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Scipio Africanus Greatest commander ever?

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    Posted: 13 Apr 2011 at 21:03
Would it be fair to say hes one of the greatest commanders of men of all time? I mean he defeated Hannibal, Conquered Carthage, Sent the Roman Republic down the path to dominating the Mediterranean and never lost a single battle. Greatest ever?

Also why is that Hannibal is focused on so much ?and why does everybody know who Hannibal is? but when you mention Publius Scipio everybody looks at you like you have a hundred heads Like he never existed or something.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Simonforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Apr 2011 at 23:39
Well Hannibal is rather unusual in being an incredibly famous loser; it's the whole crossing the Alps thing I think. To be fair, I think Hannibal must be considered at least the equal of Scipio, considering Scipio nicked all of his tactics and turned them against him, although he really should have seen that coming. I don't think it would be wrong to argue that he is a great general; however I think there are plenty of other contenders for the title of greatest general: Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Zhukov; and I'm sure there are plenty more.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 00:38
Thats true but I quote "greatest" as whom I'm most currently interested in so like a month ago "Augustus was the greatest" and a month before that Julius Caesar was. Yeah it could be that his achievements were grand. Crossing the alps with elephants and sh*t, a multinational army filled with Iberians,  Gauls and North Africans and Numidians. Just Scipio had a vision, he had skill and most of all he had decency. He could have came back to Rome and gotten himself dictator for life but when it was time to give away power HE DID. Something Julius Caesar wouldn't have done Scipio had balls and was a good person. He did what he had to do for his country and his countrymen. He sounds like an American hero to me. To me Scipio is an American and there should be a statue in DC of him as a "symbol" of what America stands for. Fightings the good fight for freedom, democracy and the common man. Maybe I've glorified him to much but still never losing a battle ever?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 01:17
Topic moved to military history sub-forum "Persons".
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Hannibal's achievement was one which flew in the face of absolutely staggering odds. Because Hannibal merely had the Barcid domains in Spain to rely on for support, due to the sluggish and indecisive nature of the men back home in Carthage.

Scipio had the full political backing of Rome, which was reflected in the logistical support and reinforcements sent to assist him. Hannibal had to make do as best he could by recruiting and supplying in conquered territory.

Scipio had a number of very able contemporaries who could assist him and also reliably command armies in other theatres. Hannibal had a few good tactical commanders with him, but the Carthaginian commanders in other fields were generally mediocre and his own brother was defeated at Metaurus.

Scipio had an army which largely spoke one language, had the same culture and had a uniform way of waging war. Hannibal had to be highly skilled in keeping together a polyglot force who were mostly not united by a sense of fighting for their people or homeland.

Hannibal' victories were epic, original and masterpieces of the art of command. While Scipio was certainly enormously skilled, it just wasn't at quite the same level as Hannibal in my mind in terms of innovation and tactical genius.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 02:50
I think Flavious was the best general of the whole campaign. It was Flavious who really won the war for Rome, not Scipio.
 
Hannibal had tactical brilliance but straegically he was very poor. Flavious managed to pin Hannibal down in Italy allowing Scipio to attack Spain and Cathage. Flavious put Hannibal in a loose-loose situation.
 
The tactics are actually quite similar to how Grant and Sherman beat Lee. When the enemy has one powerful force - go around it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 08:53
Originally posted by Simonforest Simonforest wrote:

Well Hannibal is rather unusual in being an incredibly famous loser; it's the whole crossing the Alps thing I think. To be fair, I think Hannibal must be considered at least the equal of Scipio, considering Scipio nicked all of his tactics and turned them against him, although he really should have seen that coming. I don't think it would be wrong to argue that he is a great general; however I think there are plenty of other contenders for the title of greatest general: Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Zhukov; and I'm sure there are plenty more.
 
Hannibal a big loser? Have you ever read any of his battles or for that matter anything about the Italian campaign from 218 to 203?
 
As for Scipio, he didn't conquer Carthage. It was Scipio Aemilianus who did and with the support of every power on the Mediterranean including Carthage's own former allies and some of its own citizens (a thing that did happen during Africanus's own campaign). A thing that never happened with Rome during Hannibal's campaign.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 09:13
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

I think Flavious was the best general of the whole campaign. It was Flavious who really won the war for Rome, not Scipio.
 
