Was Hannibal the greatest battlefield general of antiquity?

Jul 2017
2,143
Australia
Not the part on Antiochus but the part on Hannibal. Why is Hannibal only confident handling Carthaginian forces or mercenary forces?
I meant that Hannibal probably wasn't interested in fighting under anybody other than Carthage. At this point, Carthage was beyond hope of repair essentially.

Overrated general. Not as good of a jack of all trade as Napoleon. The best generals who lost would be German generals (like Manstein or von Leutterbeck), not Hannibal.

Hannibal does deserve points for his ambushes (even those in which he had numerical superiority, as it's often a good idea to bring plenty of troops to an ambush, or lure the enemy in to such an ambush), but Hannibal was a one trick pony (tactics, and even there he failed at Zama.) Wasted far too much time at Nola (even if his "defeat" there was exaggerrated by Roman propaganda). It's odd that he expected Romans to give in considering that's not how the first punic war worked........he should have just found a way to avoid the war.

This was not a general seriously in the same league as Genghis Khan, Walid, Tamerlane, or even Caesar. Not sure why he is so "evidently" considered to be such.
How was Hannibal in any way a one trick pony? Perhaps you could explain how a general who only has tactics was able to sustain himself in Italy for years with a mercenary army and no help from Carthage itself?
 
Likes: benzev
Feb 2011
859
Scotland
Interesting topic- and as always, comes down to how you define 'greatest'.

Greatest battlefield victories? The power of the opposition? Execution of battlefield manouevres? Use of ambush? Length of career?

It comes down to the criteria employed, but on any of these bases Hannibal has to be considered up there with the best of them. Inflicting two of the most devastating defeats in Roman History at Trasimene and Cannae, drastically wearing down Roman confidence and capacity, maintaining himself effectively unbeaten in hostile territory for 15 years or so with little further support from home represents a massive achievement- albeit as it proved, transitory in the context of the war. Of course unlike Alexander, Hannibal's efforts proved to be in vain and his country lost.

Adrian Goldsworthy's 'Fall of Carthage' contains an excellent analysis of the warmaking cultures of the two powers. As in Spartan's excellent comment, Carthaginian commanders enjoyed much longer periods of command to knit their heterogenous armies together (and the possibility of the most ghastly punishment upon failure) - but Goldsworthy notes that despite this, with the exception of Hannibal, Carthaginian copmmanders were not notably more effective or successful than their Roman counterparts in any of the Punic Wars.

Indeed, Goldsworthy is of the view that Hannibal's army was by far the finest - in terms of experience, working together and morale- which Carthage ever possessed, under her finest-ever commander. With Roman armies early in the war consisting proncipally of green and inexperienced troops operating in rigid and clumsy formations, Hannibal held great advantages. As the war progressed, Roman armies became more able, experienced and capable of more complex battlefield actions and the gulf narrowed.

I think there is some question about Hannibal's dispositions at Zama. They were certainly solid, competent and workmanlike, but did they really bear the hallmarks of brilliant improvisation? Of course, the army was a hybrid of Hannibal's veterans brought back from Italy and emergency requisitions of less experienced forces more locally. It was not necessarily command-integrated by this time.

We don't know exactly how strong the Roman forces were, though they were certainly highly trained and experienced, almost unprecedentedly so for Roman Republican forces. Goldsworthy leans towards both armies totaling around 30,000 men, which he feels accounts for the willingness by both sides to engage in battle- on the part of the Romans, once they had linked up with Masinissa's Numidians and achieved a cavalry superiority.

Hannibal's infantry dispositions make sense, even to a non-soldier like me. Veteran troops in the last line a la Triarii, allowing Roman troops to become tired and disorganised before engaging them.

