- Nov 2011
- 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.
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.