent them, in disgrace, to serve in Sicily until war's end (see Livy, 25.7.1-4). Polybios and Livy are plain in that the overstrength legions for Cannae were unprecedented and enrolled for that specific state of emergency. That was not the case for Sicily and nothing whatsoever behoves us to baldy claim that the Sicilian legions were similarly overstrength; rather they will have been normal consular legions or as close to those as possible given the survivors.

Scipio certainly sailed to Sicily with 7,000 volunteers. These were not "legions" as you'd previously claimed but simply unbrigaded volunteers. What you fail to understand (again) is that Scipio used these volunteers to fill out the two Sicilian legions (and alae) as Livy plainly and quite uncontroversially states at 29.24.13-14 bringing same up to 6,200 foot. In doing so he inspects the men of the Sicilian legions and selects those he deems fit, replacing the others and adding to them. This is not a difficult thing to understand. Upon this and the point above, your edifice of numbers collapses for the 7,000 volunteers were not added to the total complement of these legions as you would claim.

On numbers, you have a fixation with Appian's 16,000 foot and 1,600 cavalry. This is one figure for the force which existed in ancient times. There will have been many for this was the great moment of Roman triumph over Hannibal. It is no exaggeration to say it was the reversal of Cannae and the restoration of Roman virtus. The reaction in Rome to the utter catastrophe of Cannae bleeds from the pages of Livy. Roman pride and virtus had taken a near fatal blow and the exile of the survivors is but one example of that reaction. This entire campaign will have been a Roman version of the Greeks defeating the Persians and so it is no surprise whatsoever to read the following in Livy (29.25.1-4):

As to the number of soldiers transported to Africa the authorities differ by no small figure. In some I find that ten thousand infantry, two thousand two hundred cavalry were embarked; in others sixteen thousand infantry, sixteen hundred cavalry; in others the total is more than doubled —thirty-five thousand infantry and cavalry. Some authorities have not introduced the figures, and it is among these that I should myself prefer to be counted in view of the uncertainty. Coelius, while he gives no figures, nevertheless immensely increases the impression of great numbers. He says that birds fell to the ground owing to the shouts of the soldiers, and that such a multitude boarded the ships that not a human being seemed to be left either in Italy or Sicily.
Various figures were given by various authorities including clearly exaggerated nonsense by what another hereabouts claims as a robust Roman historical tradition. Livy clearly knew of the source which Appian later used but declined to back it, sticking to figures (given above) he will have near certainly found in Polybios. Those figures would have Scipio leave Sicily with 24,800 infantry.
 
There are more than several problems with this, many of which have been explained before. Let's start with the last. You continue to assert that the two legions of Sicily must be overstrength because they had been at Cannae where all eight were over strength. What you singularly fail to comprehend - and this can only be purposeful - is that these two legions were created from the survivors of Cannae . These were those who fled the field and those who survived from the camp guard. You would have it that somehow these two legions survived the slaughter intact, a notion which completely passes comprehension. Rome refused to ransom them and eventually sent them, in disgrace, to serve in Sicily until war's end (see Livy, 25.7.1-4). Polybios and Livy are plain in that the overstrength legions for Cannae were unprecedented and enrolled for that specific state of emergency. That was not the case for Sicily and nothing whatsoever behoves us to baldy claim that the Sicilian legions were similarly overstrength; rather they will have been normal consular legions or as close to those as possible given the survivors.

Scipio certainly sailed to Sicily with 7,000 volunteers. These were not "legions" as you'd previously claimed but simply unbrigaded volunteers. What you fail to understand (again) is that Scipio used these volunteers to fill out the two Sicilian legions (and alae) as Livy plainly and quite uncontroversially states at 29.24.13-14 bringing same up to 6,200 foot. In doing so he inspects the men of the Sicilian legions and selects those he deems fit, replacing the others and adding to them. This is not a difficult thing to understand. Upon this and the point above, your edifice of numbers collapses for the 7,000 volunteers were not added to the total complement of these legions as you would claim.

