How many legions and equivalents at Zama?

Nov 2011
790
The Bluff
#31
I wasn't actually disagreeing with you. More pointing out that Hannibal had not the quality of infantry to perform what he managed at Cannae. And you're correct in that extending a frontage simply because of numbers being somewhat on your side does you no good if those numbers lack quality. Hannibal might strengthen those wings with his rear line but what of the centre? The infantry must be of decent experience and quality else there will be the inevitable breaks as men fall and and fall back. This happened after the superior Roman hastai's training and experience pushed back the Ligurians and Celts. It takes a well trained infantry to exploit a flanking advantage without losing contact with an engaged centre. Hannibal did not have that and relied on two lines tiring the opposition. Scipio did and, so, he recalled his hastai (and pricipes), dressed their lines and moved his triarii onto the wings. Given the tough nature of the fight, this says much about the numbers.

As far as extending lines goes, one need only look at Alexander at Issos and Gaugamela. In the prior he reduced his line depth to occupy the width of the field - because he could do so given the relatively narrow coastal plain. At Gaugamela this was never a possibility and so he chose an entirely different approach: normal depth with a "rear" phalanx and radically refused wings (and a loaded one on his attacking right).
 
#32
I don't disagree, I'm referring to the act of extending your frontage if you have superior numbers. What Hannibal did at Cannae was a bit more "out of the box", wherein he had the Africans deployed in column beside his infantry line on either side, who were then to face about against the Roman infantry from the flanks. I'm talking more about the general concept of having a longer battle line if you have more numbers, which is unwieldy and would present serious issues, hence why it was almost never attempted. You see this argument often with battles like Pharsalus, with "WHY DIDN'T POMPEY JUST HAVE A LONGER LINE THAN CAESAR", but fail to realise that this isn't a game like Total War, which presumes instantaneous response to command, for example. Communications are a massive issue when extending your front further than usual, for example.
Terrain limited the frontage at Pharsalus, at least on one flank, and GJC did have to thin his ranks to deal with Pompey's frontage. The latter would have caused a lesser general to lose that battle.
 
#33
I wasn't actually disagreeing with you. More pointing out that Hannibal had not the quality of infantry to perform what he managed at Cannae. And you're correct in that extending a frontage simply because of numbers being somewhat on your side does you no good if those numbers lack quality. Hannibal might strengthen those wings with his rear line but what of the centre? The infantry must be of decent experience and quality else there will be the inevitable breaks as men fall and and fall back. This happened after the superior Roman hastai's training and experience pushed back the Ligurians and Celts. It takes a well trained infantry to exploit a flanking advantage without losing contact with an engaged centre. Hannibal did not have that and relied on two lines tiring the opposition. Scipio did and, so, he recalled his hastai (and pricipes), dressed their lines and moved his triarii onto the wings. Given the tough nature of the fight, this says much about the numbers.

As far as extending lines goes, one need only look at Alexander at Issos and Gaugamela. In the prior he reduced his line depth to occupy the width of the field - because he could do so given the relatively narrow coastal plain. At Gaugamela this was never a possibility and so he chose an entirely different approach: normal depth with a "rear" phalanx and radically refused wings (and a loaded one on his attacking right).
Thanks for the reply.

I disagree about the Hastati having superior experience, Polybius states the mercenaries had greater individual ability. He implies the numbers are the same, arms and discipline winning over skill and mobility. Given he is writing why Rome won, if these specific legionaries were outnumbered, he would have said so. Indeed, and for the same reason, if Scipio's army was outnumbered, he would have said so as well.

Back to numbers, Richard A Gabriel in Scipio Africanus, Romes Greatest General, details the convoy that sailed to Africa. He notes that assuming 26800 foot and 1200 cavalry, only 279 of the 400 ships are required, including 45 days worth of food, the mules, artillery etc etc. If this space was used, we would have c 38400 foot and c1720 cavalry. From Appian, we know that 40 warships can carry at least half a legion, probably a full one. That means at least space for 2730 foot and 195 cavalry, probably 5460 and 390 repectively in addition. Therefore, without any difficulty, Scipio could have taken 10 legions worth of foot, and 5 worth of Cavalry. In addition, all the written evidence of the period implies 40 ships is able to carry one legion, 400 carrying 10.

