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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Aug-2007 at 03:50
Brilliant post Spartan - you are excellent at conveying a message.
I believe that Hannibal is worthy of the No.1 position over Alexander, who in my opinion is No.2. For reasons stated above, and others, Hannibal to me, seems the best choice for No.1 on the list. His strategic ability, along with tactical genius and the fact he could read his opponent (and manipulate) so very well, are good reasoning for Hannibal being regarded as one of, if not the, finest battlefield tactician and general in history.

So here's my proposition:
Hannibal --> 1
Alexander the Great--> 2

Also,
Aleksandr Suvorov --> 6
Belisarios --> 5
Wellington --> 10

Thus,
1- Hannibal ("Hannibal ad portas", challenged the rising Roman power with much success. Brilliant battlefield tactician and strategic genius)
2- Alexander III (Near unmatched extent of conquests, unparalleled confidence which showed in his tactical ability)
3- ?
4- Genghis/Subedei (Large scale conquerors, who came from virtually nothing. Revolutionised tactics and Mongol miltary)
5- Belisarios (Fought a myriad of enemies, and achieved incomparable success with little resources)
6- Suvorov (Undefeated, fighting over 60 battles and having to challenge authority of his nation -Emperor Paul-)
7- Marlborough (Excellent tactics, even unorthodox for his times. His decisiveness and teamwork brought him much success)
8- Napoleon (Glorious emperor, embarked on large scale conquests and campaigns, but eventually undone)
9- Zizka (The "rebel" who led a "Peasant" army against the might of the HRE. Amazing military reforms including the war wagon)
10- Duke of Wellington (Fought in 3 different theatres, gaining numerous victories. Remained undefeated while in full command -arguable, as one may say he had strategic draws-. Beat the new with the old)

I think either Genghis or Subedei should be in the top 10 as well, but am undecided on their positioning right now...also, I am open for opinions on the No.3 position. The only inclusion I have made from out of the current top ten is Wellington. Yes I have my bias, but I believe I could make a good case for this superb general. I personally believe he is superior to Marlborough, but I don't think I'll go as far to get him near the top 5 Smile
Once again, I'm open for reshuffling my suggested top 10, and will back them up if you don't think they are worthy, then make more rearrangements.

PS. My very brief overviews of each general after their name are exactly that, "very brief overviews/generalisations".

- Knights -



Edited by Knights - 13-Aug-2007 at 05:53

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Temujin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Aug-2007 at 10:42
how the ... can Hannibal be the number one and napolen 8, behind Marlborough and Suvorov? (besides Zizka did not invent the wagenburg, those were already around before him but i agree he was great)

Hannibal won 2 major battles and he won them spectacularly, granted, but so did Napoleon, and Napoleon at leats won a couple of campaigns, unlike Hannibal who didn't won a single(!) camapign. what was his strategical plan anyways? Ok, he had crossed the Alps, so what? he annihilated 2 armies, so what? Rome still was at large and Rome went on the offensive herself, threatening first Carthagos spanish posessions and eventually Carthago proper! and what did Hannibal do? he wasted his time in southern Italy, ravaging the countryside, trying to get the Italic allies on his site but to no avail. and back home, he got defeated at the first instance by a newcommer and lost everyhting, unlike napoleon who still inflicted major defeats on his enemies which converged with three armies and much superior nubmers on him. so how in the name of the lord can he be number one?? Napoleon conquered Madrid, Berlin, Vienna (2x) and Moscow, Hannibal didn't even got into Rome!

and rider, i have put those Steppe conquerers there for a reason, not just because i prefer steppe commanders. all of them rose from nothingess and defeated some of the mightiest empires of their time, creating a most powerful professional army out of simple tribal warriors. Chinggis unified the Steppe tribes, brought the downfall of teh Jin dynasty, the most powerfull state in east asia and the destruction of the western Xia dynasty. he defeated the Qara Khitay, the Kwarazmians, who were the most powerful empire in western asia and sent expeditions under Chormaqan and Sübe'edai to defeat the Caucasus countries and the Kypchaks who were allied to the Rus.
Temür the lame had a much harder way and fought even more countries and battles than Chinggis, he defeated the Chagatai kahnate, the sucessors of the il-khanate state in iran and iraq (Jalayrids and others), he raided the Delhi sultanate and plundered Delhi itself, defeating their elephants in a brilliant manoeuvre. he defeated the Godlen Horde when they were probably the most powerful on their own territory in the Steppe and pludnerign their capital as well. then he truned west to ravage Georgia and in a scythe-cut movement, he swept over eastern anatolia, the levante coast back to mesopotamia and defeated the Ottoman ruler Bayezit Yildyrim in battle, despite him having modern firearms at his disposal and who himself defeated the Hungarian Crusade under Emperor Sigismund at Nicopolis. other than that he has put down numerous rebellions within his domains.
Nadir Shah finally drove the Afghans from eastern iran, the ottomans form western iran, assumed full control of Iran himself, subdued Afghanistan and amrched on to plunder Delhi, the capital of the Mughal empire and leadign another expedition to Sind. then turnign northwards, defeating the Uzbek khanates which thesmelves defeated a Russian expedition sent by peter the great before. then he again campaigned against the ottomans sucesfully before beign assassinated. he also introduced new wepaons to his army, which were similar to the modernization process carried out by peter of russia, but unlike peter he did not just westernize but really modernized on genuine ideas.


now tell me, which of your generals
- turned tribal warriors into the best army of their time?
- rose from obscureness to become a feared warlord?
- defeated the most powerfull empires and occupied their capitals?
- were almost undefeated and fought on multiple fronts against a diversity of enemies?

and how can you put Lettow-Vorbeck on place 5?



i also forgot to mention Stefan cel Mare for Romania who is AFAIK not on the list.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Aug-2007 at 11:36
Thank you Knight. I was worried I rambled a little in a scattered manner. Glad you got the message. Defining a great general is beyond battles, but a leader's conduct should be placed first, in my opinion; it is when they have the most control of situations. Good strategy - that very war on a map for the longer term - depends on many things that cannot be predicted as much as in the course of a battle (generally speaking).
 
OK. Let's talk about Oliver Cromwell.
 
Cromwell never quite fought on the scale of other greats, but his battles were hardly minor. I feel it is a misconception that he 'copied' others, or that because he didn't fight out of the British Isles is indicative of any blemish on his superb generalship. No good commander throughout history has been a slavish 'copyist': the circumstances of war and the conditions under which the fighting occurs is never repeated. Every great leader has studied prior geenrals and campaigns, as well as organizational methods and army mustering etc., to influence his thinking. One would be a paltry commander to not do that.
 
The British Civil Wars involving Cromwell were indeed 'local', but the operations by regional forces were both numerous and substantially important; in most of the shires of England and Wales various opposing garrisons were all involved in striving to destroy the other's resources, while maintaining their own. In 1645, about half the total forces involved in the conflict were tied down in garrison duty. And the pitched battles were not far and few between. Moreover, the wars did affect the outside world in the long run - particularly the colonies in North America, in terms of migration, thus cultural influence upon the nascent populace there. But this is out of the military context.
 
Cromwell was far more than a pragmatic general who was good at planning and merely understood good drill and discipline; he possessed that invaluable quality to 'read' a battle', and implemented decisive action with precise timing on the battlefield. By 1644, the fortunes of war still ran against parliament. The difference was in the cavalry arms; the royalists had a marked advantage due to their prior military experience abroad. Cromwell completely reversed this advantage by creating a force of men who could be conforming and disciplined. He never became a military leader until the age of 43, and his role was indeed minor in the early stages of 1643, but in independent fights with his Ironsides, personally forged by him, he ran down the enemy though vastly outnumbered. He astutely covered a retreat when the odds were clearly not worth the risk. Cromwell taught his horsmen the value of teh 'pretty round trot' in favor of the dashing but temepestuous 'hell bent for leather' style, advocated by the likes of Prince Rupert. But Cromwell alone, commanding his Ironsides, made the difference at the Battle of Marston Moor; not only did he outflank and crush the Cavaliers initially, in the process sustaining a neck injury, but subsequently defeated Rupert's reserve force. His tactics were methodical and concentrated, carried out with superb conception and maneuver.
 
At the famed Battle of Naseby, and again at Langport, Cromwell again was a key to the parliamentary successes. But all this, though brilliant, was the in the role of a significant subaltern. In in my opinion, it is because of his masterpiece at Dunbar, against the able David Leslie, that propels Cromwell into the category of a great military leader.
 
The Scots proclaimed Charles II, after the execution of his father, king of Scotland, England, and Ireland. Fairfax refused to invade Scotland, so now Cromwell was now in supreme command. But his 16,000 man invading army entered an empty landscape; Leslie implemented a scorched earth policy, and built a solid defensive network between Berwick and Edinburgh, and Cromwell spent the subsequent weeks in appalling weather trying to force battle. Leslie, commanding a much larger force, knew clearly he had inferior troops in quality, particularly due to the recent purges. Thus this was sound generalship, and a guerilla campaign forced Cromwell back. But he had good horse regiments.
 
Within a a matter of weeks, Cromwell's force became depleted by sickness and desertion to a mere 11,000 men. Encamped with their backs to the sea, and with Leslie in a commanding position upon Doon Hill with almost twice as many men, fighting on home soil against a seemingly demoralized and hopelessly placed enemy, Cromwell was surely doomed.
 
