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marcus silanus

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Everything posted by marcus silanus

  1. marcus silanus

    Cannae

    I am not trying to explain here why Polybius acted as he did; the fallacy stands, and you haven't dealt with it. Such a long war against a superpower like Rome can't be explained just by a couple of victories from the other side; at the risk of overstating the obvious, that would be plainly absurd; simple as that. Whilst the sources are flawed, simply no respected scholar or historian backs the claim to secret Punic victories. I can understand the notion, but firstly Rome was not at this time the superpower of later years. Carthage was her military equal and the most successful thalassocracy to be seen in the region. Are we to doubt everything that we think we know about Carthaginian military practices, simply because our sources are Greek or Roman? You stated earlier that we can know practically nothing about Carthaginian military culture for this reason, but went on to state that they definitely had a deep military tradition. You simply can not know nothing of the former and be so definite of the the latter: it does not stand logical scrutiny.
  2. marcus silanus

    Cicero's Involvement in Caesar's Assassination

    His behavior afterwards suggests so. In a letter to Trebonius (one of those friends of Caesar who were so disgusted by the dictator's behavior that they joined the assassination), Cicero expressed regret that he hadn't been "invited to that superb banquet." Moreover, he worked tirelessly on behalf of the liberators, convincing the Senate to defend Decimus Brutus at Mutina, lobbying to get the Roman senate to recall Brutus and Cassius to Rome after they had left for Greece, and denouncing his son-in-law Dolabella for the murder of Trebonius. On the other hand, it's a lot easier to talk about tyrannicide than to actually risk your life committing it. Yes, Cicero was as disgusted by Caesar as any other sane and decent human being, but he nonetheless showed very little actual fortitude when Caesar was waging his war on Rome. While Cato was tearing his guts out lest he share the same air as that bald darling of Venus, Cicero was at home fretting over how his ex-wife and current one were getting along. Whether Caesar was a tyrant or not is a subject for debate. However, I fail to understand how Cicero can be described as a coward so unequivocally! Can't agree more; if facing a Catilina or a Clodius were not risky enough, Cicero's fiery Philippics were given against the most powerful Roman general of the time; guts were definitively needed for that. And, the manner in which he died according to all sources, was overwhelmingly brave!
  3. marcus silanus

    Cannae

    If we are to absolutely rely on Polybius (as you know, no Punic sources survived), the Carthaginians were able to contain (at least) the Romans for no less than 23 years with but one land victory (sponsored by a Spartan mercenary), one naval victory (due to the Roman commander impiety) and a couple of coincidental major wreckages from the Roman fleet (?!?!?). Needless to say, all that is entirely unreliable for even the most naive reader; it’s a good example of a positivist fallacy. Some (if not many) other Punic victories must have been present, even if good ol' Polybius conveniently forgot to tell us; otherwise, Punic war I would have ended in a year or two at most; simple as that. Although I would agree that Polybius was "selling" Rome to the newly subject people of Greece, I can not accept that he was the crude propogandist that you consistently describe. You will recall how he views his main sources for this period as misleading and biased, Fabius Pictor as the Roman offender and Philinus of Agrigentum that of the Punic side. If there had been another Punic victory, in a pitched battle, I do not see that Polybius would choose to not mention it, purely because that would not dilute his message or dent his objective. Archaeology is a science that assists historical understanding. History is a humanity and the consensus belief is often based on the balance of probability.
  4. marcus silanus

    Cicero's Involvement in Caesar's Assassination

    His behavior afterwards suggests so. In a letter to Trebonius (one of those friends of Caesar who were so disgusted by the dictator's behavior that they joined the assassination), Cicero expressed regret that he hadn't been "invited to that superb banquet." Moreover, he worked tirelessly on behalf of the liberators, convincing the Senate to defend Decimus Brutus at Mutina, lobbying to get the Roman senate to recall Brutus and Cassius to Rome after they had left for Greece, and denouncing his son-in-law Dolabella for the murder of Trebonius. On the other hand, it's a lot easier to talk about tyrannicide than to actually risk your life committing it. Yes, Cicero was as disgusted by Caesar as any other sane and decent human being, but he nonetheless showed very little actual fortitude when Caesar was waging his war on Rome. While Cato was tearing his guts out lest he share the same air as that bald darling of Venus, Cicero was at home fretting over how his ex-wife and current one were getting along. Whether Caesar was a tyrant or not is a subject for debate. However, I fail to understand how Cicero can be described as a coward so unequivocally!
  5. marcus silanus