Hannibal had tactical brilliance but straegically he was very poor. Flavious managed to pin Hannibal down in Italy allowing Scipio to attack Spain and Cathage. Flavious put Hannibal in a loose-loose situation.
 
The tactics are actually quite similar to how Grant and Sherman beat Lee. When the enemy has one powerful force - go around it.
 
You mean Fabius Maximum Cunctator (the delayer). It was he who made sure Italy understand what defying Rome and siding with Hannibal meant (Capua and Samnium being perfect examples) and Hannibal knew that. Hannibal's problem  isn't in his strategic thinking, it was back home. Every Roman general had Rome's unquestionable support but Hannibal didn't and never had support from his own politicians.
 
Strategically speaking, Hannibal was absolutely brilliant. He carefully chose where to fight Rome and where to follow scorched earth policies. He chose where he would fight Rome if Rome went out to fight him and forced them to march under his terms through territory he knew best and closest to the people most likely to rebel after seeing the corpses and rings of Rome's finest. It partly worked. several greek dominated city-states joined his crusade but it wasn't enough.
 
 
 
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Edited by Al Jassas - 14 Apr 2011 at 09:30
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 10:14
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

I think Flavious was the best general of the whole campaign. It was Flavious who really won the war for Rome, not Scipio.
 
Hannibal had tactical brilliance but straegically he was very poor. Flavious managed to pin Hannibal down in Italy allowing Scipio to attack Spain and Cathage. Flavious put Hannibal in a loose-loose situation.
 
The tactics are actually quite similar to how Grant and Sherman beat Lee. When the enemy has one powerful force - go around it.
 
You mean Fabius Maximum Cunctator (the delayer). It was he who made sure Italy understand what defying Rome and siding with Hannibal meant (Capua and Samnium being perfect examples) and Hannibal knew that. Hannibal's problem  isn't in his strategic thinking, it was back home. Every Roman general had Rome's unquestionable support but Hannibal didn't and never had support from his own politicians.
 
Strategically speaking, Hannibal was absolutely brilliant. He carefully chose where to fight Rome and where to follow scorched earth policies. He chose where he would fight Rome if Rome went out to fight him and forced them to march under his terms through territory he knew best and closest to the people most likely to rebel after seeing the corpses and rings of Rome's finest. It partly worked. several greek dominated city-states joined his crusade but it wasn't enough.
 
 
 
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I can't agree more with this.

If Hannibal had even half the support from his mother city that the Roman generals enjoyed from theirs, then he would have easily won the war.

In the first three years Hannibal transported a massive army an incredible distance despite not having naval superiority, across difficult and hostile terrain, and inflicted catastrophic defeats on the Romans which destroyed their initiative in battle.

His only weakness, which was unavoidable, was lack of siege weaponry. Hannibal couldn't take large towns except through treachery (Taranto) or if they surrendered to him. Had the Carthaginian politicians organised themselves in favour of the war effort, they could have supported Hannibal and he could have won the war and established Carthage as the hegemon of the Western Med and reduced Rome to a city state. The soffetes in Carthage did no such thing, and so Hannibal's obvious and exceptional brilliance was wasted. Their grandchildren paid the price for their dithering and indecisiveness in 146.

It was entirely reasonable for Hannibal to expect Carthage itself to fully support his war effort and allow him to capitalise on his victories.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Simonforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 13:05
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Originally posted by Simonforest Simonforest wrote:

Well Hannibal is rather unusual in being an incredibly famous loser; it's the whole crossing the Alps thing I think. To be fair, I think Hannibal must be considered at least the equal of Scipio, considering Scipio nicked all of his tactics and turned them against him, although he really should have seen that coming. I don't think it would be wrong to argue that he is a great general; however I think there are plenty of other contenders for the title of greatest general: Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Zhukov; and I'm sure there are plenty more.
 
Hannibal a big loser? Have you ever read any of his battles or for that matter anything about the Italian campaign from 218 to 203?
 