What commenced is what only military geniuses accomplish, despite all the 'excuses' that very commander's detractors (in this case, Cromwell's), will attempt to present - the common one being that the opposition was foolish. In this case, the hitherto smart and cautious Leslie had a confident army which was wet and tired, and supplies were reaching a lacking point. Why wait under these circumstances? The lousy weather would have greatly impeded Cromwell's capacity to evacuate by sea. To wait any longer would be counter-productive. He had beaten Cromwell through attrition and harassing and blocked the road south, and now would surely destroy him tactically. A glance at the map will show Leslie was facing north, as the Scottish coast here east of Edinburgh runs west>east. Cromwell was effectively pinned. As with some of Julius Caesars battles, most notablt at Ruspina, perhaps one can argue that he shouldn't have been in this situation in the first place. But akin to Caesar from this persective, Cromwell must be credited for the manner he decisively triumphed under such odds. Moreover, he was not facing an inept commander; Leslie cannot be blamed for thinking he would do the attacking, not Cromwell. But there are debates whether Leslie was content to attempt to win this victory by not firing a shot, and it was the Kirk ministers who insisted upon an attack on Cromwell's vulnerable position.  
 
Leslie descended from Doon Hill, but Cromwell, with his sharp eye for detail and terrain, perceived a weakness in Leslie's order: the Scottish left was becoming over-extended and crowded as it deployed along the southern edge of the stream called Brox Burn (today Spott Burn), which was steep (the Scottish deployment was in the form of a great arch). Cromwell deduced that they couldn't deploy well at this point, and if their wings became seperated, they couldn't support each other quickly. If he could maneuver and attack the Scottish right with perfect precision, and drive it upon their center, their numbers would work against them. Moreover, a slight depression in the land existed before the Scottish front. So under cover of night and a driving rainstorm (never an easy task), Cromwell stealthily repositioned his force, marching the bulk of his army along this depression under the enemy's nose, who expected the battle to begin at daybreak. Cromwell kept his guns in the center, on a jut of land where they could fire directly into Scottish lines and enfilade them. All through the wet night men moved into new positions. Cromwell still faced a dangerous combination - an enemy army not only much larger, but wet and tired, but supremely confident, thus wanting to get this sure victory over with.
 
The battle did indeed begin at daybreak, but with a superbly implemented surprise assault on the Scottish right by John Lambert's horse. The artillery opened up at the same time, causing further dismay; apparently, the Scots were unaware of their presence. But the strong Scottish horse counter-attacked, followed by pikemen, who got in close with George Monck's infantry: this was crucial, as Cromwell had effectively dicated a battle in which the fighting itself didn't involve opponents of superior numbers; if the Scots, charging downhill, could at least check the surprise opening by Cromwell, the left portion of their army would have time to join the battle. But Cromwell was alive to this, and threw in a reserve, not to support his subordinates, but to outflank and attack the Scottish line on the right. He did so with decisive celerity, and this caused the stress on Monck and Lambert to mitigate. This point is when Cromwell reputedly shouted,
 
"Now let God arise, and his enemies be scattered!"
 
Lambert and Monck regrouped, and pushed the Scots, now thrown into disorderly confusion due to Cromwell's decisive maneuver, back up the slopes; their ranks broke, and they fled, a move which compelled the rest of the army to a disorderly retreat. As Cromwell had foreseen, the Scottish left, never allowed to actively participate, broke as Cromwell's regiments wheeled around and began rolling up their comrades on the right. Cromwell had created a situation in his enemy's ranks in which panic led to lose of firm control, a situation any disciplined force can exploit. David Leslie was a good soldier who exercised sound generalship. I can appreciate and sympathize the stain Dunbar must have on Scotland, and all victories like it seemingly carry an element of crude management and bad luck by the loser; even at Cannae, Hannibal's ingenious 'reverse-refusal' with his infantry, though his maneuvering slowed the Roman advance with his implementation of the 'jaws' of a trap, could have collapsed before his cavalry took the Romans in their rear. 
 
In 1648, Cromwell soundly defeat an invading Scottish army larger than his size by destroying it piecemeal in bold seek and destroy mission.
 
In 1651, after Dunbar, Cromwell destroyed Charles II and his followers at Worcester. David Leslie supported fighting only in Scotland, but Charles II wanted his throne, banking on many flocking to his satndard as he marhed south. But Cromwell foresaw everything, as did the Council of State; at this point, any large group of potential Royalist supporters were not only closely watched, but all the magazines of arms in the country-houses of the gentry were mostly removed into places they couldn't procure them from. By the time a battle was looming, Cromwell possessed superiority in numbers, but it was still a display of his artistry; he purposely effected a situation by compelling the enemy to enter one opening he purposely left open, which they took into the town. The result was he calculatingly trapped the enemy by four seperate converging forces, and then destroyed them with economy of force.    
 
Circumstances and luck always play a part in war, and of course things don't always go as planned even if things seem obvious. But the great victory at Dunbar would not have been possible if not for brilliant conception and execution of a great military mind. Most noteworthy was Comwell's control of his men on the battlefield; even more than Marlborough and Wellington, the two greatest generals ever produced by the British Isles (in any period), he forged the instrument he led to victory, and imposed upon it a level of discipline unique in its moral strictness; an army can do wonders under a leader they deeply respect. In this respect, we can see why he regarded Gustaf II Adolf (Gustavus Adolphus) as a hero and banner-bearer for the cause of Protestantism - not just in ideals, but in the ability to forge a brilliant army.
 
Food for thought.
 
Thanks, Spartan Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Aug-2007 at 13:28
Originally posted by Temujin Temujin wrote:

...Hannibal won 2 major battles and he won them spectacularly, granted, but so did Napoleon, and Napoleon at leats won a couple of campaigns, unlike Hannibal who didn't won a single(!) camapign. what was his strategical plan anyways? Ok, he had crossed the Alps, so what? he annihilated 2 armies, so what? Rome still was at large and Rome went on the offensive herself, threatening first Carthagos spanish posessions and eventually Carthago proper! and what did Hannibal do? he wasted his time in southern Italy, ravaging the countryside, trying to get the Italic allies on his site but to no avail. and back home, he got defeated at the first instance by a newcommer and lost everyhting
 
Well, like I said, we can't disprove opinions. You say 'So what'?. I say brilliant planning and executing. He was superb in his campaign in Spain before the war, which included a smashing victory over huge confederated tribal army on the Tagus River; he utilized terrain and combined arms to neutralize the vast numerical superiority of the enemy. Hannibal won more than 2 major battles. Napoleon was great, but he failed in many endeavors. Hannibal was never a failure until the very end, and he never 'wasted his time'; where did you get that idea?. He was indefatigable with hos work in Italy, ans as late as 208 B.C. the allies were seriously disgruntled with Rome.      
 
Hannibal was far from an impestuous megalomaniac many seem to by making him out to be. Sure, the Romans would want us to believe that. The 'revenge' theory is probably apocryphal; that story comes from Hannibal himself, told later to Antiochus III in the context of trying to pursuade the Syrian king of his genuine hatred for Rome, as war was looming between Rome and this part of the wordl, where Hannibal wound up in exile. Hannibal's conduct throughout his career, and his insistence that Carthage make peace after Zama does not suggest a fanatic. Nor do his actions before his famous march prove he had planned to attack Italy.
 
What we can conclude is that he was ready for war with Rome, and would not back down to their ultimatum; Rome began digging her claws in their business once again; Rome already bullied Sardinia away when Carthage was powerless to resist some 15-20 years earlier. Where do people get this nonsense that Hannibal launched wars in an unprovoked manner? The continued empire building he undertook was not necessarily some 'clearing of the decks' for an invasion of Italy. What can be concluded, in my opinion, is that Hannibal was ready for war with Rome when it broke out. But he never went near Saguntum nor the Ebro River - the demarcation line agreed upon earlier. Moreover, the Romans 'paid little attention' (Polybius, Book 3.15) to Saguntine pleas (they felt threatened by Hannibal's consolidations although he never went near them). When Hannibal was wintering in New Carthage, Roman envoys, who recently intervened in an internal struggle in Saguntum, approached him and warned him to not attack Saguntum and abide by the treaty made with Hasdrubal, his predecessor. Why should he cow-tow to them, particularly when he had not displayed any threatening overtures?

Here was Rome again, humiliating Carthaginian interests - far away from Italy, thus no real threat to them. Whatever broke out between Hannibal and Saguntum was more an issue between Saguntum and Carthage than Carthage and Rome. The demarcation line of the treaty, the Ebro, was far to the north. But as we know, treaties always become 'ambiguous' if parties are in the mood to stir up trouble later. Rome wasn't the 'bad guy' here, as they had every good reason to be concerned of a prosperous build up by her recently defeated foe. But this whole 'war of revenge' by Hannibal could be hogwash. Nothing in his conduct, his whole life, suggests a pathological fanatic. Again, that 'oath' story comes from Hannibal himself, and it was told to Antiochus III of Syria in the context, I assume, of convincing the Seleucid king of his veritable hatred of Rome, so he could give Hannibal an army to invade Italy. Actually, Livy gives us the best description of Hannibal's strategy, always one and the same because it was the only one that could work, in Book 34.60,

"...when envoys came from Carthage with the intelligence that Antiochus was undoubtedly preparing for war with the advice and assistance of Hannibal, and apprehensions were felt as to the outbreak of a war with Carthage at the same time. As was stated above, Hannibal, a fugitive from his native country, had reached the court of Antiochus, where he was treated with great distinction, the only motive for this being that the king had long been meditating a war with Rome, and no one could be more qualified to discuss the subject with him than the Carthaginian commander. He had never wavered in his opinion that the war should be conducted on Italian soil; Italy would furnish both supplies and men to a foreign foe. But, he argued, if that country remained undisturbed and Rome were free to employ the strength and resources of Italy beyond its frontiers, no monarch, no nation could meet her on equal terms. He wanted 100 decked ships and a force of 10,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry; he would take the fleet to Africa first as he felt confident of being able to persuade the Carthaginians to enter upon another war, and if they hung back he would raise up war against Rome in some part of Italy. The king should cross over into Europe with the rest of his army and keep his troops somewhere in Greece, not actually sailing for Italy, but prepared to do so; this would give a sufficient impression of the magnitude of the war."