I have noticed that some people think I am trying to belittle Scipio in stating his army is larger. Some don't understand that war is more about logistics than tactics. Many seem to consider Hannibal as a Rommel type figure, able to win battles (except sieges), but let down by lack of supplies. They see Scipio as Patton, who eventually triumphs over Rommel, after failures of others, coincidentally in same region of Africa. I personally consider Scipio more of an Eisenhower, a general able to not only able to invade foreign territory with a larger army than the enemy, but making sure it was more than adequately supported. Just as impressive, and much like Eisenhower, he was able to charm his allies. This enabled him to amend his cavalry numbers from about half that of his opponent, to about double that of Hannibal. These two elements are why Scipio won at Zama, and why he is a great general.
 
Nov 2011
790
The Bluff
#34
Thanks for the reply.

I disagree about the Hastati having superior experience, Polybius states the mercenaries had greater individual ability. He implies the numbers are the same, arms and discipline winning over skill and mobility. Given he is writing why Rome won, if these specific legionaries were outnumbered, he would have said so. Indeed, and for the same reason, if Scipio's army was outnumbered, he would have said so as well.
You impute motive without substantiation. Polybios is describing the battle, not "writing why Rome won". He does not say that the mercenaries had greater individual ability than the hastai at all. What he does say is that the balance was intitially in favour of the mercenaries due to their εὐχερείᾳ καὶ τόλμῃ (dexterity and boldness or daring). The Roman excellence in both their ranks (discipline) and their arms won out over this. He is speaking of the way in which the Ligurians and Celts fight as compared to the legionaries. Something Livy makes plain. Nothing whatsoever to do with the former having greater individual ability than the hastai.

On numbers, Gabriel may posit what he wishes. What he - and you need to do is establish some hard source evidence that Scipio took anything more with him than the sources give him. He took no legions from Rome other than the 7,000 volunteers (almost certainly from his Spanish campaign and so well experienced) and the two legions in Sicily and their alae. Again, men enrolled since Cannae and well experienced. No other legionary infantry are mentioned and so there were none, hence Scipio's continued courting of African allies. Gabriel and you may conjecture fantasy legions based on 400 ships til the cows come home. Again, these were ships which could be garnered from Sicilian ports not fit for purpose troop transports. Where is the hard evidence of eight more legions or even one?
 
#35
You impute motive without substantiation. Polybios is describing the battle, not "writing why Rome won". He does not say that the mercenaries had greater individual ability than the hastai at all. What he does say is that the balance was intitially in favour of the mercenaries due to their εὐχερείᾳ καὶ τόλμῃ (dexterity and boldness or daring). The Roman excellence in both their ranks (discipline) and their arms won out over this. He is speaking of the way in which the Ligurians and Celts fight as compared to the legionaries. Something Livy makes plain. Nothing whatsoever to do with the former having greater individual ability than the hastai.

On numbers, Gabriel may posit what he wishes. What he - and you need to do is establish some hard source evidence that Scipio took anything more with him than the sources give him. He took no legions from Rome other than the 7,000 volunteers (almost certainly from his Spanish campaign and so well experienced) and the two legions in Sicily and their alae. Again, men enrolled since Cannae and well experienced. No other legionary infantry are mentioned and so there were none, hence Scipio's continued courting of African allies. Gabriel and you may conjecture fantasy legions based on 400 ships til the cows come home. Again, these were ships which could be garnered from Sicilian ports not fit for purpose troop transports. Where is the hard evidence of eight more legions or even one?
Appian gives us his set of numbers, whose account of the battle differs markedly from Polybius, and not considered as reliable. He gives us 29000 foot and c6000 cavalry for Scipio. He raised the numbers of Hannibals army to a total of 50000 from Polybius's 40k, and gives him a cavalry reserve of 4000! What Appian has actually done is raise the Carthaginian army by 10k, thus it is not unlikely he has lowered Romes totals by 10k either.