    Roman Conquests: Italy

  6. marcus silanus

    Cannae

    From Sylla above. What we most definitively know is that Carthage had a long and successful military tradition on their own, even if our available Hellenic and Latin sources understandably pretended to ignore it. We have here a nice positivist fallacy, because we have objective evidence of many Punic victorious campaigns, even in the absence of textual records. The narrative on let say Punic War I clearly illustrates this fact. And of course, the old myth that Punic armies were only able to win under Hellenic sponsorship (eg, Xanthippus or Sosylos) was simply unpolluted chauvinism. With specific reference to Punic War I, was there a Punic land victory other than that won by Xanthippus? Plainly in general, there was no Punic requirement of Hellenic support but your reference seems to be to the first war, in which there was that single Punic victory. Who knows, had it not been for the arrogance and harshness of Regulus' demands after Adys, there may have been a settlement and that battle would not have taken place.
  7. marcus silanus

    Pyrrhus and the Roman Republic

    That view is hardly derived from independent (non-Roman) Greek commentators; people like Diodorus and Dionysius were already proud Roman peregrini writing for the Roman elite. Sadly, a good deal of the already scanty available information is utterly contradictory. Strictly speaking, Pyrrhos and his army were mercenaries hired by Tarentum for the war declared by Rome, itself a natural extension of the Samnite Wars that eventually become a huge clash between a Hellenistic-Italian coalition and the Roman-Punic alliance, tangential to the even larger chronic global warfare of the last Diadochi. Aside from minor skirmishes, Pyrrhos fought against Rome two times, in 280-279 and in 275 BC. From a purely military standpoint, this relatively short conflict was largely inconclusive; Heraclea and Ausculum were certainly not Cannae, but Beneventum was not Zama either. Up to Pyrrhos
  8. marcus silanus

    Pyrrhus and the Roman Republic

    What I stated was entirely different; let me try again:- Contemporary Greek sources depicted Pyrrhus as a heroic chivalrous figure; such tendency was presumably accentuated in later times, when Rome was already conquering their world and the Greeks ought to recover their own old heroic figures. - When Roman historiography emerged, it was intimately sponsored by the Greek culture; the Hellenes were “Barbarians” no more. Understandably, such historians were prevented from embarrassing Greek heroic figures too much, even when dealing with anti-Roman characters like Pyrrhus. - The obvious option for the Roman historians was to praise the same qualities now in the Roman side, naturally adapted to the Roman republican values. Diodorus and Dionysius were both from the Augustan period; they were already Roman, and their works tried to reconcile the Greeks with such fact. Dyonisius was especially relevant to the narrative on Pyrrhus, giving always the account from the Roman side; just compare his narrative with that of Hieronymus, the main source contemporary to Pyrrhus. Plutarch is a tertiary source that wrote some four centuries after Pyrrhus; being simultaneously a Roman and a Greek, one of his main goals was to constantly highlight and promote the symbiosis of both cultures. As usual, he used plenty of sources, both Roman and Greek; this is evident from the laudatory (sometimes even chauvinist) quotes and anecdotes for both sides. Unsurprisingly, that laudatory depiction of the Cineas’ embassy came from Latin sources, not Greek (not even the Pro-Roman Dionysius); Plutarch presumably took the kingly metaphor for the senate from Livy. Such kind of laudatory statements from the Roman enemies was typical of the exemplary narrative from the latter. Naturally, it’s always possible that the Roman enemies were constantly expressing their amazement for the Roman Republican institutions, even the Hellenistic courtier Cineas; it just seems a bit unlikely. EDIT; Just for comparison purposes, please try to remember how many times was Livy (or BTW any other Roman historian) openly praising the political institutions of any active Roman enemy all along his extensive work. I think that I need to restate what I'm trying to get at here. It can not be proved empirically what was said by whom in any matter of ancient history, but that does nor mean that there is no thread of positive impressions from the Greek world about that of the Roman Republic. Perhaps we will get to the question of the development of Roman tactics during this period, but for now I do not understand why, without a sword to the throat, a Hellenic writer would promote the positive aspects of the Republic without having accepted its virtues for practical, rational and pragmatic reasons before they did so. I would suggest that the Greeks, perhaps grudgingly, admired the grave bearing of the Roman magistrates. They may well at the time of the Pyrrhic war have considered any Hellenic colony as more important, but as Roman dominance increased the only explanation to the Greek world was that the republic's institutions were superior in their functionality, their fostering of national pride and their incorporation of conquered peoples into the body politic. It is not enough to debunk as propaganda the complimentary comments of either the Roman or Greek writers when considering the Republic's rise. The fact was that Rome rose to be the dominant regional power for many very good reasons. One of those was surely the incorruptability and steadfastness of Roman gravitas and virtus referred to by so many, regardless of the veracity of the actual, often romantic, stories attached.
  9. marcus silanus