Polybius tells us in Book 3.33-34, on Hannibal's preparations after Rome declared war,

"...Hannibal, who was wintering in New Carthage, in the first place dismissed the Iberians to their own cities hoping thus to make them readily disposed to help in the future; next he instructed his brother Hasdrubal how to manage the government of Spain and prepare to resist the Romans if he himself happened to be absent; in the third place he took precautions for the security of Africa, adopting the very sensible and wise policy of sending soldiers from Africa to Spain, and vice versa, binding by this measure the two provinces to reciprocal loyalty. The troops who crossed to Africa were supplied by the Thersitae, Mastiani, Iberian Oretes and Olcades, and numbered twelve hundred horse and thirteen thousand eight hundred and seventy Balearians, a popular appellation, derived from ballein, "to throw," and meaning slingers, given to them owing to their skill with this weapon and extended to their nation and islands. He stationed most of these troops at Metagonia in Libya and some in Carthage itself. From the so‑called Metagonian towns he sent four thousand foot to Carthage to serve both as a reinforcement and as hostages. In Spain he left with his brother Hasdrubal fifty quinqueremes, two quadriremes and all the triremes being fully manned. He also gave him as cavalry 450 Liby-Phoenicians and Libyans, 300 Ilergetes, and 1,800 Numidians drawn from the Masylii, Masaesylii, Maccoei and Maurusi, who dwell by the ocean, and as infantry 11,850 Libyans, 300 Ligurians, and 500 Balearians, as well as 21 elephants.

No one need be surprised at the accuracy of the information I give here about Hannibal's arrangements in Spain, an accuracy which even the actual organizer of the details would have some difficulty in attaining, and I need not be condemned off-hand under the idea that I am acting like those authors who try to make their misstatements plausible. The fact is that I found on the Lacinian promontory a bronze tablet on which Hannibal himself had made out these lists during the time he was in Italy, and thinking this an absolutely first-rate authority, decided to follow the document.
 
Hannibal, after taking all precautions for the safety of Africa and Spain, was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the messengers he expected from the Celts. He had informed himself accurately about the fertility of the land at the foot of the Alps and near the river Po, the denseness of its population, the bravery of the men in war, and above all their hatred of Rome ever since that former war with the Romans which I described in the preceding Book to enable my readers to follow all I am about to narrate. He therefore cherished high hopes of them, and was careful to send messengers with unlimited promises to the Celtic chiefs both on this side of the Alps and in the mountains themselves, thinking that the only means of carrying the war against the Romans into Italy was, after surmounting, if possible, the difficulties of the route, to reach the above country and employ the Celts as co-operators and confederates in his enterprise. When the messengers arrived and reported that the Celts consented and awaited him, at the same time saying that the crossing of the Alps was very toilsome and difficult, but by no means impossible, he drew out his troops from their winter quarters in the early spring. As the news of what had happened in Carthage had just reached him, his spirits were now high, and trusting in the favourable disposition of the citizens, he now called openly on his men to join him in the war against Rome, impressing upon them the demand of the Romans that he and all his principal officers should be given up to them, and pointing out at the same time the wealth of the country they were bound for and the friendly feelings of the Gauls who would be their allies. When he saw that the soldiers listened gladly and were as eager as himself to be off, he commended their alacrity and after ordering them to be ready on the day fixed for his departure, dismissed the meeting."

The part I bolded may indicate that Polybius felt Hannibal had not defintely planned on invading Italy yet (though he could scarcely admit it, being that he was pro-Roman, in terms of causation and justification of the war). The poor Saguntines got caught in this titanic crossfire, and maybe it was inevitable. But if Hannibal had backed down to Roman demands, that would not have ended Roman interference in Spain. The whole history of her policy suggest otherwise. Beginning with his father, Hamilcar, Carthage had patiently and solidly re-established her prosperity, so necessary after they lost Sicily and Sardininia. In one stroke, everything would have been ruined. Saguntum appealed to Rome, so perhaps other cities in Spain, and perhaps Africa, would too. After all, Rome ultimately demanded that the Carthaginians abandon Carthage itself and settle more than 10 miles from the sea!

Hannibal did not have the luxury of establishing a 'dictatorship' in Carthage, personally building a larger fleet, or comfortably sitting around in Spain while Rome mobilized. he could not let Rome force the issue; the lesson from the 1st war was that Rome could outmuscle Carthage because of superior resources, and they knew Rome had a more conducive alliance with its protectorates for waging war. The only way Rome could be subdued was to strike at Italy and attempt to break her federation. Letting Rome force the issue, mobilizing her armies with her allies without any hindrance, would end in disaster for Carthage. Hannibal couldn't go by sea, but the land route was chosen more to gain Gallic support far inland from Roman ports in Liguria. Nobody could predict what would happen the next 17 years.
 
I can't reiterate it enough: there was certainly an element of hatred, but this 'revenge/wrath' of Hannibal is probably nonsense. He always used wise policy, took prisoners, exercised kindness to peoples he told he was not at war with etc. Again, his insistence that Carthage make peace after Zama does not illustrate a man with a burning, psychological hatred; he could have effected a defense behind Carthage's walls and taken many Romans with him before Carthage would have ultimately fallen.

It just didn't work in the end - the reason being these people formed one of the greatest empires - for better or worse - in our history. Individually, Hannibal was remarkable in almost every facet of war and statesmanship.
 
Hannibal thought way beyond battle victories. This is where many of his critics can be very ignorant (forgive me). The first Roman army sent out, under the dictator Marcus Pera, was mauled by Hannibal near Casilinum. Livy doesn' tell us this, but  three other ancient sources do (Polyaenus, Cassius Dio, and Frontinus). Whatever the details, Hannibal continued to best them in the field, though they were more careful. But what else could Hannibal have done? He had to appeal to the Italic peoples, and it was hardly a hopeless strategy. As he told Antiochus III later on, Italy would provide both supplies and troops to an external army. It cannot be emphazised enough how much trouble Rome was seemingly in (following Livy), when the Latins (soon after the 12 colonies couldn't provide Rome with men and money) and allies were having 'meetings' - meetings Rome said they had no right to undertake - about the war: they were very angry about conditions, and the strain Hannibal was causing was getting almost intolerable. The Senate was alarmed by not only the 12 colonies' withdrawal from the war effort, but by the general attitude of the allies: the Senate itself stated that the allies had a sense of duty equivalent to that of children to their parents, and if they didn't stick to their obligations to Rome, victory would be handed to Hannibal (Livy, Book 27.9). Clearly, Rome itself realized, as did Hannibal, that, without the preponderance her allies' contributions, she was doomed in this war. Livy says,

"Whatever duties children owe to their parents, you owe to Rome, if indeed you feel a spark of affection for her or cherish any memories of your mother country. So you must begin your deliberations afresh, for what you are now so recklessly contemplating means the betrayal of the sovereignty of Rome and the surrender of victory into the hands of Hannibal.

Such were the arguments which each of the consuls advanced at considerable length, but they produced no impression. The envoys said that there was no reply for them to take home, nor was there any other policy for their senate to consider since there was not a man left for conscription nor any money for his pay. As the consuls saw that their determination was unshaken they brought the matter before the senate. Here such general consternation and alarm were felt that most of the senators declared that the empire was doomed, other colonies would take the same course, as would also the allies; all had agreed together to betray the City of Rome to Hannibal."


Yes, Livy was a literary genius, not a critical one. But this is not fiction. Some senators thought they were in grave trouble. The consuls at this time in 209 B.C., Fabius and Quintus Flaccus, convinced the Senate the remaining allies would hold their loyalty - and they did, as it turned out. If the Carthaginians had arrived earlier from Spain, and/or the Gauls had acted from the north in late 216 B.C./early 215 B.C., or if Hannibal had received the 13,500 or so men diverted to Spain (originally meant for him) at the last moment because of Gnaeus Scipios' monumental victory over Hasdrubal Barca in NE Spain, Rome might have discussed terms. But none of it happened, and history took its true course.

