Manual Stratagems: The Roman Strategy at War

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Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. Hannibal studied his opponents very carefully, employing every means of gathering intelligence in enemy camps, including spies from allied populations who provisioned the Romans. When necessary, Hannibal paid for credible intelligence with silver supplied from mines in Carthaginian Spain; as long as that silver lasted to pay for good intel, he was unbeatable.

Hannibal usually went for the unpredictable surprise maneuver that had never been seen before, including crossing the Alps in winter and forcing the Romans to fight in the dead of winter and at night. Hannibal got into the minds of his enemies with psy-ops, exposing their weaknesses, triggering their anger and vanity, and making them fall into his traps; undermining the confidence of the Roman foot soldiers in big battles and paralyzing them with fear. Because his armies were almost always smaller — especially after his difficult Alps crossing when he lost many soldiers — Hannibal augmented his arsenal with weapons of nature: forcing the Romans to cross the frozen Trebbia River, hiding his armies in the fog above Lake Trasimene, driving captured cattle with torches tied to their horns to fool the Romans into thinking he was on the move at night at Volturnus, making the Romans face the blinding dust and sand blowing from Africa at Cannae.

He even confused the Romans at Cannae with some of his troops outfitted with captured Roman gear. Similarly, after studying terrain and topography, Hannibal always chose his battle sites when possible for the best possible advantage, especially constricting the larger Roman armies where they would be unable to outflank him and instead they would be hemmed in by rivers or hills, etc. Hannibal sagely exploited the 2-consul Roman alternating command rotated one day between an experienced military veteran and the next day with a political appointee populist leading.

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On at least three occasions, Hannibal annihilated the Romans on the days when fools were the supposed commanders. The following Roman generations learned the hard lesson from this and the Senate created a professional army commanded by veteran leadership. Eventually Rome also amped up its cavalry and became less dependent on infantry thanks to Hannibal. Scipio — the only one to beat Hannibal - respected Hannibal more than any other Roman because he learned so much from him.

Hannibal will remain a profound enigma in that he could not ultimately win the war with Rome, yet he could win so many brilliant battles with incredibly memorable tactics still taught today. History of Rome. Robert Pennell. Nero's Killing Machine. Stephen Dando-Collins. The Campaigns of Alexander. Defeat of Rome.

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