On numbers, you have a fixation with Appian's 16,000 foot and 1,600 cavalry. This is one figure for the force which existed in ancient times. There will have been many for this was the great moment of Roman triumph over Hannibal. It is no exaggeration to say it was the reversal of Cannae and the restoration of Roman virtus. The reaction in Rome to the utter catastrophe of Cannae bleeds from the pages of Livy. Roman pride and virtus had taken a near fatal blow and the exile of the survivors is but one example of that reaction. This entire campaign will have been a Roman version of the Greeks defeating the Persians and so it is no surprise whatsoever to read the following in Livy (29.25.1-4):



Various figures were given by various authorities including clearly exaggerated nonsense by what another hereabouts claims as a robust Roman historical tradition. Livy clearly knew of the source which Appian later used but declined to back it, sticking to figures (given above) he will have near certainly found in Polybios. Those figures would have Scipio leave Sicily with 24,800 infantry.
Thank you for a civilised and interesting reply.
 
I shouldn't assume the disgraced Sicilian legions were, full strength, especially as a large number were from Cannae, and sailing to Africa well over a decade later, which included all kinds of warfare in Sicily that would have no doubt taken a toll.
Let's assume they were at standard strength. Assuming all of Scipios 7000 volunteers make up part of the Alae, Scipio is understrength by 800 infantry and 800 cavary. The numbers are simply not believeable, given Roman organisation and 400 transports.

The actual problem is that people use Appian because that is all we have, despite adding 15000 to Hannibals army. If he can add 15k to one side, surely it is not beyond belief he could deduct from another?

Apologies for the less than detailed reply, as about to embark on the school run.
 
Nov 2011
981
The Bluff
Let's assume they were at standard strength. Assuming all of Scipios 7000 volunteers make up part of the Alae, Scipio is understrength by 800 infantry and 800 cavary. The numbers are simply not believeable, given Roman organisation and 400 transports.
You choose not to believe them; a rather different situation.

The actual problem is that people use Appian because that is all we have, despite adding 15000 to Hannibals army.
No that is not the "actual problem". The actual problem is you, somehow, construing that Appian is "all we have". This is, as this thread has repeatedly shown, demonstrable nonsense.

If he can add 15k to one side, surely it is not beyond belief he could deduct from another?
No. Only if we believe, as you wish to, that one follows the other as night follows day. This is a false premise with nothing whatsoever to support it other than wishful thinking, something not lacking in your posts. Once more, you need to understand that Appian had access to other sources for his information, including numbers. Numbers he did not add to or deduct from but lifted from whomever he was using. Some of those sources are mentioned by Livy when he discusses numbers. But of course, Appian "is all we have" so Livy does not exist, save four four thousand Macedonians who are transformed into elephant supporting lights at the stroke of convenience.
 
You choose not to believe them; a rather different situation.



No that is not the "actual problem". The actual problem is you, somehow, construing that Appian is "all we have". This is, as this thread has repeatedly shown, demonstrable nonsense.



No. Only if we believe, as you wish to, that one follows the other as night follows day. This is a false premise with nothing whatsoever to support it other than wishful thinking, something not lacking in your posts. Once more, you need to understand that Appian had access to other sources for his information, including numbers. Numbers he did not add to or deduct from but lifted from whomever he was using. Some of those sources are mentioned by Livy when he discusses numbers. But of course, Appian "is all we have" so Livy does not exist, save four four thousand Macedonians who are transformed into elephant supporting lights at the stroke of convenience.
If Livy does not know how many troops Hannibal has, and he really does not according to his own words, he cannot know how the battle truly unfolded.

You reliance on Livy as gospel is astonishing.
 
If Livy does not know how many troops Hannibal has, and he really does not according to his own words, he cannot know how the battle truly unfolded.
Livy does not need to know Hannibal's numbers to know reliable details about Scipio's preparations in Italy and Sicily, details he has probably received from Polybius. One could turn your logic against your use of Appian: 'Appian's Zama includes Homeric duels, and therefore nothing he says about numbers or ships is reliable.' I don't actually believe that Appian is useless (although I do think he's inferior to Livy), but my point is that your reductive assessment of Livy does not hold. You could even do it to Polybius. 'Polybius is clearly wrong about the number of casualties at Cannae, so his account of Cannae should be rejected.'
 
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Nov 2011
981
The Bluff
If Livy does not know how many troops Hannibal has, and he really does not according to his own words, he cannot know how the battle truly unfolded.

You reliance on Livy as gospel is astonishing.
Your reductio ad absurdum regarding Livy has already been neatly pointed up by DiocletianIsBetterThanYou. Even given your strained and confused "logic", you still cling Livy's 4,000 Macedonians as your get out of jail card for lights accompanying the elephants. A most convenient example of selective relevance for this source which you dismiss otherwise. In fact, it is almost as if reading Livy might occasion some life threating event for you. More "astonishing" is your Damascene conversion to Appian as "all we have".