It wasn't necessarily one thing that had to go Hannibal's way, but a few things that went Rome's way that materially decided things. The point is Hannibal's strategy was the right one, and wasn't entirely inconceivable. Marching on Rome itself was never part of his plans, and his colossal battle victories never deflected his ascute understanding of what course needed to be followed to overcome Rome. Another one of his misfortunes was that his most important allies, the Campanians, became millstones for him. When Capua was being pressured by the Romans, the Capuans didn't co-operate with Hannibal's general Hanno, in his attempt to provision them, leading to a defeat of Hanno near Beneventum in 212 B.C. As Livy tells us, Book 25.13,

"Hannibal was still in the neighbourhood of Tarentum and both the consuls were in Samnium, apparently making preparations for besieging Capua. Famine, generally the result of a long siege, was already beginning to press upon the Campanians, as they had been prevented by the Roman armies from sowing their crops. They sent a message to Hannibal asking him to give orders for corn to be conveyed to Capua from places in the neighbourhood before the consuls sent their legions into their fields and all the roads rendered impassable by the enemy. Hannibal ordered Hanno, who was in Bruttium, to march his army into Campania and see to it that the people of Capua were plentifully supplied with corn. Hanno accordingly marched into Campania and, carefully avoiding the consuls who were both encamped in Samnium, he selected a position for his camp on some rising ground about three miles from Beneventum. He then issued orders for the corn which had been stored in the friendly cities round to be carried to his camp, and assigned detachments to guard the convoys. A message was despatched to Capua stating the day on which they were to appear in the camp to receive the corn, bringing with them all the vehicles and beasts they could collect. The Campanians carried out his instructions with the same slackness and carelessness that they showed in everything else. Hardly more than 400 country carts were sent and a few draught cattle. Hanno scolded them severely, telling them that even the hunger which rouses the energies of dumb animals failed to stimulate them to exertion. He then fixed another day for them to come for corn provided with much more efficient means of transport.

Everything was reported to the people of Beneventum exactly as it happened. They at once sent a deputation of ten of their principal citizens to the consuls, both of whom were near Bovianum. On hearing what was going on at Capua they arranged that one of them should march into Campania. Fulvius, to whom that province had been assigned, made a night march and entered Beneventum. He was now in Hanno's immediate neighbourhood and was informed that he had left with a portion of his army on a foraging expedition, that corn was supplied to Capua under the superintendence of the head of his commissariat, that two thousand wagons with a disorderly and unarmed crowd had arrived at his camp, that haste and confusion prevailed everywhere, and that the rustics had invaded the camp from all the country round and destroyed all semblance of military order and all chance of military discipline. When he had satisfied himself that this information was correct, he issued an order for his men to get ready their standards and arms against nightfall-and nothing else-as they would have to attack the Carthaginian camp. Leaving their kits and all their baggage in Beneventum, they started at the fourth watch and reached the camp just before dawn. Their appearance created such alarm that, had the camp been on level ground, it could undoubtedly have been carried at the first assault. Its elevated position and its entrenchments saved it; in no direction could it be approached except by steep and difficult climbing. When day broke a hot fight commenced; the Carthaginians did not confine themselves to defending their lines; but being on more even ground themselves they threw down the enemy who were struggling up the heights."


But the Romans prevailed in this battle, and Hannibal had to come to the area himself; as I sated earlier, he dispersed the army of the consuls, then wiped another force in Lucania, relieving Capua for now. Later, when the siege was commenced again a year later, Hannibal was in an almost impossible situation: breaking Roman siege lines. But his plan was for a simultaneous assault on their lines from opposite sides. The Capuan attack was handled with no trouble, but he did break through at one point of the Roman rampart with a Spanish 'cohort' and a few elephants. But with no success from the Capuan side, this unit was doomed without support, as it could be enveloped. But the Romans had a hard time breaking in. Livy tells us of this fierce and pivotal event of the war, Book 26.5-6.

I realize this all trivia, and Roman resolve and the handling of the war by the Senate is what prevailed. Hannibal did all he could do in defending his state, with an offensive against a mightier enemy. He pursued, in my opinion, the right course (smaller non-decisions notwithstanding). He needed some significant help at the right moments, and it simply didn't come, partly because of Carthaginian negligence, but more so due to Rome's sound and swifter war-making - and adaptability. As an international figure, Rome didn't produce such a man perhaps not until Hadrian. But on whole, they would prove too strong any other state. But Hannibal had to apply the test to see how well they could hold up to his onslaught.
 
Scipio was hardly a 'newcomer' at Zama; he had been campaigning for since 210 B.C., 9 years prior. As for the campaign in Spain before he showed up, the elder Scipios were destroyed in 211 B.C. But the Carthaginians didn't expunge the brave but beleaguered 9,000 legionnaires holding the Ebro line. Nero, then Scipio (the younger one), were offered a decisive opening, and the Senate sent them with reinforcements to secure their hold there in NE Spain, which would serve as a springboard for Scipio's upcoming terriffic campaign. Not Hannibal's fault.
 
The likes of Temur never faced an opponent who was as resilient as Rome was, nor one who possessed the enormous reserves of manpower to send out against him; he scattered everything before him, and the defeats of Tokhtamysh and Bayezid I belie any claim that he never faced good opposition (if field guns, in whatever form, were in possession of the Ottomans in 1402, they wouldn't have helped much at this time; mobile field artillery didn't become substantial in pitched battles until Gustavus Adolphus, with precedents in the Huguenot and Dutch armies right before him). But he mainly ran roughshed through divided states that crumbled comparitively quickly. Clearly, they could effect no substantial and cohesive resistence against him. Actually, there was a civil war occuring in India when he invaded in 1394. Hannibal would have relisheded that prospect in Roman Italy when he descended from the Alps. Rome was always 'at large' because of her powerful federation, which he enervated quite substantially. Just not enough.
 
But it's a strange comparison: war is still war, and the essence of tactics and leadership the same, but the political and cultural structures were much different in the lands conquered by the Mongols and Timurids than what Hannibal attacked in Classical Italy, as well as the nature of the armies.   
 
I don't think the Jin was nearly as strong in Chinggis' time as they were a century earlier under the likes of Wanyan Aguda, and the Mongols absorbed many Khitan and Jurchen rebels. I think it was Ogodai, not Chinggis, who finally destroyed them, after some 23 years of conquest, which saw more tedious sieges than battles, in which local engineers came into play more than Mongol archers.
 
In 1219, the Khwarizmian forces were numerically superior than those of Chingghis, but the Sultan Muhammed refused to risk pitched battles (apparently distrusting their loyalty). After all, he was viewed as an upstart Turk, looked upon by many local Muslims as a barbaric conqueror himself. This was hardly a 'solid' nation. Subsequently, Chinggis basically took apart a garrisoned empire with a methodical destruction. Actually, the son of the Sultan, Jalal-Al Din, defeated a Mongol force at Parwan (near Ghazni), but was caught by Chinggis, and decisively defeated, at the Indus River, in 1221.    
 
Chinggis and Temur would have most likely been defeated too, if they had gone up against a general just about as good as them, and who commanded a better army (a dual challenge they never faced). But I don't want to press that, as I stated earlier we can only judge these greats by what they did - and they were certainly incredible men of conquest. Circumstances must be considered. The steppe armies certainly were amazing in how they could move, as they were entirely composed of superb horsemen, but also not encumbered by a supply train, other than its reserve of horses. But commanders like Alexander the Great and Babyrs, with Qutuz, showed that, at the helm of a force of superb soldiers, steppe horse-archers could be beaten (debates have risen as to the disparity of the numbers at Ain Jalut). Combined arms and field artillery (catapults, in the case of Alexander) was a key.
 
Thanks, Spartan Smile 


Edited by Spartan - 13-Aug-2007 at 16:51
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Aug-2007 at 14:35
Indeed Temujin. These are opinions. I don't think so much of the steppe lords - you discredit the European warlords. I am a fan of organized warfare - a thing steppe warfare often is not. This is a conflict of interests as some would put it. Lettow-Vorbeck as fifth... Well yes, a little high but I would put him in the Top 20 in my own list... It was just an example I brought out there. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Temujin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Aug-2007 at 17:05
Originally posted by Spartan Spartan wrote:

 
Well, like I said, we can't disprove opinions. You say 'So what'?. I say brilliant planning and executing. He was superb in his campaign in Spain before the war, which included a smashing victory over huge confederated tribal army on the Tagus River; he utilized terrain and combined arms to neutralize the vast numerical superiority of the enemy. Hannibal won more than 2 major battles. Napoleon was great, but he failed in many endeavors. Hannibal was never a failure until the very end, and he never 'wasted his time'; where did you get that idea?. He was indefatigable with hos work in Italy, ans as late as 208 B.C. the allies were seriously disgruntled with Rome.
    

well, what exactly was his plan to defeat Rome then? he must have had a plan when he crossed the Alps. obviously somewhere between Cannae and Zama he got off track. with 2 battles i meant 2 spectacular battles (lake Trassimene & Cannae).

Quote The likes of Temur never faced an opponent who was as resilient as Rome was; he scattered everything before him, and the defeats of Tokhtamysh and Bayezid I belie any claim he never faced good opposition (if field guns, in whatever form, were in possession of the Ottomans in 1402, they wouldn't have helped much at this time; field artillery didn't become significant in the field until Gustavus Adolphus, with precedents in the Huguenot and Dutch armies right before him). But he mainly ran roughshed through divided states that crumbled comparitively quickly; clearly, they could effect no substantial and cohesive resistence against him. Actually, there was a civil war occuring in India when he invaded in 1394. Hannibal would have profited greatly from that prospect in Roman Italy when he arrived. Rome was always 'at large' because of her powerful federation, which he enervated quite substantially.
 
But it's a strange comparison: war is still war, and the essence of tactics and leadership the same, but the political and cultural structures were much different in the lands conquered by the Mongols and Timurids than what Hannibal attacked in Classical Italy.   
 
I don't think the Jin was nearly as strong in Chinggis' time as they were a century earlier under the likes of Wanyan Aguda, and the Mongols absorbed many Khitan and Jurchen rebels. I think it was Ogodai, not Chinggis, who finally destroyed them, after some 23 years of conquest, which saw more tedious sieges than battles, in which local engineers came into play more than Mongol archers.
 