But why did Hannibal dispose his cavalry equally? He held one advantage; he alone had a sizeable elephant corps. Why did he dispose them as he did?
In my opinion (and it is no more) Hannibal, inexperienced in use of elephants, was influenced by advisors referring to the outcome of the battle of Tunis in 255BCE.
Carthage won only two MAJOR battles in the First Punic War- Drepana at sea in 249 and Tunis, where Regulus' force was almost destroyed. There must have been a good number of veterans still available who had taken part and could testify to the vital role the elephants played in winning that battle. Goldsworthy explains that for about 5 years afterwards, Roman forces suffered from an 'elephant psychosis' where their soldiers sought to avoid combat once the Carthaginians transferred these elephants to Sicily. Eventually, a fortuitous victory restored Roman morale and confidence in dealing with the beasts. Hannibal must also have been aware of the initial impact of Pyrrhus ' elephants (Rome and carthage were allies fighting against him). Consequently he deployed his elephants to attack the Roman infantry. Even if the attack failed, it would hopefully demoralise and disorganise the Romans.

But the Romans eventually adapted to deal with Pyrrhus' elephants. Scipio, no doubt also aware of Tunis in 255 and with forces likewise unused to facing elephants, anticipated their deployment and did his homework on how to deal with them. In the event, their repulse also resulted in the disorganisation of some his own forces..

Was there an alternative for Hannibal re his elephants and cavalry?
I believe so. 100 years earlier, a great battle was fought at Ipsus by Alexander's diadochi. Seleucus held a large elephant reserve, which he used to prevent Demetrius victorious flank cavalry from coming to the assistance of his father's hard-pressed infantry, thereby winning the battle. Cavalry instinctively tried to avoid elephants, unless trained otherwise.

Could Hannibal have done something similar?

He might have tried deploying his 80-100 partially-trained elephants to one flank to deter the Roman cavalry on one flank, then concentrated his own cavalry to be able to effectively oppose or overcome their opponents on the other flank.The battle would potentially have been somewhat different. Any thoughts on that?
 
Feb 2011
859
Scotland
I meant that Hannibal probably wasn't interested in fighting under anybody other than Carthage. At this point, Carthage was beyond hope of repair essentially.
Interesting! Of course, I suppose that depends upon whether you go with the 'sworn enemy of Rome as a child' view, which makes it look like another attempt to get at the Romans. As I understand it, Carthage was flourishing economically at the time, but as a forced ally of Rome, pressure was applied to force Hannibal out. But Hannibal's refuge with Antiochus might just as easily have been a mutual bluff- Hannibal taking refuge with a powerful state and his presence deterring possible attackers.

If that was the intention, the bluff failed to stop the Romans. Antiochus had a choice- employ Hannibal as a first line general, perhaps advising him directly in command of the Royal army, as P Scipio was to aid L Scipio- and face the full roman onslaught which would then probably not cease till it had dethroned him.
Or, shunt Hannibal to a near-harmless position- and win or lose, have the Romans willing to do a deal with him. Having lost, he then tipped Hannibal the wink and Hannibal got clear.
 
Jul 2017
2,143
Australia
Interesting topic- and as always, comes down to how you define 'greatest'.

Greatest battlefield victories? The power of the opposition? Execution of battlefield manouevres? Use of ambush? Length of career?

It comes down to the criteria employed, but on any of these bases Hannibal has to be considered up there with the best of them. Inflicting two of the most devastating defeats in Roman History at Trasimene and Cannae, drastically wearing down Roman confidence and capacity, maintaining himself effectively unbeaten in hostile territory for 15 years or so with little further support from home represents a massive achievement- albeit as it proved, transitory in the context of the war. Of course unlike Alexander, Hannibal's efforts proved to be in vain and his country lost.

Adrian Goldsworthy's 'Fall of Carthage' contains an excellent analysis of the warmaking cultures of the two powers. As in Spartan's excellent comment, Carthaginian commanders enjoyed much longer periods of command to knit their heterogenous armies together (and the possibility of the most ghastly punishment upon failure) - but Goldsworthy notes that despite this, with the exception of Hannibal, Carthaginian copmmanders were not notably more effective or successful than their Roman counterparts in any of the Punic Wars.

