At the Battle of Zama, was the Roman army more “native” than the Carthaginian?

At the Battle of Zama, was the Roman army more “native” than the Carthaginian?

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At the battle of Zama, which army had a higher proportion of native troops? Within the context of this question consider troops to be either "native" or "mercenary". Native troops serve out of allegiance, while mercenary troops serve based on compensation.

The question arose because at dinner the other night, someone remarked, "The Romans won the battle of Zama because most of their soldiers were "native sons," while most of the soldiers on the Carthaginian side were mercenaries." Putting aside the question of whether or not this opinion was valid, was the premise factually correct? That is, were most of the soldiers fighting for Rome actuall "pro-Roman" and most of Hannibal's soldiers mercenaries? Consider e.g. the Numidians "pro Roman" in this regard, they were fighting for a "king and country" (Numidia) allied with Rome.

The exact amounts of forces that took part in this battle seem to be unknown or at least controversial. My opinion bases on the lecture of 10 pages of discussion at the main Polish historical board.

In overall, it's safe to say that the the answer is yes, most of the Roman soldiers "Roman" and most of Hannibal's soldiers were mercenaries. Even if it would be more adequate to replace mercenaries with allies.

But I don't claim that it was the reason for winning the battle, which is much more complicated thing.

The following quotes come from Appian's History of Rome.


He speedily put in battle array about 50,000 men and eighty elephants. He placed the elephants in the front line at intervals, in order to strike terror into the enemy's ranks. Next to them he placed the third part of his army, composed of Celts and Ligurians, and mixed with them everywhere Moorish and Balearic archers and slingers. Behind these was his second line, composed of Carthaginians and Africans. The third line consisted of Italians who had followed him from their own country, in whom he placed the greatest confidence, since they had the most to apprehend from defeat. The cavalry were placed on the wings. In this way Hannibal arranged his forces.


[§41] [202] [Proconsul Publius Cornelius] had about 23,000 foot and 1,500 Italian and Roman horse. He had as allies Massinissa with a large number of Numidian horse, and another prince, named Dacamas, with 1,600 horse.

This way we can assume that Hannibal had three separate armies that didn't know each other and didn't have previous experience in cooperating together. One of them being Magon's army, containing Celts, Ligures and other tribes, the second Africans (Libyans and Carthaginians) and the third army in which Hannibal believed the most - veterans from Italy. Also half of his cavalry were Numidians.

At the same time, Scipio's army were mainly Roman and Italian soldiers, strengthened by forces of Masinissa who wanted to take revenge on Carthaginians for supporting his opponent on the way to take over the power in Numidia.

The Romans used mercenary Numidian cavalry at Zama, and they were more effective than the "Native Sons" in the Roman cavalry, so the assertion is false.

Scipio was a better general, statesman and politician than Hannibal. That's pretty much the beginning and end of it.

One of the most troubling things about the Carthaginian army at Zama was the fact that Hannibal's "veteran" troops from his Italian campaigns were non-Carthaginians. And the Carthaginians in his army though enthusiastic and well-trained, were non-veterans who were basically enrolled for this one battle. There was a third group, non-veteran mercenaries from Spain. Thus, the Carthaginians did not have anything of a "home court" advantage that one might expect.

The Romans on the other side, were "native sons" (to Rome), and mostly veterans of campaigns against Hannibal in Italy, or other Carthaginians in Spain. There was one group of non-Romans who were even more "native" than them to North Africa, where the battle was fought. These were the Numidians, from a country bordering Carthage, whose cavalry decided the day. Although not Roman, their country in fact had the most to gain from a Roman victory (specifically Carthaginian territory). It's possible that another group of cavalry with less at stake would have failed to win the battle for the Romans, allowing the Carthaginians to win.


The Carthaginian army has a mix of all kinds of troops, because of his high proportion of, Spanish and African allies.