    Pyrrhus and the Roman Republic

    There can be little doubt that the famous quotation of Cineas was little more than unpolluted Roman jingoism. This war was to some extent like a blind spot for classical narratives, presumably mostly because it was a bit embarrassing for both Romans and Greeks. By the time of this war (early III century BC) Rome and Greece were still considered "Barbarians" by each other. Roman historiography was virtually absent, and it would continue to be so for decades, while its Hellenistic counterpart had been extensively developed for centuries. Even before crossing to Italy, Pyrrhus was already a living legend on his own; we know that contemporary historians depicted him mostly as an utterly romantic and chivalrous character, virtually the quintessential Hellenistic warrior, even if not always a terribly effective ruler. Such heroic depiction was presumably embellished even further in later times, simply because of natural Greek national pride. When the Roman historiography eventually developed, its was in general terms friendly enough to the Greeks not to embarrass too much one of their favorite heroes; therefore, the obvious alternative was to attribute an even more romantic and chivalrous character to his Roman opponents, naturally adjusted to the Roman republican values. Our main available sources, notably the Roman-Greek Plutarch, ultimately ought to assemble a heterogeneous mixture of chauvinistic anecdotes from both sides, trying not to offend anyone across the edition process. The famous anecdote of the poison plot against Pyrrhus is an excellent example. The description of the senate as a council or parliament of kings is found in other sources other than Plutarch. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a remarkable compliment, not necessarily in those words, was payed to the Republic. There is no logical reason to doubt that there was a huge amount of mutual respect between Pyrrhus and Fabricius, simply because it is dramatic. Furthermore, I was not aware that the Romans regarded the Greeks as barbarians at any time, although the converse is widely attested. The Roman view of Greek culture may well have been that it was effete, but certainly not barbarian. In many respects, because there was no Roman history at the time, you seem to be saying that the Greek sources are chauvinistically Roman, which is a little illogical. Complimentary references to the republic can be found in Diodorius and Dionysius and profound doubt about their loyalties is difficult to understand. What perhaps the Greek writers admired, was the fact that Rome was a nation that may foster national pride, whereas Greece and Hellenic culture had always been something to be proud of but riven by conflict between either city state or successor kingdom.
  10. marcus silanus