Indeed, Goldsworthy is of the view that Hannibal's army was by far the finest - in terms of experience, working together and morale- which Carthage ever possessed, under her finest-ever commander. With Roman armies early in the war consisting proncipally of green and inexperienced troops operating in rigid and clumsy formations, Hannibal held great advantages. As the war progressed, Roman armies became more able, experienced and capable of more complex battlefield actions and the gulf narrowed.
Adrian Goldsworthy is sort of treated at this forum as the ultimate source for the Punic Wars, which I don't like. I have the book The Fall of Carthage, and he is definitely prone to making mistakes in his analysis. Moreover, it's not as if Goldsworthy was the first to write about this sort of stuff, plenty of other historians have basically written the same thing he did decades beforehand. Even a hundred years ago, Hans Delbruck wrote the same stuff that you've pointed out, such as the fact that the Carthaginian generals had longer commands, Hannibal's army was the finest in the war, the early disadvantages Rome had in terms of the inexperience of the consuls and the rawness of the levies etc.

Ah, finally, someone has cracked open Zama. I've been wanting to address this for some time. Goldsworthy's analysis of this battle is severely lacking; I'd go as far as to deem it "basic". It doesn't really deconstruct the battle, rather it appears to just retell the events from the sources in a more streamlined way for the readers, similar to Goldsworthy's Caesar, Caesar's Civil War and Cannae. To this end, I would be careful in using Goldsworthy as an authority in the context of analysing the campaign and battle. It will take more than that to get to the heart of the problem, in my opinion.

You are indeed correct in thinking that the real question of the battle is the deployment of the armies, or more specifically, Hannibal's. Once Hannibal's deployment is explained, so is the battle, I have found. In fact, I think that Hannibal's deployment demonstrates Hannibal's genius almost as much as Cannae did, an opinion that is completely out of place with most people in terms of their interpretation of the battle. So, in answer to your question as to whether Hannibal's deployment "bear the hallmarks of brilliant improvisation" ? No, Hannibal didn't "improvise" anything, just as Scipio did not either. Scipio's plan, as far as we can tell, was a simple yet effective one of allowing his stronger cavalry to rout Hannibal's, allowing them to fall on the rear of the Carthaginian line. Hannibal was surely aware of the general details of Scipio's plan, which were obvious. The Carthaginians were somewhat stronger infantry-wise, and had some elephants, the Romans had a clear and utter cavalry advantage.

As you've hinted at, it's specifically the deployment of the elephants that has confused many and provides insight into Hannibal's strategy. I would first counter your claim that Hannibal was "inexperienced" in the use of elephants. His father, Hamilcar, campaigned regularly with elephants and used them in battles, as did Hannibal. Hannibal crossed the alps with elephants, he used them on the Trebbia. In short, the Barca's understood the capabilities of elephants from a tactical perspective, and had campaign's worth of experience with them. Moreover, Hannibal had clearly studied the campaigns of Alexander, the successors [Ipsus comes to mind] and Pyrrhos. Hannibal therefore had both a deep theoretical and practical knowledge of the use of elephants. We cannot, therefore, attempt to explain the deployment of the elephants as the result of a lack of understanding of how they can be used.

It's entirely probable that the figure of 80 elephants is an exaggeration from our Roman sources, in fact, it seems like a gross exaggeration. We can hardly imagine that Carthage had such a supply of elephants trained and available. We could ask why Syphax and Hasdrubal didn't use such elephants in their armies against Scipio if they were available. Veith estimates something like 15-20 elephants. I would concur that this is probably a more realistic estimate. At the Trebia, Hannibal had 30-40 elephants, Hamilcar Barca was supposed to have had 70 elephants in the Mercenary War, Xanthippus 100 at Bagradas, but we can hardly imagine that the war ravaged Carthage was capable of producing for Hannibal 80 war elephants. More than likely, since we are dealing with Roman sources for details of the battle, they've exaggerated Hannibal's elephant force substantially. Furthermore, how are we to believe that Hannibal could only find some 2,000-3,000 cavalry, but was capable of finding 80 war elephants?

