Top 10 Roman Generals (Byzantine allowed)

Oct 2018
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Sydney
You might find Delbruck's section on Magnesia helpful:



Warfare in Antiquity, 398-9.

He has some further analysis on the battle that challenges contemporaries of his time who tried to justify the accounts, I can post if you wish.
Is it therefore the case that Delbruck rejects all instances of elephants disrupting or attempting to disrupt enemy infantry formations from the front as unhistorical? If I recall correctly, Hydaspes, Gaza, Bagradas 255 BC, Metaurus and Zama are all examples. Only one of those efforts proved a success, but if we accept the accounts of these battles as they are, sending elephants against front-line infantry wasn't an unusual move (although I suppose we could say that making such a move after all those failures was an increasingly foolhardy approach). I also question the idea that the elephants couldn't keep up with the phalanx, being the huge (consider their strides) and deceptively quick animals that they are, but maybe that statement of Delbruck's stems from something in the accounts of Magnesia that I haven't noticed.

If I interpreted the final sentence correctly, I also question the suggestion that we should whole-sale reject the battle accounts of Appian. Appian's accounts of Cannae and Zama are obviously not to be trusted, but his account of Magnesia seems to be partly based on that of Livy or a shared source with Livy. In other words, Appian can be useful, but it depends on where he is getting his information. For example, we tend to trust his account of the Third Punic War since it appears to be based on the now-fragmentary account of Polybius.

This said, I agree with Delbruck (and nuclearguy165, earlier in this thread) that the numbers can't be trusted.
 
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Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,680
Australia
Delbruck doesn't agree with the numbers... because he never does, even in cases when the consensus disagrees with him. That's his schtick. Even in academia there are "sides" and idealism and tribalism to some degree. He has carved out his niche as a "minimalist" of sorts as regards the numbers, to the point that you don't need to check what he thinks. It's an easy gig, like being an objectivist or libertarian; who don't need to think about what their position is for 99% of issues, because it is immediately apparent to them.
 
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Sep 2019
212
Vergina
Is it therefore the case that Delbruck rejects all instances of elephants disrupting or attempting to disrupt enemy infantry formations from the front as unhistorical? If I recall correctly, Hydaspes, Gaza, Bagradas 255 BC, Metaurus and Zama are all examples.

If I interpreted the final sentence correctly, I also question the suggestion that we should whole-sale reject the battle accounts of Appian. Appian's accounts of Cannae and Zama are obviously not to be trusted, but his account of Magnesia seems to be partly based on that of Livy or a shared source with Livy. In other words, Appian can be useful, but it depends on where he is getting his information. For example, we tend to trust his account of the Third Punic War since it appears to be based on the now-fragmentary account of Polybius.
We can add Paraitakene and Gabiene to the list.

Both Harl and Taylor note that Appian's account is biased and tries to make Ahenobarbus the hero. They speculate this is due to Ahenobarbus family's importance and the fact that he is an ancestor of Emperor Nero. This likely impacts his account of the events on the Roman left wing.
 
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Oct 2018
2,128
Sydney
Both Harl and Taylor note that Appian's account is biased and tries to make Ahenobarbus the hero. They speculate this is due to Ahenobarbus family's importance and the fact that he is an ancestor of Emperor Nero.
That makes sense. To be clear, I don't doubt that Appian's account contains its biases. I just don't like the suggestion that we reject Appian's account simply because some of his other battle accounts are dodgy, which seemed to be Delbruck's implication.
 
Sep 2019
212
Vergina
Oh true, the elephants played roles both in the centre and on the flanks at Paraitakene. Is Gabiene the same case? I'm mainly aware of the elephants being involved in the cavalry/elephant/light infantry action on Antigonos' right.
Eumenes looks to have had 40 elephants drawn up in front of the phalanx in the center, 40 elephants on the right wing. The left wing numbers are not listed but he had 114 in total so by subtraction that leaves 34 for the left.

In front of the whole phalanx he placed forty elephants filling the spaces between them with light armed soldiers.
(Diodorus, 19.28.)
Along the whole of the wing he drew up forty elephants.
(Diodorus, 19.28)
That makes sense. To be clear, I don't doubt that Appian's account contains its biases. I just don't like the suggestion that we reject Appian's account simply because some of his other battle accounts are dodgy, which seemed to be Delbruck's implication.
Yeah that's fair enough we shouldn't dismiss any source.
 
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Sep 2019
212
Vergina
He has some further analysis on the battle that challenges contemporaries of his time who tried to justify the accounts, I can post if you wish.

according to Florus
I'd be very interested in any more info from Delbruck, if you get a chance. Looking at Florus he does make an interesting statement in his account. The idea that Antiochus had elephants on the wings could help explain his supposed rout the Roman legion and would be in line with Delbruck.
He had also protected both his flanks with elephants of huge size, brilliant with gold, purple and silver and the sheen of their own ivory.
(Florus, 24)
 
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Duke Valentino

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,368
Australia
Is it therefore the case that Delbruck rejects all instances of elephants disrupting or attempting to disrupt enemy infantry formations from the front as unhistorical? If I recall correctly, Hydaspes, Gaza, Bagradas 255 BC, Metaurus and Zama are all examples. Only one of those efforts proved a success, but if we accept the accounts of these battles as they are, sending elephants against front-line infantry wasn't an unusual move (although I suppose we could say that making such a move after all those failures was an increasingly foolhardy approach). I also question the idea that the elephants couldn't keep up with the phalanx, being the huge (consider their strides) and deceptively quick animals that they are, but maybe that statement of Delbruck's stems from something in the accounts of Magnesia that I haven't noticed.

If I interpreted the final sentence correctly, I also question the suggestion that we should whole-sale reject the battle accounts of Appian. Appian's accounts of Cannae and Zama are obviously not to be trusted, but his account of Magnesia seems to be partly based on that of Livy or a shared source with Livy. In other words, Appian can be useful, but it depends on where he is getting his information. For example, we tend to trust his account of the Third Punic War since it appears to be based on the now-fragmentary account of Polybius.

This said, I agree with Delbruck (and nuclearguy165, earlier in this thread) that the numbers can't be trusted.
Delbruck isn’t questioning the existence of elephants, he’s questioning the sources explaining the deployment of the elephants as part of the phalanx line; placed inside the intervals of the phalanx, which would make it extremely easy for the legions to push back the elephants and pour into the gaps, destroying the phalanx. It’s an non realistic deployment.
 

Duke Valentino

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,368
Australia
I'd be very interested in any more info from Delbruck, if you get a chance. Looking at Florus he does make an interesting statement in his account. The idea that Antiochus had elephants on the wings could help explain his supposed rout the Roman legion and would be in line with Delbruck.


Could be possible, but I’m of the opinion that we can’t really reconstruct the battle with any degree of accuracy as a whole.
 
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