In 1219, the Khwarizmian forces were numerically superior than those of Chingghis, but the Sultan Muhammed refused to risk pitched battles (apparently distrusting their loyalty). After all, he was viewed as an upstart Turk, looked upon by many local Muslims as a barbaric conqueror himself. This was hardly a 'solid' nation. Subsequently, Chinggis basically took apart a garrisoned empire with a methodical destruction. Actually, the son of the Sultan, Jalal-Al Din, defeated a Mongol force at Parwan (near Ghazni), but was caught by Chinggis, and decisively defeated, at the Indus River, in 1221.    
 
Chinggis and Temur would have most likely been defeated too, if they had gone up against a general just about as good as them, and who commanded a better army (a dual challenge they never faced). But I don't want to press that, as I stated earlier we can only judge these greats by what they did - and they were certainly incredible men of conquest. Circumstances must be considered. The steppe armies certainly were amazing in how they could move, as they were entirely composed of superb horsemen, but also not encumbered by a supply train, other than its reserve of horses. But commanders like Alexander the Great and Babyrs, with Qutuz, showed that, at the helm of a force of superb soldiers, steppe horse-archers could be beaten (debates have risen as to the disparity of the numbers at Ain Jalut).
 
Thanks, Spartan Smile 


well its not Chinggis and Temürs fault they never met a worthy opponent, though i would say that Mingburnu, Toktamish and Bayezit were at least descent commanders. yes the Jin empire was only finally subdued under Ögödai but it was Chinggis who destroyed their main field army and brought about their subsequent downfall. also, another one of Chinggis traits was to adopt to their militarical problems, such as siege warfare and naval warfare. also, it is not Chinggis fault if the Kwarazmians disperse their army in garrisons, was it the Germans fault when the French thought it is sufficient to be defensive and wait behind the Maginot Line? afterall the Kwarazmashah thought the Mongols would only want to raid his territory like usual Steppe nomads so it was a good strategy to hide behind great walls and not risk any field battle that the Mongols could win. of course he didn't expected their profesionalism and CHinggis determination to conquest which let to his eventual defeat. Temürs enemies outlived him, in particular the ottoman empire which resurrected after his serious blow to their ambitions and moved on to become an empire similar in size to that of Rome.

also, Alexander didn't defeated Sakas in open battle, he only came to terms witht hem, one fo teh makedonian expeditions was defeated by Sakas but overall they remained largely undefeated. at least there was no descisive battle that we know of where he defeated them. but we know some of them joined him into India.



Rider, Steppe armies were organized even before European armies were organized (except for ancient Greece and Rome).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Aug-2007 at 18:42
Originally posted by Temujin Temujin wrote:

well, what exactly was his plan to defeat Rome then? he must have had a plan when he crossed the Alps. obviously somewhere between Cannae and Zama he got off track. with 2 battles i meant 2 spectacular battles (lake Trassimene & Cannae).
 
Perhaps I just ramble too much; I though I was clear on that. In a nutshell, Hannibal resolved to invade Italy and break the Roman federation, as it was the allies of Rome, or 'protectorates', that furnished her with more than half her martial strength. Polybius tells us, Book 2.24, of Rome's potential manpower strength,


"...But, that it may appear from actual facts what a great power it was that Hannibal ventured to attack, and how mighty was that empire boldly confronting which he came so near his purpose as to bring great disasters on Rome, I must state what were their resources and the actual number of their forces at this time. Each of the Consuls was in command of four legions of Roman citizens, each consisting of 4,200 and 300 horse. The allied forces in each Consular army numbered 30,000 foot and 2,000 horse. The cavalry of the Sabines and Etruscans, who had come to the temporary assistance of Rome, were 4,000 strong, their infantry above 50,000. The Romans massed these forces and posted them on the frontier of Etruria under the command of a Praetor. The levy of the Umbrians and Sarsinates inhabiting the Apennines amounted to about 20,000, and with these were 20,000 Veneti and Cenomani. These they stationed on the frontier of Gaul, to invade the territory of the Boii and divert them back from their expedition. These were the armies protecting the Roman territory. In Rome itself there was a reserve force, ready for any war-contingency, consisting of 20,000 foot and 1,500 horse, all Roman citizens, and 30,000 foot and two 2,000 horse furnished by the allies. The lists of men able to bear arms that had been returned were as follows. Latins 80,000 foot and 5,000 horse, Samnites 70,000 foot and 7,000 horse, Iapygians and Messapians 50,000 foot and 16,000 horse in all, Lucanians 30,000 foot and 3,000 horse, Marsi, Marrucini, Frentani, and Vestini 20,000 foot and 4,000 horse. In Sicily and Tarentum were two reserve legions, each consisting of about 4,200 foot and 200 horse. Of Romans and Campanians there were on the roll 250,000 foot and 23,000 horse; so that the total number of Romans and allies able to bear arms was more than 700,000 foot and 70,000 horse, while Hannibal invaded Italy with an army of less than 30,000 men. On this matter I shall be able to give my readers more explicit information in the course of this work..."

Following these enumerations, 550,000 foot and 47,000 cavalry could be furnished by the allies to bear arms - a whopping 77.6%! These troops had to be fielded, thus it's not like Hannibal invaded land of an fileded army waintin for him that outnumbered him by almost 30 times his force, which had just endured extrme privations. His plan was to arrive in Gaul, which his scouts told him where ripe for joining him against Rome.

His overall objective, as given us by Livy, was to fight in Italy and take Rome's as many allies away from her. Part of Hannibal's strategy was not fight Rome with Carthage's resources against Rome with all hers, but by fighting Rome by taking away as many of hers as he could. This is the only way Rome could be reduced to the status of another Italian city, no more a harm to Carthage's commercial interests in the western Mediterranean; it was the paradigm of attack is the best defense. Be soundly defeating Rome's armies, he figured, the allies would see Rome could not protect them, and due to his conciliatory policy towards non-Romans, their lot lay with him.
 
Hannibal destroyed an army of some 100,000 Iberian warriors (probably an exaggeration by Polybius) on the Tagus River in 220 B.C.
 
Hannibal defeated the Romans at the Ticinus River in 218 B.C., which involved some 10,000 on both sides. It wasn't a huge battle, in terms of numbers, but confimed what Hannibal suspected: he was superior than the enemy with his cavalry.
 
But the following battle was hardly a small battle, fought at the Trebbia River, a little later the same year. In a battle involving more than 80,000 men (Hannibal was outnumbered in infantry but had more cavalry), Hannibal soundly defeated a Roman army, led by the man who was commisssioned to invade Africa, Sempronius, but because of Hannibal's strategy, the Roman war palns were thrown awry. Hannibal effected a trap, as he had concealed with his brother Mago 2,000 men (equally divided between horse and foot) in a water-course he found, one with with steep banks; after the battle began, this unit attacked the Roman rear with precise timing as Hannibal was destroying their flanks. This was an example of simple-bluff on the part of Hannibal. The Romans might have suspected the ambush from Mago if the terrain was more featured with wooded and hilly terrain, but none of them expected what happened (see Polybius Book 3.71). Remember, hindsight is 20/20.
 
The massive ambush at Trasimene was a display of what we may call double-bluff on the part of Hannibal. This area was 'born for an ambush', as Livy remarks (Book 22.4), but Gaius Flaminius, not an inexperienced commander, may have thought this was too obvious, and Hannibal was whetting his appettite to fight with his scorching of the lands nearby. In any case, what commander in charge of some 25,000 men expects to be ambushed? Ambushes etc. hitherto had never occured on such an unprecedented scale; imagine the control Hannibal must have needed to exercise over his motley army, now swelled to perhaps over 40,000 men, to not reveal their position while an entire army marched yards away from them.     
Yes, then we Cannae.
 
He crushed Roman armies three more times: at Herdonea, in 212 B.C., he destroyed a Roman army led by one Gnaeus Fulvius Flaccus, in which only 2,000 of a double consular army (some 20,000 men) escaped. A little earlier, Hannibal had destroyed another army of 16,000 men near the Silarus River, under one Marcus Centenius Paenula, soldier of fortune who was trying to quickly to serve his state; he had no chance, but it was no small skirmish (1,000 got away in that disaster). Again arond Herdonea in 210 B.C., another army was wiped out by Hannibal, using variant attacks with his cavalry at calculated points, this one commanded by one Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus; here the Romans fared a little better, with only 13,000 (Livy says sources vary) perishing in defeat. These commanders were in the learning process, but Hannibal's adeptness was compelling them to fight even when they attempted to avoid him. He was simply to good a maneuverer.
 
It was at this time, following Hannibal's destruction of the Roman forces in the area, which resulted in the deaths of many soldiers from the regional towns of the socii (the allies), the allies really began to show signs of serious discontent, and Livy tells us that if the Senate had fully known of their feelings, they would consider negotiating a peace - which is what Hannibal wanted all along. Yes, Hannibal had a plan, as brilliant as it was audacious, and all major criticisms of him amount to saying , in my opinion, he shouldn't have gone to war in the first place. He never got off track from that very strategy of attempting to break the Roman federation; he broke it as much as it could be. Staying in Spain would have been ruinous in the long run, even if he could never be dislodged from Spain militarily; Carthage would have been struck at by Roman forces, now with complete control of the waters between Sicily and the African hinterland.
 
The only way Rome could be broken was to destroy her armies and hope for her core allies to discuus terms. No victory has been as great as Cannae (possibly along with Subotai's destruction of the European knights at Mohi), in terms of destroying one's enemy. But it cemented, not detached, Rome's core allies. He cannot be discredited for not predicting things that cannot be predicted with any sureness.
 