So what then was Hannibal's plan? The advantage the Carthaginians had at the start of the war - the tactical one - had been ruled out over time. Hannibal could not expect Scipio's infantry to remain static, as did the legions of decades past, and he couldn't expect to bring about a decision with the cavalry, in which he was thoroughly outclassed. Unfortunately, these two factors were typically those that Hannibal had in superiority: the ability to maneuver his infantry around the static Roman line, and a superiority in cavalry with an officer corps trained in the school of Hamilcar. Now, the situation had been ironically reversed; in that Hannibal had an advantage in infantry, if only nothing more than a moderate one. Hannibal's plan, then, would naturally have to rely on his advantage, if only slight, in infantry.
 
Jul 2017
2,143
Australia
Horses are scared of elephants, and it must be asked why Hannibal did not deploy his elephants on the flanks in an attempt to stave off the enemy superiority in horsemen. Hannibal didn't perform this somewhat obvious deployment, another hint indicating that he didn't really have so many elephants; at least not enough to effectively deploy them on the flanks to any real effect. Delbruck notes, "at any rate it was too small for Hannibal to have based his hopes on them." (Warfare in Antiquity, 371) We know that Hannibal deployed his elephants on the flanks at the Trebia, and his father did the same at the Bagradas river. We can assume that a master like Hannibal was more than capable of handling the deployment of his army, and the deployment itself indicates what we have already suspected: he only had few elephants. Furthermore, we can hardly expect his own recently recruited cavalry force to react well to the elephants either. Now, there was another battle where the Carthaginians used elephants, but on the front lines, and this was at Bagradas river, by the Spartan mercenary Xanthippus. I would argue that Hannibal probably got the inspiration for his elephant deployment from that battle, but he intended to use them for an entirely different purpose. At Bagradas, the Romans were unused to the sight and attack of the elephants, and they were therefore utilised for the surprise factor. Scipio's infantry were veterans and professionals, and a head-on attack with a small elephant force wasn't going to make any noticeable impact on the Roman line. We can therefore discard the idea that Hannibal wanted to disrupt the Roman infantry to give his own an advantage in the upcoming battle.

What Hannibal could count on was that Scipio's cavalry officers were not nearly as well trained as his were at Cannae. It was particularly difficult to restrain a cavalry force consisting of thousands of men and animals after a successful flank attack,

We have already become familiar with the number of battles in which a cavalry wing, even under the personal command of the supreme commander, was victorious, but where the conquering cavalry, instead of then attacking the enemy infantry, charged off in pursuit of the defeated enemy cavalry and in doing so nullified their success insofar as the overall outcome of the battle was concerned. That is what happened at Ipsus under Demetrius, at Raphia under Antiochus, at Mantinea under Machanidas; and so it continued in later centuries, for example even with the Austrian cavalry at Mollwitz. To reassemble brave cavalrymen calls for a state of military training that is not easily reached and certainly not accomplished overnight. Consequently, the victory at Cannae was not only a function of numerical superiority but also of the trained officer corps of Hamilcar Barca, which was able to keep the troops under control even in the midst of battle. The Numidians whom Masinissa brought over to Scipio came directly out of the Atlas Mountains and from the oases.

Delbruck, Warfare in Antiquity, 371.