    Enemies of Roman Empire

    If we go to the very late 2nd Century BCE, the Cimbri and Teutones must rank surely as at least one of the most terrifying opponents of Rome. The defeat inflicted on the Republic at Arausio was at least as devastating as that of Cannae in terms of shear carnage on the day. According to Strabo, the cruelty of the Cimbri stood out even in an age of religious practices distasteful generally to modern sensibilities. The hanging of prisoners over vast vats and slitting throats or disembowling to assist in predicting the outcome of a battle, must surely put these in the frame.
  11. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    That's exact and in total agreement with my original statement (post # 125 from this same thread); I defined both Syracuse and Tarentum as Roman defectors for Punic War II as a whole, not specifically at 216 BC; in Mommsen's words (3:5:608-609):"...the south Italian Greeks adhered to the Roman alliance--a result to which the Roman garrisons no doubt contributed ... Thus the Campanian Greeks, particularly Neapolis, courageously withstood the attack of Hannibal in person: in Magna Graecia Rhegium, Thurii, Metapontum, and Tarentum did the same notwithstanding their very perilous position..." Tarentum was in fact the port where Varro concentrated the remains of his army after Cannae (presumably like the equivalent of two legions) for being exchanged for the fresh legions from Sicily commanded by the praetor Valerius Laevinus, who additionally had "a fleet of twenty-five vessels ... for the protection of the coast between Brundisium and Tarentum" (Livy), not to talk of course about the Tarentine hostages already mentioned in my previous post. Syracuse defected to the Punic side in 214 BC, Tarentum in 212 BC. Together with Capua, they were the greatest allies of Hannibal within the Roman territory until they were both utterly crushed by the Legions (Syracuse far worse than Tarentum). Thanks for that. That was exactly what I was looking at and apologies for not looking properly at the whole picture. I stand corrected.
  12. The purpose of this topic is to stimulate debate with respect to the Roman defeat at Cannae in the context of her eventual victory over Carthage. Which factors in the character and the demographic of the Roman Republic allowed it to emerge from such a catastrophic defeat to become the eventual victor? Some of the available information is apocryphal and some is fact. No-one doubts the tactical genius and double bluff of Hannibal, but where did he go wrong in not being able to exploit the defeat of the largest Roman army that had ever taken to the field? This topic is wide open to embrace a discussion of tactics, strategy, politics etc. It is also serious because Cannae is one of those turning points in history when what should have happened, but did not, decided the direction of a continent and by extension the culture of millions to the present day.
  13. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    Not in my copy of the III Book of his R
  14. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    Most of the defectors were Campanians, Samnites, Lucanians, Bruttians and some Apulians; as far as we know, all of the Latin cities remained loyal to Rome, but the same cannot be said about the western Greeks; their largest poleis, Tarentum and even Syracuse (after the death of Hyero) came both to the Punic side. Virtually no city supported Hannibal north to the Garigliano river (more or less like the German line Gustav in 1943-1944), so further Gaulish help was hardly expected. The Spanish Saguntum had required eight months of a costly siege for being taken, and even after Thrasymene, the Punic army was utterly unable to capture the mere Latin colony of Spoletum in Umbria; the siege of fortified cities was no easy task for the Punic army, which main weapon was its speed and mobility. Therefore, Hannibal had little choice after Cannae but going south, where in addition to the Campanian resources, he could also take some strong bases and some excellent allied Legions from the Romans for his own army; ie. defeating Rome with its own weapons. Unsurprisngly, the chief activities of the Punic army for the late 216 and 215 BC were the attack to the major Campanian ports (Neapolis and Cumae) and pushing northwards (ie, the way to Rome) via Nola. In addition to the persistent loyalty of most of the Roman allies, Hannibal was eventually unable to accomplish such goals mostly due to the prudent use of the Fabian Strategy, and the outmost exponent of the latter was the usually impetuous Marcellus, who with presumably the equivalent of two legions or less was able to definitively stop at Nola the advance of the same army that had so utterly crushed the eight legions plus auxiliaries of Varro & Paullus just some months before. Naturally, the loyalty of the Italian cities to Rome need not to be explained just by pure unconditional love; the fear from both the alien multinational Punic army and the expected Roman retribution, economic factors, internal rivalities and of course the Roman hostage system must all have played a role. After all, Capua had to ignore the fate of their own 300 selected cavalrymen who were serving in Sicily by the time of their defection. As far as I know, Capua and Hannibal never defected each other; for five full years, Capua was the Jewel of the Crown for Hannibal; his preferred camp was at Tifata, overlooking Capua; the Punic commander prevented more than once the Roman capture of this city; and when such capture finally happened, the Capuans fiercely fought up to the end, in spite of the systematic accusations from our sources of "luxury and extravagance". The support of the Carthaginian suffetes and senate to Hannibal is hard to evaluate in the absence of Punic sources, because the Roman and Romanophile authors systematically tried to praise this commander (the personal opponent of the heroic Scipio) at the expense of his vilified nation; it seems Carthage gave or at least tried to give far more help than our sources pretend us to believe. In any case, we know that Bomilcar was indeed able in 215 BC to arrive "at Locri with reinforcements of men and elephants and also with supplies". That's the reason why Hannibal, essentially deprived from elephants for Thrasymene and Cannae, was still able to use them against Marcellus. Whatever you may understand as "popular choice", it was indeed relegated after Cannae; in fact, the fourth consulate of Fabius Cunctator (with Marcellus for 214 BC) was literally a coup d'
  15. marcus silanus

    The Roman declaration of war

    This is a tough but very interesting question. It seems that the major source on the subject is F.W. Wallbank who wrote a whole paper on the subject. My less than scholarly interpretation of a couple of points is as follows. By the time of the Punic wars, Senatorial Legati had replaced the Fetiales in the process of the declaration of war. This change was to ensure that if terms could not be reached, there would be no delay in mobilisation, in as much as when the Legati had spoken their final words, the two peoples would be at war. Previously, the Fetiales would state the grievances of Rome and follow, given that no arrangement was arrived at, with a declaration of war but that would need Senatorial and popular consent. Whether or not, by the end of the third century BCE, the Legati still threw a bloodstained spear into enemy territory or employed all or a portion of the elaborate ritual used by the Fetiales seems very difficult to establish. I will look forward to your responses and those of others; after all most of us are here to learn and this is just the type of post that provokes really useful enquiry.
  16. marcus silanus