As for Scipio, he didn't conquer Carthage. It was Scipio Aemilianus who did and with the support of every power on the Mediterranean including Carthage's own former allies and some of its own citizens (a thing that did happen during Africanus's own campaign). A thing that never happened with Rome during Hannibal's campaign.
 
 
Al-Jassas
 
 
Yes I do know about Hannibal's battles, I personally think he is an infinitely superior general to Scipio who, as I said, stole Hannibal's tactics. It doesn't change the fact that Hannibal ultimately lost, he was unable to make concrete and permanent gains in Italy, and the end of the war saw not just the defeat but the anihilation of Carthage as a major political power; a fairly substantial loss. Liken him to Napoleon if you like, a brilliant general who was still ultimately defeated, all of his victories don't change the fact that in the long run he was utterly overcome.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 15:09
Thats because Hannibal was a general whereas Scipio was a general-politician. Scipio knew the political class of Rome and socialised with them. His father was consul and a senator and so was he. He had political clout and when he wasn't a consul or held some other political office he made sure Rome always was filled by his allies.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Simonforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 18:46

Why he lost is not important, he lost.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shingen The Ruler Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 19:59
Originally posted by Simonforest Simonforest wrote:

Why he lost is not important, he lost.



Actually, why he lost is extremely important.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Simonforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 23:14
Not in the contest of deciding whether he was a winner or a loser in the conflict.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 02:16
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

I think Flavious was the best general of the whole campaign. It was Flavious who really won the war for Rome, not Scipio.
 
Hannibal had tactical brilliance but straegically he was very poor. Flavious managed to pin Hannibal down in Italy allowing Scipio to attack Spain and Cathage. Flavious put Hannibal in a loose-loose situation.
 
The tactics are actually quite similar to how Grant and Sherman beat Lee. When the enemy has one powerful force - go around it.
You mean Fabius Maximum Cunctator (the delayer). It was he who made sure Italy understand what defying Rome and siding with Hannibal meant (Capua and Samnium being perfect examples) and Hannibal knew that. Hannibal's problem  isn't in his strategic thinking, it was back home. Every Roman general had Rome's unquestionable support but Hannibal didn't and never had support from his own politicians.
 
Strategically speaking, Hannibal was absolutely brilliant. He carefully chose where to fight Rome and where to follow scorched earth policies. He chose where he would fight Rome if Rome went out to fight him and forced them to march under his terms through territory he knew best and closest to the people most likely to rebel after seeing the corpses and rings of Rome's finest. It partly worked. several greek dominated city-states joined his crusade but it wasn't enough.

I can't agree more with this.

If Hannibal had even half the support from his mother city that the Roman generals enjoyed from theirs, then he would have easily won the war.

In the first three years Hannibal transported a massive army an incredible distance despite not having naval superiority, across difficult and hostile terrain, and inflicted catastrophic defeats on the Romans which destroyed their initiative in battle.

His only weakness, which was unavoidable, was lack of siege weaponry. Hannibal couldn't take large towns except through treachery (Taranto) or if they surrendered to him. Had the Carthaginian politicians organised themselves in favour of the war effort, they could have supported Hannibal and he could have won the war and established Carthage as the hegemon of the Western Med and reduced Rome to a city state. The soffetes in Carthage did no such thing, and so Hannibal's obvious and exceptional brilliance was wasted. Their grandchildren paid the price for their dithering and indecisiveness in 146.

It was entirely reasonable for Hannibal to expect Carthage itself to fully support his war effort and allow him to capitalise on his victories.
Yes, I did mean Fabius, my mistake.
 
Transporting an army across hostile terrain and an incredible distance is strategically stupid unless you have a very clear idea of what you are going to do when you get there. Hannibal lacked the means to finish the war in Italy and lacked the means of getting reinforcements or supplies. If it wasn't for his tactical brilliance the campaign would have been a farce to begin with.
Hannibal effectively moved Cathage's best army and commander into a position were it could be pinned by Fabius while the home country was undefended. If Hannibal never left and remained in Spain would Rome have been able to conquer Spain? Unlikely.
 
Hannibal aimed to end Rome, but completely failed to take advantage of crushing victories over the Romans. Fabius managed to defeat Hannibal without actually fighting him soley because of the strategic weaknesses in Hannibals plan that was obvious to Fabius.
 