Quote ...was it the Germans fault when the French thought it is sufficient to be defensive and wait behind the Maginot Line? afterall the Kwarazmashah thought the Mongols would only want to raid his territory like usual Steppe nomads so it was a good strategy to hide behind great walls and not risk any field battle that the Mongols could win. of course he didn't expected their profesionalism and CHinggis determination to conquest which let to his eventual defeat. Temürs enemies outlived him, in particular the ottoman empire which resurrected after his serious blow to their ambitions and moved on to become an empire similar in size to that of Rome.

also, Alexander didn't defeated Sakas in open battle, he only came to terms witht hem, one fo teh makedonian expeditions was defeated by Sakas but overall they remained largely undefeated. at least there was no descisive battle that we know of where he defeated them. but we know some of them joined him into India...
 
Yes, but the Germans merely circumvented the Maginot Line, and then destroyed the allies in the field, all within weeks -the first instance of Blitzkrieg. That was mechanized war, though. The overall brainchild of Erich von Manstein
 
It wasn't Mongol horse archers, then, but indigenous engineers that aided immeasurably in Chinggis' victories here; that's not denigration, just a pedantic observation. Indeed, the Mongols could adapt and adopt to situations, as the Romans did.
 
Oh, goodness, you missed a significant chapter of history regarding the campaigns of Alexander; his defeat of the Scythians was indeed an open field battle victory, though not large in numbers. It occured on the banks of the Jaxartes in 329 B.C. Arrian's description of Alexander's tactics is a little obscure, so some guess-work must be applied. But this is probably what occured:
 
Alexander basically created a situation in which he trapped them by a maneuver utilizing his forces of combined-arms in a manner that restricted their mobility; what he achieved was that he 'fixed' them. To effect this, he indeed initially used his catapults to drive the Scythians from the bank on the far side so he could safely transport his army across the river on inflated hides; the Jaxartes was too wide for bows but not for catapults.
 
Alexander ordered that the first crossing take place en masse, so that the mounted Scythian archers would be faced with more targets than they could fire at. The artillery attack that opened the battle achieved its goal, and one of the Scythian leaders was struck and killed, dealing a harsh reality to the Scythians that the enemy catapults were more dangerous than their own bows, compelling them to retire from the bank. For the Macedonians, it was now easy to cross the Jaxartes.
 
The first to disembark were the slingers and archers so they could provide covering fire while the phalangites and cavalry came ashore. There could be no pursuit of such an enemy, therefore Alexander had to smash them, and to smash them, he had to compel them to attack him. He first sent a small force of 'vulnerable' Greek mercenary cavalry and lancers forward against the Scythians, who, as he ahd hoped, began to swarm on this small force by riding around them in a circle and pelting them with arrows. This force was small enough for the Scythians to be confident in pouncing upon (around), but large enough to withstand the enemy for a little while. While this 'bait' was 'hooked', he moved forward a detachment of light missile infantry and Agrianian archers as a screen to his subsequent movements. Under cover of this this screen, Alexander moved in with his remaining cavalry; once at close quarters, he ordered 3 regiments of Companions, supported by 1 of mounted javelineers, to charge the Scythians through the screen of light troops to positions that allowed him to trap a segment of the encircling Scythians between the calvary 'bait' and his main force. Once positioned, Alexander himself charged forward in column with a rapid advance around to block the Scythian flanks, springing the trap. A large segment of the Scythians were thereby trapped, where they were either cut down or captured. The ones fortunate to be at a point on the side not assaulted simply rode away.
 
The result of this action quickly resulted in the capitulation of the Scythians, the main reason being their tactics had been neutralized. Without an ability to attack with success, they were without recourse, and the riders who could do so simply rode off. But it wasn't a large battle, in terms of numbers, and it was more a defeat of their traditional tactics rather than a complete defeat of themselves; Alexander couldn't have pursued these guys with ease, even if he hadn't become ill (supposedy from drinking polluted water). The heat was also a factor. But now they did came to terms with him, greatly impressed. The victory could not have been successful if not for an amalgam of superbly trained arms of varying specialties; but mostly, it was achieved because the victorious force was led by the greatest commander of all time (if one must be chosen amid the thought-provoking debate), leading one of the most scientifically balanced army ever developed.
 
I believe the expedition you are referring to, destroyed by Spitamenes, was indeed a disaster for Alexander's corps, but he wasn't there. It occured at the same time as the battle fought on the Jaxartes. One Pharnuches and three generals were sent with about 2,300 men to the relief of Maracanda (modern Samarkand), which Spitamenes was beseiging. This was all happening on the border regions of Sogdiana and Turkistan. After raising the siege and engaging the enemy, Spitamenes scattered the Macedonian force was by traditional Scythian tactics, and a small body who took refuge on a small island within the Polytimetus (Zeravshan) River was shot down by archery fire. 
 
These events come form Arrian, Book 4.   
 
Thanks, Spartan Smile


Edited by Spartan - 14-Aug-2007 at 09:43
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Aug-2007 at 03:29
Temujin, you can't say that Steppe warfare reminds of the general European warfare... especially not in the Imperial and Early Modern Ages... They were completely different things. One was a standard and the other was unorthodox. It's the standard we should be looking at, not the unorthodox. At least I see it like that...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Aug-2007 at 10:13
Rider would you care to elaborate on the differences you have in mind between 'standard' and unorthodox'? Wouldn't each geographical area have there own orthodox standards?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Temujin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Aug-2007 at 12:38
i second Sekos notion.


Originally posted by Spartan Spartan wrote:

His overall objective, as given us by Livy, was to fight in Italy and take Rome's as many allies away from her. Part of Hannibal's strategy was not fight Rome with Carthage's resources against Rome with all hers, but by fighting Rome by taking away as many of hers as he could. This is the only way Rome could be reduced to the status of another Italian city, no more a harm to Carthage's commercial interests in the western Mediterranean; it was the paradigm of attack is the best defense. Be soundly defeating Rome's armies, he figured, the allies would see Rome could not protect them, and due to his conciliatory policy towards non-Romans, their lot lay with him.


if this was his grand strategic plan, then i have to say he was a bad strategist, obviously his plan was doomed from the beginnign and when he realized his miscalculation he had no 'plan B' to save him and Carthage from defeat.
 
 
Quote Yes, but the Germans merely circumvented the Maginot Line, and then destroyed the allies in the field, all within weeks -the first instance of Blitzkrieg. That was mechanized war, though. The overall brainchild of Erich von Manstein
 
Maginot Line was not circumvated, it was penetrated by General Heinrici. also, Manstein didn't thought out the invasion of the Benelux countries & france. it was just the normal Schlieffen plan, revised by Manstein to concentrate all tank forces against Belgium, and the final plan differed slightly from his own plan.

Quote Oh, goodness, you missed a significant chapter of history regarding the campaigns of Alexander; his defeat of the Scythians was indeed an open field battle victory, though not large in numbers. It occured on the banks of the Jaxartes in 329 B.C. Arrian's description of Alexander's tactics is a little obscure, so some guess-work must be applied. But this is probably what occured:
 
Alexander basically created a situation in which he trapped them by a maneuver utilizing his forces of combined-arms in a manner that restricted their mobility; what he achieved was that he 'fixed' them. To effect this, he indeed initially used his catapults to drive the Scythians from the bank on the far side so he could safely transport his army across the river on inflated hides; the Jaxartes was too wide for bows but not for catapults.
 
Alexander ordered that the first crossing take place en masse, so that the mounted Scythian archers would be faced with more targets than they could fire at. The artillery attack that opened the battle achieved its goal, and one of the Scythian leaders was struck and killed, dealing a harsh reality to the Scythians that the enemy catapults were more dangerous than their own bows, compelling them to retire from the bank. For the Macedonians, it was now easy to cross the Jaxartes.
 
The first to disembark were the slingers and archers so they could provide covering fire while the phalangites and cavalry came ashore. There could be no pursuit of such an enemy, therefore Alexander had to smash them, and to smash them, he had to compel them to attack him. He first sent a small force of 'vulnerable' Greek mercenary cavalry and lancers forward against the Scythians, who, as he ahd hoped, began to swarm on this small force by riding around them in a circle and pelting them with arrows. This force was small enough for the Scythians to be confident in pouncing upon (around), but large enough to withstand the enemy for a little while. While this 'bait' was 'hooked', he moved forward a detachment of light missile infantry and Agrianian archers as a screen to his subsequent movements. Under cover of this this screen, Alexander moved in with his remaining cavalry; once at close quarters, he ordered 3 regiments of Companions, supported by 1 of mounted javelineers, to charge the Scythians through the screen of light troops to positions that allowed him to trap a segment of the encircling Scythians between the calvary 'bait' and his main force. Once positioned, Alexander himself charged forward in column with a rapid advance around to block the Scythian flanks, springing the trap. A large segment of the Scythians were thereby trapped, where they were either cut down or captured. The ones fortunate to be at a point on the side not assaulted simply rode away.
 
The result of this action quickly resulted in the capitulation of the Scythians, the main reason being their tactics had been neutralized. Without an ability to attack with success, they were without recourse, and the riders who could do so simply rode off. But it wasn't a large battle, in terms of numbers, and it was more a defeat of their traditional tactics rather than a complete defeat of themselves; Alexander couldn't have pursued these guys with ease, even if he hadn't become ill (supposedy from drinking polluted water). The heat was also a factor. But now they did came to terms with him, greatly impressed. The victory could not have been successful if not for an amalgam of superbly trained arms of varying specialties; but mostly, it was achieved because the victorious force was led by the greatest commander of all time (if one must be chosen amid the thought-provoking debate), leading one of the most scientifically balanced army ever developed.
 
