Was Hannibal the greatest battlefield general of antiquity?

Nov 2010
6,999
Cornwall
I tend to think that we naturally regard the Macedonian army as a relatively small band of highly drilled warriors. Actually I suppose 40-odd thousand such folk is quite large for the time and, whatever the numerical disadvantage, was probably terrifying to an army made up largely of dubious regional contingents, however large?
 
Sep 2016
451
Georgia
I tend to think that we naturally regard the Macedonian army as a relatively small band of highly drilled warriors. Actually I suppose 40-odd thousand such folk is quite large for the time and, whatever the numerical disadvantage, was probably terrifying to an army made up largely of dubious regional contingents, however large?
Army of Alexander was also made up of various contingents. Macedonians were it's core, but they still had Thracians, Illyrians, Thessalians, Cretan, mercenaries and etc. After Gaugamela, Alexander started to incorporate more and more Asian elements into his army and acquired horse archers as well. He used them quite successfully at Hydaspes.

Out sources also tell us about bravery of their enemies. Curtius Rufus and Diodorus describe heavy fighting that occurred in the center of Persian positions at Issus. They also mention it at Gaugamela, how fiercely they were fighting. While according to Arrian, Darius fled the battlefield at Issus almost instantly, author still describes that Persian cavalry was pushing Macedonians and in the center phalanx had trouble against Greek mercenaries.

At Gaugamela, left flank of Macedonians was on point of breaking and on the right, flank-guard had hard time containing Persian contingents.

Diodorus also tells us that Darius provided the army with better equipment for Battle of Gaugamela. Curtius Rufus mentions equipment of Persian cavalry and that it was good. Arrian has passages about their armor in description of Gaugamela as well.

At Persian Gates, Ariobarzanes used advantages of terrain successfully to halt Alexander for some time.

At Jaxartes, Alexander used siege equipment to cover crossing of the river and drive away Scythians in the beginning.
 
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Jul 2017
2,187
Australia
The problem with our Greek and Roman sources is the twin dynamic of the Persians being both extremely numerous and great fighters. But that doesn't work. It's contradictory, and in general one should be accepted over the other. There's no reason to doubt that the troopers of the Persian Empire were strong fighters, especially their heavy cavalry and archers; but we can doubt the numerical side.
 
Sep 2016
451
Georgia
The problem with our Greek and Roman sources is the twin dynamic of the Persians being both extremely numerous and great fighters. But that doesn't work. It's contradictory, and in general one should be accepted over the other. There's no reason to doubt that the troopers of the Persian Empire were strong fighters, especially their heavy cavalry and archers; but we can doubt the numerical side.
Historians no longer take numbers in ancient sources for a face value. However, it can still be possible that Persian army was superior in numbers ( just not that many ), but not all troops or contingents were high quality , while others were very good and created serious problems for their enemies : heavy cavalry, greek mercenaries, archers.
 

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