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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hannibal Barca


My latest read is Hannibal by Theodore Ayrault Dodge. So far an excellent book. Dodge wrote in the late 1800s and provides extensive detail on the men, materials, and strategy of Hannibal's campaign against Rome in the 3rd Century BC. Dodge argues that Hannibal is one of the 6 great captains in history; the others being Alexander, Caesar, Frederick the Great, Gustavus, and Marlborough.

The subject may become more relevant in pop culture as Vin Diesel of XXX fame and the Fast and the Furious is set to star and direct in a big budget film version of Hannibal beginning this year.
Apparently, Vin wants to be the next Mel Gibson (Braveheart). However, after the dismal Oliver Stone film about Alexander, we shall see if Hannibal gets made (there are no ugly rumors, however, that Hannibal hade a male lover).

Hannibals greatest achievement was reached at Cannae, (located on the east coast of Italy SE from Rome) where he defeated and destroyed a much larger Roman Army through pure strategic and tactical skill. At the time, the Romans were far superior in discipline and fighting ability while Hannibal's army was made up of mercenaries from Spain, Africa, and Gaul. Nevertheless, Hannibal's strategy led the Romans into a fatal trap killing nearly 60,000 and wiping out almost the entire Roman army. The picture below shows the fate of the Roman army is it succumbs to encirclement. The mistake made by the Romans is not engaging all of their troops in the battle. Instead, half the troops remained bottled up behind one another. Hannibal seized on this mistake and won the day.


The problem with the Romans (from Hannibal's point of view) is that they would not give up. Instead the Romans fought Hannibal for 15 years in Italy, losing almost every engagement until Scipio Africanus lured Hannibal back to Africa and defeated him at Zama near Carthage in 202 BC.

As historian Adrian Goldsworthy states:

By his own understanding, Hannibal won the Second Punic War at Cannae, but the Romans were following a different set of rules and when they did not admit defeat there was little more that he could do to force them. The Romans did not fight for limited gains that other states expected from victory...The Romans fought to destroy the enemy army and its capacity to ever fight again. This is quite different from the Greeks who sought to end wars by negotiation...The Roman negotiating position was always the same: a demand for the other side to concede total defeat.

This attitude and the use of a citizen army is what propelled Rome to the forefront of civilization and why Rome lasted for so long. Critics of such an unwavering strategy need only to look as far as the Greeks who were dominated for 2000 years by others or Carthage, which ceased to exist. By the time Rome fell, it no longer had a citizen army nor did it have the will to fight. Such is the fate of civilizations.

Blogger Sb said...

If you're intrested in hannibal can i recomend Hanibal:enemy of rome

5:22 PM, April 27, 2005  

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