The Carthaginians relied heavily on mercenaries. Polybius (6.52.4) believed the Roman army was superior to the Carthaginian because Rome fielded armies of citizens while Carthage employed foreign mercenaries. The most famous mercenaries employed by the Carthaginians were the Numidian horsemen. Equipped with light leather shields (Sall. Iug. 94.1), they would sometimes fight from two horses, to prolong the stamina of their mounts (Livy 23.29.5). However, in its earlier wars with the Greeks, Carthage relied also on its own citizen forces. Plutarch (Tim. 27-9) notes that at the battle of the River Crimisus in 341, the 10,000 Carthaginian hoplites were equipped with iron cuirasses, bronze helmets and large whiteshields, and were drawn up as a phalanx in 400 files each twenty-five deep. The elite unit of the army was the Sacred Band, numbering 2,500 (Diod.’Sic. 16.80.4). This suggests the infantry was organized in units of 500 men.

Chariots were also used by the Carthaginians. They are first mentioned at the battle of the Crimisus River in 341. Like Seleucid chariots they were quadrigas and were drawn up in front of the main line (Plut. Tim. 25.1,27.2).Elephants were employed by those Hellenistic armies able to procurethem. 91 At first, the elephant was ridden by a mahout and one or two warriors. Later on, elephants were fitted with towers which offered protection to the crew, and the elephants themselves were increasingly armoured.

The Carthaginians adopted war elephants in place of their outdated chariots, probably after suffering at the hands of Pyrrhus’ beasts. Elephants became perhaps the most distinctive feature of battles in this era.

Carthage, with her new resources and territorial dominions, was once again at least as powerful as Rome. The Romans with their Italian allies could call on about three-quarters of a million men of military age, in a total population of three to four million. Carthage with her chora, allies and subjects from Lepcis Magna to Gades will have had a population roughly similar. In 218, according to Hannibal’s own figures (so they seem from Polybius’ account), she put into service some 122,000 troops, while Rome’s field armies totalled 71,000. Nor was any Roman general of the day – or the first decade of war – any match for Hannibal. Two drawbacks did exist: the fleets in both Spanish and African waters were puny compared with Rome’s 220 fully-equipped warships and none of the other Carthaginian commanders in the entire war, even Hannibal’s brothers, proved better than the enemy’s.

Hannibal had expected war before the Romans declared it. He readied a large army to invade Italy: for the alternative, to wait for them to attack him in Spain – and invade Libya too – was out of the question. The first years of his Italian expedition are by far the best known, marked by his crossing of the Alps and three great victories over one Roman army after another: at the river Trebia in December 218, Lake Trasimene in June the year after, and Cannae in Apulia in August 216 which put most of central and southern Italy at his mercy. The brilliance of these victories has made his reputation immortal – the only Carthaginian, indeed, with a name still instantly recognisable. Much of southern Italy changed sides to ally with him after 216, so that Carthage by 212 had Rome hemmed in on almost every side.

Besides these new supporters, she had as allies the Numidian kings, the Gauls in northern Italy, Syracuse in Sicily, and the kingdom of Macedon across the Adriatic. She also controlled most of Spain. From late 216 to the middle of 207, Carthage was the greatest power in the western Mediterranean, facing a shrunken and tormented Rome.

This supremacy was not easily won or free of severe flaws. When Hannibal crossed the Pyrenees in mid-218, leaving his brother Hasdrubal in charge of Spain, he had 59,000 troops – but, after he arrived in northern Italy, only 26,000. The usual explanations for this staggering loss are attacks by the Gauls along the route and Alpine snow and ice but in reality the Gauls’ off-and-on attacks, all told, amounted to just seven days’ fighting, while snow and ice were met only in the final week, on the pass and the way down to Italy. Supplies en route were plentiful, even in the autumnal Alpine valleys. Nor did he leave garrisons in Gaul. The likeliest explanation is that numbers of the Libyan, Numidian and Spanish troops simply deserted – both in southern Gaul, and later in north Italy before his roll-call. Luckily, the Gauls in north Italy had risen against their Roman conquerors and brought him valuable extra forces.