    Happy Birthday

    I hope that you had a good day. It must be terribly difficult for your friends and family to buy presents for such a precocious 3 year old!
  17. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    Perhaps after all that has been stated, what saved Rome was her unique system of conquest followed by assimilation. The Campanians and Sabellians that moved over to Hannibal, did so out of expediency, not as he had assumed to throw off the Roman yoke. Many Capuan nobles resisted the new alliance and there was a general disapointment that one master had been exchanged for another. The Italiote Greeks and the Latins, sometimes under the most tremendous pressure, stood with Rome and deprived Hannibal of the conclusion to his grand plan and by that I mean, his objective to dismantle the Roman confederacy. In fact, after Cannae Hannibal was promised massive support from the Carthaginian senate, but the less than comprehensive desertion of allies left very few options as to which point of disembarkment could be used for the promised resources. Had it not been for the loyalty of those allies, the reduction of Rome would have been complete. Their forbearance allowed the Senate to address certain key issues such as relegating popular choice for merit such as ensuring the command of Marcellus and allowing the flexibility that gave rise to Africanus.
  18. There is such a wealth of literature, be it the classics such as Polybius, Livy or Plutarch for example or contempary. My suggestion for a really balanced introduction to the first 700 years or so of Roman history is Philip Matyszak's "Chronicle of the Roman Republic". This is packed with concise biographies of all the key players as well as explanations of the political and religious institutions of the period. This falls into the 'popular' history category and is consequently widely available, costing me, I think, about
  19. marcus silanus

