How many legions and equivalents at Zama?

Duke Valentino

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,327
Australia
It's an old book. Delbruck uses the term as meaning close-ordered infantry, or rather any infantry that fought as a tactical body.
 
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Feb 2011
1,113
Scotland
Duke, on a previous thread you put forward a theory that Hannibal had no elephants at Zama, which I believe you derived from Delbrouk. I’m afraid with apologies I didn’t get about to express a view at the time, but there is a good presence here now and it is relevant to the op. Would you be interested in restating this please?
 

Duke Valentino

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,327
Australia
Delbruck does not challenge the presence of elephants at Zama. He merely believes that the number of elephants stated by the sources seem exaggerated, and that there were probably less.
 
Oct 2015
927
Virginia

Nice to know (and good to have you as well!). I assume Brunt's assessment comes from his Italian Manpower? From whence come Hallward's and DeSanctis's rationales (save me searching)?
References:
Brunt "Italian Manpower" pg 419 (and n.2) et al
DeSanctis "Storia di Romani" v3. ii
Hallward "Cambridge Ancient History" (1954) vol viii, pg 52 (and note 1)

The old edition of vol viii of the CAH also has the fold-out chart of all the legions in the Second Punic War, taken from DeSanctis (with references) facing pg 104. There Hallward also says that Polybius' may have erred "due to the equivocal use of the term stratopedon" in his source to describe both the double unit of a citizen legion with an allied "wing", and a consular army of two legions, as proposed by Cantalupi.
 
Nov 2011
1,108
The Bluff
The strength of the Roman army at Cannae is an interesting topic. On Livy's 10,000, as much as Salaminia will chafe at me mentioning, I would like to contribute Delbruck's thoughts on it, who also rejects the smaller figure as incorrect:

But the 86,000 figure for the Romans stems, as Appian proves, drawing on Roman sources, from their own side,
Appian, incorrectly, believed at this time that the regular Roman legion was 5,000 foot. I'm not certain his testimony proves anything. The sainted Delbruck aside, I'm more persuaded by Lazenby's views above, though I remain agnostic on which side is correct.
 
Oct 2015
927
Virginia
Romans writers sometimes tended to magnify disasters so as to enhance the glory of the final victory.

The thing is that no ancient army approaching 80-90,000 is reliably attested before 216 BC (pace Polybius 2.23 re Telamon) or afterwards, with the possible exception of Actium (and that is problematic). The tactical, command-control and logistics problems involved with a force that large operating as a single entity, in rough country with few roads are considerable. Two legions and two "wings" of Latins and Italians (of varying size, 18-30,000 men), plus whatever allied auxiliaries (Celts, Spaniards, Ligurians, Greeks et al) were attached, was usually as much as a Roman commander could handle, or that could be supplied and operate efficiently in the field. The big number is not impossible I guess, but I'm agnostic too.
 
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Oct 2018
1,692
Sydney
Romans writers sometimes tended to magnify disasters so as to enhance the glory of the final victory.

The thing is that no ancient army approaching 80-90,000 is reliably attested before 216 BC (pace Polybius 2.23 re Telamon) or afterwards, with the possible exception of Actium (and that is problematic). The tactical, command-control and logistics problems involved with a force that large operating as a single entity, in rough country with few roads are considerable. Two legions and two "wings" of Latins and Italians (of varying size, 18-30,000 men), plus whatever allied auxiliaries (Celts, Spaniards, Ligurians, Greeks et al) were attached, was usually as much as a Roman commander could handle,
or that could be supplied and operate efficiently in the field. The big number is not impossible I guess, but I'm agnostic too.
That's a fair point. But on the matter of whether the Romans would have exaggerated the disaster to magnify the eventual victory, you may be correct, but Roman writers also could do the opposite. For example, no Roman source mentions the Roman defeats to the Persians at Misiche and Barbalissos, and the disasters at Edessa and Abrittus came to be blamed on treacherous Roman commanders/emperors rather than being outplayed on the battlefield. The fact that there was even a battle at Edessa sometimes gets ignored as well. So you may be right on exaggeration, but it could go either way with Roman accounts. Then again, as I noted earlier in this thread, Polybius' casualty figures at Cannae are certainly exaggerated.
 

Duke Valentino

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,327
Australia
Appian, incorrectly, believed at this time that the regular Roman legion was 5,000 foot. I'm not certain his testimony proves anything. The sainted Delbruck aside, I'm more persuaded by Lazenby's views above, though I remain agnostic on which side is correct.
You're misinformed. The quote I provided was merely Delbruck's concluding statement on the attempts by Cantalupi to fit Livy's 10,000 into the battle. Most of what Lazenby wrote had already been written by Delbruck and others all those years ago; he writes in detail how the figure of 80,000 Romans is the correct one.

If then Hannibal's army was 50,000 strong, the Roman army cannot possibly have consisted of only 4 legions. The positive information that it was 8 legions strong and included allies can be considered as undoubtedly correct.

Warfare in Antiquity, 326.

This isn't based merely on Appian. Delbruck deconstructs Cantalupi's arguments, arguing, among other things, that Fabius' strategy wouldn't have made any sense if the Romans were willing to bring Hannibal to pitched battle with about the same number of infantry yet outnumbered heavily in cavalry, both numerically and in quality.

Romans writers sometimes tended to magnify disasters so as to enhance the glory of the final victory.

The thing is that no ancient army approaching 80-90,000 is reliably attested before 216 BC (pace Polybius 2.23 re Telamon) or afterwards, with the possible exception of Actium (and that is problematic). The tactical, command-control and logistics problems involved with a force that large operating as a single entity, in rough country with few roads are considerable. Two legions and two "wings" of Latins and Italians (of varying size, 18-30,000 men), plus whatever allied auxiliaries (Celts, Spaniards, Ligurians, Greeks et al) were attached, was usually as much as a Roman commander could handle, or that could be supplied and operate efficiently in the field. The big number is not impossible I guess, but I'm agnostic too.
What we have to keep in mind is that a good bulk of that force, in paper terms, were light infantry, but light infantry were limited in their function on the battlefield in a military role. Of course, they also served as orderlies, but only so many can be deployed as skirmishers in front of the army. I know some have suggested the Romans took a step even further and started replacing the light infantry numbers with even more heavy infantry, but that's not really credible, considering some 55,000 heavy infantry was already too much for the battle anyway. I would estimate that actual effectives on the Roman side during the battle probably amounted to about 70,000.