The Romans’ response from 218 to 216 was to confront the invaders head-on, in the normal way of Mediterranean warfare. It was Hannibal’s way, too. Alexander the Great had shown how a series of devastating victories could bring down even the most imposing enemy after his three, Hannibal looked to the shattered Romans to talk. Their response, unconventional by Mediterranean great-power standards but entirely in line with their own responses to Pyrrhus and to their First Punic War disasters, was to refuse talks of any kind. Meanwhile they changed their military strategy.

Hannibal did have at least two opportunities to put crushing pressure on them, but avoided it. After Trasimene, the Romans and his own side expected him to march direct on Rome, only four days away for an army and fewer for cavalry. A fleet from Carthage sailed to the Etruscan coast to link up with him, only to find that he had swung east to the Adriatic. After Cannae a year later, with almost no Roman forces left in the field, he again chose not to advance on the city. Livy’s famous tale has his bold cavalry general Maharbal comment sourly that `you know how to win, Hannibal you don’t know what to do with victory’. It was certainly impossible to take Rome by siege. Cutting it off from outside, though, was feasible especially when there were no organised Roman forces in the countryside to cause trouble, and could have been done as early as the aftermath of Trasimene. Like Mathos’ and Spendius’ mutiny at Tunes in 241, this could also – and perhaps decisively – have been the signal to all of Rome’s restive fellow-Italians to come over to the clearly dominant invader.


The Battle of Zama was the climactic engagement of the Second Punic War, effectively putting an end to the power of Carthage and cementing Rome’s supremacy in the western Mediterranean for the next six centuries. Because of this it is considered to be one of the defining events of the expansion of the Roman Empire. It was one of the largest battles fought in early North African history, and also the last battle fought by Hannibal, one of the greatest military commanders of ancient times. The battlefield, located in the desert of modern Tunisia, was visited by General Patton in 1943 during the North African campaign (where he famously claimed to have fought at the Battle of Zama in a previous life).


For over a decade, the armies of Carthage under the renowned leader Hanibal had ravaged the Italian Peninsula during the Second Punic War. Although they were finally able to isolate Hanibal’s armies in southern Italy, the Romans could not force the Carthaginians into a decisive engagement or drive them from Italy altogether. So in 207 BC, the Romans, under their own brilliant commander Scipio Africanus, changed tactics. While keeping Hanibal occupied, they launched an all-out offensive against Carthaginian territories in Spain and North Africa.

In 206 BC the Scipio routed the Carthaginians at the Battle of Ilipa, thus securing Iberia for Rome and severely crippling Hanibal’s supply base in Europe. Flush with success, Scipio returned to Rome, was elected Consul and began to prepare for the conquest of the city of Carthage itself. In 203 BC, a large Roman force landed in North Africa. The army included troops which had survived the disaster at Cannae a decade earlier.

Hanibal returned to Carthage with what troops he could, raised fresh forces (including large numbers of mercanaries) and prepared to meet the Roman onslaught. After a long period of preparation and maneurvering, the two armies met at the field of Zama on October 19, 202 BC. The result was almost as big of a disaster for Hanibal as was his victory at Cannae.

The Romans, now very familiar with Hanibal’s tactics, matched the Carthaginians perfectly. They survived the onslaught of the war elephants by simply letting them pass through the Roman lines, than finishing them off with cavalry reserves. Despite a valiant effort, the Carthaginians were outmaneuvered, surrounded and slaughtered. After the battle, Carthage sued for peace, accepting a humiliating defeat that forever crippled their power and which eventually led to their absorption into the Roman Empire.


Thanks to the movie Patton, the Zama Battlefield is popular for military history buffs, though off the beaten path. The battle site itself is largely a broad, flat field with a wide view all around. It is dotted with trees and a few markers of the battle sites (the film Patton incorrectly places Zama near the ruins of Carthage, but there are few ruins at the site).