    Sallust's pessimism about Rome's rise to power

    Absolutely and this also demonstrates the unoriginality of many 'biblical' ethics. There are many core Christian beliefs to be found in Plato to name but one.
  20. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    I'm sure next time any of us have a strategy question, we will check on you and not poor old Hannibal.Your last statement is not only absurd, but also a nice oxymoron (sorry, you will have to use your own dictionary). To be fair, the notion that Hannibal was a brilliant tactician and less than brilliant strategist is not new, unusual or at all oxymoronic. To hear the misuse of the term strategy, you only have to watch any episode of "The Apprentice" or listen to any business wanabee! There is no doubt that Hannibal was a brilliant battlefield tactician, but strategy is about ultimate objectives. Warfare is roughly split into three components. The strategic level is that of the objectives set out by the policy underlying the conflict. Following the definition of strategic objectives, the operational level plans the campaigns to reach the strategic objective. Finally, the tactical level concerns the planning and conduct of the actual fighting. For example, in my business, I may set a strategic target of a certain turnover and margin and plan new media to reach certain markets to achieve that objective. On a tactical level, that concerns the way the sales people approach the prospects, how much money is quoted etc. Hannibal absolutely knew how to make the best use of his resources on the battlefield; he was a great tactician. At the strategic level there is more doubt. The consensus is that he did not aim to obliterate Rome, but to reduce her to a regional power. There is further doubt as to whether his supply line could have supported a long seige of the city had his objective been total conquest. This brings us to the widely attested opinion of Marhabal. He clearly believed that the victory at Cannae should have been followed up with a march on Rome, but as we all know, Hannibal hesitated. He may have believed that total victory would have involved a long seige in which case we should understand the hesitation, however the opinion of Marhabal is well known:- "Truly the gods do not give everything to the same man: you know how to win a victory (tactics), Hannibal, but you do not know how to use one (strategy)." There are numerous arguments as to whether Hannibal was being understandably cautious or less than astute strategically. However, even if he decided to not move on Rome at her nadir for very good reasons, his ultimate defeat must call into question his strategic sense. If he was ill prepared for a siege, then his operational abilities should be scrutinized and there is the possibility that at this stage he fully expected Rome to give up any further opposition and reach settlement in line with his expectations. Definitions may vary a little bit, but if we admit that strategy is (SIC) "the science and art of military command exercised to meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions" (Merriam-Webster) or anything similar, it's hard for me to imagine how could Hannibal have left any additional evidence of his outmost performance. By definition, "a brillant commander on the battlefield but not so impressive in strategy" is an oxymoron (ie, "a combination of contradictory or incongruous words" [M-W] ). To be fair and as stated like a hundred posts ago, we actually don't know what on Earth was Hannibal thinking, and not because nobody wrote about it (eg, Silenus) but simply because no one of such accounts has survived; anything we discuss on Hannibal's intentions (consensus or not) is speculation. I'm not sure which authors are included by the term "consensus"; in any case, most scholars I'm aware of (eg. Lazenby) considered that the Punic army had no real chance of conquering Rome even after Cannae in 216 BC; Rome was simply too strong and resourceful even after such immense casualties. (That was in fact our main rationale behind the partial analogy with the Soviets and the Operation Barbarossa; do you remember?) Cannae by itself was just not enough. The Romans still had more legions than they had lost, and they were eventually able to raise a minimum of 25 legions (ie, the same as the entire Roman Empire under Tiberius) plus considerable naval forces and allies. Even more, scarcely any Italian city was sieged or taken by the Punic army all along the Hannibalic War; almost all the cities occupied by Hannibal voluntarily sided with him after Trasimene or Cannae. With so many active legions all across Italy, sieges were simply too risky for the victorious but isolated Carthaginian force, both before and after Cannae. Honestly, given the available evidence, I tend to agree; in fact, I may add that the poor performance of the Carthaginians against the sieging army of Ap. Claudius Pulcher in Capua in 212-211 BC is an excellent evidence in total agreement with that argument. Maharbal's statement may indeed have been historical (again, no punic accounts survived), but even if it was so, it was hardly any evidence that the Punic liuetenant may have been any better strategist than his extraordinary commander. Contrary to what some people have stated, Hannibal didn't remain inactive after Cannae; with the help of his Italian allies he tried to conquer the rich Campania (the Italian barn of Rome) and Bruttium; a perfectly viable strategy, and in all likelihood the best possible one, given the circumstances. Some minor towns were actually sieged and plundered, but at a great cost; Livy wrote: "Petelia in Bruttium was taken by Himilco, one of Hannibal's lieutenants, after a siege which lasted several months. That victory cost the Carthaginians heavy losses in both killed and wounded, for the defenders only yielded after they had been starved out. They had consumed all their corn and eaten every kind of animal whether ordinarily used as food or not, and at last kept themselves alive by eating leather and grass and roots and the soft bark of trees and leaves picked from shrubs. It was not until they had no longer strength to stand on the walls or to bear the weight of their armour that they were subdued." The main Campanian and Bruttian cities, like: - Neapolis (under Silanus command), - Nola (under Marcellus), - Beneventum (under Gracchus) and - Rhegium proved consistently immune to years of Punic attacks. What real chance would then Hannibal have had against the Servian Wall, the whole Latium and the remaining active legions, without even any local ally there? Where was the "lost great opportunity"? When after the fall of Capua most of Hannibal's Italian allies returned to the Roman side, there was very little that the Punic army was able do about it. On the other hand, the accounts of Hannibal's battles (especially Cannae) have been used as a significant inspiration by countless military experts for centuries, from his own time to the present day. I simply can't imagine any better evidence of the consensus opinion on anyone's strategic performance. Rather than getting into a debate about the difference between strategy and tactics, there is a very real distinction between Hannibal's undoubted prowess as a battlefield commander and his vision of the long term objectives of his campaigns. I would tend to agree with you that Marhabal had not in fact identified a mistake in Hannibal's decision not to march on Rome. You have identified the many impediments that would have faced him had he taken this course and therefore the question remains, what were his long term objectives? After Cannae what should he have done? That nobody knows what Hannibal was thinking suggests that he did not have a clear strategic objective. If we accept all that you and others say about his supply lines and Roman manpower, the "hydra" described by Pyrrhus' commander Cineas being an apt metaphor, then Hannibal must have been rendered directionless. There was no clear way for him to use the victory at Cannae, so what was the long term plan? Hannibal, of course, had already inflicted three major defeats on Rome by the time we get to Cannae. The fact that he did not march on Rome after Trasimene suggests that his strategy did not involve the destruction of the city and her total defeat. If we can accept that his objective in this whole conflict, was the reduction of Rome to a city state detached from her allies and without influence beyond central Italy then we can begin to appreciate the frustrating fix in which he found himself. It was a possibility that Marhabal was right and that the very appearance of "Hannibal at the gates", may have brought about the seeking of terms. However, he knew that taking Rome by storm would be a hugely costly and uncertain venture and a siege could last months or even years. It is possible that he did not take this course because he did not believe it to be necessary. Surely after Cannae, the Romans would not blame bad planning or anything else to mitigate the result of Trasimene for instance. Surely after Cannae, Rome would accept terms dictated by the victor Hannibal. This would have meant a strategic victory for Hannibal in as much as his objective was then reached. An ambassador and representatives of the thousands of prisoners in Hannibal's hands were sent to Rome to negotiate the terms and ransom, but no discussions were allowed to take place. It may be then, that if Hannibal's strategic aim was the reduction of Rome as stated above, that he was more questionable on this level because he misread the character of his enemy. Battlefield defeats were not effective in reaching this objective, because Rome did not behave in a way that he understandably expected them to do so.
  21. marcus silanus

