The Sword and Shield of Rome

Aug 2009
Fabius was a better general than Hannibal, operationally and strategically. He was the architect of Hannibal's eventual defeat
I'll disagree with this. Fabius was not the better general, had they fought face to face, Fabius was likely to lose, the tactical brilliance of Hannibal was beyond that of any other Roman commander apart from Scipio. However, Fabius was by no means a weak general, even more so, he was unlike his comrades, painfully aware of the strategical situation. His avoiding the confrontation strategy ultimately with hindsight could be seen as a decisive turning point in favour of Rome. To outmanoeuvre an enemy doesn't make one a brilliant commander. The nature of classic warfare was such that it was near impossible to force a battle if one side was unwilling. This makes that the fact that Fabius did not engage Hannibal nor the other way around, not a sign of who was a greater tactician in the field, of which probably Hannibal would be the better, given his other exploits.

Also, define Hannibal's "eventual defeat". Hannibal was finally defeated by Scipio in Africa, despite the fact that Fabius had been one of the opponents of an African invasion. In Italy, I have been of the mind that Hannibal's "eventual defeat" came about when Hasbudral's army was annihilated.
Hmmm. The defeat of Carthage came before that, Hannibal just was very unlucky to not be a Roman, imagine the glory he could have won had he been on that side. But he fought for Carthage (or for the Barcids as some want to believe), a state that was not rigged to war like Rome was. So basically with hindsight you could say Carthage was to lose from the outset, though that might be a longshot. Rome overall did not do well at all, the Scipii in Iberia were very unlucky, losing their lives along the line and strangely enough up to 211 BCE it seemed that Carthage had won the day. Then came Scipio Africanus and all changed in that field. Another milestone in Cannae. It was the victory he could not exploit, that is to say, Rome did not sue for peace - regardless of how close they came, they did ultimately stick to their longstanding attitude and did not do so - and Hannibal could not wrap up the war. The greatest problem was that he now had more supporters then ever, with the Southern cities and cities like Capua running over to his side. Rather then that this helped him it gave him more and more worries. For another decade he would remain unbeated in the field, marching at Rome once more (as a showoff to save Capua, what failed) but it speaks for his military genius that he did not suffer defeat, still trapped as he was in Italy, his foes in general still were reluctant to fight him. But at the same time Rome was slowly defeating all those that had defected, for there was only 1 Hannibal Barca and he was not omnipotent and could not be everywhere at the same time. In the end no reïnforcements could reach his side, and even if they had, they'd still be playing the same game. At Zama Hannibal did not command his own army, but a hastily assembled force he did not know and that did not know him, apart from a core of veterans, who were at the end the last ones standing. I don't speak out for the greatness of either Scipio or Hannibal, I both think them the best commanders of their day, but Hannibal at the end ran out of luck, but more importantly, Hannibal never had Rome to back him, he had Carthage, Scipio had Rome.
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Nov 2009
Hannibal situation might be compared to that of Caesar in Gaul.
Both pretty much were "pro-consuls" in their respective countries.
Both had their bases where they draw their forces from. Caesar had Transpadan and Cisalpin Gaul and Illiricum, Hannibal had Spain.
Nither of them got much support in terms of money and reinforcements from central government. Both acted as warlords.
However, Caesar was able to draw reinforcements from his territories to wage his war in Gaul and he used Gaul as a source of financing for his Gaul conquest.
Hannibal base unfortunately for him lied too far from the theater of operations and Scipios managed to block Hannibal brothers to supply Hannibal with more troops. Hannibal on the other hand failed to build similar base on which to draw in Italy.
Caesar showed himself far better strategist in this situation that Hannibal.
It was already mentioned that Hannibal was not addept in finishing off his enemies which cannot be said about Caesar who knew how to finsh what he started and knew how to use the fruit of victory.
I remember one of Hannibals brothers actually told that Hannibal know how to win but not how to use his victories. Generally, he lost momentum after Cannae and the opporunity to end the war never came again.
Gowever, as tactisian Hannibal was nothing but genius. I put him far ahead of Alexander. Alehander's stratagems was not even 10% of sofistication and cunnig of Hannibal who was obvously a sly dude and Alexander did not face the kind of adversary Hannibl did.
Caesar is of similar tactical talent level as Hannibal but with more talents in other areas and especially as strateg, politic and diplomat. Personal characteristics of Caesar as typical Roman noble also played to his success.
Pirrus while gifted tactician was inept in all other areas.
Scipio is obviously very good. He is however very underrated.
I remember reading Sciio and Hannibal dialog when Hannibal put himself second to Alexander. When asked why, he responded that had he defeated Scipio he would be number one. It says a tonns about Hannibal opinion of his greatest adverary.
Nov 2009
BTW, what people think of Trajan and his general Tiberius and Lucius Quetus as talented commanders. The was with Dacians was pretty much the most ferocious conflict Rome fought after Punic wars and Caesar's conquest of Gaul. Germans were pussies by comparison to Dacians. At time when Dacians challenged Rome, Germans were licking Rome's butt. And dacians pretty much challeneged Rome when Rome was at pinnacle of its power led by the best Emperor Romans ever had. Pretty much, were Trajanus yonger and healthier, Romee would have its territory strethed to India.
Jun 2009
Glorious England
I think the complete annihilation of Dacia as a country shows just how much of a threat they were. The Romans only really did that when they found themselves mortally at odds and in peril.
Nov 2009
I think the complete annihilation of Dacia as a country shows just how much of a threat they were. The Romans only really did that when they found themselves mortally at odds and in peril.