With the beginning of the Second Punic War in 218 BC, the Carthaginian general Hannibal boldly crossed the Alps and attacked into Italy. Achieving victories at Trebia (218 BC) and Lake Trasimene (217 BC), he swept aside armies led by Tiberius Sempronius Longus and Gaius Flaminius Nepos. In the wake of these triumphs, he marched south looting the country and attempting to force Rome's allies to defect to Carthage's side. Stunned and in crisis from these defeats, Rome appointed Fabius Maximus to deal with the Carthaginian threat.

Avoiding battle with Hannibal's army, Fabius raided the Carthaginian supply lines and practiced the form of attritional warfare that later bore his name. Rome soon proved unhappy with Fabius' methods and he was replaced by the more aggressive Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus. Moving to engage Hannibal, they were routed at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. Following his victory, Hannibal spent the next several years attempting to build an alliance in Italy against Rome. As the war on the peninsula descended into a stalemate, Roman troops, led by Scipio Africanus, began having success in Iberia and captured large swaths of Carthaginian territory in the region.

In 204 BC, after fourteen years of war, Roman troops landed in North Africa with the goal of directly attacking Carthage. Led by Scipio, they succeeded in defeating Carthaginian forces led by Hasdrubal Gisco and their Numidian allies commanded by Syphax at Utica and Great Plains (203 BC). With their situation precarious, the Carthaginian leadership sued for peace with Scipio. This offer was accepted by the Romans who offered moderate terms. While the treaty was being debated in Rome, those Carthaginians who favored continuing the war had Hannibal recalled from Italy.

The Battle of Zama, By An Unknown 16th-century Artist

This curious painting was created by an unidentified 16th-century artist from the Netherlands. The anonymous artist either copied this scene from a work by the Italian painter, Giulio Romano (d. 1546), or instead referenced a print of Romano’s work that was created by the Dutch printmaker, Cornelis Cort (c. 1533-1578). Whatever the case, all of the artworks (be them originals, prints, or hand-painted copies) drew inspiration from the Battle of Zama, which was fought between Rome and Carthage in the year 202 BCE.

Leading the Roman forces at that time was a man named Publius Cornelius Scipio. He landed tens-of-thousands of Roman warriors in North Africa around 204 BCE to take the fight directly to Carthage in the closing years of the Second Punic War. Meanwhile, Hannibal Barca—Carthage’s brilliant general—was still menacing the Italian countryside, as he had been doing since 218 BCE. Hannibal’s sojourn in Italy, however, came to a close in 203 BCE, when he was called back to Africa to defend the heartland of Carthage against Scipio’s campaigns. Unfortunately for Hannibal, his recall put him on a reactive footing, allowing for Scipio and the Romans to position themselves on favorable terrain and to steer the course of the warfare to come. Additionally, the Romans and their Numidian allies at that time had a steep cavalry advantage over the Carthaginians—a weakness that Hannibal attempted to sure up with unruly war elephants. Despite the different numbers of horses and elephants, the Roman and Carthaginian forces were said to have been quite equal in manpower when they eventually met face to face at the Battle of Zama in 202 BCE.

A Roman historian named Livy (59 BCE-17 CE) dramatically described the scale and consequential nature of the battle: “[T]o decide this great issue, the two most famous generals and the two mightiest armies of the two wealthiest nations in the world advanced to battle, doomed either to crown or to destroy the many triumphs each had won in the past” (Livy, Roman History, 30.32). In the ensuing showdown, Scipio’s cavalry advantage proved vital, whereas Hannibal’s elephants apparently did less harm to the Romans than they did to his own army. The Greek historian, Polybius (c. 200-118 BCE), described the battle:

“Since they were equally matched not only in numbers but also in courage, in warlike spirit and in weapons, the issue hung for a long while in the balance. Many fell on both sides, fighting with fierce determination where they stood, but at length the [Roman aligned] squadrons of Masinissa and Laelius returned from their pursuit of the Carthaginian cavalry and arrived by a stroke of fortune at the crucial moment. When they charged Hannibal’s troops from the rear, the greater number of his men were cut down in their ranks, while of those who took to flight only a few escaped…” (Polybius, The Histories, 15.14).