Appian is the Boys' Own Adventure author of the ancient world. He's as relevant to Zama imho as a particular arena scene in Gladiator afaiac. He adds absolutely nothing of note except unsubstantiated numbers, not given in earlier texts.
Aside from the galring error of fact regarding numbers in previous sources, that is one transformation: Appian has gone from the "Boys' Own Adventure author" of the ancient world to "all we have" and an authority on the numbers. What is truly astonishing here is your cavalier handling of the sources to favour your "theory". Even unto a new found respect for the Boys' Own Adventure author of the ancient world. Is there no contortion you will not make for this theory of yours?
 
Livy does not need to know Hannibal's numbers to know reliable details about Scipio's preparations in Italy and Sicily, details he has probably received from Polybius. One could turn your logic against your use of Appian: 'Appian's Zama includes Homeric duels, and therefore nothing he says about numbers or ships is reliable.' I don't actually believe that Appian is useless (although I do think he's inferior to Livy), but my point is that your reductive assessment of Livy does not hold. You could even do it to Polybius. 'Polybius is clearly wrong about the number of casualties at Cannae, so his account of Cannae should be rejected.'
Er...I'm pretty sure I'm pointing out that Appian is wrong about Zama, but his 'colour' may reveal a greater truth.

Where Salaminia fails is that he believes Livy is fact, whereby it can be shown he is not. His 4000 Macedonians at Zama are at best more than likely a total mistake. OTOH it could be a total lie. Livy is probably considered best as Wiki, a place to start to understand a subject, but not one to rely on. What Livy seems to do is gather information rather than understand it, nor query its validity.

Appian has c55k in Hannibals army. Rome has less than half that. Even when we add in the Numidians, we are looking about double the numbers in the Carthaginian force. At Cannae the reverse is true. By manipulating the figures Appian tries to make Zama an equal achievement to Cannae, ie from a tactical victory that saw one side inflict twice the casualties to only equal in the next. He also has Scipio have 16k infantry land in Africa, the same as the previous attempt in the 1st war, that was annihilated. This number is likely to be propaganda rather than history, that any intelligent historian would recognise.

Given the dubious number that Appian assigns Hannibals forces, why do we use his numbers for Scipio? I believe we should not. The battle simply does not work with his overt numbers. However, once you disregard his exaggerations for Hannibal, and look at what he infers for Scipios army, I believe we can gain a glimpse of the truth, despite all the info being circumstantial.
 
Er...I'm pretty sure I'm pointing out that Appian is wrong about Zama, but his 'colour' may reveal a greater truth.

Where Salaminia fails is that he believes Livy is fact, whereby it can be shown he is not. His 4000 Macedonians at Zama are at best more than likely a total mistake. OTOH it could be a total lie. Livy is probably considered best as Wiki, a place to start to understand a subject, but not one to rely on. What Livy seems to do is gather information rather than understand it, nor query its validity.

Appian has c55k in Hannibals army. Rome has less than half that. Even when we add in the Numidians, we are looking about double the numbers in the Carthaginian force. At Cannae the reverse is true. By manipulating the figures Appian tries to make Zama an equal achievement to Cannae, ie from a tactical victory that saw one side inflict twice the casualties to only equal in the next. He also has Scipio have 16k infantry land in Africa, the same as the previous attempt in the 1st war, that was annihilated. This number is likely to be propaganda rather than history, that any intelligent historian would recognise.

Given the dubious number that Appian assigns Hannibals forces, why do we use his numbers for Scipio? I believe we should not. The battle simply does not work with his overt numbers. However, once you disregard his exaggerations for Hannibal, and look at what he infers for Scipios army, I believe we can gain a glimpse of the truth, despite all the info being circumstantial.
1. If you think that Appian's colour reveals a greater truth (and use his numbers of ships and men as the basis for dubious reconstructions of truthful numbers based on dubious assumptions), and yet you dismiss Livy, than my twisting of your logic remains relevant.

2. Livy does query his information, thus his engagement with and ultimate rejection of the numbers that Appian provides. He was clearly enough of a cautious and critical thinker to reject numbers he thought were maybe untruthful. Indeed, as I previously pointed out, he uses Polybius closely but also happens to be better than Polybius on casualties at Cannae, because, like Polybius, he did indeed have a critical mind. To view Livy as no better than wiki because of Sopater's Macedonians is strange and makes you appear selective in your distrust. You have been reductive in your assessment of these Macedonians, as Salaminia has pointed out.
 
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