    146 BCE

    In the "Ides of March" thread, much has been said about the virtues and faults of the Roman Republic and its transition to the Principate. I am interested to know if members might agree with H.H. Scullard, that it was 146 BCE and the destruction of both Carthage and Corinth that saw Rome first recognising an incompatability with being a city state in dominion over the known world? I do not particularly think that the Romans questioned, at this time, their systems and institutions or had any doubt about the Republic or its continued credibility. However, did the events of 146 BCE change the nature of Roman power in a way that made the transition to Principate inevitable?
  22. marcus silanus

    UK Meet 2009

  23. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    I'm sure next time any of us have a strategy question, we will check on you and not poor old Hannibal.Your last statement is not only absurd, but also a nice oxymoron (sorry, you will have to use your own dictionary). To be fair, the notion that Hannibal was a brilliant tactician and less than brilliant strategist is not new, unusual or at all oxymoronic. To hear the misuse of the term strategy, you only have to watch any episode of "The Apprentice" or listen to any business wanabee! There is no doubt that Hannibal was a brilliant battlefield tactician, but strategy is about ultimate objectives. Warfare is roughly split into three components. The strategic level is that of the objectives set out by the policy underlying the conflict. Following the definition of strategic objectives, the operational level plans the campaigns to reach the strategic objective. Finally, the tactical level concerns the planning and conduct of the actual fighting. For example, in my business, I may set a strategic target of a certain turnover and margin and plan new media to reach certain markets to achieve that objective. On a tactical level, that concerns the way the sales people approach the prospects, how much money is quoted etc. Hannibal absolutely knew how to make the best use of his resources on the battlefield; he was a great tactician. At the strategic level there is more doubt. The consensus is that he did not aim to obliterate Rome, but to reduce her to a regional power. There is further doubt as to whether his supply line could have supported a long seige of the city had his objective been total conquest. This brings us to the widely attested opinion of Marhabal. He clearly believed that the victory at Cannae should have been followed up with a march on Rome, but as we all know, Hannibal hesitated. He may have believed that total victory would have involved a long seige in which case we should understand the hesitation, however the opinion of Marhabal is well known:- "Truly the gods do not give everything to the same man: you know how to win a victory (tactics), Hannibal, but you do not know how to use one (strategy)." There are numerous arguments as to whether Hannibal was being understandably cautious or less than astute strategically. However, even if he decided to not move on Rome at her nadir for very good reasons, his ultimate defeat must call into question his strategic sense. If he was ill prepared for a siege, then his operational abilities should be scrutinized and there is the possibility that at this stage he fully expected Rome to give up any further opposition and reach settlement in line with his expectations.
  24. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    We essentially agree.The military proficiency of the Roman Republic, as any other system, obviously varied across time; however, please note that their impressive military record left little room for great quality fluctuations. This was especially noteworthy, given the nature of the Roman constitutional system; as Caldrail pointed, a far poorer performance would have been normally expected. As Polybius duly noted, the checks and balances of the Republican constitution were developed to the extreme, to an almost paranoid degree. All their regular magistratures (military or civil) presented an always increasing collegiality, and most of them were constantly (annually) recycled. In fact, their Military Tribunes were democratically elected since 311 BC. Most countries and armies (ancient or modern) would find such system unbearable. Just think that for a conflict as difficult and complex as the II Samnite War (late IV century BC) the Romans recycled their magistrates, officials and soldiers more than twenty times! Just imagine how would it have been for the US to fight WWII with multiple presidents and commanders, while rotating with all their soldiers for each and every year! Then, the contribution of both brilliant and poor generals was both diluted. For example, the Dictator Fabius Cunctator applied with impressive success his eponymous Fabian strategy against Hannibal's army after Trasimene; such experience was immediately forgotten after the end of his six months, new consuls came ... and Cannae happened. It is interesting also to note the effect that the annual change of magistrates effected the objectives of the individual concerned. There was by all accounts a desire to prevent the magistrates for the following year stepping in and stealing the glory due to the commander who had all but concluded a war towards the end of his period