Hannibal was one of the Carthaginians who lived to fight another day. Yet, after Zama, Carthage was compelled to sue for peace with Rome. In the ensuing negotiations, Carthage was forced to dismantle its navy, pay hefty quantities of war reparations, and formally cede Carthaginian territory in Spain to the control of the Romans. Such is the history behind the artwork featured above.


Carthage after lost battle was not able to conduct a war any longer. In 201 BCE peace was made according to which Carthaginians could only keep their properties in Africa. They couldn’t to conduct any war without Roman permission, what’s more they had to pay huge contribution of 10 thousands silver talents during a period of fifty years. They were force to give back all their fleet except ten patrol ships and give hostages as a guarrantee of fulfiling all treaty’s conditions. King Masynissa, who supported Scypio in battle of Zama was responsible to take control over all Carthage’s activities in Africa.

Fate of Hannibal himself is really interesting. For some time he stayed in Carthage.

After final act of his bravery Hannibal hided himself in Hadrumetum from where he was called to Carthage. He return to this place in his thirties after he had left as a child. He confessed in front of Carhaginian Senate, that he lost not only a battle, but also a whole war and the only right solution is to make peace.

Titus Livius, Roman history ab urbe condita., IX, 35.

Finally Roman intrigues forced Hannibal to retreat. He found shelter at the court of Seleucidian king Antioch the Third. After defeat of Antiochia in war against Rome in 189 BCE Hannibal ecaped to Bitynia, where he commited suicide by drinking a poison, which he got from his father and he always carried in the ring. All for this to not be captured by Romans and be placed in the cage during their triumph. Before death he said: “Let’s free Romans from their anxiety, if they claim that it’s too long to wait for old man’s death”.

Defeat in battle of Zama was an end for strong Cathaginian country. Thanks to Scypio’s reformation of Roman army it became almost unbeatable. Rome was the greatest power within the area of Mediterranean sea without any enemies around. That’s why it began expansion to become large future Roman Empire.


Crossing the Alps, Hannibal reached the Italian peninsula in 218 BC and won several major victories against the Roman armies. The Romans failed to defeat him in the field and he remained in Italy, but following Scipio's decisive victory at the Battle of Ilipa in Spain in 206 BC, Iberia had been secured by the Romans. In 205 BC Scipio returned to Rome, where he was elected consul by unanimous vote. Scipio, now powerful enough, proposed to end the war by directly invading the Carthaginian homeland. Β] The Senate initially opposed this ambitious design of Scipio, persuaded by Quintus Fabius Maximus that the enterprise was far too hazardous. Scipio and his supporters eventually convinced the Senate to ratify the plan, and Scipio was given the requisite authority to attempt the invasion. Γ] : 270

Initially, Scipio received no levy troops, and he sailed to Sicily with a group of 7,000 heterogeneous volunteers. Δ] : 96 He was later authorized to employ the regular forces stationed in Sicily, which consisted mainly of the remnants of the 5th and 6th Legion, exiled to the island as a punishment for the humiliation they suffered at the Battle of Cannae. Δ] : 119

Scipio continued to reinforce his troops with local defectors. Γ] : 271 He landed at Utica and defeated the Carthaginian army at the Battle of the Great Plains in 203 BC. The panicked Carthaginians felt that they had no alternative but to offer peace to Scipio and him, having the authority to do so, granted peace on generous terms. Under the treaty, Carthage could keep its African territory but would lose its overseas empire, by that time a fait-accompli. Masinissa was to be allowed to expand Numidia into parts of Africa. Also, Carthage was to reduce its fleet and pay a war indemnity. The Roman Senate ratified the treaty. The Carthaginian senate recalled Hannibal, who was still in Italy (although confined to the south of the peninsula) when Scipio landed in Africa, in 203 BC. Ε] Meanwhile, the Carthaginians breached the armistice agreement by capturing a stranded Roman fleet in the Gulf of Tunis and stripping it of supplies. The Carthaginians no longer believed a treaty advantageous, and rebuffed it under much Roman protest. Ζ]

The Battle of Zama and Hannibal’s Final Defeat

Around October 19 , 202 BC , the Battle of Zama was fought between a Roman army led by Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (Scipio), who defeated a Carthaginian force led by the commander Hannibal . Despite Hannibal possessing numerical superiority, Scipio conceived a strategy to confuse and defeat his war elephants . The defeat on the Carthaginians ‘ home ground marked an end to the 17-year 2nd Punic war .