That he lacked the support of the politicians in Cathage does not excuse the fact that he should have known that, and perhaps not lauched a war without support.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 11:05
One of the things about history is that often the dull beats the glamorous. So Fabius beats Hannibal, Montgomery defeats Rommel, Frederick II gains what Richard failed to do. There aren't too many Nelsons around.
 
Incidentally, since the topic is not restricted to kind of cmmander, I'd like to nominate Nelson. Difficult to see any flaws in him apart from his private life and getting killed in action at the moment of decisive victory.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote markdienekes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Apr 2011 at 19:30

Scipio was certainly a good general, but I don't think he was better than Hannibal. Scipio's campaigns had the touch of brilliance, but that was also backed up by solid commanders in other theatres, as well as Roman control of the sea which aided in logistical support for his army. In his battles, he didn't learn how to surround the enemy until he reached Africa (discounting the Spanish rebels he destroyed at the Ebro river) while his battles in Spain, he always failed to commit his troops against the enemies best troops, allowing them to retreat to safety.

Though he had great success with the capture of New Carthage, his other attempts at taking cities were unsuccessful – for two years he failed to capture any city in Africa – concentrating his attempts on Utica. He also almost lost his fleet due to turning the warships into siege machines, and only managed to save the situation by sacrificing many of his transports (which both shows he wasn't the greatest strategist, but could adapt very quickly to new situations, which also does reflect credibly on him)

Hannibal's campaigns on the other hand are harder to determine, and there has been many theories as to why he failed. Hannibal's march into Italy was indeed a very risky plan, but what other options did he have? Stand on the defensive in Spain and Africa and hope to defeat Romans there? Judging from the First Punic War he would have learned from his father that Rome was a power of immense resilience, and the Romans would have just sent more armies. The most he could hope to achieve from this would be a compromised peace leaving Spain intact, but how long would this peace have lasted?

People think Hannibal was there for a quick victory, others that he was there to destroy Rome entirely, others to cause rebellion amongst the allies, and others believe his intention was a war of attrition in the first place, the long-drawn out misery of constant war-service and devastated fields and farms, interspersed with savage losses in battle, this time, instead of suffering losses far from home, it would be right on their doorstep as Lazenby believes. Essentially, this strategy entailed not fighting a war relying on Carthage's resources, but on Rome's resources, this theory backed up by Hannibal's alleged advice to Antiochus of Syria when he said 'Italy would provide both supplies and troops to an external enemy.'

For Shean (Hannibal's Mules), Hannibal's plan to win a quick war led to his march into Italy, where his logistical problems determined what he did for those first few years until he found an adequate supply base in Campania. His marches held no more strategy other than to simply stay alive in Italy, feeding his army, and taking on the Romans when he had the chance.

There has been much consideration into Hannibal's actions after Cannae, and why he didn't march on Rome. The simple fact was the consideration of supplying such a 250 mile march. Theoretically it was possible for pack animals to carry supplies to last for 19 days, and the number of animals would have been far too many available in his position, nor was a single region capable of providing fodder for the animals. If Hannibal had planned to attack Rome, he would have needed to march more than 15 miles a day to reach the wall in time and wanted a continuos march without foraging they'd need 544,920 pack animals, and it was reckoned Hannibal had around 20,000 at any one time. Yes, his reason may well have been something as mundane as a lack of food.

I'm really not sure where people get the idea he had no siege equipment, as this is not backed up by a reading of the sources. There is abundant evidence that Hannibal used siege weapons throughout his Italian campaign, building them when needed. Appian mentions siege engines in Hannibal's attack on the town of Petilia shortly after the battle of Cannae (App. Hann. 5.29). Livy makes mention of various different siege machinery. One attempt at capturing Nola in 216 BC, Hannibal ordered his men to bring up the equipment needed for an assault of the town (Livy. 21.16.11-12). The assault failed, but he moved onto Acerrae, where he again made siege and assault preparations. The town was circumvalleted and the town was captured (Livy 23.17.4-6). Later that year Hannibal used mantelets and dug saps when he assaulted Casilinum (Livy. 23.18.8-9). The following year he had to wait for a day in his attempt to capture Cumae as he had to bring up the necessary equipment from camp (Livy. 23.36.5-8). When he assaulted the town, he made use of a high wooden tower against the wall. He also used artillery and siege engines against the citadel of Tarentum. His siege capability was not as bad as historians make out.