This is where the master's plan becomes so plainly genius. Hannibal would need to prevent the enemy cavalry from interrupting the infantry battle, where he had the advantage. To this end, he instructed his cavalry to both fight the enemy, but also attempt to draw them away from the battlefield. If the enemy attempted to halt, reform and head back, his own cavalry would in turn attempt to reform and take them in the rear. But in order for this to be properly accomplished, timing was extremely crucial. Unlike at Cannae, where Hannibal pushed his infantry forward to engage the Roman infantry and prevent them from retreating once they lost the cavalry battle; here he needed to delay the infantry engagement long enough so that the enemy cavalry were drawn away. To this end, Hannibal thought to deploy his small elephant force in the first line with his skirmishers. They were to charge and occupy the Roman line for as long as possible, so that Hannibal could himself gain control of the infantry engagement. Now, Hannibal's infantry were drawn up in two lines, in my belief. I believe the first line of Ligurians, Gauls and Baeleric slingers were the actual skirmisher line, and similarly Scipio had placed the principes and triarii in the same line, so that both armies had two lines. If Hannibal's plan had failed, and the enemy cavalry, instead of being drawn in, reformed and prepared to attack his rear, he could use his second line of veterans to form a rearguard from which his army could withdraw whilst the elephants prevented the Roman infantry from advancing. We can presume that Hannibal had a fortified camp nearby that he would be able to withdraw to and safely encamp his army should this series of events happen.

At Cannae, Hannibal controlled the flow of battle by hastening the infantry engagement intentionally, and at Zama when he had the infantry, not cavalry, advantage, he intentionally prolonged the space before the infantry engagement by mixing the skirmisher line with elephants to occupy the Roman infantry line. As Delbruck wrote, "The overture had corresponded to the master's concept. The cavalry on both sides were off and away, while the combat of the sharpshooters and the elephants was taking place. The phalanxes moved forward, and around their flanks or through their intervals the outposts drew back." (372)

Some quick points need to be addressed before we can continue with the infantry engagement. First is the supposed "lanes" that Scipio created to receive Hannibal's elephants. We have already assumed with good enough reason that the figure of 80 elephants is a gross exaggeration, and it was probably more likely in the figure of 15-20, certainly not more than half of 80. How could we then suppose that Scipio made such a major modification to the approach march for such a small corps of elephants? Considering that Scipio's men were far more disciplined than the legions of the past decades, and more than capable of standing up to elephants. Elephants have never done well against a well formed infantry line. There are more reasons why this formation is a fantasy. One could easily counter that Scipio observed the elephants in the deployment phase, being formed up first (naturally) and that he made quick modifications to his own deployment. As Delbruck has stressed,

I cannot attribute to Hannibal such a lack of caution. If he intended to do something unusual, it was clear that, if done with surprise, it would be doubly effective. Hannibal would therefore have had to order that the elephants be drawn up at first in the usual way with the cavalry and that they trot out in front of the infantry only at the last moment; it was a question, after all, of only a few hundred paces to be covered. If the whole structure does not already reveal it, certainly this consideration would clearly prove that the entire elephant story, with the prearranged lanes in the Roman battle formation for them to run through—lanes that the elephants also used in a most obliging way—is a myth.

Delbruck, 388.
 
Jul 2017
2,143
Australia
It's claimed that the so called lane formation had velites drawn up in the intervals. It would have taken a very high level of training in order for such a formation to make an orderly approach without intervals in the line. That's the whole point of intervals - to make an orderly approach march. Even the highly-drilled Macedonian phalangites would fill up the intervals just before the point of contact in order to maintain cohesion, as did any drilled army. The Roman legion was considered an improvement over the Greek phalanx because the intervals created the possibility of an easy approach march with minimal drill.

if there was an appreciable interval between waves, the aligning of the maniples one behind the other no longer served any purpose. Even assuming that the elephants would have done the Romans the favor of always running straight into the intervals, they were still not bound to a straight line and would also have found the openings in the second echelon if they were a few paces—it was not a question of any greater distance—to the right or the left. It is clear that, into the both correct and important historical recollection of the innovation of the interval between echelons, which was of little interest to the minstrel Ennius, there had been blended images from the combat of the elephants, images which he had conjured up in keeping with the free laws of poetic tactics.

Delbruck, 377.