I believe the expedition you are referring to, destroyed by Spitamenes, was indeed a disaster for Alexander's corps, but he wasn't there. It occured at the same time as the battle fought on the Jaxartes. One Pharnuches and three generals were sent with about 2,300 men to the relief of Maracanda (modern Samarkand), which Spitamenes was beseiging. This was all happening on the border regions of Sogdiana and Turkistan. After raising the siege and engaging the enemy, Spitamenes scattered the Macedonian force was by traditional Scythian tactics, and a small body who took refuge on a small island within the Polytimetus (Zeravshan) River was shot down by archery fire. 
 
These events come form Arrian, Book 4.   
 
Thanks, Spartan Smile



well, the expedition i refered to took place on the black sea coast, Spitamenes was just a Bactrian nobleman that was aided by Massagete mercenaries. i was refering to the true Sakas who lived beyond the Jaxartes.


Edited by Temujin - 14-Aug-2007 at 12:40
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Aug-2007 at 13:55
As a standard, I am obviously thinking of the normal European ways of war (of all times). The unorthodox is everything else for it must have been so for the Europeans. Yes, you may say 'biased' over this and I'd agree, but if you were to set an 'general' tactic, would you choose it from the steppes or from the place were large scale wars were held. Also, Europe is supported in the sense that the majority of wars and larger ones have always been held here (excluding some Chinese ones and the US Civil War).

Isn't a general of the standard tactics (like I've described above) who defeats an unorthodox one better than an unorthodox one that defeats a standard one? If a standard one faces another with similar tutoring, then it is the one of greater skill that wins. If an unorthodox one faces a general of unorthodox measures (by the 'general'/European standard) then it is again down to skill.

But when an unorthodox one faces a standard one, then he is greatly advantaged. Therefore, if the standard one is successful then he is by far the greater person.

Note: The 'European' standard is dependent on times and places though. There are times when the non-European has learned of the 'standard' and adapted in which the adapting one is better.

Note II: This is a personal bias of mine so don't take it too deeply into consideration. I am just considering European/European-learned/developed generals better than those who won with the 'unorthodox' (as I've previously described). I don't want to discredit the steppe-lords too much though. The are certainly skilled people.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Aug-2007 at 15:45
Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. Rider that was some composition. Alright here goes nothing.
 
European = standard, orthodox and at all times.
Non-European = unorthodox (why? because it ain't european)
Steppe = unorthodox (why? cause they don't line up in a phalanx and because rider says so).
 
Now onto some fun. For the sake of this debate I'll go along with the descriptions given with some creative elaborations on my part.
 
Barring modern warfare and back to the pre-gunpowder era possible formations could look like the following typical assumptions.
 
European:  Heavy horse - with a composition of roughly 20-40 percent
                   used mainly for close encounters. Armor plating, sword, lance.
                  Infantry - The bulk of western forces. Approx. 60-80 percent.
                  Irregulars and trained elite, light and heavy.
                  Primarily composed of a shield, sword, battle axe, spear or pike
                  with both heavy and light armor (chain mail).
                  Archers and siege engines - 20-30 percent. Long bow & arrow,
                  crossbow, catapult, ram, trebeuchet.
 
Steppes:   Light Horse skirmishers - 20-60 percent. Light armour, spear,
                 sword, composite bow, shield, leather, silk.
                 Heavy Horse - 30-40 percent. Sword, mace, morning star, lance
                 chain mail, leather lamellar, silk, shield, composite bow, dagger.
                 Infantry - 10-30 percent. Irregulars, enemy captives, trained
                 elite guards. Sword, varied armour, lance, spear, bow.
                 Seige engines - similar to erupean ones.
 
Euro formations - Phalanx, squares, heavy horse (knights) charge, cavalry,
                           and infantry in various lined formations of combined arms
 
Steppe formations - decimal system, irregulars in front followed by heavy
                                cavalry. Light horse to the flanks. Infantry used as 
                                fodder or reserves.
 
Possible scenarios with equal numbers.
 
Euro defence - 
 
As aligned and ready the Europeans wait for incoming hostilities. Shields 
up. Bows bent. Horses at standstill. Perfectly odered lines of infantry.
 
Steppe advance -
 
Light horse skirmish. Arrows loose. Retreat and rehorse. Do it again. Tease out a response.
 
If Euros retaliate the Steppes would reform, let loose irregulars or continue hail of arrows till suitable terrain and formations. Feigned retreat. Heavy horse charge. Tulughma, mayhem ensues. Roll the dice.
 
Steppe defense -
 
Each tumen governed by sounds of whistling arrows, flags, drums. Discipline is key. Light horse lets loose. Irregulars weather the storm but get hosed. Held just enough to disorganize the attackers. Heavy horse goes in for the kill.
 
Euro advance - Perfect formations till charging. First long bows, then irregulars. Enough to disrupt Steppe formations in front lines. Steppers regroup. Euro Heavy horse and heavy infantry go for the kill. Hand to hand stuff. Heavy Euro Knights batter the Steppers. Well trained Steppe infantry or heavy horse guard the Sultan/Khan. Euros try to batter the lines. Roll the dice.
 
The outcome would be anyones guess. So much for orthodox versus unorthodox.Wink


Edited by Seko - 14-Aug-2007 at 16:20
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Aug-2007 at 15:53
I'll respond to that later... and you'll get your second ownage... of the week.
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LOL
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Aug-2007 at 02:33
You don't have to bar modern warfare.. Perhaps from the 1900's but not from before. Some of the worst defeats were in the last decades of the 1800's.

Now, your scenario would work only with a good leader. With a good leader the steppe-people could be entrapped and annihilated. BUT it wouldn't be the first time when it isn't a good leader leading the 'European' forces. If a bad leader is in command, one who can't issue orders and so, would destroying this force be difficult?

However, when things are like you said, destroying it is difficult. Then the steppe commander who could destroy it should be granted honors. Although obviously not when the tactic for winning would be just plainly sending men against the European formation and so overwhelming the enemy. That isn't tactics - it is a meat grinder.

Wouldn't you agree?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Challenger2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Aug-2007 at 07:49

I’m sure I will further incense the Hannibal fan club out there, but here goes. I got through Sparten’s recent paean of praise and although I have no argument with his scholarship, I feel obliged to reiterate that despite all of that, Hannibal was a failure and so does not deserve his spot in the top 5. One of the defining marks of any military commander is the ability to achieve the objective[s] he either sets for himself, or has set for him.

Alexander, for example, set out to conquer the Persian Empire and succeeded. Napoleon set out to become the most powerful man in France and for France to dominate Europe. Again he succeeded, even if only for a decade or so. Temujin set out to provide a secure future for his tribe by conquering or destroying those that preyed on them. [Perhaps he overdid it a bit by creating arguably the largest land empire in history, and incidentally laying the groundwork for a Mongol national identity]. Heraclius set out to save the empire from destruction and in doing so set the framework for it’s survival until at least until 1071, despite losing Syria and Egypt to the tide of Islam. Even Belisarius [my personal favourite], given the Herculean task of re-conquering the Western Roman empire with the “leftovers” of the army, was doing a remarkably good job until he was recalled. All of these in their own way and in their particular times and circumstances were as inspirational and as gifted as Hannibal was in his.

On the other hand, once the war began, Hannibal set out to defeat or destroy Roman power in the Mediterranean and to either preserve the Carthaginian “empire” or to make Carthage supreme.

[As an aside, I was amused with the  comments about not intending to invade Italy and felt moved to ask at the time, “Did he just not see the Alps? Did he just trip over them, and dusting himself off in the Po valley, say, “Who put those mountains there?!” but thought better of it.LOL] In this objective he failed spectacularly. Yes, he destroyed a few armies. Yes, he shook the system of alliances Rome had set up for a while, but despite all his trickery and triumphs, he failed.

 

All he really achieved was to shatter the hubris Rome had accumulated up until then. Trebia, Trasemene, and Cannae were won as much as a result of Roman overconfidence as any genius on Hannibal’s part. Once the Romans took him seriously, his days were numbered. Fabius neutralised him in the short term, and subsequent Roman policy succeeded in marginalizing him in Italy while Rome set about destroying Carthaginian power in the Mediterranean. This done, all it took was a counter invasion of Africa to send him scuttling back to his home city and to subsequent defeat at Zama.

 

Whatever criteria you adopt to define the top generals in history, those that achieved their objectives however briefly, should rank above those that didn’t, if there is otherwise too little to chose between them in terms of their abilities or attributes. Hannibal deserves a place in the top 100 no doubt,  but not in the top 5 in my opinion. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Challenger2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Aug-2007 at 08:04
Originally posted by Temujin Temujin wrote:

Originally posted by Challenger2 Challenger2 wrote:



I think you're being unfair to von Manstein. He came close to relieving Stalingrad, and might have succeeded had the 6th Army attempted  a breakout  towards him. We all know Hitler vetoed any such idea and doomed the 6th Army. At Kursk, he took all his objectives, but was let down by the failure of the Northern Pincer of Von Kluge and Model. Lastly Hitler sacked him for arguing against him.


Shocked oh how dare you mention two of my favourite generals in the same sentence with the word failure?

Quote Sorry, Kursk was the largest tank battle in history, the Gembloux gap was minor in comparison, only a couple of divisions on each side as I recall.


there was a thread once about this. Kursk was only an offensive, the actual tank battle that occured near Prokhorovka according to the author of the article featured less tanks than Gembloux. and i foudn that article pretty convincing.