of office. Regulus, for example and understandably with his tail up after Adys and winning Tunis, saw an opportunity to impose terms on Carthage and conclude the war as the victor without having to incur further Roman losses. Had he been a little more conciliatory in the terms of surrender, he may have been responsible for the defeat of Carthage, thirteen years before the actual event. Qunctius Flamininus, fifty-seven years later was given the Macedonian command, impressively at the age of only thirty. His reputation gained whilst fighting Hannibal is implied in Plutarch for this radical choice of the people. Once in situ, although he succeeded in detaching Philip from his alliance with the Achaean League, the war was heading for a negotiated settlement, much like that at the end of the First Macedonian War. He plainly wanted the reputation for concluding the war, but how that might be concluded depended on whether his command would be extended beyond 198 BCE. His friends in the Senate campaigned for his extension, against one Scipio Africanus who fancied a crack at Philip, but if they realised that this would not happen, then they would encourage a negotiated settlement, thereby ensuring that Famininus would be implementing the will of the SPQR. The consuls were elected but unrest in Cisalpine Gaul was given their attention and Flamininus received letters confirming another year. So rather than being remembered as competent, the trials of Roman politics gave him the opportunity to defeat Macedon and gain great reputation amongst the Romans and initially the Greeks.
  25. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    Nope.I'm not sure exactly who are you thinking about, but Africanus Major was as aristocrat as it can get, from the most successful noble family of the most successful Patrician Gens. The consuls and commanders after Cannae and even after Zama were from the same traditional noble families. Among the consuls for the first 30 years after Cannae, only two new men are attested, Laelius (Scipio's client) and Cato Censorius. In fact, the two new men from the beginnings of the Hannibalic War, Flamininius and Varro, faced the full responsibility for Trasimene and Cannae, respectively. The Sword of Rome was a Claudius (Marcellus), the Shield was a Fabius (Maximus) and both were veterans from long before Hannibal; the heroes of Metaurus were another Claudius (Nero) and a Livius (Salinator). Even Atilius Regulus (from the group defeated at Cannae) eventually became a Censor in 214 BC. I am definitely not under the impression that the Roman aristocracy had been wiped out, of course not. However, the Hannibalic war did account for a large number of Senatorial casualties, not families obviously but individuals. Some of these were highly experienced and if that were not enough, conflict with the Gauls continued in the North, independent of the Carthaginian War that saw off, amongst others, L. Postumius Albinus as Praetor and the larger part of his army. He had been Consul twice and had already been elected to the position for the following year. That the same families continued to dominate the magistracies is beyond question. However the casualties did present opportunities to a new generation who had reached adulthood during the the conflict. This was in a climate where the Senate itself, deprived of some of its elder statesmen and the auctoritas that they possessed had already demonstrated, at times, a less conservative and bolder approach. Perhaps a good example of this was Scipios appointment to command in Spain, following the death of his father and uncle, with full proconsular power at the age of twenty-six; a most unconventional decision. The availability of experienced men of Senatorial rank had been depleted. Eighty Senators were killed at Cannae alone as were half of the military tribunes, perhaps many of whom might have been destined for high office. Commanders in the field had their offices prorogued as expediency to an extent displaced convention and that all leads to a situation that gives us the highly "professional" legions of the late third century onwards. The bitter experiences of this period, did force the Senate to change its outlook. Yes the same families appear time and time again, but the experience of the survivors of Cannae etc was more valued and contributed to the growing capabilities of the legions. To state my position in this debate, I have always actually been in broad agreement with you on the status of the pre-Marian legions. I don't think that there is anything in any of my comments so far that should give you a contrary impression. That is why I used the Rugby Union analogy whilst the debate was a bit fixed on the semantics of amateur and professional. This was, of course, until 1995 officially an amateur sport but played at the very highest 'professional' level. Meanwhile I take your point about payments to legionaries. I think where we may differ, is that I see a variable level of proficiency within the Roman army as a whole that for me means that it couldn't have been continually optimum. Much of this may have been down to leadership, but the continued success of Roman arms over hundreds of years must invite a superlative description. The most successful of the ancient era can not be disputed.
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