- Nov 2011
- The Bluff
I agree the 6,200 figure has come from Polybios whose text for the departure from Sicily has not survived. As I said earlier, Livy's text there reads as one of the Megalopolitan's explanatory notes describing just how Scipio got his numbers of men. I don't see the propaganda. Polybios is extremely lacunose throughout this campaign (Book 14 particularly). What is interesting is that there are rarely any Roman army figures given (for Great Plains as an example). Figures for Carthage there are and one has to wonder at the source(s) used by Polybios. For Zama, there is only the one figure given for Hannibal's front line as you say. This figure includes slingers and javelin throwers to a number not specified but they would, at a bare minimum, be , 1,000 apiece and likely more (elephant-s need support - another thing which goes missing in the description). That would put Hannibal's front line close order infantry at somewhere between 8,000 - 10,000 with a figure to the lower end far more probable. From that one would likely work out the numbers of the Punic second and third lines.I believe that it would be implicit in Polybius` descripition of battle arrays that Scipio was out-numbered at Zama. Livy may have followed Polybius with the figure of 6,200 per legion and so a consular army (which Scipio`s was) would have 24,800. But Polybius tells us that Hannibal in one of his lines had 12,000 mercenaries alone - multiplied by three gives us at least 36,000. If propaganda is the aim, and it`s quite subtly done too, it` is better to have the enemy out-number the Romans by 50%.
On the sources, I'm minded of the tradition for Magnesia. If we are to believe the numbers, the Roman consular army was well outnumbered by the usual massive, polyglot army of a Great King full of largely useless Asians. Going by the received tradition, this consular army was near on the way to defeat until saved by Eumenes of Pergamon and his cavalry. Antiochos had chosen his ground and that ground suited, one would think, his numbers and deployment. Again we lack Polybios and rely on later sources. To me, Antiochos did not field an army of 70,000 - paticularly after the losses of the campaign to date. The tradition which has come down to us via Polybios is, to my view, strongly influenced by Rome's amicus, the Attalids. Eumenes had wanted this war and had done so for some time. The Attalid monarchy, having brought Rome to settle its war, would ensure its place in the history books. That would show just important Pergamon was and just how huge an army she, along with their friends, Rome, had overcome. The question is just what are Polybios' sources for Carthage's numbers in the absence of Roman?