The stuff about the Carthaginians fighting each other are fables and not accurate. Hannibal moved his first echelon to attack the hastati, and then maneuvered his second line onto both flanks to surround the Roman army. Scipio responded by doing the exact same with the principes and triarii. Supposedly Hannibal was on the verge of winning the battle when the enemy horse returned. Regardless, I don't see what Hannibal necessarily did wrong. We can't expect him to try and execute fancy infantry maneuvers. Take for example if he attempted to draw up the Carthaginian citizens in the center, and his veterans on the flanks, and then held back his center. Scipio would be more than capable of realising and preventing this maneuver from succeeding with his own maneuver. Hannibal would have been familiar with the results of the battle of the Great Plains, and of Scipio's capability of extending his infantry line. He therefore attempted to match that with his own, trusting in his overall numerical superiority and old guard veterans to eventually get the better of the numerically inferior Romans before the Roman cavalry returned. In this case, I do not believe that Hannibal actually necessarily intended to flank Scipio, rather he knew Scipio would be forced to do the same. Hannibal would then have drawn out all of Scipio's reserves, and forced him to fight a traditional phalanx battle with one line at a disadvantage to himself. It must be asked why Hannibal didn't place his elephant corps in a reserve behind his line as happened at Ipsus. For one, the elephant reserve at Ipsus was substantially larger than what he himself had available, and secondly the training of Scipio's cavalry would make it unlikely that they'd reform instead of pursuing his own fleeing cavalry. In order for Hannibal to create a situation where his infantry could launch against Scipio's without interruption, he'd need to remove the Roman cavalry from the picture completely. An elephant reserve would only occupy the Roman cavalry for a limited time, the Numidians were probably more than capable of eventually disposing of a small elephant force with their javelins, and their horses may well have been more likely to be accustomed to the elephants themselves. The sight and noise of elephants and cavalry in the rear would have made the Carthaginian infantry nervous, and surely would have affected their morale.

Overall, the master had executed a very intricate plan. He ingeniously mixed his small elephant force with his skirmishers, who were to disrupt and occupy the Roman infantry for as long as possible. If the enemy cavalry routed his own cavalry and prepared to strike his rear, Hannibal would organise a rearguard defense with his veterans while he retreated his army back to their fortified camp, the Romans infantry being unable to follow as the elephants occupied their line. But as he predicted, and hoped, the enemy cavalry, not as highly trained like his own cavalry had been at Cannae, pursued his fleeing cavalry, and were removed from the battlefield. Hannibal then moved forward, and eventually maneuvered his veterans onto the flanks, where Scipio had deployed his own triarii and principes, turning it into a simple phalanx battle where Hannibal had the advantage of his fresh Old Guard. On the verge of winning, of perhaps with just a noticeable advantage, the Roman cavalry returned and settled the issue with a rear attack.
 
Nov 2011
761
The Bluff
Perhaps it might be best to read the source material and then sort out how the battle went rather than simply consult the University of Delbruck? Polybios is clear that the Roman lines were drawn up with the regular intervals but with maniples directly behind each other. The velites were in the gaps between the maniples of the hastai. I fail to see what is so difficult about this? Nor does Polybios say that the elephants all obliged by running down the lanes. That is Delbruck's error. You also imply that the Macedonian phalanx advanced with intervals between units. What evidence have you for that? While we're on it, what is your evidence for the Carthaginian elephant numbers being a "gross exaggeration"?
 
Jul 2017
2,143
Australia
Perhaps it might be best to read the source material and then sort out how the battle went rather than simply consult the University of Delbruck? Polybios is clear that the Roman lines were drawn up with the regular intervals but with maniples directly behind each other. The velites were in the gaps between the maniples of the hastai. I fail to see what is so difficult about this? Nor does Polybios say that the elephants all obliged by running down the lanes. That is Delbruck's error. You also imply that the Macedonian phalanx advanced with intervals between units. What evidence have you for that? While we're on it, what is your evidence for the Carthaginian elephant numbers being a "gross exaggeration"?
- I am familiar with the source material, I just prefer Delbruck's analysis, and attempting to write what I did citing exclusively from the sources would have taken too much time in terms of citations and such.

