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Two Much

August 2, 2006

On this very day, 2,222 years ago, the Romans were getting their asses handed to them by Hannibal at the Battle of Cannae.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2006 7:53 pm

    Ah, but did they? Is there not an argument that says Hannibal’s victory actually weakened him politically? After Cannae, he had nowhere to go. Was Cannae not what tipped his enemies in Carthage over the edge, vowing to frustrate him at every turn thereafter? Still, a masterful military strategy from the young man. The Romans probably couldn’t believe their luck when they saw the Carthaginians all bunched up like that.

  2. August 3, 2006 10:54 am

    I’m probably the last person you want to open this can of worms with…but the victory at Cannae did not weaken Hannibal politically. In Carthage, he was already seen as something of a rogue (hadn’t even been there since he was a boy, instigated a war without their permission, etc). And Carthage did continue to support him, but there was only so much they could do with Rome’s fleets ruling the seas and the war spreading to Spain and Sicily.

    In Italy, the victory at Cannae drove a number of towns to renounce ties to Rome and ally themselves with Hannibal. It was the culmination of his strategy – to crush Rome’s armies and cause the dissolution of her vast web of alliances.

    But…it backfired. Rome’s “empire” at the time was not a league of equals. Each city had its own arrangement with Rome, and no ties to neighboring settlements. There was no unity, and men from, say, Capua, would refuse to join Hannibal’s army or serve militarily in any way save the protection of their city.

    Faced with this new situation, Rome altered its strategy and began to make full use of its manpower advantages (it still retained the core of its alliances). One army was used to shadow Hannibal, while others were sent against individual towns. Not an elegant strategy, but a very effective one. Hannibal had no supply of steady reinforcements, was stretched too thin, and found himself marching and countermarching across Italy, trying and failing to save the towns that had defected from Roman reprisals. By 204 he had been reduced to a small area near the toe of Italy before being recalled to Carthage to defend the city from Scipio’s invading army.

    Or something like that…

  3. August 3, 2006 5:22 pm

    Sorry King. I guess that somebody should have warned you about Matt and ancient Rome. I am pretty sure that Encarta uses him as a reference.

  4. August 3, 2006 7:40 pm

    Oh not at all. I too am not someone you want to be stuck in a pub with when it comes to Rome! Thing is Matt, and with genuinely the greatest respect, you have sort of proved my argument by your own reasoning. I also think there is a great deal of ambiguity about whether Hannibal truly wanted to conquer Rome, despite what he might have told his sponsors. Does it not seem incongruous that a visionary military leader having already suffered the serious losses he had, would suddenly decide that actually, he wanted everything, not just the Alpine portion of Roman territory? I think his subsequent career proves that he knew precisely when to stop once the point had been made.

  5. August 3, 2006 8:27 pm

    Oh, I don’t think Hannibal ever wanted to conquer Rome. He was no Alexander in his ambitions.

    My interpretation of Hannibal’s strategy was that he wanted to take Rome down a peg or two. The best way he could envision doing so was by invading Italy (rather than allowing the Romans to come after him in Spain), winning battles, trouncing their legions, and causing the defection of their allies. This would put Rome in a precarious situation, force them to consider peace, and allow Hannibal to negotiate from a position of strength.

    Of course, Rome simply refused to play, turned away Hannibal’s envoys, and refused to even consider a negotiated end to the war until they were in the position of strength, with an army outside the gates of Carthage.

  6. August 4, 2006 8:20 am

    And that’s why we had the Roman Empire and not the Carthaginian Empire. I wonder if the Carthaginians would ever have made it to Britain? How different our history would have been.

  7. August 4, 2006 11:50 pm

    “Boo to much Ancient Rome knowledge…..HOORAY BEER!”

  8. August 5, 2006 10:57 am

    If the Ancient Britons hadn’t been drinking so much beer, they would have beaten the Romans. Probably.

  9. August 18, 2006 8:06 pm

    I heard a rumor Vin Diesal’s set to play Hannibal in an upcoming film. Know anything about that?

  10. August 20, 2006 9:11 am

    I did hear about that, and it makes me cry.

    If I picture anyone as Hannibal, it’s that dude who played Ardeth Bay in the Mummy movies.

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