Quote Archduke Charles was responsible for reorganising the Austrian army and came very close to beating Napoleon in his prime. That alone should put him on the list.


yeah but the Austrian Army was never THAT good and he got defeated in battle by Massena in 1805 in northern Italy in the 2nd battle of Caldiero and eventually by Napoleon at Wagram, even though Wagram was a very hard fought battle. Radetzky on the other hand was the mastermind behind the Austrian Army of 1812-15 as chief of staff and was sucessfull as a commander himself against the Italians later in 1848. looking at it, neither of the two seem worthy enough for the list.
 
Did von Kluge and Model succeed? If not, I'm sorry to tell you, they failed!Big%20smile
 
Okay, the Kursk "offensive" [consisting of several tank engagements/battles] was the largest tank battle in history, better? Wink
 
It was a lot better after Charles' reforms! Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Challenger2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Aug-2007 at 08:20
Originally posted by Seko Seko wrote:

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. Rider that was some composition. Alright here goes nothing.
 
European = standard, orthodox and at all times.
Non-European = unorthodox (why? because it ain't european)
Steppe = unorthodox (why? cause they don't line up in a phalanx and because rider says so).
 
Now onto some fun. For the sake of this debate I'll go along with the descriptions given with some creative elaborations on my part.
 
Barring modern warfare and back to the pre-gunpowder era possible formations could look like the following typical assumptions.
 
European:  Heavy horse - with a composition of roughly 20-40 percent
                   used mainly for close encounters. Armor plating, sword, lance.
                  Infantry - The bulk of western forces. Approx. 60-80 percent.
                  Irregulars and trained elite, light and heavy.
                  Primarily composed of a shield, sword, battle axe, spear or pike
                  with both heavy and light armor (chain mail).
                  Archers and siege engines - 20-30 percent. Long bow & arrow,
                  crossbow, catapult, ram, trebeuchet.
 
Steppes:   Light Horse skirmishers - 20-60 percent. Light armour, spear,
                 sword, composite bow, shield, leather, silk.
                 Heavy Horse - 30-40 percent. Sword, mace, morning star, lance
                 chain mail, leather lamellar, silk, shield, composite bow, dagger.
                 Infantry - 10-30 percent. Irregulars, enemy captives, trained
                 elite guards. Sword, varied armour, lance, spear, bow.
                 Seige engines - similar to erupean ones.
 
Euro formations - Phalanx, squares, heavy horse (knights) charge, cavalry,
                           and infantry in various lined formations of combined arms
 
Steppe formations - decimal system, irregulars in front followed by heavy
                                cavalry. Light horse to the flanks. Infantry used as 
                                fodder or reserves.
 
Possible scenarios with equal numbers.
 
Euro defence - 
 
As aligned and ready the Europeans wait for incoming hostilities. Shields 
up. Bows bent. Horses at standstill. Perfectly odered lines of infantry.
 
Steppe advance -
 
Light horse skirmish. Arrows loose. Retreat and rehorse. Do it again. Tease out a response.
 
If Euros retaliate the Steppes would reform, let loose irregulars or continue hail of arrows till suitable terrain and formations. Feigned retreat. Heavy horse charge. Tulughma, mayhem ensues. Roll the dice.
 
Steppe defense -
 
Each tumen governed by sounds of whistling arrows, flags, drums. Discipline is key. Light horse lets loose. Irregulars weather the storm but get hosed. Held just enough to disorganize the attackers. Heavy horse goes in for the kill.
 
Euro advance - Perfect formations till charging. First long bows, then irregulars. Enough to disrupt Steppe formations in front lines. Steppers regroup. Euro Heavy horse and heavy infantry go for the kill. Hand to hand stuff. Heavy Euro Knights batter the Steppers. Well trained Steppe infantry or heavy horse guard the Sultan/Khan. Euros try to batter the lines. Roll the dice.
 
The outcome would be anyones guess. So much for orthodox versus unorthodox.Wink
 
Someone been playing "Total War" again?Big%20smile
 
Europeans advancing in perfect formation until the charge?!! We talking knights here? BTW European organisations tended towards the decimal so I don't get the relevance. Infantry drawn up in perfect lines? not in medieval times.
 
Steppe wouldn't bother dealing with europeans in this way. Horse archers would pepper the infantry and run from any cavalry counter, until the enemy cavalry was "blown", then let the heavies close in for the kill. detatchments would be sent on wide outflanking manoeuvres to hit the Europeans in the flanks or rear, once they'd been sufficiently weakened by the arrow storm.
 
Check out the Mongol campaigns in Europe to get an idea of how they'd deal with such an army. 


Edited by Challenger2 - 15-Aug-2007 at 08:22
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Aug-2007 at 08:22
Hannibal achieved his task for as long as Napoleon I'd say. Both were eventually defeated but clearly, Hannibal is better of the two. Should we say Pyrrhus was an idiot because he won and yet lost? I'd consider him worthy of a Top 20 position. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Praetor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Aug-2007 at 09:38
Originally posted by Challenger2 Challenger2 wrote:

I’m sure I will further incense the Hannibal fan club out there, but here goes. I got through Sparten’s recent paean of praise and although I have no argument with his scholarship, I feel obliged to reiterate that despite all of that, Hannibal was a failure and so does not deserve his spot in the top 5. One of the defining marks of any military commander is the ability to achieve the objective[s] he either sets for himself, or has set for him.

Alexander, for example, set out to conquer the Persian Empire and succeeded. Napoleon set out to become the most powerful man in France and for France to dominate Europe. Again he succeeded, even if only for a decade or so. Temujin set out to provide a secure future for his tribe by conquering or destroying those that preyed on them. [Perhaps he overdid it a bit by creating arguably the largest land empire in history, and incidentally laying the groundwork for a Mongol national identity]. Heraclius set out to save the empire from destruction and in doing so set the framework for it’s survival until at least until 1071, despite losing Syria and Egypt to the tide of Islam. Even Belisarius [my personal favourite], given the Herculean task of re-conquering the Western Roman empire with the “leftovers” of the army, was doing a remarkably good job until he was recalled. All of these in their own way and in their particular times and circumstances were as inspirational and as gifted as Hannibal was in his.


On the other hand, once the war began, Hannibal set out to defeat or destroy Roman power in the Mediterranean and to either preserve the Carthaginian “empire” or to make Carthage supreme.

[As an aside, I was amused with the  comments about not intending to invade Italy and felt moved to ask at the time, “Did he just not see the Alps? Did he just trip over them, and dusting himself off in the Po valley, say, “Who put those mountains there?!” but thought better of it.LOL] In this objective he failed spectacularly. Yes, he destroyed a few armies. Yes, he shook the system of alliances Rome had set up for a while, but despite all his trickery and triumphs, he failed.

 

All he really achieved was to shatter the hubris Rome had accumulated up until then. Trebia, Trasemene, and Cannae were won as much as a result of Roman overconfidence as any genius on Hannibal’s part. Once the Romans took him seriously, his days were numbered. Fabius neutralised him in the short term, and subsequent Roman policy succeeded in marginalizing him in Italy while Rome set about destroying Carthaginian power in the Mediterranean. This done, all it took was a counter invasion of Africa to send him scuttling back to his home city and to subsequent defeat at Zama.

 

Whatever criteria you adopt to define the top generals in history, those that achieved their objectives however briefly, should rank above those that didn’t, if there is otherwise too little to chose between them in terms of their abilities or attributes. Hannibal deserves a place in the top 100 no doubt,  but not in the top 5 in my opinion. 



Hannibal contrary to popular belief had many victories against the Romans after Cannae (see Spartans excellent postsClap for details). As to Roman overconfidence playing a crucial part in Hannibal's victories that is true to an extent but I have noticed in my studies of Hannibal that one of the maxims he fought by was no-thy-enemy. He was able to judge his enemies and manipulate events to fight who he wants to where he wanted too. When faced with aggressive glory seekers (or those just behaving as Roman commanders were expected to behave) he goaded them and often showed them what they wanted to see....waited for them to take the bait then sprung his trap( eg. Trasimene, Cannae)! When faced with opponents of the likes of Fabius Maximus he did not force an engagement at terms dictated by his enemy but on occasion took advantage of his caution (Ager Falernus) to humiliate him and for the most part tried to discredite his leadership and strategy to the Roman senate by terroising the Italian countryside at will right in front of the Roman army (to his credit Fabius didn't bite but it weakened his political position in Rome) and descrediting Rome in the eyes of its Italian allies: the message was clear Rome would not defend you but still expected your support. In this field too he had considerable success.


Finaly I would like to state once again that thanks to Hannibal Carthaginian commanders in other theaters of the war had a considerable advantage over thier Roman opponents (which unfortunately For them, Hannibal and Carthage they largely squandered) thanks largely to the great majority of Rome's army bieng employed in the attempt after Cannae to merely contain not even defeat Hannibal, and they struggled to achieve even this. Hannibal had the misfortune of having at LEAST three good opportunities of reinforcement's not materialising and he could hardly have forseen or controled these events (or lack there of). Napoleon never had to deal with a petty "senate" (well at least not after he became first Consul) lost his entire empire in the end and last time I checked lost a number of battles, whilist Hannibal only ever lost one at a disadvantage to another genius. Yet you still do not question his position.


Hannibal Ad Portas!

Regards, Praetor.


Edited by Praetor - 15-Aug-2007 at 09:53
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