- Not sure what you mean here? I am aware that the maniples of each line were deployed behind each other, and that the intervals between the actual maniples remained. They are said to be filled with velites, to which I was referring.

- Polybios does not tell us that, Delbruck is merely questioning the deployment of the maniples as if the elephants would run through the "lanes" - which was the supposed point of the lanes in the first place.

- You mistook my implication.

- I don't have "source" evidence that the elephant force wasn't 80, I'm merely arguing that I personally don't think it was that high.

On the topic of the elephants, and what Hannibal used them for (which was the main point of my discussion), I just can't reconcile the sources. We're told by both Polybios and Livius that Hannibal intended to throw the enemy infantry into confusion with a frontal attack with the elephants. There's not many instances where elephants penetrated closed infantry frontally, and if then only against infantry not familiar with the animals themselves. Hannibal would have known that Scipio's men were highly drilled, and no doubt were more than capable of standing up to a frontal assault by an elephant force. We're also supposed to believe that Hannibal telegraphed this attack for Scipio to make the appropriate adjustments to his deployment to receive the animals. Even if he had, he would have seen the deliberate deployment of the Roman force and decided to move the elephants off to the wings. It just doesn't make sense that Hannibal gave Scipio the chance to form a counter for the elephant attack, and that Hannibal decided to attack that specific deployment despite what would seem as an obvious countermeasure.
 
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Likes: Spartan JKM
Nov 2011
761
The Bluff
- I am familiar with the source material, I just prefer Delbruck's analysis, and attempting to write what I did citing exclusively from the sources would have taken too much time in terms of citations and such.

- Not sure what you mean here? I am aware that the maniples of each line were deployed behind each other, and that the intervals between the actual maniples remained. They are said to be filled with velites, to which I was referring.

- Polybios does not tell us that, Delbruck is merely questioning the deployment of the maniples as if the elephants would run through the "lanes" - which was the supposed point of the lanes in the first place.

- You mistook my implication.

- I don't have "source" evidence that the elephant force wasn't 80, I'm merely arguing that I personally don't think it was that high.
- The front line - the hastai - had velites between each maniple. What is difficult to believe about this?

- Polybios says some elephants went down the lanes and other off to the side under the assault of the lights. What is difficult to believe about that?

-
Even the highly-drilled Macedonian phalangites would fill up the intervals just before the point of contact in order to maintain cohesion,
So what were these "intervals" in a Macedonian line that the phalangites filled up before contact?

That the elephants were there is internally corroborated in the sources which note their disposition post battle with some sent to Rome (Zon. 9.14.11). These subsequently appeared in the Kynoskephalai campaign (31.36.4) and near certainly at Magnesia (African elephants Liv.38.39.13) where it is noted that the Romans had gained experience in dealing with them in Africa (Liv.37.42.5). There's no need to simply say these numbered substantially less that the sources indicate.

On the use of these elephants, there is this meme that they must be used to disrupt cavalry - mostly based on Ipsos. There are many, many battles with elephants across the front of the infantry (as well as flanks). In fact, the Roman consul cited above (Liv. 31.36.4) does exactly that. Something else to be dismissed on a whim or Delbruck?
 
Jan 2015
5,076
Ontario, Canada
Overrated general. Not as good of a jack of all trade as Napoleon. The best generals who lost would be German generals (like Manstein or von Leutterbeck), not Hannibal.
oooof, no way I can agree with this. I must point out that not only was Manstein a fraud (his memoirs are bs) but he was by no means the best German general of WW2. To add insult to injury Manstein actually resembles Hannibal's methods quite strongly, but is nowhere near as good as his multiple defeats and the way in which he was defeated by Nikolai Vatutin demonstrates.

By the way who is von Leutterbeck? Ludendorff? Ludwig Beck? The Ritter von Leeb? Kesselring? Wilhelm List? Dietrich von Choltitz?
 

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