If few believe Appians version of the battle, why do they believe his numbers? I prefer Polybius myself.
 
Nov 2011
790
The Bluff
#36
Appian gives us his set of numbers, whose account of the battle differs markedly from Polybius, and not considered as reliable. He gives us 29000 foot and c6000 cavalry for Scipio. He raised the numbers of Hannibals army to a total of 50000 from Polybius's 40k, and gives him a cavalry reserve of 4000! What Appian has actually done is raise the Carthaginian army by 10k, thus it is not unlikely he has lowered Romes totals by 10k either.
So, the hard evidence for your numbers is to simply doubt the evidence that we have? There is no reason that Appian has raised the Carthaginian numbers and thus lowered the Roman by the same number. Numbers are a fluid thing in ancient sources as a reading of Livy 29.25.1-4 will easily show. It depends upon the ultimate source(s) used. Deciding that Appian's figure is 10,000 more than the figure you settle on ipso facto means he's reduced Roman numbers by the same amount is no logical method.

On numbers, there are likely 4,000 or more slingers and javelin throwers (equivalent of Roman velites) in Hannibal's front line. Once again, these are not infantry of the line and are not used in hand to hand close order infantry combat. If you take these out what does that leave in terms of close order line infantry? Somewhere between 7,500 - 8,000 tops. What does that say about the hastai opposite them? Livy gives a figure of 6,200 for each of the legions Scipio took from Sicily Their alae will have been the same. Add to that the 6,000 Numidians trained in Roman arms. What does that say about the hastai? What it does not say is that there were 12,000.

If few believe Appians version of the battle, why do they believe his numbers?
I do not know. You're the one basing your ship carrying infantry figures on Appian!
 
#37
So, the hard evidence for your numbers is to simply doubt the evidence that we have? There is no reason that Appian has raised the Carthaginian numbers and thus lowered the Roman by the same number. Numbers are a fluid thing in ancient sources as a reading of Livy 29.25.1-4 will easily show. It depends upon the ultimate source(s) used. Deciding that Appian's figure is 10,000 more than the figure you settle on ipso facto means he's reduced Roman numbers by the same amount is no logical method.

On numbers, there are likely 4,000 or more slingers and javelin throwers (equivalent of Roman velites) in Hannibal's front line. Once again, these are not infantry of the line and are not used in hand to hand close order infantry combat. If you take these out what does that leave in terms of close order line infantry? Somewhere between 7,500 - 8,000 tops. What does that say about the hastai opposite them? Livy gives a figure of 6,200 for each of the legions Scipio took from Sicily Their alae will have been the same. Add to that the 6,000 Numidians trained in Roman arms. What does that say about the hastai? What it does not say is that there were 12,000.



I do not know. You're the one basing your ship carrying infantry figures on Appian!
Appian is dodgy. Concerning his account of Zama, he has Hannibal with a reserve cavalry force of 4000 behind his center, double that of Scipio. I could point out several other differences but this is enough. No one believes the Carthaginians had greater numbers of cavalry than Scipio at Zama. Therefore we can also assume his other numbers are dodgy, such as the increased size of Hannibal's host.

Then there is the account that 400 transports carried 16000 foot and 1600 cavalry to Africa. We know from Polybius that Appian has already left out 6400 velites, from that figure, and it would not be at all unlikely that if he is missing out these 'lesser' soldiers, that he would not include the Ala either. That more than suggests around 44800 foot and 3200 cavalry. Assuming from the anecdote of Scipios trick to gain local Sicilian nobilty kit for 300 Velites, that he was unable to recruit cavalry from Sicily, that gives us a lower amounf of 1800 cavalry, and again around ten legions worth of foot.

