Size of Hannibal's Army Ebro-Po

Sep 2019
121
Vergina
Size of Hannibal's Army and Losses In Alps Crossing

I have been looking into the size of Hannibal's Army during his march from the Ebro River to the Po Valley. Below is what I have come up with:

Ebro River: 90,000 Infantry and 12,000 cavalry (Polybius-Livy)

Ebro to Rhone: Conquerered Iberian tribes north of the Ebro, detached Hanno to secure gains with 10,000 Infantry and 1,000 Cavalry (Polybius-Livy), sent 10,000 unreliable men home (Polybius-Livy), crossed the Pyrenees, lost 36,000 men in total during this period (Lucius Cincius Alimentus)

At the Rhone: 50,000 Infantry and 9,000 cavalry (Polybius)

Crossing Alps: Lost roughly 1/2 of his army (Polybius)

Arrival in Po Valley: 20,000 Iberian/African Infantry and 6,000 cavalry (Polybius), 80,000 Infantry and 10,000 cavalry (Lucius Cincius Alimentus, Includes Po Valley Gauls)

What do you all make of the above figures? Could Hannibal have realistically field 102,000 men at the Ebro? If so where did all of these men by the time he reached the Rhone? Do you think he really lost 23,000 men crossing the Alps? Do any modern historians present any alternative numbers?

Inviting @Duke Valentino and @Lord Oda Nobunaga
I recently came upon a previous thread where you two discussed Alexander/Persian numbers and hope you may be able to provide some insight.
 
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Oct 2015
949
Virginia
In vol VIII of the old (1954) edition of the Cambridge Ancient History, B L Hallward says:

"Polybius says the forces with which Hannibal set out from Nova Carthago amounted to 90,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry, and that he left Spain with 50,000 foot and 9,000 horse. Neither of these statements is free from exaggeration."
A note says: "He (Hannibal) is represented as losing 33,000 out of 59,000 between the Pyrenees and Italy: these figures have not apparently the authority of Lacinian inscription behind them and may be regarded as reached by adding computed losses to the well-attested 26,000 men with whom Hannibal entered Italy. The losses and therefore the original numbers of the army are exaggerated by Polybius or his source."

In vol VIII of the "new" edition of the CAH (1989) H H Scullard says:

"The army figures, though seen by Polybius himself on the inscription left by Hannibal on the Lacinian Cape, may be slightly exaggerated..."

The numbers of troops Polybius says were sent to Africa, left in Spain, and the number that arrived in Italy are probably as accurate as possible in any primary source, and probably were seen by Polybius on the monument Hannibal left on the Lacinian Promontory (Livy took his account mostly from Polybius). 102,000 men plus animals would be awfully hard to feed in Aragon prior to railroads and steam ships.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,049
100 000+ is a no go

Anything between 30 000 and 50 000 seems about right for the period, considering logistics....

Even during Napoleon's wars, quite a lot of men were lost in marches due to desertion and diseases etc (often times more so than in pitched battles)..... So in Hannibal's case it would then be a matter of how many could be recruited locally to replace these + battle losses
 
Nov 2018
186
Wales
100 000+ is a no go

Anything between 30 000 and 50 000 seems about right for the period, considering logistics....

Even during Napoleon's wars, quite a lot of men were lost in marches due to desertion and diseases etc (often times more so than in pitched battles)..... So in Hannibal's case it would then be a matter of how many could be recruited locally to replace these + battle losses
Agreed.

50k is usually an absolute max, unless it can be supplied by sea. Battles such as Thermopylae and Gaugamela are exceptions.
 
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Sep 2019
121
Vergina
Next thoughts: Does anyone believe the Roman's 86,000 men at Cannae is an exaggeration? Does Rome's large manpower pool and its local logistical base make it more feasible for them to raise this size army than Carthage? Could Hannibal in turn have potentially fielded something in the 80,000's on the Ebro using his Spanish support base?
 
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Oct 2018
1,833
Sydney
Does anyone believe the Roman's 86,000 men at Cannae is an exaggeration?
I do not have a strong opinion on this topic, but I regardless think it useful to quote Lazenby (1978, Hannibal's War, 75-76), who argues in favour of accepting Polybius' figures for the Roman army's size at Cannae:

'But the most important question concerns the number of legions Varro and Aemilius Paullus eventually had at Cannae. Polybius states quite unequivocally (3.107.9) that it was decided "to maintain the struggle with eight legions, a thing which had never happened among the Romans before, each of the legions having up to 5000 men, apart from the allies," and this, if true, means that it was decided to raise four new legions, each of 5000 men, and to bring the existing four under Servilius and Atilius up to the same strength. He also believed that an equal number of allied infantry was levied, and consistently with this says that the Romans had 80,000 infantry at Cannae (3.113.5). These figures have been doubted, because Livy (22.36.1-4), although he reports this tradition, also records a variant one - that only 10,000 fresh troops were raised - and it is argued that the smaller is to be preferred a priori, and that Hannibal's tactics at Cannae are unintelligible if he was really outnumbered by nearly 2:1 in infantry. But the a priori argument is not necessarily to be accepted - it is very difficult, for example, to accept the lowest of the three estimates Livy gives (29.25.1-4) for the army Scipio took to Africa in 204, and some scholars would accept the highest. But a more serious objection to accepting the tradition that only 10,000 fresh troops were raised for the Cannae campaign, is that this would have only given the Romans a slight numerical advantage, even if the four existing legions under Servilius and Atilius were strengthened to 5000 men, and that as many allied soldiers were levied as Roman. For even if we accept that all the 10,000 were citizen soldiers, that would still only have meant 30,000 citizen troops in all, with 30,000 allied infantry in addition. But Hannibal had 40,000 infantry (3.114.5), and some of the Roman infantry were bound to be left to guard the camp on any day of battle - Polybius indeed believed that 10,000 were left to guard the larger of the two camps, and Appian (Hannibalic War 4.26) mentions 5000 in the smaller, for what it is worth. Thus Varro and Paullus, we are being asked to believe, were left to face Hannibal's 40,000 infantry with possibly as few as 45,000 of their own, while their 6000 cavalry (3.113.5) were actually outnumbered by Hannibal's 10,000 (3.114.5). If this was the case, the Romans had certainly learnt nothing from the Trebbia, for there they had tried to fight Hannibal with a slight numerical superiority in infantry, and with fewer cavalry, and they had lost. Moreover, it might be argued that Hannibal's tactics, far from being unintelligible if he were really outnumbered by something like 2:1 in infantry, would be unintelligible if his infantry on the field was nearly as numerous as the enemy's.

Finally, it is perhaps significant that Livy's circumstantial account of the Roman losses at Cannae, and of those taken prisoner or who escaped, presupposes the higher number: in particular, if twenty-nine military tribunes were really killed (22.49.16), there must have been at least five legions present, since there were only six such officers to a legion. In other words, Livy's figures for the Romans killed, and for those who survived whether as prisoners or fugitives, support Polybius' figures for the size of the Roman army, and it cannot be too strongly stressed that Polybius is quite emphatic about his figures, though he obviously realised that they were unusually high.'
 
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Oct 2015
949
Virginia
Next thoughts: Does anyone believe the Roman's 86,000 men at Cannae is an exaggeration? Does Rome's large manpower pool and its local logistical base make it more feasible for them to raise this size army than Carthage? Could Hannibal in turn have potentially fielded something in the 80,000's on the Ebro using his Spanish support base?
I for one (for what it's worth) as I've opined in earlier posts.
Many modern writers (Toynbee, Walbank, Lazenby, Connoly) accept Polybius (III, 107).
But it seems to me that P A Brunt ("Italian Manpower"), Hallward (CAH I, vol VIII), and DeSanctis ("Storia dei Romani") et al are right in preferring Livy's unnamed alternate sources (XXII, 36) which says the four consular legions (plus allies) were reinforced by a draft of 10,000 additional men to a total strength of 48-50,000.
Rome's vast manpower pool made an army of 87,000 possible (in 211 - 212 there were 25 legions in the field) but tradition (no army larger than two consular armies combined - 4 legions plus allies - had ever operated as a unit), and particularly logistics and command and control difficulties would outweigh any advantage of mere numbers. (At least in my humble opinion-many will disagree). Despite Lazenby and Connoly et al there are a number of literary and practical reasons to question Polybius' numbers, and it is still hard to see how even Hannibal could annihilate an army twice the size of his own-but who knows? (one poster suggested the analog of "the Battle of the Bastards" in "Game of Thrones").

Is it possible Polybius' 102,000 represented some estimate of the total military potential of Punic Spain?
 
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Sep 2019
121
Vergina
Interesting opinions by Richard A. Gabriel

Gabriel discounts Polybius' 102,000 men due to logistical constraints estimating Hannibal's army at "40,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry, a much more manageable size in terms of logistics and speed of march." He gets to this rough assessment by taking Hannibal's 221 BCE numbers of 60,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry then subtracting for losses in Siege of Saguntum and the 12,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry detached to Hasdrubal. Gabriel makes a further argument regarding Hanno's detached force. He questions that Hannibal, with this reduced number, could have left Hanno behind with that many men in strategically irrelevant position, "if, as has been suggested, Hannibal only had some 40,000 troops, he could hardly have afforded to leave 10,000 of them behind with Hanno."

Richard A. Gabriel (2011, Hannibal, 103-106)
 
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