There was a combination of factors that contributed to the defeat of Hannibal... It wasn't as though all Roman commanders followed Fabius' strategy, many confronted Hannibal in battle after Cannae! Fabius was however, one of the only generals to realise Hannibal's logistical limitations when he first set foot in Italy before he had anywhere as a supply base.

Fronda in his book Between Rome and Carthage: Southern Italy during the Second Punic War supposes the alliances to both Hannibal and Rome were dictated by centuries of interstate rivalries that determined what actions the cities and towns would take when faced by Hannibal - political factionalism within the cities governing elite and interstate rivalries hindered Hannibal's strategy - for example - gaining Capua turned a number of cities from ever joining Hannibal out of choice because of their fear of Capuan hegemony (who most likely didn't want to control all of Italy, but take back what had been stripped of them by Rome) - those in the past that had joined Capua in her policy decisions in war turned from Rome - and those that didn't had fought that very same Capuan league in the past, and their very survival depended on staying with Rome as they feared they'd lose out in an alliance with Hannibal. This was the case all over the South where he tried to turn allies from Rome. In Bruttium, centuries of warfare between the Greeks and the Bruttians made the Greeks hesitant of joining Hannibal when most of Bruttium joined him, which is true of Greek intercity rivalry too - when he captured Locri, who had previous interstate rivalry with Rhegion, the Rhegions turned to Rome for help fearing Locrian hegemonic aspirations. Likewise, the Bruttians also attacked Croton without Hannibal's knowledge, which shows they also expected more power - sadly - with Rome's reaction after Cannae to garrison cities that might sway in order to prevent such a thing (though this did not mean it would work - see Tarentum in 213/2) this limited Hannibal's success massively. The combination of long term conditions (local rivalries) and short term factors (Rome's military response) proved to much for Hannibal's strategy to overcome.

Here are some tables from Fronda's book which reveals alliance patterns in Apulia and Campania.






There isn't any indication that the allies had any particular love for Rome and its future, instead, the Second Punic War reveals that decisions made by each city and town was to further it's own interests and survival rather than loyalty to Rome. If the pro-Hannibal (or anti-Roman) political faction elite in the other cities had managed to win over the pro-Roman elite, Rome would have been in dire straits!

With all the diplomatic and military problems, it is difficult to see how a lesser general would have survived in such a spot and reflects highly on Hannibal's abilities. As late as 209 BC his strategy was working. By 212 BC Rome had lost over 40% of her allies along with the Campanians. In 211 BC Etruria was placed under direct control of a praetor or proprator while most troubling to Rome would have been the loss of 12 Latin colonies support – they could no longer contribute to the war effort and Rome ignored them. Not to mention the loss of manpower, recorded about 120,000 men. Wealth qualification was lowered by over 60%.

The Battle of Dertosa in 215 BC won by the Scipio brothers against Hasdrubal Barca's army he was bringing to Italy. It really dealt Hannibal's efforts a terrible blow. Not only did he lose a large contingent of men coming to support him from Spain, but massive reinforcements from Africa were sent to replace those men lost to the Scipios to defend Spain.


Essentially, this victory prevented Carthage using up to four armies in Italy. Hasdrubal in the north could have applied pressure on the allies there, while Hannibal would have had new troops to defend his allies better while allowing him to take back the initiative lost due to not being able to be in two or more places at once, while Spain would have been fairly secure as the Romans may well have been concerned with the large Carthaginian forces in Italy.

At such a critical time, with Rome on the back foot after Cannae, this could well have been what Hannibal needed to win the war... at the least it would have helped! But of course, some things were not in Hannibal's control. Syracuse was also captured by treachery, the Carthaginian army there decimated by an epidemic, which were things Hannibal could not control.

Personally I believe he did bloody well. Saying Scipio is greater isn't considering the variables of their campaigns.



Edited by markdienekes - 27 Apr 2011 at 15:21
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