Assuming the majority of the Numidian foot are Roman or Roman trained (say 5k of 6k total), that gives us 8k Hastati. Assuming the 4 mercenary contingents are of equal size, and one is equivalent to the Velites, that gives 9k melee troops under Hannibal vs 8k equivalents under Scipio. Again, if the Hastati had been outnumbered, Polybius would have stated so. The fact he doesn't mention Roman numbers at all, more than suggests that Scipio's army was larger.

However, as for using Appians number of 400 transports, he also stated it only required 60 transports to take 10000 infantry and 700 horses to Spain. If correct, 400 transports could take 66666 infantry and 4666 cavalry to a much closer destination. I'm suggesting the much lower figures of 42000 foot and 1800 cavalry are the numbers which are more than implied in the more reliable text. Polybius would have stated Scipios army was smaller, since it would have suited his purpose admirably. He did not.
 
Jul 2017
2,186
Australia
#38
Terrain limited the frontage at Pharsalus, at least on one flank, and GJC did have to thin his ranks to deal with Pompey's frontage. The latter would have caused a lesser general to lose that battle.
Terrain did not limit the frontage at Pharsalus. The plain extended for many miles. Either Caesar, Pompey, or both men initially deployed with their flank on the river, and the deployments and actions developed from there. The plain itself was large enough to accommodate deployment away from the river if need be.

I don't think Caesar "thinning" his ranks is entirely accurate. Pompey didn't deploy any wider than standard, in fact he deployed his cohorts ten deep.
 
Nov 2011
790
The Bluff
#39
No one believes the Carthaginians had greater numbers of cavalry than Scipio at Zama. Therefore we can also assume his other numbers are dodgy, such as the increased size of Hannibal's host.
Which in no way argues for a reduction of 10,000 in the Roman numbers. Appian also gives Scipio "about 23,00 infantry".

Then there is the account that 400 transports carried 16000 foot and 1600 cavalry to Africa. We know from Polybius that Appian has already left out 6400 velites, from that figure, and it would not be at all unlikely that if he is missing out these 'lesser' soldiers, that he would not include the Ala either.[/qoute]

"We" know nothing of the sort; you "know". Suggesting Appian knew so little as to leave out the alae is ludicrous. Appian, like Livy and Polybios, are working from sources, almost all lost to us. These sources all give details, including numbers. It is a matter of choice as Livy (29.25.1-4) makes as plain as the nose on your face (which you ignore to your benefit):

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. [5] 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. [6] 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.
A person minus confirmation bias might note Appian's figures in that lot amongst the others. Note they are not exhaustive. As for Appian's figures, you really can't pick and choose, though you seem wedded to the habit.

The fact he doesn't mention Roman numbers at all, more than suggests that Scipio's army was larger [...] Polybius would have stated Scipios army was smaller, since it would have suited his purpose admirably. He did not.
The argument from silence. Always looks good. Polybios is lacunose in the extreme regarding Scipio's African campaign. Provide some decent evidence, that is something other than speculation or what you "know" Polybios would definitely have stated when he did not.

You have decided this battle did not take the course the sources have told us. On that basis you now replace source evidence with speculation while dismissing what testimony we have on the basis it does not suit your view. I remain wholly unconvinced.
 
#40
Terrain did not limit the frontage at Pharsalus. The plain extended for many miles. Either Caesar, Pompey, or both men initially deployed with their flank on the river, and the deployments and actions developed from there. The plain itself was large enough to accommodate deployment away from the river if need be.

I don't think Caesar "thinning" his ranks is entirely accurate. Pompey didn't deploy any wider than standard, in fact he deployed his cohorts ten deep.
My reply was not exact enough. Apologies for the confusion. I should have said there was only one open flank.

If GJC had the same frontage with fewer men, he would not be able to deploy as deep. He also employed a 4th body of infantry, to ambush the enemy cavalry charge, which would reduce the depth further.