Yes, exactly, Dacians were a huge threat to Roman rule in the whole region and they were located not that far from Italy itself.
We should not forget that Dacians posed threat to Rome already in time of Caesar under Burebista. No wonder Caesar actually was originally planning to go to war against Dacians until Helevii started their move. And later caesar was planning to attack Dacians but unfortunately was murdered. Then after Burebista death, Dacians again becamse temporary weak until Decebalus united them again.
This was the last time Rome actually followed through with their policy of complete annihilation of their enemy. Additionally, Dacians's wealth made that war worth while. Germans on the other hand were not a threat to Rome on the scale of Dacians even in 4-5 th centuries. Not Germans actually were as strong but Rome became simply too weak.
In truth, Germans were never able to finish off Rome. Rome practically destroyed itself. Romans managhed to fight among each other and at the same time to beat off Persians and Germans. It was quite a fit.
Germans' luck was that they were poor and had nothing of value to fuel roman conquest. Unlike modern USA Romans were very practical people who hated to wage wars that brought no wealth. Hence, Germans were generally safe due to their lack of wealth while Romans attacked much more powerful Dacians because it was worth it.
I cannot find any resources detailing those 2 Dacian wars in real detail like Caesar wars in Gaul.
So, I wonder, what people think of Trajanus and his generals. Of their talent level? That was a very tough campain aganst enemies that had excellent cavalry and draw on Sarmates as axiliary forces.
Apr 2010
I think the young commander Lucius Marcius is overlooked too. He rallied the defeated remnants of the Scipios armies after their deaths, defended against a determined Carthaginian attack against their camp, and then went on, with a very small force in a daring night assault, to capture two Carthaginian camps (using similar tactics to what Scipio would later use against the camps in Africa) that had been involved in the destruction of the Roman armies, killing, according to Livy, 37,000 men, 1830 captured, then continued to harass the enemy with ambushes and even a battle, with a further 17,000 killed in these engagements. The numbers may well be exaggerated, but it is clear to me he played a vital role in keeping the Carthaginians in Spain before Scipio Africanus arrived to take over. He may well have won the war right there...
Dec 2009
Fabius ... was the architect of Hannibal's eventual defeat
Must entirely agree; Carthage and Hannibal had been utterly defeated long before Zama, basically without the latter having lost any major battle.

The Fabian strategy has been simply utterly underrated, mainly because wisely avoiding any direct open confrontation with a militarily superior enemy seems to the laymen dangerously borderline with cowardice; therefore, it has hardly sold any epics now or ever.
Aug 2017
Historian Ricky D Phillips, the quest for the truth behind this lost battle didn’t end with the discovery of the battlefield itself. There was a great deal of evidence, legend, and mythology still to debunk if centuries of history were to be rewritten; chief amongst which was the myth of the “Espada de Anibal” the magical sword said to have once been the property of Hannibal Barca himself.
Hannibals Magical Lost Sword
Jan 2015
My own Top 5 list runs:

1: Julius Caesar

2: Gaius Marius

3: Scipio Africanus

4: Pompey the Great

5: Cornelius Sulla/Lucius Licinius Lucullus (I consider Lucullus to have been the better tactician, but Sulla was the better leader).

Below them come Fabius and Marcellus.
This is a terrible list. Go read the Phillip II mega thread (even the last few pages, just to see an unordered list of numerous great Roman generals).

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