The Second Punic War

The second Punic war between Carthage and the Roman Republic from 218 – 201 B.C. was to a considerable extent initiated by Rome, but is marked by Hannibal’s surprising overland journey and his costly crossing of the Alps , followed by his reinforcement by Gallic allies and crushing victories over Roman armies in the Battle of the Trebia and the giant ambush at Trasimene . The wars are called the “Punic Wars” because Rome’s name for Carthaginians was Poeni, derived from Poenici , a reference to the founding of Carthage by Phoenician settlers. In 216 BC, Hannibal’s army defeated the Romans again, this time in southern Italy at Cannae . It is regarded both as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and as one of the worst defeats in Roman history. In consequence of these defeats, many Roman allies went over to Carthage, prolonging the war in Italy for over a decade.

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus

Against Hannibal’s skill on the battlefield, the Romans deployed the Fabian strategy , where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. Roman forces were more capable in siege warfare than the Carthaginians and recaptured all of the major cities that had joined the enemy, as well as defeating a Carthaginian attempt to reinforce Hannibal at the Battle of the Metaurus . In the meantime, in Iberia , which served as the main source of manpower for the Carthaginian army, a second Roman expedition under Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major took Carthago Nova by assault and ended Carthaginian rule over Iberia in the Battle of Ilipa . The final showdown was the Battle of Zama in Africa between Scipio Africanus and Hannibal,

Zama Regia

Unlike most battles of the Second Punic War, the Romans had superiority in cavalry and the Carthaginians had superiority in infantry. As they met near Zama Regia in the summer of 202 BC, both armies numbered 35� to 40� men. Hannibal now had a strong elephant corps with him, but his infantry were of lesser quality to the highly trained legions of Scipio. Further Scipio had an advantage in cavalry, having delayed an engagement for long enough to allow for a strong Numidian force under their king Masinissa to join him.[1] Hannibal had refused to lead this army into battle, because he did not expect them to be able to stand their ground. There had been very bitter arguments between him and the oligarchy. His co-general, Hasdrubal Gisco , was forced to commit suicide by a violent mob after he spoke in support of Hannibal’s view that such troops should not be led into battle. Before the battle, Hannibal gave no speech to his new troops, only to his veterans.

The Battle of Zama by Henri-Paul Motte, 1890.

Roman Victory

Scipio countered an expected Carthaginian elephant charge, which caused some of Hannibal’s elephants to turn back into his own ranks, throwing his cavalry into disarray. The Roman cavalry was able to capitalize on this and drive the Carthaginian cavalry from the field. However, the battle remained closely fought and, at one point, it seemed that Hannibal was on the verge of victory. However, Scipio was able to rally his men, and his cavalry returned from chasing the Carthaginian cavalry and attacked Hannibal’s rear. This two-pronged attack caused the Carthaginian formation to disintegrate and collapse.

Carthage’s Defeat

16 years after his invasion of Italy, the army of Hannibal was destroyed and Carthage was defeated. As many as 20,000 men of his army were killed with an equal number taken as prisoners to be sold at slave auction. The Romans meanwhile, lost as few as 500 dead and 4,000 wounded. Scipio, having defeated the master of all strategists of the time, now stood as the world’s greatest general. As a reward for his success, Publius Cornelius Scipio was awared the cognomen Africanus. Hannibal, however, managed to escape the slaughter and returned to Hadrumetum with a small escort. He advised Carthage to accept the best terms they could and that further war against Rome, at this time, was futile.[2] Notably, he broke the rules of the assembly by forcibly removing a speaker who supported continued resistance. Afterwards, he was obliged to apologize for his behaviour.

According to the Roman historian Livy it was

the most memorable of all wars that were ever waged: the war which the Carthaginians, under the conduct of Hannibal, maintained with the Roman people. For never did any states and nations more efficient in their resources engage in contest nor had they themselves at any other period so great a degree of power and energy.


Hannibal became a businessman for several years and later enjoyed a leadership role in Carthage. However, the Carthaginian nobility, upset by his policy of democratization and his struggle against corruption, persuaded the Romans to force him into exile in Asia Minor, where he again led armies against the Romans and their allies on the battlefield. He eventually committed suicide (c. 182 BC) to avoid capture. Conclusively ending the Second Punic War with a decisive Roman victory, the Battle of Zama must be considered one of the most important battles in ancient history. Having staged a successful invasion of Africa and having vanquished its canniest and most-implacable foe, Rome began its vision of a Mediterranean empire.[5]

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14.Battle of Cannae

Date2 August 216 BC
LocationCannae, Italy
Combatantsthe Roman Republic and Carthage
ResultCarthaginian victory

An action during the Battle of Cannae

The battle of Cannae was fought during the Second Punic War and became one of the worst defeats in Roman history.

The Carthaginians and their allies were led by Hannibal in the battle, whereas Romans followed under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro.

Romans were already suffering heavy losses from the Battle of Trebia and the Battle of Lake Trasimene. After recovering the losses, they decided to face Hannibal at Cannae.

There Hannibal was ready with 40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalries at the battlefield. Romans with 86,000 soldiers and allied troops collected their heavy infantry to initiate the fight.

Hannibal had already blocked the Aufidus River, the primary water source in the area, compelling Romans to face the south. Then, the Romans headed southwest. There they succeeded in driving back the enemy force for some moment.

But using the double envelopment tactic, Hannibal surrounded the Roman army. Then, the African, Gallic, and Celtiberian troops of Hannibal slaughtered Romans.

With this defeat, Romans lost their soldiers ranging from 55,000 to 70,000. Only 15000 Roman garrisons who had not taken part in the battle were alive.

This defeat compelled several Italian city-states, including Capua, to defect Carthage from the Roman Republic.

The Battle of Zama

The Battle of Zama was fought in October of 202 BC between “a Roman army led by Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus” and “a Carthaginian force led by the legendary commander Hannibal.” (Battle of Zama)

Scipio set himself apart from other historical leaders by using scouts and spies from both his own, and the Carthaginian army to benefit his cause. When Hannibal came to Zama, “he sent spies to ascertain the place, nature, and strength of the Roman general’s encampment.” The Roman soldiers caught them, and brought them before Scipio to decide their fate, but rather than punishing them, he “appointed a tribune to show them everything in the camp thoroughly and without reserve,” and then “gave them provisions and an escort, and dispatched them with injunctions to be careful to tell Hannibal everything they had seen.” This reaction was so far from the norm that it seemed to charm Hannibal into “a lively desire for a personal interview with” Scipio, at which meeting he proposed a treaty which, although not successful, seemed to hint at some intimidation by Scipio’s tactics. (Polybius)

Hannibal’s terms for a new treaty (Now that they had broken the previous one) were unnacceptable to Scipio, and eventually told Hannibal the Carthaginians “must submit [them]selves and [their] country to us (The Romans) unconditionally, or conquer us in the field.” Hannibal chose to attempt the latter.

Scipio had also been studying Hannibal’s techniques for years. “Having been at Cannae,” He knew most of Hannibal’s tricks, and was able to “trump [him] with a few minor adjustments.” Having seen the use of war elephants before, he knew how to counter them in a battle. After they were taken care of, he used Hannibal’s own “battle strategy from Trebbia and Cannae” (Billau) to defeat him. One might say that he had been gathering intelligence for fourteen years, and it served him well.

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